Gosport Group Tour organiser and former Naval Officer Mike Critchley has been exploring the world looking for new holidays for his clients. The main picture shows him onboard a 72-year-old hotel ship chugging up and down the huge river between Senegal and Mauritania in West Africa. Mike – who has provided the Globe with an enthralling account of his latest adventure starting on April 12 – will be taking a group back with him in March next year…
IT WAS all about birds today. Anchoring in mid river we headed off into the riverside reed beds.
How did the skipper know which reed beds to drive into? I ask myself. Whatever he did… and we did!
Whizzing through the reeds we were brought to a halt in our ‘Liberty Boat’ … walked up a man-made bank and, at a higher level, embarked in another craft to view the wildlife. If you are a twitcher, by now you are authorised to think you are in heaven.
‘Whistling ducks’ (a few thousand) making our arrival noteworthy with the dozen pelicans looking really quite bored – why so much commotion? A few handclaps and the whole flock were airborne and soon, in near perfect formation, around their private airfield.
People come here to count birds… mine was only an estimate: 686 pelicans… 2,946 ducks (various)… and at least 20 sea eagles. My guess the swallows, sea eagles, herons, cranes and storks all followed us down from Europe or were preparing to head that way.
Ashore warthogs – and a few jackals – did their best to ignore the birdlife as they practiced their circuits and bumps for our pleasure.
Two hours later retracing our steps, my conclusions were: Red Arrows (a UK aerobatic display team), three; Le Djoudj bird sanctuary, 246!
As sunset fell, one of the eagles did a last swoop round the area to check all was well before hunkering down for the night on her nest… built of twigs and at treetop levels.
It was time for us to head in a similar direction. No trees or twigs for us!
NEXT DAY, April 13.
Woken again by the gentle and reassuring throbbing of our engines, it’s more passing miles of reed beds after reed beds. the cook made his signature dishes – omelettes with pancakes (or fruit and cereals) to follow for breakfast.
The highlight today is passing through the lock system taking us from the massive fresh water river system into the seaward river system that will eventually lead us to Saint Louis and the open sea.
Saint Louis awaits……some final evening! A trip round the streets (by horse drawn taxi” of this very poor city>I have seen poverty before – but not all the group had,… Jaws almost on the pavement…… Thousands of people ..donkey carts and many thousands of sheep and goats being herded into town for ritual slaughter in a week or so for Ramadan. It won’t be pretty!
A visit to the fish market ( Plastic bins full of fish and must be very heavy to carry on your head constitutes a “market” on the beach as the rollers crash in….. Essential to view and be very grateful we were not born into this environment . You can guess the smell.
Time for a shower as the music group practice to entertain us (perhaps) over dinner.
PICTURES SHOW: A classic deckhouse of the MV Bou El Mogdad, built in 1950; engineering workshop; village shopping; hotel seating made out of recycled oildrums; the river cruiser on her sedate voyage and a taxi gearing up for rush hour.