Makasutu Forest, The Gambia (2013)

Makasutu, which locally means "sacred deep forest", is a tropical 1000 acre private reserve bordering the Mandina Bolong, a tributary of the mighty Gambia River. The area encompasses five different ecosystems including gallery forest, palm forest, savannah, wetlands and mangroves.

Whilst the reserve is open for daily visits it is recommended to stay a few days at the small Mandina Lodge, which has been built directly alongside the river. Accommodation is either in a 'jungle lodge' or a 'floating lodge', the latter being the better option for those who want to truly experience the tranquility and feel of the place. The location gives you the feeling of being very remote although, in fact, you're only a relatively short distance from the coast and the capital of Banjul.

The compact size of the reserve means that all of the guided walks are on foot directly from the lodge. There are also canoe trips on the river, which provide an alternative perspective and the opportunity to see different species such as various types of heron, kingfishers and birds of prey that you wouldn't see on the walks.

As well as the birds which are both abundant and varied, we particularly liked being able to get very close to the resident baboon troop. We encountered them on three different occasions, each of which provided us with some unique moments and great close-up photos.