Luxury lodges on a tributary of the River Gambia, deep in the heart of Makasutu Forest
Unique Eco-Resort • 9 lodges
In the sacred forest of Makasutu, you will find the perfect place to escape the world, relax and unwind. With just nine lodges, at many times, it will feel as if you have this magical setting all to yourself. And with no WiFi, a digital detox is guaranteed.
The lodges are fairly simple but stylish and comfortable. If you tire of the wonderful river view from your lodge, you can take a dip in the lovely pool or get closer to nature exploring the forest on foot. A local guide will happily accompany you and will also take you out by dugout canoe to explore the Mandina Bolon for maybe a spot of birdwatching or a walk around a nearby village.
Four of the lodges are reached by a wooden walkway through the mangroves with a jetty leading to each one of the floating lodges. You’ll find a spacious double bedroom with a four-poster bed looking out over the bolon (river tributary) and an open-air, ensuite bathroom with composting toilet. A narrow verandah surrounds the lodge on three side and there’s a small canopied seating area. It’s the perfect place to sip your morning cuppa, brought to you with a thermos flask of hot water each morning (at the time of your choice), and watch the river and forest awake – a wonderful experience that I enjoyed just last month.
As I lie in bed I can feel a gentle movement in the decking beneath me or is it my imagination. I listen to the creeks and groans of the wood… splashes of water… silence… another splash. Getting out of bed I draw back the muslin curtains and catch my breath. A multitude of stars shine in the African night sky, each with its reflection shimmering in the water that surrounds me. So many stars. Deep in the Makasutu Forest there’s no such thing as light pollution.
Read more about my experience of the Mandina floating lodges on Boutique Travel Blog’s sister site, Travel With Kat – A night on the river in Makasutu Forest.
There is also a larger, Stilted Lodge on the river with a separate lounge, a second storey day room and a double bedroom with ensuite open-air bathroom. A further four very stylish, Jungle Lodges are set back from the river, each with an ensuite bathroom and a superb roof terrace with a shower and an additional four-poster double bed. The most recent addition is the Mangrove Lodge, a thatched lodge set on one level with a large bedroom, indoor bathroom with flushing toilet (as opposed to a composting one) and a private terrace with views across the mangroves and the forest.
I found the service at Mandina superb and suitably laid back – anything rushed here would seem out-of-place. I was also impressed at just how quickly all the staff remembered my name. There really is a wonderful atmosphere here, no doubt due to the glorious location enhanced by the friendliness and charm of the owners and the staff. I was very sorry my stay was just for two nights.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the al fresco dinning area by the pool. Both Continental as well as a full English breakfast are available, cooked to your requirements. There is a small choice of lunch dishes, that varies each day.
The chef will seek you out, each afternoon, and tell you about the choice of evening meals available (usually just two starters, two main courses and two desserts). Vegetarian options are available on request. If you prefer to eat at your lodge, whether inside or out, that can easily be arranged. Although the choices are limited, in part due to the remoteness of Mandina, the food is very good.
When the founders of Mandina Lodges, first moved to Makasutu they set about re-planting the decimated forest. Some 20 years later the reforestation has been such a success that baboons have returned and now number around 200. You can read about my encounter with these mischievous monkeys on Travel With Kat – The Baboons of Makasutu Forest.
The lodges were built, and are run, with sustainability foremost in mind. There’s no energy sapping air conditioning, instead there are ceiling and free standing fans. It’s worth noting that during the day, electricity in the lodges is switched off to conserve energy, which is produced by solar panels.
All visitors are warned not to leave any toiletries in their open-air bathrooms as the baboons may well whisk them away.
While you will probably spend most of your time at Mandina Lodges simply relaxing or exploring Makasutu on foot, or by boat, it is well worth seeing more of The Gambia. There are plenty of things to do, just a relatively short taxi ride away, from visiting local markets, an afternoon on a deserted beach or visiting a nearby village such as Kubenah, where you can see the art installation, Wide Open Walls.