The Gambia is located at the far end of the West Coast of Africa. It is a small country where English is widely spoken. To the West is the Atlantic Ocean, to the East is Senegal, to the South is Senegal and to the North is Senegal. If you are considering travel destinations in Africa, then this is one place to visit. Below are some of the memorable places to go whenever you are in Gambia.
Rare among African wildlife reserves is the Abuko Wildlife Reserve. It is tiny, easy to reach and you do not need a car to go in. With amazing diversity of vegetation and animals, this well-managed reserve is one of the region’s best.
Wander around the frenzied market known as the Albert Market in Banjul and make sure your haggling skills are polished. It’s never calm here but it is less frenzied in the early morning or late afternoon. You will definitely have somebody offer to be your guide. Whilst it really isn’t at all necessary, taking a guide will ensure you don’t get unwanted attention from a steady stream of bumsters.
The Gambia is a twitcher’s paradise. With over 540 species you’ll see exotic and colourful birds without even leaving your resort’s garden. If you want to see a few more species in their natural habitat, half day or full day’s tours are easily arranged or check out the Tanji Bird Reserve under your own steam.
A small reserve and community forest is a lovely escape from the heat, hustle and bustle and only a short distance from Senegambia. With over 4 km of well-maintained trails, you’ll be led through lush vegetation and forest, towards the coastal sand dunes. You’ll see cheeky green vervet, red colobus and patas monkeys, monitor lizards and an abundant bird life. My advice, go with your binoculars!
One of Gambia’s most popular tourist attractions and for the locals is the Kachikally Crocodile Park. It is a sacred site. To Gambians, crocodiles represent the power of fertility. Women who experience difficulties in conceiving often come here to pray and wash. A child conceived following a visit to the park, is named Kachikally to demonstrate the power of prayer. There are about 80 adult Nile crocodiles at the park and a few smaller ones.
A 30 minutes drive from Kololi is the home to the biggest fishing village in The Gambia, the Tanji Fishing village. There are many colourful wooden boats owned by individuals and families; most interestingly, you can see the whole process of preserving the freshly caught fish. Witness the day’s catch being brought ashore, the smoke houses in action and the drying of the fish with salt. This is a working village and a fascinating insight to the culture of Gambians.
Whilst this is no Stonehenge, the site is a fascinating evidence of ancient African culture. There are 11 circles at Wassu, the tallest of which is almost 3 metres. It’s believed to be the ancient burial ground of kings and chiefs from over 1200 years ago. Local legend has it that there is a curse on anyone who disturbs those laid to rest there, which is probably why they are still intact.
Previously known as James Island, Kunta Kinteh Island is located at the mouth of the Gambia River. The ruins of an old fort and prison which once belonged to colonial Britain, it was from here that many African slaves were transported to America. It’s a popular tourist attraction these days but to consider this was the last the slaves saw of the African continent before being confined to the lower decks of ships that took them to their life of slavery in America is a thought provoking one indeed.
Most visitors to The Gambia will stay in the northern area known as the Kombo district which has 10km of Atlantic coastline. There are several beaches here, most of which are located next to luxurious hotels. Soft white sand, palm trees and fruit sellers make for an idyllic day on the beach.
Words of warning: Swimming may not be advised at some of these beaches due to the undercurrents. Don’t be surprised if you have lots of attention from the bumsters, particularly on Kotu Beach.
Up river Cruise will surely be a highlight of your trip. Take a pirogue (long narrow boat) for a relaxing trip up the Gambia River to Tendaba. You’ll spot plenty of birdlife and maybe some monkeys and crocodiles on the banks of the river.
While your western palate will be catered for in The Gambia, what better way to get to know a country than through its food? Our favourite was the domada: made from peanuts with tomato paste, mustard, black pepper and onions, this sauce will be served with meat or fish and served on a huge bowl of rice. So long as you don’t have a nut allergy, you’ll become a hooked on this dish.
The Gambia is the smallest country on the continent of Africa and so no place is far away. It’s a beautiful country, in our opinion made so by its people. You will get so much more out of your holiday if you make time to chat to some of the Gambian’s you meet. Listen to their stories, how they live their lives; how big their smiles are and how welcoming their hearts are. Then consider your own way of life. We think The Gambia will leave you with so much more to smile about when you get back home. It is called the smiling coast of Africa for this reason!