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Travel to make a difference

My Magazine 2023/01
9 min
Tourism, in terms of annual holidays and the form of travel until the time before the Corona, was something completely normal for many inhabitants of the world. The global phenomenon of tourism did not seem to be slowing down at all. Mass tourism in famous, big places was actually in full swing. Almost 1.2 billion people travel abroad each year, making travel and tourism one of the largest industries in the world. Tourism accounted for a large share of the global economy and provided millions of jobs and benefits to countless communities.

Because of this, there has been more and more talk about other forms of tourism, such as eco- and responsible tourism. The emergence of new modes of tourism meant that there was no need to drop suitcases and give up travel.
Then Covid-19 came, and tourism stopped overnight. We have moved from excessive tourism to zero tourism, drastically affecting the local population, global companies, and countries.

After more than two years, tourism is being revived very slowly.

We believe that this situation is bringing some changes to tourism mainly due to greater awareness of the importance of caring for the environment, nature, and animals. We anticipate that a change will occur in the place that humans demand and want only for themself.

Given this, it is extremely important to raise awareness of potential visitors to the Gambia right now about their various options on the journey. In doing so, we have in mind journeys on which passengers come to the country not only to see the difference but also to make it.

Let's not ignore the fact that every traveller who chooses The Gambia as their holiday destination affects the business and personal lives of the people of the Smiling coast regardless of their preferred accommodation, activities, dining, etc.

However, some options may have a more direct impact on raising the quality of locals' life, nature conservation and care for the environment.

If you'd like to swap lying on the beach, sipping cocktails, and relaxing in a hotel room for a slightly more adventurous vacation, you can plan your trip a little differently before leaving. There are sustainable choices in all aspects of travel, from booking, transportation, and accommodation to finding local experiences and being aware of where we are investing our travel budget.

Here are some tips and ideas:

Let's start with the choice of airline provider and time frame: book an airline ticket with as few transfers as possible and decide to stay in one destination for a longer period of time.

The choice of when you decide to travel is also very meaningful for the locals. If you choose a date outside of school holidays and major annual holidays, you'll enjoy a crowd-free destination, and locals will get a chance to make money outside of high-season dates. A huge number of seasonal workers receive a salary for only 6-8 months a year, so the choice of dates can positively affect development and quality of life. The Gambia is a destination you can visit throughout the whole year.

Once you have the date and airline ticket, it's time to book accommodation. More prominent, well-known hotels, which employ many locals, are extremely important for tourism, economic growth, agriculture, etc. In this article, we would also like to encourage accommodation booking with smaller providers. We are talking about lodges, guest houses, boutique hotels, eco-resorts, and self-catering apartments that offer fewer rooms/apartments.

These are usually small entrepreneurs who are very much involved in the growth and development of the local community, are ecologically responsible, take care of the environment and animals, support the education of children and adults, buy from small farmers, or grow vegetables and fruit themselves.

If you find it important, you can also choose providers who actively contribute to reducing the use of plastic. One of the most famous representatives of this eco solution is Footsteps Eco Lodge in Gunjur. Each visitor is gifted a water bottle they use throughout their stay there and take home as a souvenir. In addition, they have a considerable number of other eco solutions that you can read about on their website or social networks.

Good Vibes in Kafuta, Evergreen lodge in Tujereng, Dalaba Eco Lodge in Gunjur, and Bintang Bolong Lodge are just a few options you have in The Gambia.

There are also accommodation providers who give back to the community and strongly influence local development, such as Bojang River Lodge, Camara Gardens Apartments, Pelka House Apartments and Regal Apartments.

Whatever your choice, please reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate during your visit by carrying a reusable bottle, opting for locally filtered water where possible, and bringing reusable shopping bags.

The choice of accommodation also affects the activities you choose during your vacation. One of them is dining.

Suppose you choose a way that, in addition to eating in the chosen accommodation, brings you the opportunity to try food outside. In that case, you will contribute a lot to local entrepreneurship. Restaurants that offer vegan and vegetarian options in addition to local and international cuisine include Yosh, Vineyard, Saffron, Yasmina, Manna, Solomelo's, Shiraz, Friends and Tulkuya Signs Restaurant. For meat lovers, we recommend Rendezvous steak house and cafe and for fine dining Plass-Bi. Welcoming with comfort food almost 24/7 is Propaganda. Well-known local food restaurants include Rahma’s Kitchen and Kaddy Kaddy. You will find the best burgers in the Village complex at Burgers & Beyond. The best pizzas are in Paradiso and Gusto at Senegambia or Alliance Franco. Check out El Sol for the best Mexican cuisine and Salt - Bar&Kitchen, Poco Loco or  Playa del Sol for a dining experience with magnificent views of the ocean. 

If you choose to go on a more extended holiday in The Gambia, choose accommodation in the local community, and eat in independent restaurants, then it is time to explore the country and buy local products that will have an additional positive impact on local entrepreneurship.

Visiting both famous and lesser-known places is a great combination of responsible tourism. The Gambia offers many possibilities for community-based and responsible tourism.

For all those looking for an authentic travel experience and want to positively impact the lives of the Gambians who otherwise have no income from tourism, here are some ideas for you.

While exploring new places and villages, you can opt for recreational activities that do not pollute the environment, such as kayaking, cycling, or hiking. Not only will you create zero carbon emissions, but you'll also likely discover unique sights and experiences away from the beaten path.

A must-do for all who want to get a taste of The Real Gambia and support local communities on the way is The Ninki Nanka Trail. Following the River Gambia up to Janjanbureh, visiting different ethnic local communities on the way, learning about their way of life and contributing to the community development is a way of travelling that is amongst the most rewarding.

My Gambia, together with local businesses and guides, creates experiences that are interesting to travellers and where we actively involve local people and communities. This creates economic and cultural power that supports social transformation and helps to break the circles of material poverty in the communities.

Volunteering is one of the best choices if you select a program or project that works together with communities and for the communities. Responsible volunteering can make a massive difference if activities are not focused only on international volunteers but mostly on locals and their own development. Projects, that increase dependency, create bigger differences between volunteers and locals and allow short-term solutions that harm locals, should be avoided. However, there are some amazing projects that work on long-term solutions which support locals to make a change for themselves. Two of them are volunteering in a local nursery school or combining your environmental protection volunteering with a homestay.

Also, choose your animal experience carefully. If you want to see animals in their natural environment, you have the best scenarios in the Central and Upper River region in The Gambia. There you will see hippos, chimpanzees, baboons and other monkeys, giant lizards, and of course, a considerable number of birds, as the Gambia is known for having the chance to see more than 500 species of birds.

Are you interested in products made in The Gambia? Great! There are a lot of interesting choices.

Find some links below to the entrepreneurs, along with contacts. Every purchase you make will mean a 100% share of the earnings directly to the artist. We recommend that you do not buy products made in large quantities on the other side of the world. Support local artisans and vendors. You won't be sorry.

However, never buy items that are not legal such as shellfish, ivory, products made from protected plants or endangered species, or even animals that are illegal to export and import.

It will be best for you to connect with the locals, hang out with them, be a part of their daily lives and make friends, as this is the part of travel which creates the best memories and makes you want to come back to The Gambia again. Visit the markets, cook with the locals, drum, and dance.

In our monthly online magazine, you will learn a lot about people, culture, history, customs, music and much more. It is very important to pay attention to local culture, learn about customs before going to the country and always respect local etiquette, especially when visiting remote rural areas, village chiefs, and educational or religious institutions.

Dressing respectfully and modestly is another way of showing responsibility during travel. It is recommended that you wear pants or skirts that cover the knees and are not transparent (at least) outside the coastal tourist area. If you want to enter a mosque or a church, you must cover your shoulders. Some mosques are not accessible to tourists. Please consider and respect this. It is highly welcome if you buy a local traditional garment or have it made by a local tailor.

Remember that cultural exchange is a two-way street, so always ask before photographing anyone. Avoid taking photos of children, and do not post anything for which you have not received permission. It's very nice if you respect people's privacy. You, too, can be an attraction for the locals, so it's best to socialize a lot, make friends, and take photos for shared memories.

If you visit a school, make sure you plan and coordinate it with the principal or school principal in charge. Give gifts and donations to management instead of children, who may begin to see foreigners as a source of gifts and money. Before buying or collecting donations, find out what the school needs so there will be no disappointments and impractical materials. We are aware that your gifts and donations are well-intentioned, but they can create tensions among the residents and promote begging and unbalanced relations between visitors and locals.

Travel with a Wolof or Mandinka phrasebook in your hand luggage and try to learn a few keywords and phrases. The ability to speak some basics of the local language will undoubtedly bring you a lot of smiles from the friendly locals you meet during your stay in The Gambia.

People are the most important part of tourism, and because of them, a huge number of visitors, volunteers and businesspeople return to The Gambia every year. More and more people also choose The Gambia as their new home.
That is why we want to raise the standard of living of the Gambians, contribute to the development of the economy and, at the same time, create a fantastic cultural and natural experience for our visitors. We want to achieve this with a responsible approach to all involved in the tourism industry.

If such a trip tempts you, follow our programs and offers, and contact us for a reservation at

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