Bamako Mali, Trip report for Kabala area, May 2003 and February 2004

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


by Mary Crickmore

For those traveling to Bamako, Mali, there is good birding very near the city. And for those who want to be sure not to miss Egyptian Plover, a visit to the area of Kabala is in order.

Kabala is a developing neighborhood, but just beyond it are fields, mango groves, and the Niger River. Close to the river is a campground with a small (5 room) hotel and open-air restaurant. This is called Le Cactus, and the area immediately around it is great for birding. To reach Le Cactus, coming from downtown cross the new bridge.

The first exit is the road through Torokorobougou neighborhood that leads to Kabala. Follow this paved road for 12 kilometers and there is a sign for the turnoff to Cactus. This is a short paved road that leads to the football training facility, and right next to that is a dirt road and the entrance to Cactus. Next to Cactus is an open field and a brushy area. Cactus is an excellent place to stay for those who have a vehicle. For those who do not, there are over 50 lodging possibilities in town with a large range of quality and prices. There are public transport vans that run to Kabala during the day, but the convenience and comfort level is nil. Taxis are better, and can be hired for an hourly rate of about $8 US equivalent, but to find one you need to be closer to downtown.

During August, September, and October, the Niger river is high and comes quite close to the Cactus. In dry season, however, the water recedes and leaves a large expanse of sand, which is heavily cratered where people have removed sand to sell. Sometimes Egyptian Plover are here near the water's edge. They also frequent the area several kilometers upstream. To get to that spot, go from Cactus back to the main road. Turn right (there is a Stop sign) and go for two kilometers. Before the two kilometers are up, the main road changes from asphalt to red dirt--keep going. Just before you reach a curve to the left, on your right there are mango trees and a one lane dirt road. Follow this and look for finches, flycatchers, rollers and bee-eaters as you pass through another mango grove. In one kilometer you come to the river. There are many fields here and usually multiple species of raptor.

There are several species of bird that are magnificent at the end of rainy season (August-November) but dull and unidentifiable in the dry season. These include the males of Pin-Tailed Whydah, Northern Red Bishop, and Black-Headed (Yellow-backed) Weaver. In the dry season these and other finches form huge flocks of brown streaky birds.

The climate in Mali is pleasant December through most of February, but regularly gets over 100 degrees F (40 Celsius) the rest of the year. Travelers should take seriously the danger of dehydration and heat exhaustion, wear hats, carry plenty of water, and stay inside during the hours of 12-14:00. There is a lot of chloroquine resistant malaria in Mali. DO take prophylaxis.

Birders who visit Mali are invited to contact Mary Crickmore at marycrickmore(at), phone 221-62-58. The birders in Bamako organize occasional outings and we are always eager to enlarge our group.

In late May 2003 we did the route described above. The rains had already started, and it had rained the night before, so there was lots of standing water. We saw almost 60 species in three hours. I re-did the same route in February 2004. Everywhere it was dusty-dry, except for the river itself. In February there were some Palearctic migrants to add to the list, but many species from May were not present.

I have included on the list some birds species that are sometimes present at Le Cactus although they were not seen on the May and February days that we were recording. No doubt there are still other species that will be added to the Cactus list!

For a list of birds in the vicinity of Le Cactus, Bamako, click here