Advantages Surf, sunshine, great people
I travelled to The Gambia in January (2004) and am still completely enchanted by the place. Its a small country at 30miles narrowing to only 15 miles wide and 200 miles long. Its centred around the Gambia River, so the country is quite lush and green compared with other African countries. It was part of the British Colony until it gained independence in 1965. Its principally a muslim country and made up of five tribes, the largest being Mandinka.**BEFORE YOU TRAVEL**
I travelled with my other half and my parents (who went to The Gambia last year and invited us to join them this year) from Bristol (You can also fly from Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow). We stayed in a 3 star hotel on a Bed and Breakfast basis, which cost us approx £520.00 for the fortnight. I think this is very reasonable for a two week holiday. Almost everyone I spoke to before we went, assumed that The Gambia was going to be very expensive. At this point I would say, that I wouldn't recommend anyone thinking of travelling to The Gambia, to go on an all-inclusive basis, which many of the hotels are now offering. As a rule, you can eat out for cheaper and of a better quality.
You land at Banjul International Airport, which it quite an experience in itself. You need to remember to have at the ready, one crisp £5 note per person, which is your airport tax. Its a small airport but it is filled with hussle and bussle. Tthere were locals very eager to take your case from the baggage carousel through customs and out to your coach. This will cost you one English pound. We travelled with The Gambia Experience who provided water and fans before you embark your coach to transfer to your hotel. This was highly welcomed, after leaving cold, damp England to enter the sunny and scortching hot Gambia, its quite a shock to the system. It's a good idea to go to your welcome meeting, organised by your toup operator for first time visitors. I don't wish to put people off, but like anywhere, you sometimes have to keep your wits about you. Also you gain valuable information, even down to the tides, as its not safe to swim in the sea on an outgoing tide, due to the strong rip tide. You need to remember that this is a developing third world country.
This is mainly a beach holiday. The beaches are out of this world, and you will find bars, fresh fruit juice and gorgeous fresh mixed tropical fruit available along the miles of golden sand.
I prefered the beaches between Fajara up to Kololi. The sea in the Senegambia area has recently been dredged to recover the eroding beach, which now has broken shell mixed with the sand, so not quite so pleasant. The beaches are in no way crowded. Tourism currently makes up 35% of the economy, which is about 100,000 visitors per annum. The aim is to attract one million visitors per year.
A very interesting trip, is the 'Roots' trip, which takes you from Banjul to Albreda and Juffureh by boat. Once at Albreda and Juffureh, you are given the history of the slave trade which operated from here and was the subject of Alex Haleys television series 'Roots'. Then you meet the Chief of Juffureh, currently the only female chief in The Gambia. Next you meet the relatives of Kunta Kinte and lastly visit a craft market and museum. A short distance away by the boat is James Island - the island where the slaves were held. This trip cost £34.00 through the tour reps.
KACHICALLY CROCODILE POOL
Again this is an animal experience with no bars or cages!! The admission cost here is D15 (30p), which goes towards feeding the crocs with fish. Basically you are free to wonder around the pool, with crocs all around you. Guides are available to tell you which are safe to touch. One croc 'Charlie' of 33 years, actually allows visitors to shake hands!! Arghhh what a cutie!!
The people are absolutely great. Each person will stop and talk to you and will remember you when they see you again. Some offer to take you to their homes, we did have a cup of green tea at the home of our friend. The people are very family orientated, they live in compounds which generally has a section for each family group around the extended family within the same compound. As there is no income support or family credit, the younger and older members of the family are supported by those who are able to work, unfortunately in some cases, the children are sent out to sell nuts or fruit to the tourists to provide an income. As it is a poor country, education is highly regarded. Those who are lucky enough to go to school, really work hard. The living conditions here, do not dampen their happy spirit. They will be pleased to chat and welcome you to the aptly known SMILING COAST OF WEST AFRICA.
This holiday has given a little bit of everything - glorious beaches, markets, amazing people, wildlife (a real paradise for bird watchers), great food, reggae - I could go on and on. Therefore I would highly recommend the Gambia to anyone thinking of a winter sun holiday.
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