Advantages sun sea sand and more only 6 hours away
Disadvantages Locals bombarding you as soon as you leave hotel
I visited The Gambia in October 1999. I took my two children then aged 16 and 13 with me and we all agree this is the best country we have visited.We had a very pleasant 6 hour flight, and the minute we left the plane, we were hit by the atmosphere of this lovely country. As we were searching for our coach to take us to our hotel we were bombarded by young children asking for our newspapers and magazines, which we later found out they sold to other holidaymakers the following day. There were men and women on stilts trying their best to entertain us.
The journey from the airport to our hotel was a real eye opener. We were staying at the Hotel Senegambia in Kololi. At the time there were no roads as we know them, although I did hear a new road was being built which would bypass Serekunda, which I think is a great shame as travelling through this town, really gives you an insight to what life in The Gambia is like. People were eveywhere, and stalls were set up in every part of the town, selling I would imagine anything to everything you could want, even though you would have to search hard for it. It took about an hour and a half to get to our hotel, which is a large 4 star place, with lovely grounds and beautiful birds and wildlife.We had a minor problem with our room which did take some considerable time for me sort out. The ceiling fan was virtually hanging off the ceiling and could have caused us some injury if it fell while operating, so I asked for another room then found out that for a suppliment of £70 I could have a room with proper air conditioning, which I took. Well worth it as the humidity was the same day and night.
We went on some trips in our short week there. One such trip was a day travelling on an open sided lorry to various parts of the country, a fishing village, a school where we saw how and what they learned, and gave them the things we had bought, ie pens pencils and notepaper, which was all gratefully received. I also decided to sponser a six year old boy through his schooling, costing me the princely sum of £30.00. A video was made of this day which we bought, it also showed us racing along the sands with another lorry to a deserted beach where we could swim and have lunch.As soon as you step out of the hotel you are indeed bombarded with locals selling something even children as young as 4 or 5. You HAVE to accept this. It is part of their life. We did find it a bit daunting at first especailly as my daughter being only 16, with blond hair and big blue eyes. She got lots of at times unwanted attention from young lads, and older men. I would never have let her go anywhere on her own of course. But even my son at 13 got lots of attention which he didn't always know how to take.
At the hotel a group of vultures were fed every day at 11am and it was a lovely sight. There were also huge monitor lizards living in the grounds. Our room was by a pond, and our first sight in the mornings was of 2 of them lounging by it. We were also lucky enough to see monkeys in the trees of the grounds. We were on a half board basis, so the food was ok not much to write home about. We didn't really go on the beach, as we found we could not relax and sunbathe for the locals harrassing us much more than in the other surrounding areas. My daughter had her hair braided by a local as the hairdresser wanted to charge £60, and this girl charged £15. But she also wanted Amy's dress shoes, and magazines, which she didn't get. It took three hours. Amy kept them in for quite a few weeks after, but had to take them out when she had to do something for her college course, as a beauty therapist. It took us 3 hours, and quite a bit of lost hair too!!!Nightlife is something i am not really bothered about, which is just as well because there wasn't much, most of it being centred round the hotels. We were happy to sit in the bars of the village and watch the local life going by. Always colourful, always vibrant. The local lady with 3 children somehow all attached to her body in long flowing colourful dresses. Old men wobbling along on bikes made up of all different peices, young children selling peanuts, or fruit balanced on their heards How did they do that?. Cats and dogs lazily dozing, chicken scattering noisily about as a rickety car comes haring past.
It's hard to put it in words. I would dearly love to go back there, unfortunately my children are old enough for their own holidays now and my husband is not keen to go.It's not a holiday place like Benidorm. If you want that don't go to The Gambia. If you want something different then DO go.
Injections and Malaria tablets are a must, and the malaria tablets have to be started before you go and be carried on after your return. I also took garlick tablets every day, as did my son My daughter didn't and she was the one bothered by mosquitos not us.
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