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Why The Gambia is a Popular Tourist Destination

My Magazine 2024/05
8 min
KNOW
The Gambia, often referred to as the "Smiling Coast of Africa," offers a unique blend of cultural heritage, natural beauty, and intriguing historical significance, making it a captivating destination for travellers from around the globe. It has unique qualities over many other destinations, and it is becoming one of the world's most popular and attractive travel destinations. Although there are many positive features of The Gambia, here are ten reasons why The Gambia is a popular tourist destination.

1) PROXIMITY TO EUROPE

The Gambia is conveniently located around an hour's flight from major European cities, making it a popular, financially accessible and attractive destination for visitors, volunteers and tourists seeking a blend of African culture and tropical climate. You can find good flight deals from many European countries all year round. Direct flights are available from Germany, Belgium, Spain, and the UK. Denmark will follow suit starting in November 2024.

2) LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY

English is the official language, facilitating communication for international visitors. However, The Gambia is also a melting pot of local languages such as Wolof, Mandinka, Fula, Jola, Serahule, Serer, Manjago, and Creole (or Aku). Most people can speak at least two local languages, but the older generations usually cannot speak English, especially in rural areas.

3) MUSIC & DANCE

Music and dance colour every corner of daily life in The Gambia. 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. Musical instruments such as the Kora, Balafon and Djembe drums are some of the many instruments that play a crucial role in cultural rituals and the musical scene of The Gambia.

4) UNESCO HERITAGE SITES

The Gambia is home to two world-acclaimed UNESCO sites: James Island and the Stone Circles of Wassu.

James Island and Related Sites present a testimony of one of humanity's darkest chapters – the slave trade. In the early 1970s, it was declared a National Monument, and in 2003, along with the Six-Gun Battery in Banjul, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is also a small museum which you should not miss.

The Stone Circles can be found in vast numbers in Wassu. The first professional excavations were made in 1964, and in 1995, the Stone Circles of Senegambia were proclaimed a National Monument and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006.

5) ECOTOURISM HUB

This hidden little treasure of West Africa, The Gambia, has fascinating flora and wildlife, vibrant ecosystems, varied landscapes and many different animal species.

River Safaris: Explore The Gambia River and its rich biodiversity, including birdwatching and wildlife spotting.

Community-based Tourism: Stay in eco-lodges or guesthouses run by local communities, offering authentic experiences and supporting local livelihoods.

Mangrove Tours: Discover the unique ecosystems of the mangroves, home to a wide range of plant and animal species.

Nature Reserves and National Parks: Visit protected areas like Abuko Nature Reserve or Kiang West National Park for guided tours and wildlife encounters.

Birdwatching: The Gambia is a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 550 bird species recorded, making it a prime destination for birdwatching tours.

Cultural Experiences: Engage in cultural exchanges with local communities, such as traditional music and dance performances or craft workshops.

Beach Cleanups and Conservation Projects: Participate in eco-friendly activities like beach cleanups or conservation projects to contribute to preserving the environment.

All these are ecotourism products that tourists can enjoy or take part in while in The Gambia.

6) A HAVEN FOR WATER SPORTS AND FISHING

With the Atlantic Ocean on its doorstep and the Gambia River winding through the country, The Gambia is a favourite for anglers and water sports enthusiasts. Sea and river fishing is good all year round, particularly line-fishing from the beaches along Gambia's southern seaboard. Wild waterways make an ideal habitat for a range of tropical fish and a perfect marine environment for the light tackle angler. With more than 70 different fish species in many inshore reef sandbars, rocky outcrops, deep channels, and the Gambia River, these features provide an ideal marine environment for creek fishing.

7) PRISTINE BEACHES

The Gambian coastline stretches over 80 kilometres of pristine coastline, featuring golden beaches perfect for relaxation, sports, or simply enjoying the tropical sun. The beaches vary from bustling hubs of activity in areas like Senegambia, Kololi or Paradise Beach, where you can ride horses, play drums with the locals, and even participate in dance lessons. If you're more into peace and seclusion, then Fajara, Brufut or  Sanyang are ideal for relaxing where relaxation and nature blend seamlessly.

8) SUBTROPICAL CLIMATE

The Gambia enjoys a pleasant subtropical climate with average daytime temperatures around 27°C (80°F), ideal for those looking to escape colder climates and enjoy sunshine almost any time of the year.

The Gambia is known for its favourable climate in West Africa. The 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; from May to June, the daytime temperatures are very high.

9) MYTHICAL LORE OF THE NINKI NANKA

Per the oral legend, Ninki Nanka is a mythical dragon said to reside in the creeks of the River Gambia. It is said that whoever saw this mythical creature got seriously ill and died soon after. The only thing that can kill it is its reflection in the mirror, so to protect oneself while exploring the deep river creeks of the River Gambia, one should always carry a mirror. People say Ninki Nanka has the head of a giraffe; others mention a crocodile. 

For the more adventurous traveller, My Gambia provides an opportunity to follow the Ninki Nanka Trail, an incredible experience including a boat trip along the River Gambia and through its swamps and forests where the Ninki Nanka is said to reside. Although sightings of the creature are rare, the experience of being immersed in the natural beauty and vibrant culture of The Gambia is sure to stay with visitors for a lifetime. And who knows – you might be lucky enough to see the legendary Ninki Nanka!
 

BOOK YOUR NINKI NANKA ADVENTURE
 

10) ONE OF THE RARE WORLD DESTINATIONS FOR CHIMPANZEES

Did you know that there are only a few countries in the world where you can see chimpanzees live in relative freedom—without bars or cages—on three lush, forested islands, and The Gambia is one of them? In 1979, an island sanctuary was established in the River Gambia National Park. Today, it is home to more than 140 chimpanzees who live in four groups on islands spanning 1,500 acres. It provides refuge for four chimpanzee social groups along with Guinea baboons, green monkeys, red colobus monkeys, hippos, more than 240 species of birds and various other wildlife and birds.

Together, these aspects showcase The Gambia as a destination that offers leisure and relaxation, deep cultural insights, and opportunities for adventure, making it a gem worth exploring on the African continent.

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