The Gambia has unique qualities over many other destinations and it is becoming one of the most popular and attractive travel destinations in the world. The smallest country in mainland Africa is offering more than you can imagine!
- COMFORTABLE FLYING DISTANCE
The Gambia is located only six hours away from major European destination and capitals in Europe, making it a popular and financially accessible place for visitors, volunteers and tourists. You can find good flights deals from European countries. The number of travel agents offering holidays in The Gambia is growing every year. It is now easier to travel to Africa than ever before.
- DESTINATION FOR EVERYONE
The Gambia is the kind of holiday destination, which is suitable for every type of vacation, whether it is a summer vacation for the entire family, an adventurous trip for students and young people, long winter holidays for retirees, a romantic getaway for honeymooners or an educational & volunteering group experience.
- THE BEST CHOICE FOR AFRICA’S FIRST COMERS
According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Africa is one of the fastest growing tourism regions of the last decade! Yet, despite this rapid growth of visitors, Africa is still last on the list of popular destinations for general tourists, and it is still common to hear travelers say that they are nervous to visit this vast and mysterious continent.
Don’t judge all the African countries based on journalists who are often focusing on reporting only about the problems in Africa. The truth is that MANY positive stories never reach general public. The Gambia is just one of many countries on the African continent, and it is different than many African countries. It is a small, quiet, affordable land of smiling people, where many travelers feel like at home. The wonderful nature, wildlife, rich culture and traditions, interesting but painful history, colorful villages and above all friendly, hospitable people who are always willing to help.
- UNIQUE CHARM LIES IN ITS SMALLNESS
The Gambia is located in the West African region. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and on Senegal from all other sides but it still retains its own clear identity. At 11,295sq km (4,361sq miles), The Gambia is the smallest country on the mainland of Africa. It has many attractions at a short distance and therefore you can discover it all without spending a lot of time and money. This is also one of the reasons why it is becoming one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. It does not fail to compete with others. On the contrary, it has more attractions at one place than many other African countries. 1,300sq km (500sq miles) of the country’s area is river, so the land mass is technically around 10,000sq km (4,000sq miles).
The Gambia is very flat land. The highest point in the country reaches only 53m (174ft) above sea level, though the riverbanks do include dramatic sand and laterite ‘cliffs’ which make impressive vantage points.
- PEACEFUL & GREAT VALUE DESTINATION
The Gambia is stable and peaceful country. There is no war and most of Gambians are friendly and hospitable people. Freedom and peace are also mentioned in their national anthem. It is very important for all the nation. In addition, the country is affordable and was also ranked as one of the best value holidays destinations in 2014 and won 2019 tourism destination of the year award. It is definitely a destination where you get more for your travel money!
- MANY OPTIONS TO COMBINE YOUR HOLIDAYS
As one of the smallest countries with wide range of accommodation options, activities and projects it is a perfect destination where you can combine adventure, relaxation and exploring without spending a lot of money and time for traveling. You can make your holiday in Africa unique and magical like nowhere else. You can relax at the paradise beaches and amazing holidays resorts, self-catering apartments or lodges, whether you are alone, with family or on your honeymoon. If you want to experience the country beyond the tourist strip, you can visit some of the animal parks, nearby villages, local schools and go for a daily river cruise to see mangroves, birds, creeks, etc. There are also many volunteering opportunities for you and your family. If you escape the Atlantic resort area you will experience another side of the country. When traveling to explore the interior of The Gambia, you will find yourself deep in classic West African landscapes scattered with traditional villages and crisscrossed by red-earth roads, rich in eco-tourism opportunities, wilderness, wildlife and birdwatching. In addition, you will experience West African music and rural culture as there are always vibrant festivals, events full of traditional drumming, energetic dancing as well as customary wrestling matches, going on.
- ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
There is a fantastic selection of big and small independent hotels in The Gambia to accommodate your style and budget. Whether you’re travelling for business or leisure, you will find the best hotel room to suit your needs. Most tourist visitors to The Gambia still have hotels pre-booked for the duration of their stay, as part of a flight-plus-accommodation package, but it’s perfectly possible to take an ad-hoc approach to finding accommodation, allowing your itinerary to be flexible. At certain times of year (particularly at the peak holiday times of Christmas, New Year and Easter) the busiest tourist hotels are all booked in advance – and the most popular places may be completely sold out throughout the season – but it’s always possible to find somewhere to stay if you are happy to look a little off the beaten track, and not limit yourself to the hotels used by tour operators only. Choosing a lodge as accommodation type is a perfect for birdwatchers, fishing enthusiasts and anyone keen to spend time in the nature and with locals. The Gambia offers wide range of lodges to visitors. Choosing a self-catering holiday cottage or vacation home is the best way to benefit from the freedom to come and go as you please, meet friendly Gambian people, and embrace the real Gambia. For low budget travelers, backpackers or independent travelers there are variety of tourist guest houses available offering basic accommodation and very local environment. There is enough choice that will fit any budget and any style.
- RESTAURANTS & BARS
As tourism in northern Kombo has expanded in recent years, so has the choice of restaurants & bars, with a huge range of styles on offer, from modern European to Lebanese, from simple barbecues to elaborate Asian banquets. The resort area has the greatest concentration of international-style restaurants in the country – in fact, it’s not all that easy to find traditional Gambian food in any of the tourist restaurants. Go to restaurants in a relaxed mood, because you’re likely to find that the service is a bit slow. If you are on holidays, you should anyway not rush and adjust yourself to Gambian atmosphere.
Most of the tourist places have a terrace so you can dine in the sun by day or under the stars by night. Local places may just be a few wooden benches and oilcloth-topped tables. The bar and club scene here is similarly divided into two camps – tourist places and local places – although there’s often a healthy overlap of clientele between the two. Many tourists get their taste of the resort nightlife on a “Gambia by Night” tour organized by their hotel reps – a coach-driven bar crawl for a flat fee of around 25€/15£, where you are driven from bar to bar, sampling a free glass of something at each, and dancing to whatever sounds they’ve slapped on to celebrate your arrival. For live music, local radio, guides and taxi drivers can be good source of information about forthcoming events – many of which aren’t widely advertised. If you are planning a full-on night out, remember that nothing really gets going before midnight here.
Gambia is known for the most favorable climate in West Africa. Weather is tropical with dry and rainy seasons. Coastal areas are dry from mid-October to mid-June, while the rainy season lasts from June to October. Inland, the cold period is shorter, and from May to June, the daytime temperatures are very high. Most days are sunny even during the rainy season. Many tour operators invite visitors only during months from November until January of February when the rains are over, humidity has dropped, the the roads are passable, and the bush is still green and busy with birdlife. We believe you can travel to West Africa any time of the year because every time of a year is something special. Temperatures in the resort areas, beside Atlantic vary little all year, while humidity levels fluctuate. Rainy days are few in the rainy season. It is usually raining at night. Sometimes it can be sunny in the morning, heavily raining at the noon time and again sunny in the afternoon. However, birds, flowers and fresh vegetation are all abundant at this time, mangoes are in season, the resorts are uncrowded, the sea is at its warmest, and, between the spectacular thunderstorms, the days are bright and clear. There are also some local beach festivals happening in the summertime. As there are not many tourists in the time of rainy season, you will have more chance to spend all your time with locals. Average temperature is 30 C. Sunshine hours from December to July are from 9 to 10 hours. The country enjoys virtually uninterrupted sunshine and high daytime temperatures with almost no rainfall from November to June. From July to October the humidity level is high, and the sunshine is punctuated by heavy tropical showers.
- THE BEACHES
80km of coastline, Gambia boasts magnificent golden beaches backed by swaying palms and sprinkled with scenic lagoons. However, the seas have undercurrents and high waves, so, although paddling in the shallows is okay, better to keep swimming for the hotel pool. Almost all the beaches around the major hotels have lifeguards on duty during the day, and there is a flag system where the red flag means that sea conditions are not suitable for swimming. If you like buzzing beaches, head to Senegambia, Kololi or Paradise Beach, where you can ride horses, play drums with the locals and even get involved in boxing lessons. If you’re more into peace and seclusion, then Fajara, Brufut or Sanyang are ideal for relaxing on a sunbed while sipping a cocktail. Most of the times just a simple walk down the beach of Atlantic Ocean can bring unexpected and pleasant experiences. The long, sandy beach is a place for many people who enjoy walking, jogging and exercising at the beach. As wrestling is a popular sport here, you might see a group of men training for the wrestling competition. There are also many fruit and juice sellers that offer delicious, fresh, tropical fruits juices! You should try it when visiting The Gambia. Many birds can be spotted, when walking along the beach, but also expect to see some dead fish, jellyfish, cattle-bones, shells and other natural sea decorations on the sand. In the time of the off-season, you will feel like you have the beach all for yourself.
A journey to Africa must include observing animal life. Although there are no “Big 5” in The Gambia, there are over 500 bird species and many other animals to be spotted, which makes it a heavenly destination for animal lovers. Animal and birdlife are extremely diverse and exotic. Wildlife of the Gambia is dictated by several habitat zones over its total land area of about 10,000 square kilometers.
- CHIMPANZEES & HIPPOS IN NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
In addition to all other experiences, The Gambia can give you a magnificent view of chimpanzees and giant hippos in their natural environment. Did you know that there are only few countries in the world where you can see chimps in their natural environment and how fantastic it is that Gambia is one of them! Really magical and magnificent! Hippopotamus can be spotted at the River Gambia National Park. It offers an amazing experience and chance to look inside the natural environment of animals living in The Gambia. One of the most interesting is a giant hippopotamus, the second heaviest land mammal in the world.
- MIGHTY RIVER GAMBIA
The River Gambia is one of Africa’s great waterways. Raising some 1,130km (702 miles) inland in what is now the Republic of Guinea, the water journeys relentlessly westwards, crossing the border into The Gambia 480km (298 miles) from its mouth. The River Gambia has been and continues to be the main source of irrigation for communities in rural areas, allowing for enhanced food production. It’s typical that at certain times of the year, especially in parts of the Central and Upper River Regions that the river becomes inundated with sea water. During this period, farmers make use of the river water by embarking on mass irrigation farming. It is also synonymous with fishing, and a good number of the population living close to the river make maximum use of it directly or indirectly. River Gambia National park offers an amazing experience and chance to look inside the natural environment of animals living in The Gambia. It is one of the most navigable an exciting adventures you will always want to repeat.
- HISTORICAL SPOTS
If you are interested in the history, then you should investigate historical spots in The Gambia. For visitors to the city of Banjul, capital of The Gambia, the Arch 22, National Museum, King Fahad Mosque, St. Mary Cathedral, Monument to the Unknown soldier and the Banjul State House are popular sights to see. In Tanji you will find Tanji Village museum, in Bakau there is Kachikally Museum and Crocodile Pool and Village museum in Gunjur. An important historical attraction can be also found in Barra, the Fort Bullen. Slavery museum in Juffureh/Albreda and Kunta Kinteh island. Stone circles can be found in remarkably large numbers in Wassu.
- THE TRIBES OF THE GAMBIA
Society in The Gambia is made up of a number of discrete ethnic groups who are found not only here but across a whole swathe of Western Africa. Many Gambians have family ties in neighboring French-speaking Senegal, Mali and beyond. Mandinka – by far the most widespread of The Gambia’s peoples, they make up more than 40% of total population.
Jola –are thought to have been the earliest arrivals to the region.
Fula – widespread across Western Africa, they are the second-largest group in the country.
Wolof – a minority within the country’s population, they are thought to have descended from African royalty and reached The Gambia from Mauritania.
Serehule – rulers of the Kingdom of Ghana and the pre-eminent tradesmen of West Africa, the Serehule arrived in 19th century.
Serer – one of the oldest tribes in Senegambia, they are traditionally fishermen.
Aku – descendants of freed slaves that returned to Africa in the 19th century.
- ART VILLAGES AND PROJECTS
Artwork is all around you in The Gambia. Traditional Gambian society sets great store by the oral arts of singing and storytelling and pays relatively little attention to the visual arts. Following ‘tourist-friendly’ themes you will now find art villages, galleries and different art workshops /projects in Kombo area in addition to all the craft markets where you will see locally produced sculptures, carvings, batiks, pottery, woven objects, etc. If you are an artist by heart, you will enjoy it!
- MUSIC & DANCE
Music and dance color every corner of daily life in The Gambia. Live performances, which often continue late into the night, are an unmissable introduction to Gambian social life at its most exuberant. But traditional music is far more than just entertainment; it’s the most valued and celebrated of the arts, used to spread news, tell stories, cement relationships and express religious beliefs. As such, it has a crucial role in cultural rituals. A great way to immerse yourself in The Gambia’s musical traditions and get under the skin of local culture is to sign up for a series of lessons with a professional musician or dancer. A number of kora, djembé, sabar and balafon players are happy to offer interested visitors an introduction to the basics of their instrument; the musicians who play at the resort hotels can sometimes make useful introductions or offer themselves as a tutor. A lesson could be a simple jamming session on the beach, or more intense session of detailed technical instruction.
This is the oldest sporting activity in the Senegambian region, dating from before the 13th century and probably originating in Mali. Successful wrestlers were and still are seen as extremely important and able men with great innate spiritual and physical powers. As with all Gambian ceremonial occasions, the events are colorful and noisy affairs and music is inseparable from traditional Gambian wrestling. The basic instrument is drum, with each ethnic group having its own traditional wrestling tunes. If you wish to watch a wrestling match, they occur in Serrekunda and few other places throughout the country. The best way to see a match is to organize a visit through local guide or a Gambian friend.
During your stay, you are very likely to hear, before you see, a Gambian ceremonial occasion taking place. Occasions such as weddings, naming ceremonies, initiation ceremonies and other special Muslim and Christian festivals are celebrated by lavish feasting, drumming, music and dancing. A village will also celebrate the arrival of a special guest, the event being marked by dancing of the kanali – a group of women dancers. If you are invited to a celebration, do not miss it out.
- THE TASTE OF A VILLAGE LIFE
A visit to some of The Gambia’s most remote villages is a great way to learn about tribal ritual and rural life. Culturally, there is much to discover about rural Gambia in this region, particularly if you have a good guide to translate. Tribal traditions are in many ways more intact here than anywhere else in the country, and villagers are generally proud to share and explain elements of their culture, such as music and dance with interested visitors.
The Gambia provides a first-class destination for any birdwatcher. It is situated close to the northern limit of the tropical rain front and The Gambia is right in the middle of the narrow transitional zone between semi desert and tropical rain forest, consequently, the country’s bird list includes species from both of these areas with the species to be seen varying with the onset of the rainy and dry seasons. Add to the African endemic species the many European migrants that either pass through The Gambia or spend the winter there, and one can see why the bird list is so large. Because of the proximity of the rainforest to the south and the desert to the north, there is always the chance of spotting something unusual that has overshot on migration, or on a food-finding tour.Therefore, Gambia’s birdlife is astonishingly diverse, and the 560 -plus bird species have relatively few predators. Characteristics sights are pied crows, urbanite magpie-like birds that are common throughout the Sahelian region; electric blue Abyssianian rollers perched conspicuously on telephone wires and on bare branches; the marvellous, lurching flight of hornbills swooping across the road in forest areas; and unmistakable gaggles of noisy, glamorous long-tailed glossy starlings just about everywhere. The Gambia s also a regular haunt of Palearctic migrants – migratory species from Europe and Asia that overwinter in the tropics.
The growing popularity for recreational fishing since the early 1990’s, has now made The Gambia one of the most sought-after fishing holidays destinations in the world, offering an extensive variety of fish species and fishing activities in different places. Sea and river fishing is good all year around, particularly line-fishing from the beaches along Gambia’s southern seaboard. Deep sea fishing up to 30km offshore is the best from the middle of May to October. Sport fishing is excellent during the summer from June to December but good all other months. Boat anglers who prefer to avoid rough waters, saltwater bolongs, are perpetually tranquil and appealing. Wild waterways make an ideal habitat for a range of tropical fish and an ideal marine environment for the light tackle angler. With more than 70 different fish species in many inshore reef sandbars, rocky outcrops and deep channels, as well as the Gambia river, these features provide and ideal marine environment for creek fishing. If you are an adventurous angler, then we invite you to the smiling coast of Africa where you will get the best fishing adventure. Coming alone, with a group of anglers or with your family, The Gambia offers activities that fit any travel style.
- FESTIVALS & NIGHTLIFE
Music and dance color every corner of daily life in The Gambia. Live performance, which is often continue late into the night, are an unmissable introduction to Gambian social life at its most exuberant. But traditional music is far more than just entertainment; it’s the most valued and celebrated of the arts, used to spread news, tell stories, cement relationships and express religious beliefs. As such, it has a crucial role in cultural rituals. In The Gambia, there has been a growing movement to revive some traditional festivals and to promote cultural heritage. Such events are helping to attract more tourists and as well helping to present Gambian music, art and dance to the world. If you are excited to experience a festival and you love different culture, dance and music then Gambia is a perfect destination. Festivals are happening all year around. If you would like to attend any particular festival, then let us know and we will send you information.
- ECO TOURISM
The Gambia has fascinating flora and wildlife; vibrant ecosystems, varied landscapes and many different animal species. From savannahs to mangroves, beaches to cities, bushes to villages. Gambian nature reserves are very important for the Gambians and also for visitors. This hidden, little treasure of West Africa, The Gambia, favors ecotourism, reconciling the environment, wildlife and local community. Therefore, many eco-lodges offer activities with a low impact on the environment like walking, cycling, river cruising and bird watching. Food served in the restaurants is as local and seasonal as possible, and you can expect simple, yet charming accommodations that emphasize the enjoyment of Gambia’s stunningly diverse beauty. Many ecotourism projects have been developed in past years and we believe that in the near future, Gambia will become one of the best ecotourism destinations in the world. As a strategy for sustainable destination development The Gambia has definitely chosen a responsible tourism policy which has been prepared by the responsible tourism partnership and has been produced and agreed through a multi-stakeholder process. The government’s policy is to promote tourism and its contribution to economic growth. Their objective is to increase the contribution of tourism to our economy and to raise the living standards of Gambians. The government is continuing its efforts to broaden the tourism market, improve quality standards, and ensure rational use of the Tourism Development Area.
Gambia has several street markets where you can find anything from food to clothes. If you really want to experience daily life, you should visit some. It can though be an overwhelming experience, with locals inviting you to take a look of their products and trying to sell everything they possibly can. If the market is crowded at the moment you are there, you need some patient to get out of there. We recommend taking a local guide along with you for an easier experience. Apart from numerous very small markets there is Albert market in Banjul, Serekunda market, fish market at Bakau, Bakau craft market, Senegambia craft market, Cape Point craft market, Fajara craft market, Kotu craft market, Brikama craft market, livestock market in Brikama, Tanji fish market, Barra market, Farafenni lumo (country market).
- RESPONSIBLE VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES
Choosing an appropriate volunteer work is very important for The Gambia and its people. You can find many projects in The Gambia offering volunteering opportunities all year round. Volunteers should not take on jobs meant for locals. The main reason to volunteer should be a knowledge exchange, discussing long term solutions for locals and spending meaningful time in The Gambia.
- LOCAL TRANSPORT
Getting around The Gambia is quite a challenge and let you experience the daily life of the locals. Local transport is something you should try when in Gambia. There are no railway lines in The Gambia. The country has one international airport, Banjul Airport. The most common way to get around is by road or by river. There are some options to choose but all depends of what you are interested to see or which side of a country you want to go. The main roads are generally well maintained with streetlights. You can choose between local taxis, tourist taxis, bush taxis, ferries, local boats, cycling (cycling in The Gambia can be a bit challenging, with narrow, often pockmarked roads, and drivers who pass dangerously close as they sputter past.), buses and rent-a car.
- COOKING WITH LOCALS, YOGA, DRUMMING OR DANCE CLASSES
And more! You can choose among numerous of activities in The Gambia. Many owners of smaller hotels, lodges or guesthouses are deeply involved in communities therefore they offer plenty things to do and experience. Cooking experience, yoga sessions, drumming or dancing classes, batik workshops, sand painting, wood crafting, soap making and more. If you think there is not much to do, we can assure you that you can have a very busy schedule!
- RIVER CRUISES OR KAYAKING EXPEDITIONS
For the adventure traveler, there are few options to choose from. River cruises are one of the most fascinating activities in The Gambia. You will feel like you are part of a documentary film which you have watched recently on TV Channel. See life unfurl along its banks by hopping on board a traditional-style river pirogue, motoring past oyster creeks and through mangroves. Watch the local fisherman or the oyster ladies in their dugout canoes, while pelicans and ospreys fly overhead. Kayaking trips also offer you a truly unique way to see the River Gambia.
- NATIONAL PARKS & RESERVES IN THE GAMBIA
The Gambia is not a safari destination in the same league as East or southern African countries. It does, however, have large stretches of unspoiled wilderness, and several national parks that are worth taking in if you are interested in seeing West African fauna. Abuko Nature Reserve is is the first protected area in The Gambia. Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve is The Gambia’s largest protected area and the less-visited. Bijilo Forest Park is a small area where is easy to spot monkeys. Kiang West National park, woodland habitat, commonly explored by vehicle from Tendaba is a home to baboons, bush pig, various antelope and many bird species. River Gambia National park, formerly known as Baboon Islands National Park, this is a group of five lushly forested, protected midriver islands, downstream from Janjanbureh. The islands are home to colony of rehabilitated chimpanzees. If you will take a river cruise trip, you will spot many birds and if you are lucky also hippos. Niumi National Park situated on The Gambia’s northern Atlantic coast, and including Jinack Island, this park is noted for its untouched stands of mangroves. Tanji River Bird Reserve, the only officially protected bird reserve in The Gambia, and it includes the offshore Bijol Islands, an important breeding colony for birds and turtles. Makasutu Culture Forest is privately owned forest which comprises of many different ecosystems. It is home to hundreds of varieties of birds, three species of monkeys, monitor lizards and many more.