The Gambia may be the smallest country in the African continent, but when it comes to attractions and things to do, it is very huge. If you are visiting the country for the first time, be assured that you are going to experience one of most diverse and exciting destinations in the continent. The people of this fascinating place are extremely friendly and almost everyone living near the coastline speaks English.
With so many tourist attractions scattered across the country, The Gambia has become the most sought-after tourist destination over the years. There are plenty of things you can do here on a budget, a few of which are listed below:
• Explore – The most inexpensive way to get around The Gambia is via the bush taxi, which are white minibuses that cram in the passengers and take them in set routes between towns. Although it may take a very long time to reach the destination, these taxis are extremely cheap. Then there are the yellow taxis, with a green stripe down the side. They also charge almost the same fixed rate as the minibuses, but they are not allowed to drive into the main resort areas. This is a bit inconvenient if you are staying in a hotel because you will have to walk all the way to the main road to get one.
Private taxis may charge at least 50 Dalasi, so make sure to check the price before you get in and let the driver know that that you are willing to share with others. Outside the hotels, you can find the green colored tourist taxis that are rather expensive but are in the best condition. Although there are boards displaying a fixed price, you can bring it down, if you are good at bargaining. These taxis can be hired for half days or whole days. An interesting fact about The Gambia is that the country does not have trains.
• Craft Markets – If you have learned the art of bargaining, then visit the craft markets in The Gambia and try your luck there. Start bargaining at half the price the stall holder asks for. Some stall holders may seem a little pushy but stick to your decision and go with the flow. The most popular markets are at Royal Albert Market in the capital, Banjul and Serrekunda, which is the largest town in The Gambia, both of which have large markets selling everything under the sun. The other craft markets around the area include Kotu, Kololi, Fajara and Bakau.
• Fishing Village – You can find fish markets at Tanji, Bakau, and Sanyang. The colorful wooden fishing boats and the beautiful traditional clothing of the women, give the place a vibrant look. Here you get to watch the fishermen returning with the day’s catch. As they unload the fish, men and women come into the water, fill buckets with fish and carry them back to the shore on their heads. Women buy the fish and sell it. The fish is also smoked on the spot, which releases a strong smell of smoked fish throughout the whole village.
• Sanyang Beach – The Gambia is a great country with many lovely beaches. Located in the Kombo South district is the Sanyang beach, a beautiful spot with rows of colorful pirogues on one side, a small bar / café and also a few craft stalls. You can also watch the fish being prepared, dried and smoked. The Sanyang beach is considered to be one of the best beaches in The Gambia.
• Kachikally Sacred Crocodile Pool – Located in Bakau, this is one of Gambia’s most popular tourist attractions and a sacred site for the locals. The pool and its adjacent nature trail are home to plenty of Nile crocodiles that can be seen basking on the bank. It is believed that the waters have magical powers. According to the locals, crocodiles represent the power of fertility and women having difficulties in conceiving come long distances to pray and be bathed in the waters. There is also a small museum that displays traditional costumes, jujus, drums and other cultural artifacts.
• The monkeys at Bijilo Forest Park – Only a short distance from Senegambia is the Bijilo Forest Park, a small reserve and community forest, where you can escape from the hustle and bustle as well as the heat. The forest contains a huge population of green vervet monkeys which are great fun to watch. You can also see the Red Colobus and Patas monkeys here. It is better to avoid feeding them, as it will encourage them more. The reserve is also home to more than 100 species of birds, including different types of bee-eater, osprey, grey hornbill, francolin Caspian tern, and wood dove.
• Birdwatching – The Gambia is a great place for birdwatching. With over 560 different species of birds, it’s very possible to spot exotic and colorful birds without even having to leave your resort. The best way to see the various species in their natural habitat is to hire an official guide. If you are staying in the Kololi/Senegambia area, then the Bijilo Forest is within walking distance. If you are staying in Kotu then a walk along Kotu creek is a great birdwatching option.
• Traditional Drumming and Dance – A few restaurants and many hotels in the Gambia arrange various forms of entertainment such as traditional drumming and dance. Although it can vary in style and quality, there are some awesome traditional groups that perform regularly in hotels. Since some of the hotels pay these talented artists very little money, it would be great if you can tip them.
• A walk along the beach at sunset – The sunsets in The Gambia is really a spectacular sight to watch. The country is very near the equator and so the sun sets very quickly here, around 7pm. A walk along the beach during this time is bliss. The bumsters who try to befriend tourists in the hope of making some money can some times be annoying but they are never threatening.
• Visit a luxury hotel for a massage – A great way to enhance your holidays experience in The Gambia is to indulge in some luxury perks. The Coco Ocean Resort and Spa, the most luxurious hotel in The Gambia offers hammam, hot stone massage, Asian foot massage etc at very reasonable prices. Even if you can’t afford to stay in any luxury hotels in The Gambia, there are many ‘value for money’ hotels that offer these services at low cost.
With fantastic weather, lovely beaches, a captivating culture and friendly people, the Gambia is truly a wonderful country to visit!