THE GAMBIA

Our itinerary

Golden beaches, lively markets & a challenging journey

Follow our Gambia itinerary

Map of The Gambia with itinerary
Kololi

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Serekunda

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The south

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Kololi

Gambia’s tourism center

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Serekunda

Gambia’s second capital

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Gambia’s south

Discover the best beaches in The Gambia

Duration: at least 2 weeks

Best time to visit: November – May

Budget: 65 € per day

The Gambia, the smallest country in Africa, had a few surprises in store for us. When most people think of Africa, they think of safaris, elephants and lions.

But there is another side to this amazing continent – one made up of friendly people, stunning beaches and a vibrant culture. So if you’re looking for a unique African experience that’s a little off the beaten track, then The Gambia could be just the place for you!

The tiny country is home to breathtaking beaches, lively villages, a fascinating culture and wild animals.

We found very little information about The Gambia online. However, the few sentences indicated that the “Smiling Coast of Africa” could offer what we were looking for: Light-heartedness, friendly people and adventures off the beaten track.

  • Culture 90% 90%
  • Food 85% 85%
  • Beaches 70% 70%
  • Wild animals 60% 60%

But unfortunately we visit The Gambia far too often for the wrong reasons. For decades, “tubabs”, white European women, have turned The Gambia into a sex tourism destination. Many Gambians therefore assume that you have come here explicitly for sex tourism.

Such ideas make it difficult for backpackers to meet people, make contacts and travel independently.

Looking back, we recommend spending a lot of time away from the tourist centers like Kololi or finding a local driver. This way you can learn more about the country, its tribes and customs and connect even better with the locals.

Our round trip through The Gambia

Why travel to The Gambia?

Beaches in The Gambia

The Gambia is known for its miles of yellow sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets. The northern beaches are much livelier than those in the south.

The beaches of Kololi and Senegambia are the hotspots. To be honest, the atmosphere and the sight were very difficult for us to bear. No matter how far you look, you always see the same thing: elderly European women with much younger Gambians.

Apart from that, Gambians are not allowed to go to the beach alone (without a tourist escort), a practice that we generally do not support!

The beaches in the south are much quieter. Here you can actually relax and enjoy the beauty of the country without being affected by the impact of sex tourism.

Beach in Agadir, Morocco
Surfing in Morocco

Gambia’s wildlife reserves

The Gambia is not known as a safari destination, but you can still explore an exciting animal world in this small West African country.

In the Abuko Nature Reserve, you can observe 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.

Vervet monkeys are common in The Gambia and are often seen on the hotel grounds. They are curious animals and sometimes approach humans if they think they might get food. However, it is important not to feed them, as this can cause them to become a nuisance. If you want to see the monkeys in their natural habitat, there are several protected areas and reserves such as the
Chimp Rehabilitation Project
where they can be observed.

Bridwatching in The Gambia

The small West African country is home to over 560 bird species, making it a true paradise for bird lovers. The Gambia’s diverse birdlife is partly due to its location at the intersection of the Sahel and Sudan savannahs. This unique geographical location makes The Gambia a stopover for many migratory bird species. The Gambia’s diverse landscape – including forest reserves, mangrove swamps and riverbanks – also provides a habitat for a variety of native bird species.

Gambia bird
Gambia river

The Gambia River

The Gambia River is a popular destination for visitors who want to escape the beaches. The river offers various accommodation options, from floating lodges to stylish safari tents.

The Mandina Lodges are among the most popular accommodations. They consist of nine lodges hidden on the water and in the African bush. The lodges offer you the 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 is also a habitat for water birds such as the African fish eagle.

The 4×4 tours are a popular choice for those looking for an adventure, while the more relaxed can enjoy a pirogue ride along the river, watching the local fishermen and birdlife. A stay along the Gambia River allows you to immerse yourself in the culture and natural beauty of this magnificent country. Tendaba Camp on the Gambia River, where you can observe wild chimpanzees and porpoises.

Learn more 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 from the mouth of the river where Fort James is located.

Fort James, a dilapidated Portuguese chapel and colonial warehouse in Albreda, the Maurel Frères building in Juffureh as well as Fort Bullen and the Six-Gun Battery are UNESCO World Heritage Sites because they are associated with the trade in and abolition of enslaved people, the beginning of the colonial era in Africa and the Second World War and beyond.

Kunta Kinteh Island offers a unique opportunity to learn more about this period and its impact on the region.

The island is also home to various bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers. You can also take part in guided tours of the island or explore it on your own.

With its rich history and natural beauty, Kunta Kinteh Island is a special place that you should definitely visit.

Old cannon on James Island
woman selling vegetables at Serekunda market

The vibrant markets in The Gambia

The Gambia has several lively markets where you can find everything from fresh seafood to handmade arts and crafts. The Tangji Fish Market is the perfect place to watch the fishermen present the catch of the day, while the Serekunda Market is an excellent place to buy souvenirs and gifts. For those looking for unique products, a visit to the Lamin Lodge Arts & Crafts Center is well worthwhile. Here you will find a large selection of beautiful handmade items that you won’t find anywhere else.

Whether you want to shop or simply enjoy the atmosphere, be sure to visit a typical market during your stay!

Food culture in The Gambia

Gambian cuisine is one of our absolute favorites, and not just because it contains a lot of peanut butter sauce. West African cuisine is known for its tasty stews and spicy dishes. Many of the ingredients used in Gambian recipes come from the region, including manioc, sweet potatoes, plantains and peanuts. Seafood is also an important part of Gambian cuisine. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, don’t worry – there are plenty of milder dishes.

One of the things we love most about Gambian cuisine is how communal it is. Meals are usually eaten with the hands and shared in a group of people, which makes eating in The Gambia a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

GAMBIA

Festivals and events

The Gambia is home to a variety of cultural and religious events that reflect the country’s rich heritage and diversity.

An important cultural event is the Roots Homecoming Festival, which celebrates the country’s connection to the transatlantic slave trade and honors the resilience of the Gambian people. During this festival, visitors take part in cultural performances, historical tours and discussions about heritage and identity.

Another important event is the annual Banjul Demba Cultural Festival, which showcases traditional music, dance and art from various ethnic groups from all over The Gambia.

Religious festivals such as Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are also celebrated by the Muslim population with special prayers, feasts and community gatherings. These events offer both locals and visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture and traditions of The Gambia.

Practical travel tips for The Gambia

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What language is spoken in The Gambia?

Several languages are spoken in The Gambia, as the country is home to a large number of ethnic groups. The official language is English, which is used in government, education and administration. Wolof is also a widespread lingua franca and is spoken by many people in everyday life. Other important languages are Mandinka, Fula, Serer, Jola and other local languages, which are spoken according to regional ethnicity.

What is the best time to visit The Gambia?

The best time to visit The Gambia is during the dry season from November to mid-April. During these months, the weather is usually dry and warm with pleasant temperatures, ideal for beach vacations, sightseeing and wildlife spotting. The temperatures are pleasant and not too hot during this time, and there is little rain.

However, it is important to note that the months of December to February are the most popular and can therefore be the most expensive in terms of accommodation and flight prices. The rainy season from mid-April to October can also be an interesting time to visit, as the landscape is green and lush and there are fewer tourists, but heavy rains can occur and some roads can become impassable.

Is The Gambia safe?

We felt very safe in The Gambia. However, the frequent speeches from the men have become too much for us.

What is the currency in The Gambia?

The currency in The Gambia is the Gambian Dalasi (GMD).

Public transportation in The Gambia

The Gambia is very small. The majority of local public transport therefore takes place in minibuses. It's best to bring some patience with you. Sometimes you have to wait a little longer for the next journey, especially in the south.

Internet and sim cards in The Gambia

The first thing we have to say about the prepaid sim cards and data connection in The Gambia is that it is fine in Kololi and Serrekuna, but weak outside the cities. There are three telephone providers in The Gambia: You can get a Gambian SIM card free of charge from Africell and QCell.

Can I drink the tap water in The Gambia?

No! Make sure you take a water bottle with a filter or a UV bottle with you!

What should I look out for on my trip?

Waste: The plastic pollution is unbelievable! Take foldable food containers, cutlery and your water filter with you!

Sex tourism: Sex tourism is a force in The Gambia and it is incredibly challenging to watch.

Sunscreen: Protect the Gambian waters and wear reef-safe sunscreen.

packing

Packing list Gambia

Don’t know what to pack for your trip to The Gambia? You’ll find everything you need on our packing list, from clothing and equipment to eco-friendly toiletries.

Enjoy your trip without worrying about what you’ve forgotten and immerse yourself in the culture of The Gambia with the right equipment.

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More African destinations

Our journey through The Gambia

The tiny country awaits you with its golden beaches and authentic West African culture.

Serekunda | Gambia’s secret capital

Serekunda | Gambia’s secret capital

Serekunda is home to about 400.000 people, and it seems to burst at all seams. Serekunda is Gambia’s biggest city and has long become the economic hub. It’s not exactly pretty or relaxing, but it’s worth visiting to get a glimpse into a busy, authentic Gambian city. Serekunda is also home to Gambia’s biggest market. Serekunda offered us an authentic glimpse into urban West African culture and life!

Kololi Gambias sex-tourism capital

Kololi Gambias sex-tourism capital

Kololi is only a 20-minute ride from Banjul’s airport, and as most flights arrive at night, many visitors opt for the convenience of the mid-sized town. As a result, you won’t only find a good selection of accommodations but tons of restaurants, bars, and clubs.