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Bao Bolon is located on the North Bank of The Gambia River opposite the Kiang West National Park. It consists of six major bolons between Salikeni and Katchang. Together these bolons form a vast wetland complex of international importance.
It is a valley which stretches over a length of more than 140km from the border south of Ferlo towards the river Gambia. The valley crosses the Senegalese territory at Marlene and penetrates The Gambian territory through Illiassa.
Bao Bolon contains four main ecosystems – estuary, woodland-savannah, salt-marsh and mangrove forest. The Bao Bolon is a braided river system which extends north into Senegal, and in The Gambia forms a network of waterways and marshes interspersed with dry woodland savannah on higher ground. To the north of the reserve, the marshes are dominated by large stands of the reed swamps.
On the journey up through the bolons, you may see crocodile basking on the muddy banks or the slide-marks from where they re-enter the water. Clawless otters occur throughout the reserve and can prove quite inquisitive when encountered. Further upstream, warthog, hyena and jackal may be seen in the drier areas.
Some of the birds in the reserve include heron, sacred ibis, Pel’s fishing owl, brown necked parrots, African fishing eagle, osprey, finfoot, waders and other migrants from Europea.
The best way to explore the reserve is from the River Gambia by boat, and to wind slowly up the bolons through the mangrove until the surrounding land rises and the mangrove gives way to a mosaic of marsh, salt-flats and dry woodland. The drier areas can then be accessed by foot.
Access by road is available from Konti Kunda Niji where a laterite track leads south along the base of the escarpment to the west of the bolon. From the escarpment edge excellent views are to be had and it is a good location from which to scan for wildlife. Other access points by road include Katchang to the east, Njaba Kunda to the north and Salikene to the west.