The reserve lies on the Atlantic coast, 15 km to the south-west of the main tourist centres of Fajara and Bakau and 1 km from the expanding town of Brufut. The reserve boundary encloses the tidal, saline reaches of the small Tanji river, which is bordered by 2 km2 of low mangrove forest, saltmarsh and mudflats. Longshore drift creates a shifting channel for the river as it reaches the ocean and is blocked by a sand beach parallel to the land. This has also created several small lagoons between the river’s mouth and Cape Point. The point is the landward limit of a lateritic outcrop which reappears 2 km offshore to form the tiny Bijol Islands, which are included in the reserve. The two unstable islands are accumulations of sand trapped by laterite reefs. They were formerly lightly wooded, disappeared in the 1960s and have gradually reformed since then. The main island is now vegetated with the creeping halophytes Ipomoea pes-caprae and Sesuvium portulacastrum. The remainder of the mainland reserve is degraded savanna and stabilized sand-dunes, the latter with wooded grassland dominated by Parinari macrophylla. There are tiny patches of forest.
See Box for key species. The Bijol Islands and the mouth of the Tanji river are the most important sites in the country for flocks of most species of gulls and terns and occasionally hold more than 20,000 waterbirds. The islands also hold the only known breeding site in The Gambia for Sterna caspia, S. maxima and Larus cirrocephalus (up to 238 pairs). Larus fuscus and Sterna caspia predominate in winter. Larus audouinii was known from occasional counts of fewer than 10 birds on passage and in winter during the 1990s although there was an unprecedented count of 404 on the Bijol Islands in February 1998. Pelecanus onocrotalus has recently begun to roost in hundreds on the Bijol Islands and Charadrius marginatus probably breeds both here and on the mainland. It is suspected that the success of the island’s breeding population of Sterna caspia is low, due to disturbance. The diversity of breeding and migrant birds is impressive, due to Tanji’s position on a headland and the range of habitats. Regular observations have shown it to be the richest site for birds, measured by the number of species recorded, in The Gambia.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals of global conservation concern include Procolobus badius temminckii (EN), while Monachus monachus (CR) and the dolphins Sousa teuzsii (DD) and Tursiops truncatus (DD) occur in the surrounding waters. The turtle Chelonia mydas (EN) is regular offshore and breeds on the Bijol Islands.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Tanji River (Karinti) Bird Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2020.