The Gambia Travel Guide
The smallest country in Africa, the Gambia is popular among Europeans for its picturesque sceneries that look straight out of the movies. The Gambia River spans the length of the country before exiting into the North Atlantic. Engulfed by Senegal, this tiny West African nation is virtually an enclave. Striking poverty does not seem to put a damper on the locals’ high spirits, but watch out for hustlers who are out to get your money. The perfect place to stock up on African drums and tailor-made clothes, just make sure you don’t over do it on the peanuts, which are added to virtually every dish.
Gambia has a thriving tourist industry that is especially popular with Europeans. As tourism is its main industry here, the locals really work on entertaining the tourists. Nevertheless, unemployment is high, and theft and hustling on the streets are common. Accommodation in the Gambia can either be luxurious or crappy. Very expensive upper-class hotels are found along the coastline. It is hard to get good accommodation on a budget, and the choices are mostly dirty and unappealing. However, if you can find a local who has converted their home into a ‘resort’, you’re made. These places can provide you with a comfortable place to stay for a small fee.
When to Go
Weather is tropical.
Cool and dry season is from November to May.
Hot and rainy season is from June to November.
The country is currently experiencing drought with rainfall dropping 30% in the last 30 years.
Getting There & Away
The Gambia can be reached by plane directly from London, with flights arriving in the capital Banjul. The main mode of transportation for tourists in the towns is bush taxis (tankatanks). These are taxis that operate on fixed routes, while tourist taxis can take you anywhere. Buses operated by the Gambia Public Transport Corporation are also available, if you can work out where they are going. Driving a car is not recommended due to the poor road conditions, but hiring a private driver assigned by a tour company is a good options for those who are not on a tight budget.
Health & Safety
It is advisable to ignore people who try to stop you on the streets because scams are common in the Gambia. Marijuana is often offered to tourists, who later find the police waiting in the wings for a bribe. Local conmen are referred to as bumsters, and as the name suggests, they spend their days bumming around, hassling tourists. With this in mind, expect to pay for any assistance they may offer you. An official tour guide should be hired for any genuine tourist services you intend to get. Getting a yellow fever and meningitis vaccination are recommended before traveling to the Gambia, while malaria preventative measures are also necessary.
Two days in Georgetown
Three days in Kuntaur and Serekunda
Two days Kololi
Three days on Fort James Island
One day in Wassu
Katchikally Crocodile Pool: features a pool of tame crocodiles that prefer fish to fleshy meat. You can pet the reptiles if you are brave enough.
Wassu: is where you can find the mysterious stone circles, which are massive, reddish brown stones between 1 to 2.5 meters high arranged in a circle.
Kiang West National Park: has a varied landscape made up of creeks, mangroves, tidal flats and saltpans. This park spans 110kms and houses almost all of the animal species in the country.
Lower River Division: wetlands with a very scenic view, expect abundant lilies and fascinating birdlife.
Bird watching: without actively watching for birds, you will probably see some 200-odd species within a week. Many rare birds can be found here, particularly in the Senegambia.
River cruise: starting at the Jangjang Bureh camp in Georgetown, spend half a day boating along the Gambia River. A cruise allows you to see crocodiles, hippos, birds and of course, the beautiful surroundings. Food and drinks are available on boats.
Golf: African-style golf is a unique experience even for those who do not play golf. The golf ‘green’ is sand soaked in oil. A roller flattens the sand before you take each shot. You have to see it to believe it.
Wrestling: is the number one sport in the Gambia. A large arena in Serrekunda is the main venue, where matches are fought between wrestlers from different villages. Drumming groups that play specific beats unique to their villages are also present in the arena to stimulate the audience.
Road tripping: along Cape road provides scenery that is straight out of a movie. You can hire a car and driver and set out to the Atlantic road, passing through Fajara and Bakaun along the way by taking the old Cape road to Banjul.