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Jalamang Danso, passionate tour guide of the Destination Janjanbureh

My Magazine 2022/12
4 min
We met Jalamang on one of our trips to Janjanbureh in 2021. We feel a lot of passion for tourism development in the youth of this historically significant town of The Gambia. Although it is remote, Janjanburreh has become one of the most known towns of upcountry with its constant development. Jalamang Danso is the vice president of the Janjanbureh Tour Guide Association and a very talented tour guide of the region. We are sharing his story with you.

Jalamang has been a tour guide since 2017. He did his tour guide training with the National Centre For Arts & Culture (NCAC) and Gambia Tourism Board with the support of the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). He has a lot of passion and love for his job, and he is fully committed. He decided on this occupation because since he was young, he saw visitors coming to Janjanbureh, staying only for one night and bringing profit to the lodges, restaurants, and boat owners only. Therefore, he felt tourism didn't deliver anything back to the community. This is why he enjoys his job today when he sees community-based tourism development and his town turning into one of the important tourist destinations in The Gambia.

Many young people migrate from remote villages and towns closer to the coastal and urban areas since there is always a lack of opportunities for employment in their hometowns. Many of them, sadly, also decide to try their luck with backway to developed countries. But Jalamang tells us; lately, there are many opportunities for young people in Janjanbureh and its surrounding villages in the tourism industry. Tour Guide Association has 35 youths working as tour guides, offering different tours. There are fourteen kayak guides, seven hiking guides, five community-based tourism guides, and twelve of them do city tours within the island. Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute (GTHI) intervention helped many young people build their skills in room division, food and beverage service, and professional cookery to secure jobs at the hotels and deliver excellent service to customers. There are also many young boat captains offering river excursions. Creating job opportunities and developing tourism; are all gears to stop irregular migration.

Jalamang has, since he became part of the tourism industry, gained a lot of skills in different sectors of the hospitality service. Tour guiding skills, community-based tourism guiding, professional cookery, kayaking skills, entrepreneurship skills, event planning, and customer service skills are just a few.

With the support of the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) under the International Trade Centre (ITC), which is working closely with Gambian governmental institutions managing tourism development of the country (GT Board, NCAC, ITTOC, GTHI), members of Janjangbureh Tour Guide Association were and are still able to attend different training to improve their hospitality service skills and obtain their guiding certificates. A lot of future development is concentrated on community-based tourism, which is also supported by YEP. However, they are still waiting for their own Gambian community-based module to develop more products and build capacity in tourism. Janjanbureh is one of the destinations of the Ninki Nanka trail, which is a responsible tourism product promoting Community-Based Tourism and dispersal of the economic benefit to rural areas and offers immersive and meaningful interaction with local people.

Janjanbureh offers many different activities, attracting more and more visitors who want to stay on the island for more than just one day. There are many hiking trails in the forest, accessible by boat or kayak, or you can decide solely for the kayaking experience. If you are intrigued about the spiritual heritage of the place, you would enjoy a campfire at night with storytelling and experiencing the mysterious Jamba Jabally Kankurang. Being the strongest promotion point of the Mandinka masquerade tradition, Janjanburreh hosts the Kankurang festival each year. Tickets for the next festival, coming up at the beginning of January 2023, are already available. My Gambia is organising a three-day trip combining Kankurang Festival program and exploring Janjanbureh and nearby villages. Join us! We still have few free spots. 

There are also many opportunities for fishing, especially famous Tigerfish fishing. With its strong history and cultural tradition, you should not miss a chance to take a city tour, combining historical and cultural trails, giving you deep insight into the sad history of slavery and colonial times as well as a sneak peek into cultural traditions, masking traditions, beliefs and sacred places.

But Jalamang and other tour guides of the Janjanbureh Tour Guide Association are not concentrating only on Janjanburreh activities. They are providing tour guiding also outside the island. Being surrounded by the mighty River Gambia, there are many options for boat trips. One of the favourites is Baboon Island, with Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project and hippo spotting. This is also a perfect choice for bird lovers since River Gambia National Park is great destination for bird watching. In addition, you can take a boat trip up to Wassu to see stone circles or decide to experience community life in the nearby villages of Tabanani or Jamali. Jalamang's wish is that with the development of other community-based destinations, he will be able to offer his tour guiding also beyond his region.

He feels that art has to live on and inspire the younger generation. This is one of his goals, and he is willing to share his knowledge through workshops and classes with anybody interested. His wish for the future is to have a successful Jungle Art gallery and create many employment opportunities for the population.

“Everyone is gifted with some talent. Appreciate your gifted talent by using it to make a positive impact. But if my message to the world should be one word ... peace!”

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