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Gambia

The Gambia is Africa’s smallest country. It is wrapped around the Gambia River. When it is winter in North America and Europe the Gambia is the place to go for a relaxed winter break holiday. The Gambia has everything Africa has to offer, but has a more Caribbean-style vibe and is a perfect destination for first-time Africa visitors. The Gambia is more than just sun and surf. It has amazing eco-lodges and wildlife parks close to the coast and it is an utopia for bird lovers. Furthermore it has a a superb climate, friendly locals, colorful markets, and quiet beach resorts. Although you will not find the big five here, you will have the chance to encounter hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, monkeys and many birds. As Gambia can be quite overwhelming and has poor transportation to travel by yourself the help of a tour guide is recommended.

Highlights

Below we have highlighted the best places to visit in the Gambia and provide you with some general travel advice. As transportation facilities are limited and some places can be quite overwhelming we recommend exploring the country with the help of a local tour guide.

  1. Relax at Sayang Beach (Paradise beach) - although Gambia has beautiful beaches, the beaches are not packed with tourists yet. On the one hand because the locals want to sell any kind of product and on the other hand the facilities are still a bit poor. Nevertheless there are a couple of great beach bars that have great service where you can relax and enjoy.
  2. Bird watching along the Gambia River - although The Gambia doesn’t have big wildlife there are many special animals to find. It is a bird watching paradise and while cruising over the Gambian River you can spot hippos, crocodiles and monkeys.
  3. Tanji local fishing village - Tanji is a little fishing village not far from Banjul. Every day around 4 pm many colorful fishing boats arrive with their fresh catch of the day. Women and children are waiting to collect, clean, dry and smoke the fish. There are many ‘rookeries’ that you can already smell from a distance. Nevertheless, it is an interesting process to see.
  4. Visit River Gambia National Park - you have the chance to see hippos, crocodiles, baboons and seeing lots of chimps. The park is home to the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project that was started by Stella Marsden in 1969. The project protects and monitors a total population of seventy-six chimpanzees occupying three islands in the park. They also have a lodge where you can stay. Relax and sit on the deck of the water house as the sun goes down and the wildlife settles down for the night or cruise over the River Gambia.
  5. Visit the Wide Open Walls project - in 2011 the interactive street art project Wide Open Walls started. The idea behind the project was to create living art by pimping simple countryside villages by local and international artists. In the next years the walls of many houses, shops and schools were painted and became beautiful art objects. Visit for example the village of Kubuneh to see this beautiful initiative.
  6. Explore the Serrekunda Market - this is the most famous market of Gambia located in Serrekunda next to Banjul. Although it is well known you still don’t see many tourists. They sell everything from food, to fabric, clothing to household goods. It is a maze of small alleys and many many people.

What to eat

Although The Gambia has a huge choice of restaurants to suit every palate, the best way to get to know a country is through its food. The Gambian cuisine is characterized by fish, rice, meat and they use quite some peanuts in various dishes. It is common to all gather around one bowl and eat together using your right hand.

  1. Mbahal - this is a famous dish in Gambia that consists of groundnuts, smoked fish, beans, spring onion, fresh chilies, and white rice, bitter tomato or Jattoo.
  2. Benachin– (also called 'Jollof Rice'), it is a mixture of spiced meat or fish, lemon juice, basil leaves, chopped fresh parsley, onion, fresh chili, tomato puree, any type of vegetable and rice. It is the African-style risotto.
  3. Domoda- Domoda is made from peanuts with tomato paste, mustard, black pepper and onions. It is a delicious piquant dish with meat of fish and lots of vegetables.
  4. Fish yassa - it is fish cooked with onions, garlic and lime, served with rice or chips. The delicious tangy flavor or fresh lemons (or limes) make Yassa sauce a huge favorite.
  5. Haako - steamed couscous served with a vegetable sauce.
  6. Akara - this is a delicious local dish served for breakfast sometimes in tapalapa bread. It is made from black-eyed peas, grounded into flour and deep-fried.

Also try the freshly squeezed and mixed fruit juices that local vendors sell.

When to go

The best time to visit Gambia is between November to May and is a good time to visit the region. Gambia’s wet season lasts from June to October. These months experience hotter and more humid days. The average daytime temperature for the whole country is 32°C. In the evenings the temperature drops to around 16°C.

What to know

104 nationalities don’t need a visa for Gambia for stays of up to 90 days. For those needing one, visas are normally valid for one or three months.

Regarding vaccinations check your medical clinic. Yellow fever vaccine is required when you are coming from an infected area.


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