“I sit quietly on the terrace of our lagoon hut. In front of me, a group of pelicans fishing. They clap their wings together bringing the surrounding fish towards shallow water. Enabling them to scoop the fish up with their beak.
It’s a magnificent spectacle, which I enjoy to the fullest”
Senegal is one of the countries that inspires us so much we keep going back. The first time was an immersing family trip with the kids and “de prins of Hola Pola” in 2008. Since one week was far too short for me, I added an extension. By simply typing “ecolodge” into google, I stumbled upon “Lodge Les collines de Niassam”.
We only stayed there for one night, but it was enough for love at first sight. We soon returned followed by a third and fourth time … in the meantine, I’ve lost count of the number of visits.
Why did this place steal our heart:
ITS NATURE SURROUNDED LOCATION
The lodge is located north of Gambia, by the delta estuary and natural reserve Sine Saloum.
It is a beautiful nature reserve where lagoons and mangroves alternate with savanna and baobabs.
THE ACCOMMODATION: Sleeping in stilt houses on the water or high up in a baobab
The rooms are built entirely in harmony with nature. The owners Jean Pierre and Sylvie built some beautiful tree houses in the ancient baobabs. You are literally sleeping between the birds.
On the water, 4 stilt houses have been built of which 2 on a small island. The last one is our absolute favorite one:”lagune 4”
A narrow walkway leads you to it. The master bedroom is surrounded by large windows. We never close the curtains. In the morning we watch the sunrise from in our bed while the kingfishers catching their breakfast. Waking at night ringed by hundreds of fishing pelicans raises your heartbeat.
A PHOTOGENIC SURROUNDING
Hundreds, thousands of pictures have been personally taken and I still can’t fulfill the urge. The lagoon with its many birds, the reflections in the water, the silhouettes of ancient baobabs.
The colorful population, the local markets, the fishing villages. The passers-by on horse and cart, the playful children in the street, the lizard that struts past the pool. Every photographer can truly indulge themselves here.
A BIRD PARADISE
Pelicans, flamingos, touts, kingfishers, parrots, hornbills … .bringing out the telephoto lens to photograph these birds is pure relaxation for us.
Tip: Turn on the tap to the shower by the pool, in no time you will find dozens of birds splashing around in the water.
TO THE HYENAS BY HORSE AND CART
We never skip this excursion, in fact, each stay we find ourselves joining 2 or 3 times. The hyenas appear from the mangroves around sunset and enter the night to hunt for food.
They are spectacular with their stature, their roar. But despite possibly not finding them, the journey towards it is worth the trip. The silhouettes of the baobab trees stand out against the dark sky, the birds looking for a place to spend the night, the jackals emerging from their holes to join the hunt.
THE FEELING OF FREEDOM
No fences, no walls nor gates at this lodge. Far on the top of our list for the ultimate vacation spot.
You walk from your cabin directly into nature. The view is endless.
The lodge ‘des Colines de Niassam’ has already been around for 14 years yet the same people are still working there. They even helped out with building the lodge. You feel right at home.
There is no rigid distant atmosphere here. There is laughter and dancing, it’s one big family.
A DELICIOUS KITCHEN
Nafie, Mathilde, Binta …the whole kitchen team creates the tastiest dishes. You find yourself eating the most delicious fish on the terrace with a breathtaking view.
In the kitchen there is laughter, dancing, gossip, titter. Feel free to walk inside, the master-chefs really appreciate this and if you’re lucky you might receive a homemade “madeleine” cookie.
THE MARKET OF NGUENIENE
Every Wednesday you van visit a large local market by bush-taxi. It is a colorful event and an ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and authentic Africa. Literally everything is sold there.
Vegetables, fruit, clothing, soap, spices, tools, voodoo, chickens, sheep, cows … anything you could possibly imagine.
We are always looking out for fruit gourds and always end up at the cattle market where we admire the proud men wearing long robes and matching turbans.
1 of the main reasons why we admire this lodge in great lengths is that they are a perfect example of ecotourism.
The lodge operates almost autonomously. There is a private vegetable garden. They have solar panels. The waste is composted. The accomodation is built with local materials. The rooms are built entirely in harmony with nature. The fees for excursions and taxi bills are paid directly to the local guides or drivers. There is a small shop where the staff sell homemade preserves, clothing and handbags. This is the only lodge I know which operates this way. Here it is not all profit.
THE ULTIMATE PLACE TO RELAX
Hendrik and I have a busy life and when we travel we are still driven to acquire, explore cultures and admire nature. But in Niassam we come to rest (there is no WiFi). We read a book by the pool, walk along the lagoon or simply lie in bed and admire the view.
The Niassam is a paradise for nature lovers and dreamers.
This post is also available in: Dutch