Experience an Upcountry Trip in The Gambia

If you love the beaches and want to enjoy a luxurious calm holiday, The Gambia must be the first option that should come to your mind. The smiling coast has world class beach side resorts that give you the calm, the peace, and a memorable tourism experience.

But if you are looking for a unique holiday to experience a West African lifestyle, where you can interact with the locals in the villages, understand their values, celebrate their festivals, and want to take back an experience of a lifetime, then you must visit the countryside of The Gambia.

Travelling Upcountry as they call it here (Gambia is a small strip of land around the River Gambia and as we move from Banjul, towards the mainland Africa, it looks as if you are moving up the country and hence the name).

My work in the education sector has given me the experience to visit all regions in the Gambia and stay in these villages. I get to interact with teachers, school children, the community and learn a lot from the people of Gambia.

The road or highway from Banjul to Basse, a 7-hour long drive, with occasional pauses, takes you through all the regions of the Gambia. One can start her/his journey from the capital or the urban part, which is called Region 1 (Banjul), then comes Region 2 (west coast region – WCR), then Region 4 (lower river region – LRR) and region 3 (North Bank region – NBR) region 5 (central river region – CRR) and finally region 6 (upper river region – URR). You can enjoy the river Gambia flowing along these regions, because bridges have been built to connect these regions. In Banjul and Janjanbureh there is a ferry service available to connect you to other areas, as well.

What to expect during the journey
The journey is picturesque especially after the rainy season, as it is full of lush green trees and open fields. The central and North Bank regions have a lot of farmers growing cous, corn, watermelon, groundnuts, and other seasonal crops. You will be in complete awe to see horses roaming freely, brooks, streams, fruit trees, large baobab trees, birds, nature is at its purest and naïve form, in your journey. Seasonal fruits and groundnuts are available all year long on the roadside, to snack on. But it is advisable to carry your own food and drinks if you are a fussy eater. If you are ready to eat anything at any time, and are willing not to complain, then you can manage your stay in these villages for a day or two eating local food. Certain towns have a mini market and vegetable market where you can buy bread, eggs, and tinned foods. There are few restaurants with their fixed menu and fixed timings. You can arrange a family or lady from the village to cook, prior to your arrival, if you have particular needs. The villagers will be happy to cook for you. Be prepared not to have electricity 24*7. So, you must carry your solar lights and power banks to charge your phones. Air conditions and fridges are rare to find due to poor electricity connections, but some towns closer to the highway are more conducive to stay. Cold drinks will be available only in such towns in minimarkets. Gambia has three famous network connections: Gamcel, Africel and Qcell. Most villages have good connectivity if you have an Africell or Qcell line depending on the tower you are close to.

In the village, the most common foods people eat are:

  • Breakfast (a healthy porridge called Mono from millets or churra gerteh a porridge with rice and groundnuts)
  • Lunch is usually available from 2.30 – 4.00pm: rice with a stew or sauce like domoda with chicken or meat (fish may not be available in some villages, but villages near the river do have plenty of fish)
  • Dinner: some villagers have cherre (a steamed millet) or mono (porridge) in the night with sour milk or milk.

You must try some of these foods; they are healthy and tasty as well.

Things that one must carry to stay

Mosquito repellents, solar lights, hand fans, emergency medications, power banks to charge phones are compulsory to be taken for these country side trips.

Guest houses available
Most guest houses have basic facilities with water, mosquito nets and some have a kitchen attached, where you can order food. Do not expect luxury. These are lodges with one room, clean bed and one toilet. Electricity will not be available 24*7, though some have solar or generator as back up. Usually, electricity is not available after 3 am. These guest houses have one ceiling fan or table fan. Wifi connectivity is rarely available. Most of us need a good detox from social media, so we must use this as an opportunity to stay away from your phones. Months from June to November can be hot and humid due to the heat and the rains. Hand fans, Mosquitoes and bug sprays can be very handy. You can carry your own small gas and do your own cooking if you wish to.

Find below the list of guest houses or lodges one can stay, from my database.

Lower River Region

  1. Tendaba camp (Contact Mr. Sarjo @ 3751906)
  2. Mansakonko Area Council guest house (Contact 3971412/2036458)
  3. Pipeline Guest house in Soma (Contact 2464055/6807029)
  4. EI guest house in Soma (Contact Mr. Marong @ 9997546)

North Bank Region

  1. Kinteh kunda Roots camp in Albreda (Contact Mr. Njie @ 7904782)
  2. Jerreh camp in Sitanunku (Contact Mr. Senghore @ 9933412/3933412)
  3. Hunting camp in Kerrewan (Contact Mr. Bernard@ 9920943)
  4. Kerewan Guest house (Contact Mr. Omar Ceesay 6704890)
  5. Morgan Kunda in Illiasa (Contact Mrs. Awa @ 3259522/2124600)
  6. AMRC farafenni (Contact Mr Janneh @ 7860044)
  7. Eddy’s farafenni (Contact @7252111)
  8. Feel free lodge in Jinack (Contact Mr. Sheriff @ 3457547/7712467)
  9. Helping Lodge in Amdalai (Contact Mr. Buba @ 3138489)
  10. Dream Lodge in Essau (Contact Mr. Ebou Sonko @ 3062273)

Central River Region (North)

  1. Sansanding Lodge at Laminkoto (Contact Mr. Alhagie @2178041/6508036)
  2. Kairoh Garden at Kuntaur (Contact @ 993526/7516138)
  3. Kauren Lodge at Kaur hunting camp (Contact Mr. Tijan @ 717286)

Central River Region (South)

  1. Brikamaba Tomobong guest house (Contact Mr. Jutella @ 3934520/2325227)
  2. Bintou’s Paradise in Bansang (Contact Mr. Saikou @ 7552465)
  3. Margie’s Lodge in Bansang (Contact @ 2520353/7337272/9951736)
  4. Janjanbureh SSHFC guest house (Contact Mr. Kebba @ 5213054)
  5. Baobolong Annex (Contact Mr. Alfusainey @ 7386152)
  6. Kakuba garden (Contact Mr. Sulayman @ 5344069

Upper River Region

  1. Fulladu Camp (Contact @ 5668760, 7788558, 5668533)
  2. Basse Guest house (Contact @ 9906791 or 5668743)

The countryside is full of people who are very kind, happy, welcoming and who like to share and care. This journey will teach you to appreciate nature, to preserve it, take you through hardworking farmers’ lives, open your mind and give you a new perspective to live a happy and content life without complaining. You should experience this journey into the countryside of the Gambia, once in your lifetime!!

About Author

Maitri Sivaraman

ASSP National Program Coordinator
Pioneer Certified Program Leader of the University of Cambridge
Ms. Maitri Sivaraman is a renowned academician in the development sector. She is currently, the National Program Coordinator for a research project in Effective Intervention’s After-School Support Program (ASSP) in partnership with LSHTM (London school of hygiene and tropical Medicine).

She has co-authored a research article published in the Journal of development economics titled; How much can we remedy very low learning levels in rural parts of low-income countries?

She is also the Pioneer certified Program Leader, offering the Professional Development Qualifications (PDQ) in SBEC International school on behalf of the University of Cambridge, UK, training international schoolteachers.

She works with the focus to further strengthen and support efforts to address the quality of learning, by training teachers on pedagogy and works with key development partners of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in The Gambia.

Ms. Maitri has been living in The Gambia for almost two decades and has been working with schools in Rural and Urban Gambia by training more than 800+ teachers.

Her love for Gambia has only increased over the years due to her extensive travel and work in almost 300+ villages in the North Bank, Lower River, Central River regions of The Gambia.

On the personal front, she is an ardent advocate for environment friendly initiatives, minimalistic and mindful living. She likes to play golf, loves to walk in the beach, does yoga, meditation and participates in community-based activities.

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