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Makasutu Cultural Forest - A view from our expert author


Set on a mangrove-lined creek, this popular inland resort is notable for its plentiful wildlife and opulently eccentric but eco-friendly architecture.

An exemplary eco-tourism project, Makasutu Cultural Forest (mobile: 6337017; www.mandinalodges.com/makasutu-forest) is set alongside the beautiful mangrove-lined Mandina Creek about 5km northeast of Brikama. It is best known perhaps as the site of the exclusive and architecturally innovative Mandina Lodges, but it also offers a selection of worthwhile activities that ensure it’s a regular goal for day trips from the coastal resorts. Managed in collaboration with the surrounding communities, the reserve was established in 1993 by two well-travelled British enthusiasts, James English and Lawrence Williams,and first opened to clients seven years later, since when it has won many awards, including the National Order of The Gambia in 2012.

Guinea baboon, Makasutu, The Gambia by Ariadne Van Zandbergen, www.africaimagelibrary.com

The reserve extends over around 10km² of riparian forest, savannah and mangroves, and supports plenty of wildlife, most conspicuously around very habituated 200 Guinea baboons, but also various smaller primates, antelope and carnivores, and aquatic creatures such as crocodile and the occasional West African manatee. The marine and terrestrial birdlife is stunning too.

Set on a mangrove-lined creek, this popular inland resort is notable for its plentiful wildlife and opulently eccentric, but eco-friendly architecture.Makasutu Cultural Forest is highly regarded within The Gambia, not just because of the wildlife found there, but also because it is such a successful blend of different facets.

(Photo: A Guinea baboon suckling in Makusutu © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, www.africaimagelibrary.com)

It provides steady employment to more than 100 local people in an area that had seldom seen many visitors in the past: not only workers such as gardeners, drivers, cooks and guides, but also the woodcarvers who utilise the site to sell their wares, and the musicians and dancers who entertain the guests. Visitors, meanwhile, are rewarded with an experience they will long remember and carry home in their hearts. A programme to encourage school visits enables Gambian children to learn about their environment in a fun and positive way. Makasutu, in a nutshell, embodies all that is good about genuine ecotourism.

Makasutu Wildlife Trust

The Makasutu Wildlife Trust (MST) is a leading charity that aims to help protect the wildlife and wild habitats of The Gambia, and to encourage a greater awareness about the environment and an appreciation of all aspects of conservation and biodiversity. 

The Trust does this by actively involving local people and helping them to understand biodiversity and encouraging its conservation, by promoting education, study and research in the natural sciences and by raising public awareness. 

A clear manifestation of this is the successful establishment of a community-based organisation called the Ballabu Conservation Project (BCP). The BCP involves most of the villages in the Kombo East, North and South districts in the West Coast region of The Gambia, whose main activities are promoting general awareness of biodiversity and environmental protection, by creating community forests, and ecotourism. 

The Makasutu Wildlife Trust aims to encourage a greater awareness about the environment and an appreciation of all aspects of conservation and biodiversity.

The MST headquarters are located in the Darwin Field Station inside Abuko Nature Reserve, where it carries out research, education and training on biodiversity, in collaboration with the West African Bird Study Association (WABSA). It conducts bird-study classes at the centre, which has a classroom facility, library, and laboratory, and operates a clinic to rehabilitate injured wild animals and birds and reintroduce them to the wild. It is also able to offer safe, secure and reasonably priced accommodation within Abuko Nature Reserve to visiting research students and volunteers. 

The MST has successfully maintained the Gardens For Life programme in 17 schools within the aforementioned districts, and it lobbies for funds to buy seeds and garden implements for them. It has been able to establish a bilateral link with Kembujeh Lower Basic School and Withycombe Primary School in Devon thanks to the management of Makasutu Cultural Forest.

For more information about activities or volunteer work with the MST, it can be contacted at mobile: 8907222, 9900460, 9900215 or 7849352; email: laminkuru63@hotmail.com or makasutu_wildlife@hotmail.com.

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