Makasutu Cultural Forest in Mandina, Gambia is the foremost ecological tourist spot in West Africa. Named after the Mandinkan word Makasutu, meaning holy and sacred deep forest, this private reserve maintains the teeming tropical woodlands within its enclosures with due reverence.
Makasutu Cultural Forest is located approximately 5 kilometers northeast of Brikama, one of the Republic of Gambia’s largest cities. Getting to the site is fairly easy, with travel time from any of the coastal hotel resorts taking around an hour via 4×4 jeep.
What to See There
Occupying 1,000 acres and bordering 5 miles of the Mandina Bolong River, Makasutu Cultural Forest covers 5 diverse ecosystems; namely, gallery forest, mangroves, palm forest, savannah, and wetland/salt flats. Each of these ecosystems supports a wide variety of wildlife, including various species of birds, migrating baboons and monitor lizards. Tourists are taken on guided walks through the forest, experiencing not only the natural wonders of the wilderness, but also encountering the indigenous people who inhabit the area.
Visitors also get to take canoe rides through the serene waters of the Mandina Bolong River, on whose banks teem flourishing mangroves and exotic birds such as kingfishers and giant herons. Following the tour of the river, the visitors are then treated to a lunch of traditional Gambian cuisine at the Baobab Cultural Center. Along with the meal comes a performance of cultural dancing and singing from the people of the Jola tribe, and the guests themselves are encouraged to take to the stage and take part in the fun. Tourists also have the opportunity to learn certain crafts and partake in such activities as cooking, weaving, woodcarving, furniture making, and pottery.
After spending 3 years searching all over Gambia for an ideal eco-tourism destination, Englishmen James English and Lawrence Williams discovered Makasutu Cultural Forest on Christmas Eve in 1992. Purchasing 4 acres from the land’s local owners, the Sanneh family, English and Lawrence left Makasutu for 3 months. When they returned, they found that several trees in the area had been cut down. With the cooperation of the Sannah family and the forestry department, the forest was turned into a cultural reserve, preserving the local wildlife, as well as the culture of the native tribes people. With more than 1,000 hectares of land purchased, 15,000 trees would eventually be planted through the course of a few years, and 70 wells were dug to help in watering these newly planted trees. The development of the site would take 7 years, officially opening on July 20, 1999.
Makasutu Cultural Forest can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com. For bookings, inquiries and additional information, log on to their website, http://www.makasutu.com/.