The Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve is a Gambia based national park established in the year 1996. This national covers a total area of 220 sq. km. The exact location of this wetland reserve is along River Gambia’s north bank, about 100 km away from the mouth of the river. Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve is even named after one of the tributaries of River Gambia, the Bao Bolon. This tributary emerges from Senegal and travels to meet River Gambia.
The area, which now has the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve, was first declared to be the homeland for this reserve in the year 1993. However, the inauguration of the reserve took 3 more years to happen. Bao Bolong is the first Gambian reserve that is meant for protecting a wetland area.
The entire area of the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve is inhabited by rich flora and fauna amidst different forms of ecosystems. There are some tree species which are declared as protected species by the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve authority; examples of these tree species include: wild mango tree or Cordyla africana, ana tree, Parinari macrophylla, Néré or Parkia biglobosa, Pterocarpus erinaceus etc.
The reserve has a mangrove forest area. Here, you will come across several varieties of mangrove trees, majority of which are located in the Senegambia region of the reserve. The mangrove trees here grow up to 20m in height. Some of the popular mangrove species of Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve are: red mangrove or Rhizophora mangle, black mangrove or Avicennia germinans and Rhizophora racemosa.
The next most interesting flora variety housed by Bao Bolong is salt marsh. The species of salt marches found here include: Sesuvium portulacastrum. How many of us were aware of grasses of different species? During your visit to this reserve, you will get to know and see different species of grasses, for example: Diplachne fusca, Paspalum vaginatum, Sporobolus spicatus, paper reed, Phragmites karka, Echinochloa pyramidalis etc.
The Savanna is flooded with different tree species like Bombax costatum, Terminalia albida, Daniellia oliveri and many such others. The area is also densely inhabited by shrubs; while taking a stroll across the Savanna, you will encounter different fig species, Nauclea latifolia, Anthostema senegalense, Terminalia avicennoides and Physostigma thonningii. The grass species in Savanna include names like Gamba grass or Andropogon gayanus, Pennisetum subangustum, Andropogon tectorum and Beckeropsis uniseta.
Let us now introduce the readers to the fauna of the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve. We are starting with the fish species housed by this wetland reserve. Here, you will get to see both common and rare fish species. Some of the most prominent names among them include: Barracudas or Sphyraena species, Ethmalosa fimbriata, Arius latiscutatus, Polydactylus quadrifilis, Pomadasys perotaei, Pseudotolithus bracygnathus and Pseudotolithus elongatus. The waters of the wetland also play home to common fish species like mullets or Mugilidae and Tilapia. The place is also famous for accommodating an oyster variety called Crassostrea gasar. If lucky, you will also get to witness the blue crab or Callinectes sapidus.
Another specialty of the wetland reserve is a rare mammal species known as the West African Manatees or Trichechus senegalensis. These mammals reside amidst the water area of the mangroves; Trichechus senegalensis is categorized as endangered species. Another aquatic animal species housed by the reserve is Crocodylus niloticus, a reptile better known as Nile crocodile.
The Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve is home to over 32 mammal species. One of the most notable species among them is the African Clawless Otters or Aonyx capensis. You will also come across antelopes such as bushbuck or Tragelaphus scriptus, duiker or Cephalophinae, warthogs or Phacochoerus africanus and sitatunga or Tragelaphus spekeii. The visitors will also surely get glimpses of Crocuta crocuta or Spotted Hyena and Pancthera pardus or leopards.