Crocodile Pool (also known as Katchikally or Katchikali) is
in a 9 acre site in the southern section of Bakau
Old Town, Kombo St. Mary District of The Gambia, and is 12 km
to the west of the Banjul capital.
The complex also has a museum
of ethnography, a mini-forest nature trail, a souvenir shop and
a refreshments bar. There is also car parking space just outside
Kachikally Sacred Crocodile Pool is known by local Gambians for
its healing powers and as a place where people come to pray for
blessings. It is sometimes seen as a place of last resort for
infertile women who wish to conceive; being washed by specially
trained women of the Bojang clan, after which they are told not
to shake hands with anyone in Bakau.
Many others with long-term ailments or misfortune also come to
the pool to bestow them luck and offer kola nuts, cloth and other
offerings to the Bojang family and the crocs in return. Sacred
rituals are still occasionally held here; often accompanied by
dancing and drumming, most of the time, however, the only visitors
site entrance wall is colourfully painted with wildlife
scenes. Once you get through the entrance, you make your way down
a path bordered by large trees frequented by monkeys, insects
and birds. When you reach the pool it is usually overgrown with
pakanju-water lettuce - arum, so you won't see much of the fresh
water itself. There are about 80 odd crocodiles in and around
the pool and you should be able to spot over a dozen dozing
on the banks, and maybe a few cattle egrets on a circle of water
lettuce. The creatures are not particularly large, most measure
less than two metres long, the non-nesting crocs are known to
be very docile and you will often see some visitors stroking or
touching them. They are exclusively fed fish twice a week, which
consists mostly of bonga shad brought in from the Bakau fish jetty.
You may often hear about 'Charlie', however this is a generic
name for quite a few of the crocodilians, which are known as 'bambo'
in the Mandinka language.
being near to the salt wetlands of Cape Creek and the coast, the
spring water in the pool remains fresh, with the occasional visit
from herons and Nile monitors feeding on its healthy population
of frogs. When the water level is too low for the crocodiles to
submerge, the women to bathe ritually or the Bojangs to make naso-potions,
there is no lack of helpers to dig deeper.
The semi-aquatic reptiles were once thought to be Nile Crocodiles
(Crocodylus niloticus), however research
suggests they are a different species, called the Desert or West
African Crocodile (Crocodylus suchus).
LEGEND / ORAL HISTORY:
sacred pool shrine was revealed to the Mandinka Bojang family,
over 520 years ago, by a ruler's sister named Katchikali. She
first tested the worthiness of a Nkooping Bojang - the founder
of Bakau Village - and his sons Tambasi and Jaali Kumba, by pleading
with them to help rescue her child, supposedly fallen into a well.
On approaching the pool a child's cries was heard. Tambasi entered
the well and found the child sitting on a rock surrounded by spring
of water. For showing willing, they were rewarded with the custodianship
of the well itself, where 'any woman washed will, providing
she sleeps with no other.......before the same time next year
bear a child'. Tambasi and Jaali in return gave Katchikali
(a spirit from the forest) the first thing they caught in their
fishing nets at a swamp called 'Tambe-Koba': two crocodiles, which
their mother placed into the well. Many generations of Bojangs
ago, these reptiles were the prelude to the present-day site.
Another variation of the story is that during the 15th/16th
centuries the well at the pool used to provide the only source
of drinking water for the people of Bakau. One day when two
brothers, Tambasi and Jaali, were busy palm wine tapping, a female
Jinn (supernatural entity) came to the well with her child tied
to her back, carrying a bucket. As the Jinn was pulling water
from the well her child fell inside; the woman shouted for help.
Once alerted, the two brothers dashed to see what the problem
was. As they reached the well, they saw the woman in tears and
shouting 'Kachikally', which means in Mandinka 'pick
it up and put it down'. Tambasi and Jaali helped by taking
the child out of the well. The woman thanked the two brothers
and gave a prayer for them. The woman told the brothers that in
future the well would become a sacred shrine for prayers and supplication.
"I have tested you to prove whether your family deserves
custodianship over the pool and its healing powers, and you
have passed the test, so your family will forever be
responsible for the care of this sacred area."
The other two sacred crocodile pools in Gambia are located in
Folonko in Kartong, and Berending.
There is a relatively new, natural pool with small crocodiles,
in Cape Point beach, which can be
accessed via the right side road, next to the Ocean Bay Hotel.
The pond is about 150 metres to your right.
(Source: Dodou Bojang)
Kachikally Museum is a community run ethnographic museum
and is within the Kachikally complex layout. The museum was open
to the public in 2004, and has on display a collection of about
1,000 historic artifacts kept in four African round huts, which
details the history of the Bakau area and displays cultural objects
from many of the ethnic groups
of The Gambia. The exhibits are divided into various sections:
local crafts, music,
agriculture, initiation rites and traditional medicine.
The museum has a staff of around a dozen, which is headed by the
chief custodian, and the exhibits are also under the trusteeship
of the Bojang Family of Bakau.
Kachikally Nature Trail winds through a small tropical
forest in the southern half of urban Bakau
Old Town and is bordered to the east by rice fields and scrub.
The crocodile pool and museum are enclosed within 6 acres of local
tropical forest which has remained relatively untouched for over
400 years. The foot paths that meander through the forest are
almost the only part of the ground that is easily visible.
Dozens of plants and animal species can be found in the unspoilt
mini-forest, many of them are said to be 'unique' to the forest
and cannot be found in any other area of The Gambia. There are
indigenous silk cotton trees, flowering plants, baobab trees,
shrubs, palm trees, climbing plants,
figs and other vegetation. For birdwatching,
the forest is rich in bird species, where you might see the blue-breasted
kingfisher, hamerkop, Barbary shrike, red-bellied paradise flycatcher
and other avians. There are also mammals such as green vervet
monkeys as well as reptiles such as monitor lizards, agama lizards
and various species of snakes (most are non-poisonous) and other
SOUVENIR SHOP & REFRESHMENTS BAR:
complete the visitor experience, the museum has a well stocked
souvenir shop where holidaymakers can buy traditional musical
instruments, local handicrafts, postcards, wood carvings such
as masks, T-shirts, traditional clothes,
tie & dye, and
local book publications authored by people in the Bakau community.
There is also a refreshments bar selling soft-drinks which is
located within a bamboo structure with seating in the garden area.
There are also clean toilet facilities are on the site.
most direct route is the foot path leading through Sanchaba, almost
directly to it from the junction of Atlantic
Road and Old Cape Road, near the craft
market. The other rout is to take the road almost opposite
the mosque on Sait Matty Road, then turn right after about 300
metres into the old town. Opening hours are from 9am to sunset.
The entrance fee is about £2 per visitor.
Mr. Dodou Bojang
Kachikally Sacred Crocodile Pool & Museum
C/O Bakau Post Office
The Gambia, West Africa
Tel no: +220 7782479 or 4497802
• National Centre for Arts & Culture
• Gambia Tourism
• Africom [International Council of African Museums]
• Centre for Heritage Development in Africa [CHDA]
• West African Museums Programme [WAMP]
[Geographical co-ordinates 13.4767° N, 16.6725°
W / Kombo Saint Mary District (Ksmd)