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Sustainable & community-based tourism

My Magazine 2022/05
5 min
What is sustainable tourism by definition? Sustainable tourism - one that establishes a suitable balance between the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, plays an important role in conserving biodiversity.

It attempts to minimise its impact on the environment and local culture so that it will be available for future generations while contributing to generating income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems.

Community-based tourism, by definition, implies individuals with some collective responsibility and the ability to make decisions by representative bodies. It is tourism in which local residents (often rural, poor and economically marginalised) invite tourists to visit their communities with the provision of overnight accommodation. The residents earn income as land managers, entrepreneurs, service and produce providers, and employees. At least part of the tourist income is set aside for projects that benefit the community.

In The Gambia and the whole world, the demand for responsible and community-based tourism has been higher than ever. And it plays an integral part in the future of the industry, especially in improving the quality of life for people who are part of the “product” or progress.       

It is also a learning process for visitors and locals and includes responsible tourism education, preserving heritage, respectful cultural interaction between tourists and local people, creating income for communities and poverty reduction, engaging the private sector in tourism development, increasing the concept of shared value, creates better places to live and therefore better places to visit, takes the opportunity to learn about the cultures (even before travelling), etc.

One of the best community-based and responsible tourism products in The Gambia is the Ninki Nanka trail.

The Ninki Nanka is a mythical dragon that is said to live in the quieter creeks of the River Gambia. Some describe the Ninki Nanka as a big snake or dragon, and others describe it as part crocodile, part horse, part giraffe. The Ninki Nanka is often feared, and it is said that you will not live long if you have seen it directly. However, it may be viewed safely in the reflection of a mirror. The Ninki Nanka can also bring good luck, and the dragon's scales can bring good fortune to those who find them. The stories of the Ninki Nanka dragon are an important part of local folklore and intangible heritage, which we aim to nurture.

The Ninki Nanka Trail is an exciting new responsible tourism initiative in The Gambia delivered in partnership with the Gambian Tourism Board and other stakeholders. The trail aims to disperse economic benefit to rural areas, diversify Gambia’s tourism product by providing new, authentic community-based and heritage experiences that build on the untapped potential of the River Gambia, and create opportunities for tourism to continue into the ‘Green (shoulder) Season’.

The trail takes an innovative approach to engage the private sector in tourism development and poverty reduction in accordance with the concept of shared value and the principles of responsible tourism, creating better places to live and, therefore, better places to visit.

My Gambia has partnered with Ninki Nanka encounters and will be responsible for the promotion and the bookings of the Ninki Nanka trail in The Gambia.

Detailed information will soon be available on our website together with other options such as River Gambia hiking trails in Janjanbureh, spending a day with locals in Tanji, a day with oysters’ women, cooking classes, tie & dye activities, homestays, eco-tourism, environmental and marine protection activities, etc.

There are approx. ten different tribes in The Gambia, each with its own language, culture and customs. 

Here are some general do’s and don’ts about community-based and responsible travel in The Gambia:

- don’t give gifts/sweets etc. direct to children
- don’t give irresponsible gifts
- don’t take photos of children, security points, in a mosque or when people are praying
- don’t display public affection; this is not considered appropriate. You can hold hands with your loved one, but no kissing in public
- don’t talk about topics such as female genital mutilation, politics, tribal politics, homosexuality, criticism of their religion and certain cultural practices such as polygamy
- don’t bring alcohol into family homes
- don’t be a tourist, be a temporary local
- don’t start a conversation without greeting and asking how are you
- don’t wear too revealing clothes (under the knees, over the shoulders)
- visitors should not allow local children into their rooms (sex tourism, paedophilia)

- book longer holidays
- reduce plastic use as much as possible
- reduce water consumption
- buy products and services locally, and barter respectfully
- Even if you are not hungry, it’s polite to accept a little of the food that is on offer (always eat with right hand)
- It is the custom to leave the last bits of food for the children
- try to use electricity sparingly as there is limited generation capacity and recurrent electricity shortages due to capacity issues
- choose a responsible accommodation provider
- learn some phrases of the local language
- respect the environment and wildlife
- always greet the village chief and elderly people first

We always advise visitors to take permission before taking photos of people. But not only in The Gambia, people all over the world are taking pictures of people when travelling. It can’t be entirely stopped. Sometimes a beautiful photo of markets with people or other similar images can attract more visitors…and at the end of the day, many return visitors are coming back to The Gambia because of people.

We are looking forward to receiving responsible travellers in The Smiling Coast of Africa. 

Send e-mail to for inquires or call (+220) 2140000. 

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