In the early morning hours, we leave for Ziguenchor. After passing the border with Senegal, you will notice there is not much difference in the landscape as the country and nations were once as one. Coming closer to the capital city of Casamance, you will start noticing the lushness of nature and the magnificence of the ancient trees.
We take a short city tour in Ziguenchor and visit the craft market to be enchanted by the vast selection of hand-made art.
The cashew tree is a widespread plant in Casamance, but while the cashew nut is probably familiar to most people, we cannot say the same for the juicy cashew apple that grows below it. Environment and community-friendly cashew processing factory, run by charismatic Madame Noelle Niouky, also known as the lady with the donkey, takes us over the stages of removing kernel from the fruits, steaming, opening, roasting and finally packaging the sweet cashew nuts. The fruit is used to make juice, jam, caramelized fruit, dried fruit and even meat substitutes.
We take lunch close to the river to enjoy the perfect view.
After lunch, we head to the creek close to Oussouye, where we board a boat and enjoy a short hour's ride amongst mangroves to reach the isolated village of Elubaline, also known as the Island of Children. The life of the Jola people here is still untouched and flows at its own pace, following the traditions and self-sufficient economy. You will visit traditional houses and learn about chores, fetishes, a shrine, a water tank built by an NGO, a hospital, a school and more. Jola traditions are still alive and well in this village, where the only money you need is to buy telephone credit.
We return to Oussouye, where we will have dinner and spend the night.
After Breakfast, we will visit the most visited person in Casamance: the king of Oussouye, Sibilumbaï Diedhiou. Even though the real kingdom ended in the thirteenth century, he still represents the »spiritual (non-formal) king« of the region of Oussouye since 2000. There are certain rules which apply when visiting the king. One should avoid wearing clothes of entirely red colour, and women should not enter if on their periods. Visitors should greet the king by standing up and saying »man«. After the introduction, visitors are invited to ask questions which will not necessarily be answered by the king himself. But he will never deny taking a photo with him.
Another peek into Jola's lifestyle was made on our next stop, which brought together a sacred tree, a traditional Jola round mud house transformed into a museum with everyday objects hanging from the walls, and an architectural wonder: a colonial-style-inspired building with pillars made from the mud.
Casamance boasts magnificent old trees, especially baobabs and cotton-silk trees. Jola's belief is that once the tree dies in nature, you have to plant a new one. This rule is still being followed, keeping the forests vast and intact. But there is one special elephant tree in Kanouffa that you can climb on top of and have a perfect view of the surroundings while feeling the power of years old tree bearing you. Secured and guided, the climb is much easier than it seems as you look at the hanging ladder from the ground. And it is worth every drop of sweat or tremble of adrenaline. The view from above is simply magical.
After being mesmerized by the wonderful view, we board a boat in Elinkin to take us to the lodge on a peninsula, where we will have dinner and spend the night.
We wake up in a paradise-like morning, embracing the sunrise on a riverbank just next to the lodge. Breakfast with the view of a calm mangrove area slowly waking up with the rising sun is breathtaking.
Part of the Casamance is strongly connected with the Casamance River, creating various islands and peninsulas rich with mangroves and a vivid animal world. Boat trips on the mighty water while spotting colourful birds and being splashed by drops of the water are experiences of their own.
After breakfast, we board a boat to the Carabane island, which was strongly influenced by colonial history. Two magnificent remains of the French settlement period are the tremendous colonial-style church and "special school" which was first used as a deportation asylum of resistance to colonialization. Later, it was the place where the first Africans learned to read and write European languages, although further in the future, it was used as a correction centre where young people were trained with different skills.
Carabane does not have very vivid vegetation yet has a reputation of being the island of lost paradise as its sandy beaches embellished with coconut trees give the feel of tropical paradise. The influence of the Portuguese, who first occupied the island in the 16th century, in combination with the non-hierarchical animistic traditions of the predominant inhabitant ethnic group, caused that island to be sometimes referred to as Brazil in Africa.
After lunch and some free time to stroll on the beach or buy some souvenirs from mini stalls, find home-made coconut biscuits, or just enjoy the view of the beautiful beach, we head back to the shore and make a stop on a “so-called” Robinson’s Island, where travellers with ich for “solo adventures” will feel their heart is at home.
We head towards Cap Skirring, where we will spend the night in one of the lodges on top of the escarpment, offering a majestic view of one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. Cap Skirring offers many opportunities to taste the evening and nightlife as it is considered one of the most popular getaway beach resort towns for Europeans as well as the West African Region.
The last day is purposed for relaxation and leisure activities until later in the afternoon when we return back to reach The Gambia in the evening hours.
Ninki Nanka trail offers many variations and combinations of activities. Check other options under Trips and activities. You can always send us your suggestions of which activities you would like to do, and we will create a completely customized tour for you.
The trip is suitable for families with kids older than six years.
We recommend to bring sun protection (headwear, long lightweight clothes, sunglasses, sun cream) and mosquito repellents. Make sure you bring enough water (you can also buy it on the way) and some snacks if you get hungry quickly. Wear comfortable or sports clothes and sneakers or trainers if you decide to climb the Kanouffa tree.
You would need a passport or ID card (depending on nationality) and a yellow fever vaccination card. Please send an inquiry for detailed information depending on your status.
The trip is organised by the Insitute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia (ITTOG) in collaboration with Ninki Nanka Encounters (NNE).
ITTOG specialises in hands-on training mainly in the Travel and Tourism sectors with special emphasis on travel agency, tour operations, tour guiding, ground operations, events management, entrepreneurship/business skills development, responsible/sustainable tourism, community-based tourism, and general tourism business management.
NNE Foundation is a small, new Gambian charity and UK community interest company (CIC) working towards the responsible development of the Ninki Nanka Trail as a community-based tourist destination.
They work on projects with communities, tourism businesses and local government to develop experiences, products and community-based tourism designed to create inspiring, cultural interaction between travellers and local people and use tourism to create livelihood opportunities for host communities along The River Gambia.
We do believe it's time for another adventure. Don't spend all of your time in The Gambia in one place. Go out and explore! There are so many beautiful experiences waiting for you. Let us help you pick one - and take care of all the rest.