For many years (2002-2013), Hidden Gambia provided visitors to The Gambia with the opportunity to travel off the beaten track to discover the rich variety of birds, wildlife and people that live along the river banks of this West African country.
Vastly more interesting than a hotel-based package holiday and infinitely more relaxed than a "follow-the-leader" style group tour, clients were able to create a customised itinerary based on our unique weekly schedule of boats, vehicles & guides. Accommodation comprised of a selection of hand-picked hotels and eco-lodges - both at the coast and at our own lodge, Bird Safari Camp, 200 miles up-river.
Regrettably, in July 2012, the Gambian director of Bird Safari Camp, Alhagie Bithaye, who should own 3% of the camp, despite never having actually invested any money, turned up and claimed that the entire business now belonged to him! He based this claim on a 2011 court ruling in which it was declared that his removal from the Board of Directors (in 1998, for theft of company property) was null and void because the required 28 days' notice for holding the extraordinary shareholders' meeting had not been given. This requirement was not communicated to the other shareholders by our solicitor at the time.
It later transpired that the same solicitor, Lawyer Ousainou A.N.M. Darboe, had failed to register any shares to the non-Gambian investors in Bird Safari Camp, despite producing documents signed by Bithaye as Company Secretary - indicating that he had. It is now 3 years, 8 months and 14 days since we filed a court case attempting to get our shares registered, however, still no judgement has been reached.
In the meantime, Bithaye has stolen tens of thousands of £'s worth of company property, including Hidden Gambia's boats (which were only leased to Bird Safari Camp). Our solar-powered boat - the first in Africa - was impounded by the police in November 2012, because Bithaye claimed that it belonged to Bird Safari Camp (and therefore to him!). My staff were refused access to replace a bilge pump and in August 2014 the boat filled with rainwater and sank. To date my €100,000 investment is still sitting at the bottom of the Gambia River, gradually rusting away.
In April 2013, I suspended Hidden Gambia's operations and in September 2016, I closed the company down permanently. I will never, however, give up my rights to Bird Safari Camp, nor my boats, and I trust that anyone visiting The Gambia will stay well clear of Bithaye and (what little is left of) Bird Safari Camp until long after they have both slipped back into the mud!
Having spent the best part of 20 years helping to develop tourism in The Gambia, I have now moved on to other projects. My thoughts, however, remain with the former staff of Bird Safari Camp and the many other Gambians and their families that we (and you!) supported through Hidden Gambia, some of whom have since risked their lives to travel to Europe in search of a better life.