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Niumi National Park, Gambia
 
 
INTRODUCTION:
The Niumi National Park, which was gazetted in 1986, under section 5.2 of the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1977, is a protected marine delta, in the North Bank Region of the Lower Niumi District of The Gambia, in West Africa. The delta covers the northern section of the River Gambia, the southern section of the Saloum Delta National Park, in Senegal, and locally  covers an area of 4,900 hectares (49 square kilometres). The nature reserve also includes a broad section of the Atlantic Ocean, and is home to a wide range of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, such as dolphins, hyenas, manatee, butterflies, leopards, egrets, tilapia, antelopes and lizards.

GEOGRAPHIC FEATURES:
The southern tip of the delta, which is 7 nautical miles from the capital Banjul, begins at Fort Bullen, just outside Barra town, and expands north and east all the way to the Gambia's border with Senegal, and has a 15 km long coastal stretch. Northwards, just after the the border, it is contiguous with the  Parc National du Delta du Saloum. Near the centre of the park is the Massarinko Bolon, a creek bordered by a large expanse of mangroves dominated by laterite boulder escarpments. The average elevation within the park is less than 5m with a maximum of c15m.  Massarinko Bolon joins with a smaller creek, the Niji Bolon, which courses roughly north-south. To the west of the Niji Bolon and to the right of the Atlantic Ocean is Jinack Island, an elongated, bowed 1km wide strip of land.
 
HABITATS:
The Niumi wetland complex contains a diverse range of habitats, including basin and fringe mangrove forest, brackish coastal lagoon, bush scrubland, closed forest, coastal grass / scrubland, dry woodland savanna, estuarine waters, forest / woodland, freshwater lagoon, freshwater marsh, seasonal marsh, grassland, horticultural / agricultural, intertidal mudflats, Mitragyna woodland, rice paddies, saltwater marsh wetlands, salt pan (bare tannes), sand beaches, sand dunes, scrubland, shallow marine waters, swamp grassland and Tamarisk marsh.

FAUNA:
Among the diverse number of animal species present in Niumi National Park are mammals such as the spotted hyena, warthogs, Gallago and green Patas monkeys, red colobus, bushbuck, the endangered African clawless otter, Grimm’s duiker, kob, reedbuck, African wildcat, Egyptian and Gambian mongoose and leopard. Aquatic mammals includes the endangered and rarely seen West African Manatee, Atlantic humpback dolphins and the more common schools of bottlenose dolphins, which are most commonly seen from mid November to January. Among reptile species are endangered green turtles (which lay their eggs at night between Barra and Buniadu Point), crocodiles, snakes and Monitor lizards.

The aquatic invertebrate fauna is comprised mainly of mollusks and crustaceans. Abundant species include mangrove oysters, West African Fiddler Crabs and African Ghost Crabs. The delta waters are important nurseries for fish fry and juveniles. Among species of fish found here most are in their developmental stages; such as the Giant African Threadfin, African Red Snapper, Flagfin, Senegalese Sumpat grunt, Mullet Mugil spp., and Tilapia spp.

AVIFAUNA:
The protected area is ideal for birdwatching. Especially during the Gambia's rainy season Niumi National Park is abundant in resident and inter-African bird species, as well as a plethora of Palearctic migrants, who stay in the delta during the European winter to increase their fat reserves, before continuing south. By the time the spring migration north gets underway, much of the wetlands have dried up and its feeding value for waterfowl and waders is reduced. However, it's still a valuable roosting and feeding ground for gulls, terns and some wader species. Don't miss the birds in the Buniadu Point lagoon in the north shore of Jinack Island.

Over 200 bird species have been recorded at Niumi such as the Pygmy Sunbird, Slender-billed Gull, Oystercatcher, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Tree Pipit, Plain Back Pipit, Broad-bill Roller, Harrier Eagle, Long-crested Hawk Eagle, Yellow Wagtail, European Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike, White-fronted Sand Plover, Heron, Pigmy Kingfisher, Brubru, Woodland Kingfisher, Osprey and Wheatear.
 
FLORA:
Mangrove forest dominates the bolongs fringes within the Niumi National Park and is found along the Niji and Massarinko. In the coastal area the mangroves are comparatively shorter, but further inland they can be up to 20 metres high, dominated by Avicennia nitida. Six woody species are found within the mangrove belt, i.e. Rhizophora mangle, Rhizophora harissionii, Conocarpus erectus, Laguncularia racemosa, Rhizophora racemosa and Avicennia nitida.

Some of the other vegetation found in the area are Tamarisk shrub, Confetti Tree, Senegal Lilac, Gingerbread Plum, Bell-flowered Mimosa, Chinese Date, Bitter Leaf, Burning Bush, West Indian Alder, Fireball Lily, African Arrowroot Lily, Yellow Arum, Star Thistle, Rattle Box Crotalaria, Thirsty Thorn, Hibiscus and River Bean.

TRAVEL INFORMATION & HOW TO GET THERE:
If you are on holiday to Gambia then you most likely will come to Niumi National Park from your resort by organised excursion through your tour operator. For independent travellers to get to the nature reserve, you take a ferry from near the port of Banjul to Barra. From Barra town you then take a local taxi driving towards Fass and Senegal, then turn left at Kanuma into the park. There are a few villages in the vicinity called Jinack Niji and Jinack Kajata. It is possible to take a day-trip excursion from one of the resorts, such as Kololi, if you set out quite early, just before before the crack of dawn.

A typical tourist day trip might involve an African pirogue cruise at the head of the Niji Bolon and along the Massarinko Bolon, traverse Jinack Island by donkey cart or trekking on foot, drop into the village of Niji, and take your lunch break under grass shading on the beach of Jinack Island. If you are a wildlife enthusiast then consider going solo or in a small group and consider sleeping over as very often the best time to see wildlife is not at mid-day.

See also Safety.

CONTACT ADDRESS DETAILS:
Department of Parks & Wildlife Management Keyhole Glider Dragonfly
Abuko Nature Reserve, HQ
C/o Ministry of Forestry & the Environment
GIPFZA House, Kairaba Avenue
The Gambia, West Africa
Tel no: +220 4376973
                     9817559
                     3917559

Email: info@mofen.gov.gm



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[Geographical coordinates 13.1833° N, 16.7667° W / Kombo South, Western Region]



 










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