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Trip of the month: From Bakau to Banjul

My Magazine 2023/07
3 min
Coming to The Gambia for a short time, but want to capture the essence of it? We are combining two of the must-see attractions in one day trip. Engaging from both the cultural and architectural aspect, this trip will give you a taste of one of the smallest capitals in the world and insight into the mystical powers of the sacred crocodile pool.

Our exploration begins in Bakau, one of the oldest settlements in The Gambia, also regarded as the third largest town in The Gambia. Known for its fishing tradition and many skilled artisans who found their place at one of the friendliest craft markets, this town is well-visited by local and international travellers for various reasons, activities and attractions.

Must see spot in Bakau is Kachikally - the crocodile park and home to more than 100 crocodiles, who would reside close to the pond with healing water and in the shade of some of the indigenous trees of The Gambia. It is one of the most known places in The Gambia, providing the unique experience of touching a real-life crocodile. Learn about the spiritual value of the place and learn about life in The Gambia through a walk in the ethnographic museum.

Within a short's ride, we reach one of the smallest capital cities in the world, which lies on a peninsula surrounded by river Gambia at the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean. Its position makes it impossible for urban sprawl. It leaves Banjul solely as the administrative and economic centre of the country with a vivid combination of architectural styles.

While strolling around the petit city, note the majestic King Fahad Mosque, MacCarthy Square, the main port, Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, St Mary's Cathedral, one of the oldest markets in the country - Albert's Market and when leaving, another architectural beauty on the city's outskirts; The National Assembly of The Gambia.

But a visit to Banjul is not a proper visit without getting the perfect view of the small peninsula from the Never Again Memorial Arch (The Arch 22). This massive, 36m high gateway, built to celebrate the military coup of July 22nd 1994, was built to remember the former president's Yahya Jammeh coup to take control from the then-president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. The arch was recently renamed to Never Again Memorial Arch in honour of all the victims of gross human rights abuses and violations under former president Yahya Jammeh. The third-floor museum about the coup d’état now tells stories of the victims of the former regime.

Devote an hour or two to really dig into the treasure trove of knowledge - the National Museum of The Gambia, which hosts the most extensive collection of artefacts and documents documenting The Gambia's culture, nature, and history over the last 70 or more years. The wooden building, which is very rare in The Gambia, houses three floors with different collections. The basement level presents musical heritage and a vast array of instruments played throughout the country, tribes and historical periods. The ground floor concentrates on the capital city, Banjul, showcasing political and historical development as well as its cultural aspect of it. The top floor covers the natural history exhibit. It portrays historical periods from early-age excavations up to post-independence.

Concluding an educative day in either a local restaurant or one of the welcoming, charming restaurants in the busy main street of Bakau will allow you to feel the heartbeat of the area more and maybe fall in love with the cultural richness of this small country you are visiting.

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