Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Ecotouriism and the bats in the beobab tree

At the end of our arduous first day of travel in Senegal we arrived at an island outside the town of Toubacouba on the southwestern coast. The Saloume River created a mangrove tree covered delta that came under the ecological protection of the government in 2003.

We stayed in a thatched hut on beds with mattresses and mosquito nets. We had started our malaria medicine 48 hours prior to our departure but we still needed to avoid the mosquitoes. The electricity came from solar panels and the water from overhead tanks. The bathroom, such as it was, had no roof.

We slept the sleep of the exhausted and awoke to a clear, cool, fresh morning and a beautiful view of the salt water and mangrove trees of the delta. Except for the occasional splashes of fish feeding in the water below our world was silent.

Unsure of when lunch was to start, we arrived an hour and a half early. While waiting, Jamie and I cleaned out the island's supply of Flag brand beer and started on the Gazelle. For lunch we had a traditional Senegalese lunch of rice and fish called ceebu jen. During the heat of the day we slept and swam and returned the to the dining room for a late (for me) supper.

When darkness fell we armed ourselves with mosquito repellant and sat in wooden chairs by our hut, gazing at the night sky. Gale wanted to see a shooting star. That's when the bats showed up.

"They live in a beobab tree over there," Jamie said, pointing to his right.

I briefly thought about rising from my wooden chair to investigate. Sanity and lethargy prevailed. My weekly quota of adventures had been exhausted the previous day.

The bats were dark shadows that flickered above or even between us as a few flew under the roof. That was the closest that I had ever been to a bat in my life. Gale quoted her kindergarten statistic on how many mosquitoes a bat consumed in an evening. 

A shooting star fell. We went to bed.

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