Heads up, our journey through the Gambia turned out to be quite nerve-wrecking at times. Looking back we might have been more open and less aggravated if we hadn’t started our trip in Kololi. Why? Because there you’ll see tourism at its worst. A long tradition of sex-tourism, all inklusive tourism and volunteerism have shaped the locals’ perception and expectation of foreigners.
Kololi – a two sided sword
Kololi is only a 20 minute ride away from Banjul’s airport and as most flights arrive at night, many visitors opt for the convenience of the mid-sized town. There you won’t only find a good selection of accommodations, but also tons of restaurants, bars and clubs. Kololi also has a very strong expat community and you are likely to meet other travelers, even during off-season.
Definitely not the place to start your journey to the Gambia
Even though it’s conveniently located and offers lots of comfort for visitors we highly recommend backpackers NOT to start your trip in Kololi unless you plan to spent a longer time and volunteer. Due to the irresponsible tourism practices of mostly older women seeking companionship, “bumpsters” young local men have build a career around it. As soon as you head outside the door, you will be approached by them as they try to engage you in a conversation. Sadly, those conversations are never honest and you’ll realize very quickly that there are ulterior motives.
Even after a few days we could realize how the constant attempts of bumpsters would impact us and change our behavior. We became very weary and closed up, basically mistrusted almost everyone after only some days in town. It became very hard to shake off our weariness even as we continued traveling. So, if you are planning on traveling to the Gambia, do yourself and the locals the favour and start your journey elsewhere to keep your mind and heart open towards the undoubtedly very friendly and open Gambians.