TRAVEL THE GAMBIA

The Gambia Itinerary

Golden beaches, lively markets & a challenging trip

Kololi

Gambia’s tourism hub

Serekunda

Gambia’s secert capital

Gambia’s South

Discover Gambia’s best beaches

Duration: at least 2 weeks

Best time to travel: November – May

Budget: $45 per day

The Gambia, Africa’s smallest country, held quite a few surprises. When most people think of Africa, they think of safaris, elephants, and lions. However, there is another side to this amazing continent – one that is made up of friendly people, stunning beaches, and vibrant culture. So if you’re looking for a unique African experience that is a little off the beaten path, then The Gambia might be a good match! The tiny country is home to stunning beaches, vibrant villages, fascinating culture, and wildlife.

  • Culture 90% 90%
  • Food 85% 85%
  • Beaches 70% 70%
  • Wildlife 60% 60%

We only found very little online. However, the few sentences suggested that the “Smiling Coast of Africa” could offer what we were looking for: lightheartedness, friendly people, and off-the-beaten-path adventures.

Yet, the country is too frequently visited for the wrong reasons and poor tourism practices. For decades, “tubabs,” white European females, have seen the country for sex tourism, forming the idea that this is what tourists want and visit for. Perceptions like this made it challenging for backpackers to get to know people, bond, and travel independently. Looking back, we suggest spending a LOT of time far away from the tourist hubs such as Kololi or finding yourself a driver once you get there. It will allow you to learn more about the country, its tribes and customs, and even better bond with locals.

Why visit the Gambia

Beaches in The Gambia

If you’re looking for things to do in the Gambia, spending some time on one of the country’s many beaches is a great option. With its miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, there are plenty of beach options. So whether you want to relax on a quiet beach, go for a swim, or try your hand at some water sports, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for in the Gambia. Just be sure to take precautions against the sun and the undercurrents, as both can be pretty strong in this part of Africa.

Best beaches in The Gambia

beach in Agadir, Morocco
Morocco surfing

Gambia’s wildlife reserves

The Gambia is also great for wildlife enthusiasts, as the country is home to numerous nature reserves and parks.

The Abuko Nature Reserve is great to see some of The Gambia’s native animals, including monkeys, birds, and crocodiles. The Kachikally Crocodile Pool is another popular spot for wildlife lovers, as it is home to dozens of crocodiles.

Green vervet monkeys are common in The Gambia and often seen on hotel grounds. They are curious creatures and sometimes approach humans if they think they might get food. However, it is essential not to feed them as this can encourage them to become a nuisance. If you want to see the monkeys in their natural habitat, there are several sanctuaries and reserves where they can be observed.

Best placeto experience wildlife in The Gambia

Bridwatching in The Gambia

The tiny West African country is home to over 560 species of birds, making it a veritable paradise for bird enthusiasts. The Gambia’s diverse bird population is due in part to its location at the meeting point of the Sahel and Sudan savannahs. This unique geographical position makes the Gambia a stopover point for many migratory bird species. In addition, the Gambia’s varied landscape – including forest reserves, mangrove swamps, and riverbanks – provides a habitat for a wide range of resident bird species.

The Gambia River

The Gambia River is a popular destination for tourists looking to get away from it all. The river offers several accommodation options, from floating lodges to stylish safari tents.

The Mandina Lodges are among the most popular choices, with nine lodges built on and off the water, hidden in the African bush. The lodges offer you a unique opportunity to experience the wildlife and landscapes of The Gambia up close. The river is home to various fish, including the popular Nile perch. The river also provides a habitat for aquatic birds, such as the African fish eagle.

The 4×4 tours are a popular choice for those looking for an adventure, while the more laid-back can enjoy a pirogue ride along the river, watching the local fishermen and birdlife. Staying along the Gambia river allows you to immerse yourself in this great country’s culture and natural beauty. Tendaba Camp in the Gambia River, where you can spot wild chimpanzees and bottle-nosed dolphins.

Best places to explore The Gambia River

    • Mandina Lodge

Learn about West African history

Kunta Kinteh Island, formerly called James Island and St Andrew’s Island, is an island in the Gambia River, 30 km (19 mi) from the river mouth Fort James is located on the island. Fort James, a ruined Portuguese chapel and a colonial warehouse in Albreda, the Maurel Frères Building in Juffureh, and Fort Bullen and Six-Gun Battery are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their relation to the trade of the enslaved and its abolition, the beginning of the colonial era in Africa, and the Second World War and beyond.

Kunta Kinteh Island offers a unique opportunity to learn about this period of history and its impact on the region. The island is also home to various bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers. In addition, you can take part in guided tours of the island or explore independently. With its rich history and natural beauty, Kunta Kinteh Island is a special place to visit.

Learn about West African history:

Serekunda market

The Gambia’s vibrant markets

The Gambia is home to several vibrant markets where you can find everything from fresh seafood to handmade arts and crafts. Tangji Fish market is the perfect place to watch fishermen present the day’s catch, while Serekunda Market is an excellent spot for picking up souvenirs and gifts. For those looking for more unique items, the Lamin Lodge Arts & Crafts Centre is worth a visit. You’ll find a wide selection of beautiful handcrafted items here that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

So whether you’re looking to do some shopping or just soak up the atmosphere, check out one of The Gambia’s markets during your stay. You won’t be disappointed!

Visit Gambia’s market’s from

Food culture in The Gambia

The Gambia’s cuisine is one of our all-time favorites, not just because it involves a lot of peanut butter sauce. West African cuisine is known for its flavorful stews and spiced dishes. Many ingredients used in Gambian recipes are native to the region, including cassava, yams, plantains, and peanuts. Seafood is also a staple of the Gambian diet. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, don’t worry – plenty of milder dishes are also available.

One of the things we love most about Gambian cuisine is how communal it is. Meals are typically eaten with your hands and shared among a group of people making dining in The Gambia a genuinely unique and memorable experience.

Get ready to travel Gambia

Language: English and 10 other languages

Currency: Dalasi

Best time to travel to The Gambia

The country has two seasons, the rainy and dry seasons. The best time to travel to The Gambia is during the dry season, which runs from October to April. This is when temperatures are more relaxed, and there is less rainfall. The harmattan winds, which blow in from the Sahara Desert, also start to blow around this time. These winds can make conditions hot, dry, and dusty. However, they typically taper off by April when temperatures begin to climb again.

Health

It’s important to be aware of the risks before you travel. Malaria, dengue fever and other tropical diseases are common, especially during the rainy season (June-September). You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Health facilities in Banjul/ Kololi are ok, but non-existent in the rest of The Gambia. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Internet &Prepaid Sim cards in The Gambia

The first thing we have to say about The Gambia’s prepaid sim cards and data connection is that it’s fine in Kololi and Serrekuna but it will be weak outside the cities. There are three phone operators in The Gambia: You can get a Gambian SIM card for free from Africell and QCell.

Tap water in The Gambia

Bring your Lifestraw Go! The Gambia’s tap water is not safe to drink. The water does not go through the same purification process as in the EU, and diarrhea can occur in people who have not yet built up immunity to bacteria or other impurities in the water.

Biggest challenges for the responsible traveler

Trash: Plastic pollution is incredible! Bring collapsable food containers, cutlery, and your Lifestraw Pro!

Sex tourism: Sex tourism is a force in the Gambia and is incredibly challenging to witness.

Sunscreen: Protect The Gambia’s waters and wear reef-safe sunscreen.

Packing List The Gambia

Not sure what to pack for your trip to The Gambia? Check out our packing list for everything you need, from clothes to gear to eco-friendly toiletries.

Enjoy your trip without worrying about what you forgot to bring, and Immerse yourself in the culture of The Gambia with all the right gear.

Sustainable stays in The Gambia

Senegal is not well-known as an eco-tourism, responsible tourism is not yet on the agenda. Nonetheless, you’ll find excellent locally owned accommodations and eco-friendly boutique hotels. Check out our favorite stays!

 

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