Saturday, July 7, 2012

Up Close and Personal

The Bandia Wildlife Reserve

The closest we could get to the essence of a safari here in West Africa was the Bandia Wildlife Reserve. On one of our previous mini vacations to the Petite Cote - we had the opportunity to visit the reserve. The reserve is a much shorter distance from the village of Toubab Dialao where we stayed than it would be as a day trip from Dakar. 

So as usual we find a local taxi man to arrange for the transport. Once in the park, the way it works is that you can either opt for a larger open air 4x4 vehicle that is way more costly or stay in your taxi with the windows rolled down.  Windows rolled down works for us!  Either way you are required to take on a hired guide. You can tell once you get started why it is required. One is safety as their goal is to get you close to the animals within reason (which we did!)  and two the taxi driver's job is to drive and listen to the guides directions on where to go.

This way the guide can focus on spotting the animals and sharing his knowledge. Many of them speak not just French and Wolof but English too as they cater more to an ex-pat and European visitor. Admittingly, it was helpful to have our guide speak English to enjoy the finer details he had to share that we may  not have understood in French. These guides really know the reserve and I think it's small enough to manage the roughly 2 hours needed to see everything. They work together as a team communicating where the animals are as they pass each other along the way  -  let's face it  - you do pay to see the animals !!

A little history from their website.

The Bandia reserve was established in 1990 on an economically exploited and markedly degraded baobab grove. In that year 460 ha were enclosed, later this was expanded to 750 ha and it is still expanding. The first stage of conservation was aimed at regenerating the damaged vegeta­tion and after that it was introducing the first animals. Introducing wild animals be­gan slowly in 1991 and reached its peak in January 1997 with the arrival of un­gulates from South Africa. Today a visitor to the 750 ha territory of Bandia can see 22 various species of African animals, of which 11 come directly from Sene­gal, the others coming from South Africa.

Today the Bandia wildlife makes up a total of 3,500 hectares of which about 1/3 of it is currently available for the animals to roam. They continue to either open up new sections of the park and redirect animals to move to those new sections while they close other sections for regeneration. Or as they introduce more animals they expand the perimeter of the park.

Parker and Addison had been to the reserve with their class earlier in the year so at first they seemed quite disinterested in returning except perhaps to try and feed the Green Vervet monkeys. Of which I preferred they not add to the monkeys already domesticated habits.

Once we got rocking and rolling and spotted our first animal - interest on their part picked up again! Of course our first warthog sighting and I'm thinking "Phacochere, Phacochere" - our guide from Djoudj who got so excited about spotting them. Now that he's been spotted and out of the way - we can get on with the show. And what a show it was!!


Cape Elands





Abyssinian roller


Going right past us!

Patas Monkeys

Forest Buffalos

White Rhinoceros

Why White?  From wikipedia - A popular theory of the origins of the name "white rhinoceros" is a mistranslation from Dutch to English. The English word "white" is said to have been derived by mistranslation of the Dutch word "wijd", which means "wide" in English. The word "wide" refers to the width of the rhinoceros' mouth. So early English-speaking settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the "wijd" for "white" and the rhino with the wide mouth ended up being called the white rhino (with nothing"white" about him or her!) 

Along with the animals we were shown an ancient Baobab tree within the reserve that marks the resting place for the human remains of celebrated local griots - storytellers - and burial mounds. 

Baobab with human bones inside

(Lyle) the Crocodile and babies

A Verant - perhaps it's brother from Sine Saloum!

Vervet Monkeys - Populate the restaurant

Our Guide

A completely memorable day had by all - including our taxi driver - as a Senegalese who had not been here nor likely could afford to come - it was a special treat for him - including his ice cream! 


  1. How do they avoid overgrazing that place? Rotating the access area for the varous animals?

    1. Dwight - I sent the reserve your question. I thought when we were there they explained that the entire park is not all open so they expand and contract sections depending on the needs of the animals as more are introduced or removed. At one time they tried to introduce an animal (I think in the gazelle family) who did not do well there. They needed more access to watering holes than what the "savannah" terrain offers there. I'll update when I get their reply.

  2. WOW! Amazing trip and fabulous pictures. Especially loved the giraffes!

    1. It was a bit wild when both the ostrich and giraffe were within arms reach out the window. And just trotting along next to the taxi. In comparison to the zoo here that I will post about - it is comforting to see these animals in a healthy habitat!! Now I can see the attraction for people to go 'on safari'