Travel to make a difference

Tourism, in terms of annual holidays and in 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-tourism and responsible tourism. The emergence of new modes of tourism meant that there was no need for dropping suitcases and giving up travel.

Then Covid-19 came, and tourism stopped overnight. We have moved from excessive tourism to zero tourism, which drastically affected the local population and global companies and countries.

After more than 2 years, tourism is being revived very slowly in some parts of the world.

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, we find it extremely important to start raising awareness of potential visitors to the Gambia right now about the various options they have 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 chosen accommodation, activities, dining, etc.

However, there are some options that 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, then you can plan your trip a little differently before you leave. 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. There are a huge number of seasonal workers who 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. Larger, well-known hotels, which employ a huge number of locals, are extremely important for tourism, economic growth, agriculture, etc. In this article, we would also like to encourage the booking of accommodation with smaller providers. We are talking about lodges, guest houses, boutique hotels, eco resorts, self-catering apartments that offer less 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, which he uses throughout his stay there and also takes it home as a souvenir. In addition, they have a huge 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, Bintang Bolong are just a few of the 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 bring your own shopping bags.

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

If you choose a way that, in addition to eating in the chosen accommodation, brings you the opportunity to try food outside, then 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, Solomelo’s, Shiraz and Tulkuya Signs Restaurant. For meat lovers we recommend Kasumai BBQ and steak house. Well-known local food restaurants include Rahma’s Kitchen and Kaddy Kaddy. You will find the best burgers in the Village complex Burgers & Beyond. The best pizzas are in Paradiso, Senegambia or Aliance Franco.

If you decide to go on a longer holiday in The Gambia, choose accommodation in the local community, 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 of community based and responsible tourism.

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

From January 2022, new opportunities will also be available based on our collaboration with Ninka Nanka Encounters.

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 program or project that works together with communities and for the communities. Responsible volunteering can make a huge difference if activities are not focused only on international volunteers but mostly on locals and their own development. Projects that increase dependency, creates bigger differences between volunteers and locals, and allow short-term solutions that harms locals should be avoided. Though there are some amazing projects that work on long-term solutions which support locals to make a change for themselves.

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, large lizards, and of course a huge 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's a lot of interesting choice.

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 that are made in large countries on the other side of the world. Support local artisans and vendors. You won’t be sorry.

Doctor Shoe

Yusupha's Natural Products Y.N.P.

Samba’s craft work

Palm leaves baskets

Silversmith

Peanut butter

Balafon

Woven fabric

Tie & Dye

Calabash spoons

Baskets

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, educational or religious institutions.

Those who want to behave responsibly, make sure you are dressed respectfully and modestly. 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 also need to cover your shoulders. Some mosques are not accessible to tourists. Please consider and respect this. It is extremely 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 needs of the school are so that there will be no disappointments and useless 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. There are also more and more people who 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.

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