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Must See Off-Track Places in The Gambia

My Magazine 2023/04
10 min
Located on the western coast of mainland Africa, the Gambia has an enormous range of geographical features and ecosystems. Its exceptional natural beauty, coupled with its vibrant culture, makes this country fantastic and mesmerizing. The country is full of marvellous adventures, from exploring the wildlife to visiting the ancient sites, this country will enchant you with its beautiful culture, and you will likely fall in love with warm-welcoming people. If you are considering eschewing the popular Atlantic Coast beach resorts, here are some recommendations for experiencing a more authentic side of The Gambia to absorb the country's natural beauty and diversity.

KAFUTA VILLAGE

Located in the western part, Kafuta is a small village in the Lower River Region of The Gambia. See nature in its true form through a Bush Walk and feel the energy of the land, where you will hear about the ancient rituals that have taken place while walking through mangroves by the riverside and the lush jungle. You can explore the village, meet the locals and learn more about the culture and cuisine. Also, seek some peace on the boat rides on the riverside beach. If you are a twitcher, this can be the perfect ride.

GETAWAY IN KAFUTA VILLAGE
 

NDEMBAN VILLAGE

The ethnic group known as the Jola are famous in The Gambia for their connection with nature. This village experience can conjure up an image of authentic Africa for you. You can opt for a homestay in the village to experience a traditional lifestyle and learn about the culture. There are also many workshops, such as conventional tie-dye fabric dyeing and soap making, available for experience. You can find abundant oysters along the village's coast and participate in the oyster collection, visit the fortune teller and blacksmith under his low workshop hut.

JOLA VILLAGE EXPERIENCE
 

GALLOYA AND KUBUNEH VILLAGE

Located close to Makasutu, Galloya and Kubuneh are two villages that allow you to dwell in the experience of the local community and the traditions of the people living there. Find abstract graffiti and paintings accomplished by international artists on the walls of the homes and communal buildings in the Galloya village. Try out your gardening skills as you will find women of Galloya and Kubuneh doing their daily work in the community gardens growing popular vegetables, and participate too. At Kubuneh, you can find a magnificent baobab tree present on the spiritual grounds of the ancestors. You can also ride a boat to the riverside to see an oyster production site. The highlight is the Bougarabou cultural entertainment, where deep bass drumming accompanies the women's clapping, singing and dancing, inviting you to join in. 

EXPLORE GALLOYA AND KUBUNEH
 

BRUFUT VILLAGE

Volunteer tourism helps to give back to the local communities and allows you to absorb the essence and culture of the place you are visiting rather than just an average tourist. You can volunteer at the world nursery school at Brufut, a village about half an hour from the main tourism area. You can carry out storytelling, sports, outdoor games, playing on instruments, singing, learning about letters, numbers and basics of the English language, and any other learning activity that can be done with the equipment and materials available in the centre. Children at the Nursery are aged between 4 and 7. Most of these children need someone in their home environment with time or sufficient knowledge to teach them (e.g. English language), so your help would be highly appreciated.

VOLUNTEER IN NURSERY SCHOOL
 

GUNJUR VILLAGE

Are you passionate about eco-volunteering? Want to support environmental volunteers or get involved with nature conservation? Then volunteering at Gunjur can be an excellent experience for you. Learn about the way of life, religion and traditions, gain basic knowledge of the local languages and give back by engaging in environmental activities. Activities like tree planting for the schools, visiting the women's gardens and engaging with the horticulture activities, sacred forest walk, hatchery and turtle protection site and assisting in the data collection, labelling, and interpretation of the museum artefacts are parts of this. You can also learn about Gambian drumming, singing and storytelling in an African style at Gunjur.

VOLUNTEER IN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
 

TANJI VILLAGE

To get a taste of the coast, visit the vibrant, colourful coastal fishing market of Tanji. The village market is most frenetic in the morning and evening when the traditional fishing boats come to the shore with fresh catch. The market is usually bustling with the fishermen and the locals hauling the fresh catch in big buckets to make the sale. You can enjoy a fresh meal of seafood while visiting. Tanji has a natural history and ethnographic museum, exhibiting an Ethnographic and Natural History Gallery, Traditional Crafts and Nature Trail & Vegetation. Top it up with the beautiful kayaking experience on the magnificent Tanji Creek, and your off-track experience will be nearly perfect.

KAYAKING ON TANJI CREEK
 

KARTONG VILLAGE

Tucked inland just beyond the reaches of the lapping waters of the Atlantic, Kartong is one of the oldest villages in The Gambia. The village stands on the bank of the Hallahin Bolong River and is accessed by canoes. Visit the oyster harvesting area with the oyster women who, besides harvesting, are also involved in conservation efforts. The village is famous among Gambians for its sacred crocodile pool, which was used as the site for fertility rituals. You can also visit the Gambian Reptiles Farm (locally known as snake farm) near Kartong. Despite being a farm, it is mainly a research centre to observe reptiles in their natural habitat, educate people about the snake they encounter, and reduce the fear among people.

EXPLORING THE SOUTH
 

KUNTAUR AND RIVER GAMBIA NATIONAL PARK

Located in the central part of the Gambia, Kuntaur lies on the northern bank of the Gambia River. You can spot a Ninki Nanka, a legendary creature in West African folklore, by taking the boat trip. According to tradition, the Ninki Nanka lives in the swamps of West Africa. Also, spot many species of colourful birds and different types of monkeys. With a bit of luck, you can also be able to observe chimpanzees, which are part of the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project, living on one of the three islands on the river; and moreover, the most dangerous African animal, the hippopotamus, in their natural environment. Magnificent! The boat ride on the Gambia river to the national park is not something to be missed in this area.

NINKI NANKA CLASSIC
 

JANJABUREH ISLAND

Janjanbureh Island is located in the Central River Region of The Gambia. If you go on a one- or two-day expedition by foot or boat, you can roam much of the island's surroundings and exciting sites a little further afield. Janjanbureh's habitats are particularly rich in bird species; with the tidal water of the Gambia river, you can find plenty of fish species for the anglers. A few historic buildings tell of the settlement's colonial past. The village also allows you to witness the cultural blast with the performance of the famous Kankurang, the masquerade of the Mandinka tribe, with spiritual powers. Follow the cultural and historical trail on the city tour and opt for kayaking, hiking or cycling around the island paths.

NINKI NANKA CLASSIC
 

JAMALI VILLAGE

If you want to learn about traditional agricultural practices and the characteristics of Fula culture through their language, dressing, music, dance, food and wooden crafts, Jamali village is a must-visit for you;  In a guided tour of the village, you can have an interactive conversation with the head of the village, a visit to the woodcarver, and the local garden, where you can try out your skills in agricultural work. Learn how to make a famous and popular porridge and enjoy its delicious taste in a traditional way.

NINKI NANKA CLASSIC
 

SANYANG VILLAGE

Located in the Kombo South District in the West Coast Region, Sanyang has the most beautiful beach in The Gambia. The white sand beach surrounded by palm trees will make you feel as if you are in a tropical paradise. Sanyang is abundant in migratory and Gambian bird species due to its rich vegetation, variable habitat and wetlands, so if you are a twitcher, you can find various varieties of birds in the area. Wander through the lively and vibrant fish market of Sanyang, where the air is full of the smell of fish, crabs, lobsters and 'edible' sea snails. Explore the beautiful beach and nearby village on the quads. On a quad, you can experience the lakeside, dirt roads, Sanyang beach and the hidden beauty of sweet Sanyang. The opportunity of volunteering at Kankanba farms at sanyang is also there, where you can work alongside the farmers and can get involved in a range of activities, such as animal care for sheep, chickens and cows, tractor operations, maintenance and renovation work, beekeeping and more.

QUAD BIKING ON SANYANG BEACH
 

BINTANG VILLAGE

The fundamental point of a vacation is to disconnect from everyday life, cut loose and recharge yourself. Bintang Bolong lodge in the village of Bintang is a beloved spot for weekend getaways, relaxing weeks in nature, birdwatching, fishing, lazy boat trips, meditation spots or reconnecting and recharging with the stillness of the environment. Due to its location in the middle of a mangrove forest, visitors can experience the exceptional flora and fauna of the brackish wetland. Relaxing boat cruise amongst mangroves offers bird watching, guided tours and cultural performances by villagers. You can also rent a bike, a paddleboat or a jeep for two to explore the beautiful environment of Bintang.

BINTANG RIVER CRUISE
 

So, here are a few secret tips on offtrack places. Want more? Don't forget to subscribe to My Magazine for monthly updates and more cool info!

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