Luxury lodges on a tributary of the River Gambia, deep in the heart of Makasutu Forest.
In the sacred forest of Makasutu, you’ll 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.
This article contains affiliate links. For more information about affiliate links, please visit our Affiliate DIsclosure and Review Policy.
The lodges are simple but stylish and comfortable. If you tire of the beautiful river view from your room, 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.
Mandina River Lodges
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 sides 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.
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.
The ideal choice for a honeymoon, the Stilted Lodge has a double bedroom with an ensuite open-air bathroom, a separate lounge and a raised day room with a second double bed, perfect for sleeping under the stars.
Set back from the river in the gardens are three stunning Jungle Lodges. Each has an open-air shower and an internal flushing toilet. Spiral stairs lead up onto the rooftop terrace.
The most recent addition is the Mangrove Lodge, a thatched lodge set on one level with a large bedroom, indoor bathroom with a flushing toilet (as opposed to a composting one) and a private terrace with views across the mangroves and the forest.
The staff at Mandina Lodges
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.
Check out what people are saying about Mandina Lodges on TripAdvisor.
Dining at Mandina Lodges
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the alfresco dining 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. I can highly recommend the fishcakes (pictured below).
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 delicious.
Mandina Lodges’ sustainability policy
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.
Tip: All arriving 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 this magical little country, the smallest on mainland Africa. But don’t let it’s diminutive size fool you, there are plenty of things to do in The Gambia. Just a relatively short taxi ride will bring you to a colourful, local market in a bustling town, a sleepy village or a deserted sandy beach, backed by palm trees.
For more information visit, Mandina Lodges.
Update and more of my images from Mandina…
I fell in love with Mandina and Makasutu Forest many years ago, so much so, that I returned a couple of years later with my husband on honeymoon. He quickly fell for Mandina, the baboons and The Gambia too!
Boutique Travel Blog’s founder and editor, Kathryn, also blogs at TravelWithKat.com where she shares her passion for discovering new countries, cultures and cuisines.