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Travel & Holiday Tips in The Gambia
 
 
 

General

The Gambia may be mainland Africa’s smallest nation, but it offers a much-varied landscape, featuring sandy beaches, lush tropical forests, swamps, marshes and large areas of wooded savannah. The River Gambia, one of Africa's great waterways, dominates the country, and The Gambia’s parks, reserves and riverbanks are a major draw for ecotourists: they harbour monkeys, crocodiles, a small population of hippos and well over 500 bird species.

Visitors keen to experience West African music and rural culture may choose to travel off the beaten track, spending time in simple up-country villages. But, for many, it is The Gambia's idyllic cocktail of sunny days, warm welcomes and relaxing Atlantic beach resorts which lures them to this little slice of Africa.

Banjul & The Coast

The River Gambia is several miles wide at its mouth near Cape St Mary. It narrows to 5 km (3 miles) at Banjul (known as Bathurst in pre-independence days), which is situated on St Mary’s Island and has a deep and sheltered harbour.

Banjul

The only sizeable town in the country, Banjul is also the seat of government. There is an interesting National Museum. The area around MacCarthy Square has a colonial atmosphere, with pleasant 19th-century architecture. Nearby is the craft market. Souvenirs and local handicrafts can also be bought at various bengdulala (meaning a 'meeting place' in the Mandinka language); shopping areas consisting of African-style stalls, usually built near hotels.

The Atlantic coast to the south of Banjul boasts some of the finest beaches in all of Africa with no less than 15 hotels in the Banjul, Kombo and St Mary area. They are served by the international airport at Yundum, 15 miles southwest of the capital.

The River Gambia

This is the dominant feature of the country and is the major method of irrigation, as well as providing opportunities for fishing, boating and sailing. It is possible to take boat trips up the river. Most remarkable is the abundance and variety of birdlife along the shores.

The Abuko Nature Reserve, which has crocodiles, monkeys, birds and antelopes, is worth visiting. Details of cruises can be found on hotel noticeboards. The Kiang West National Park also has a rich birdlife as well as other animal species; tourist facilities in the park are well developed. Banjul is the starting point for coach and river trips to all parts of the country and coastline. The whole river and the numerous creeks (known locally as bolongs) which join it, are fascinating to both the bird lover and the student of nature.

Fort Bullen at Barra Point was built by the British 200 years ago to cover the approaches to Banjul and the river, succeeding James Island Fortress (destroyed by the French) as the main point of defence in the colony. It can be reached by direct ferry from the capital. Oyster Creek is the centre of an area of creeks and waterways which can be visited from Banjul.

Upriver from Banjul

Albreda was the main French trading post before they withdrew from The Gambia. Nearby is the village of Juffure, the alleged home of the ancestors of black American writer Alex Haley, author of Roots. However, the authenticity of his account has been questioned over the years. Visitors who want to see more of the countryside may cross by ferry from Banjul to Barra and travel by road to Juffure and Albreda (the journey lasts about 50 minutes), and then by canoe to James Island in the calm waters of the River Gambia. The Niokolo-Koba National Park in the Upper Casamance regions is a World Heritage site of outstanding beauty. The popular tourist destination of Tendaba is 160 km (100 miles) from Banjul by river or road. Further upriver, the fascinating circles of standing stones around Wassau have now been identified as burial grounds more than 1,200 years old. Georgetown was the 'second city' of colonial days, and is still the administrative and trading centre of the region. Basse Santa Su is the major trading centre for the upper reaches of the Gambia River. Handsome trading houses built at the turn of the century can be seen there. By the riverside at Perai Tenda can be found a multitude of abandoned shops formerly operated by European, Gambian and Lebanese merchants in the days when upriver commerce offered substantial profits for private traders.

 

 
 

 



 


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