Leigh Travel Club

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GAMBIA

                                                            

Capital City:  Banjul                                   Population:  1.5 million

 

Local Time:   GMT                                     Flight Time from U.K. to Banjul:  6hrs

 

Currency:   Gambian dalasi(GMD) – can be bought in the UK, but you get a better exchange rate in the Gambia.

 

Health:   Get anti-malarial medication from your doctor.  The risk of contracting malaria is very real.
Yellow Fever is a monkey disease which can be spread by mosquitoes to humans,so it is advisable
to get this jab. You will receive a yellow fevercertificate which lasts for ten years.

Visa Requirement:   Not required

 

Religion:  90% of the population is Muslim

 

Economy:   This is made up mostly from agriculture and tourism.  Groundnuts (in the form of nuts, oil and cattle cake) account for 90% of total export.  Fishing and forestry also provide a living for the Gambians.

 

The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa, situated on the west coast, surrounded on three sides by the Republic of Senegal. It is mostly flat, and it is dominated by the majestic River Gambia from which it takes its name.  A former British Colony, it became independent in 1965. The official language is English, but there are several tribal languages including Mandinka, Wolof, Fula and Jola.  Mandinkas make up the largest proportion of the Gambian population.  Educated in English, most Gambians are at least bi-lingual and a lot are multi-lingual.  They are also very friendly and life is taken at a very relaxed pace.  We thought GMT meant Greenwich Meantime, but out there it means ‘Gambian Maybe Time.’

 

Do not expect to go on Safaris in the Gambia.  There are no migrating wildebeest, giraffes or any of the large animals commonly associated with Africa.  You can see a breathtaking variety of birdlife, in addition to monkey and lizards.  Baboon and crocodile can also be seen and then far up the river, hippos.

 

They call the Gambia the Smiling Coast and there are lots of thing here to do and places to visit.

 

                                                                  REASONS TO GO

 

Fantastic Winter sun:  It is over 30C every month.

 

Best time to go:  November to March.  The climate is dry and cool.  June to October is the rainy season.

 

Under 6 hrs flying time:  Same time zone as U.K., no jet lag – be by the pool late afternoon.

 

Wonderful sandy beaches:                                 Friendly people and exotic culture:

 

River, bush and beach excursions                     Value for money:

 

Spectacular bird life:  More than 560 species have been recorded here – amazing given the country’s relatively small size.

Good buys:  Wooden carvings, beaded jewellery, batik and tie-dyed fabrics, and traditional ‘Djembe drums.

 

                                  

 

                         OTHER PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO

 

Kotu/Kolol – These resorts lie South of Banjul.  While tourism is taking off in these areas, it remains fairly low key.  Kotu is more a selection of hotels strung along the beach.  There is an 18 hole golf course here with clubs, balls and caddies available for hire. Kololi is more developed offering a hotel based holiday resort, with a casino and several, reasonably prices international restaurants. 

 

Pirogue Trip – A pirogue is a traditional wooden boat which you chill out in along Oyster Creek.

Cycling- If you enjoy cycling this is an ideal place to do it.  The landscape is flat, bike hire is cheap, and you’ll have the chance to experience a deeper insight into the African culture.

Contact the Cyclists Touring Club (0870 873 0060) or visit www.ctc.org.uk for route details and information.                                  

                                         GENERAL INFORMATION       


Be prepared for the culture shock.  There is poverty and begging but also genuine hospitality.  Unofficial guides, known as bumsters, can be persistent to the point of nuisance.  There are official guides who you can use at fixed price.  Most taxi hotels have a taxi rank near by.  It is best to agree a price in advance and there should be a price board displaying the tariffs.  Public transport is by bush taxi, there are no buses and no railway system.  Bush taxis cover the main routes and some bush roads, but do not run to schedule.  They are cheap and very over-crowded with both people and animals but are a great way of absorbing the local flavour.

 

Beaches in the Gambia are affected by ongoing erosion caused by sea tides.  Check the area where you are going to, just to make sure there is no repair work happening on the beach.


The Atlantic coast has strong currents.  You must take notice of ‘no swimming signs’ it is not always possible to swim in the sea.

 

Credit cards are not widely accepted and when they are charges may be high.  It is recommended to take travellers cheques.   

 

Bargaining is the name of the game.  Expect to reduce the price of anything from 25% to 50%.

 

The big towns, Serrekunda and Banjul are definitely worth visiting, but be prepared for a typically hectic African city experience.

 

Most hotels have an informal dress code.  The majority of Gambians are Muslim so if you go out of the hotel dress modestly.

 

Evenings and morning can usually be cool, so a jumper maybe useful.

 

There are many superstitions and taboos in the Gambia.  Many Gambians of all ages wear amulets, commonly called jujus. These are said to protect the wearer from evil spirits.

 

Gambian Tourist Board – www.visitthegambia.gm


Gambian food


Benachin – Rice cooked with meat or fish, vegetables and tomatoes.

 

Domoda - Meat stew in peanut puree and served with rice.

 

Superkanja – A mix of okra, fish ormeat, palm oil, onions and pepper boiled together.

 

Chicken Yassa – Chicken cooked with fresh lime, onions and ground black peppers.

     

                                                               DAY TRIPS


ROOTS – A historic journey 200 years back in time to Alex Haley’s Roots. This trip takes you on a long lazy cruise (down the River Gambia).  A buffet of Gambian food is served on the boat.  If you are lucky you will see Dolphins swimming in the river.  After several hours you will arrive at the ancient trading station of Albreda.  From here take a 10 minute walk to Juffure, which houses the Museum of Slavery and the original home of Alex Haley’s great, great grandfather.  You will have a chance to look around the village and purchase village made souvenirs here and take photographs of Alex Haley’s ancestors.  The day usually finishes with a visit to the fortress ruins on James Island, steeped in history.  80% of tourists take the ‘Roots’ trip.

 

BIRDWATCHING – A must for birdwatchers – get an early start and experience the dawn chorus in a dugout canoe in the mangrove creeks of the River Gambia.  Many birdwatchers hire local guides to show them good areas and help identify different species.  Visit ABUKO NATURE RESERVE for excellent bird watching opportunities.

 

FISHING – The Gambia offers great beach, river and sea fishing.   

 

MAKASUTA NATURE FORESTThe palm forest is situated on a beautiful meandering tributary of the River Gambia.  Explore the dense forest on foot and the mangroves in dugout canoes.  Learn about Gambian nature and maybe glimpse the resident baboons.  Members of the Jola tribe will demonstrate their dancing and offer the opportunity to join in.

 

BANJAUL:  Gambia’s capital city stands on St. Mary’s Island on the banksof the River Gambia.  The centre is well worth a visit, it has many old British colonial buildings, colourful street market and stalls.  Visit ALBERT MARKET to witness a typically African market.  BEWARE!  as pickpockets operate in the market.  Boat excursions run to Albreda, of ‘Roots’ fame.  Don’t wander around Banjul at night, (not because of the pickpockets – since there are so few tourists at night, they don’t bother) but because it is pitch black and the town is crossed by open drains.

 

SERRAKUNDA – This is the largest town in the country and is just 1.5 miles inland from the resorts. Serrakunda is hectic and feels like one big market. Kairaba Avenue links Serrekunda to Fajara, and it is lined with bars restaurants shops and offices. Every inch of street is occupied with pedestrians and traders.

 

4 WHEEL DRIVE ADVENTUR – A dusty adventure on a 4x4 truck – a great introduction to The Gambia, bumping through the countryside visiting villages and schools.  Have lunchon a beautifulbeachaway from tourist.

 

TANJI – This coastal village has a lively fishing centre, a great little museum of culture, a camel safari centre and the country’s only protected birds.

 

                                                               TWO DAY TRIP


SENEGAL  - Take a 2 day adventure to the Sine Saloum area of North Senegal staying overnight at Domain Les Peltuviers.  Visit an 800 year old Kapok tree, then take a 3 hour boat trip and spot the various types of monkeys and colourful birds that live in that area.  The hotel has a pool to cool off in at the end of the day.

                                                               THREE DAY TRIP


CHIMPANZEE ISLANDVisit the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Trust’s (CRT) camp – Established in 1969, and now home to78 chimps.  The journey to get to the camp is fairly arduous

And a reasonable level of fitness is required.  3 nights per person costs £499.00 per person for tented accommodation.