Gambia

Trish Griffiths on 24 December 2010
We went to Gambia for Xmas and New Year, the 6 hour flight from the UK and the “almost” guaranteed weather along with no time difference being the main attractions. We stayed in 2 places, firstly at Bijilo, which is at the southern end of the tourist areas, and then onto Cape Point, which was at the opposite end, although they are only about half an hour apart, in Southern Gambia.

There are many excursions to occupy you in The Gambia, with most concentrating on the wildlife in the area, specifically the 500+ species of birds seen in the country. There are also trips which highlight the terrible history of the slave trade, specifically based upon the Roots book by Alex Haley, who traced his roots back to this area.

A lot of the Gambia River, certainly near the coast, is made up of mangrove forests and there are numerous operators that offer tours around this interesting habitat. The slow pace of these tours allow ample time to enjoy the sunshine and keep a look out for the local wildlife. If you don’t fancy a boat trip, then we would recommend a visit to Lamin Lodge. It is a small rustic restaurant, right in the middle of the mangroves, and, despite the bumpy ride to get there, offered a very relaxing place to have lunch and soak up the peace and quiet.

One of our favourite trips was to Tanji, to watch the fish being brought in for sale straight off the boats. It was a riot of colour, noise and smells and a fascinating glimpse of a Gambian way of life that appears little changed over the years. The boys bring the fish straight from the boats to the barrows, which are then lined up and the local women then start the bartering process to buy them. Others are bought by the smoking houses, and are taken straight in to be smoked. We had a brief tour of one of these, and saw how they prepared and smoked the fish, which are exported to other West African countries.

Gambia has a number of quality restaurants in this area, and a wide choice of cuisines. We tried Indian, Mexican, as well as delicious Gambian food, and international cuisine. Our favourite was the Domada, which is a peanut sauce, and also the Benachin, which is normally served with spicy red rice. Delicious!! The main “action” is at the Sengambia strip, which is basically a collection of bars and restaurants adjacent to the Senegambia and Kairaba hotels. There is a wide range of restaurants here, but our favourite was Love 2, which served up delicious steaks.

Taxi’s are outside every hotel, but in fairness the road worthiness of some of them leave something to be desired. Our advice is that if you find a good driver, with a good car, stick with him. They will be more than happy to collect you, wait for you to finish your evening and then take you back again. We used Omar, who spoke good English and was very helpful and knowledgeable about the area. We used Omar for our trips to Lamin Lodge and Tanji, and will be happy to pass on his details.

Whilst up at Cape Point we found a lovely restaurant called ‘’Calypso’’ – it was right next to the beach and a small lake. In the lake were 4 crocodiles that could often be seen basking in the sun. The place itself was very low key, with a nice ambience and very, very relaxing. We went for lunch most days and sat relaxing watching the birds and crocodiles in our thatched cabana.

The best time to visit Gambia is November to February when the temperatures are more moderate and it’s the drier season. The rainy season is June – October when it becomes extremely hot.

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