The Gambia has unique qualities over many other destinations. It is only six hours away from major European destinations, there is no jet lag, and it is a popular and affordable winter destination attracting tourists in search of sun, sea, sand and cultural experience of which this small unique country has plenty.
Why Go To Gambia?
The Gambia is perfect for sun lovers with 30 miles of soft sand beaches and a tropical climate, temperatures around 80°F all year and warm, friendly people. The Gambia is on western coast of Africa, Less than 20 miles wide but over 300 miles long; The Gambia is strip of land along the Gambia River. Prices are cheap in The Gambia compared with the UK. Fresh fish and seafood are particularly good value.
Who Is Gambia Popular With?
Gambia is popular with beach connoisseurs and serious sunbathers, with hot, tropical, sunny weather all year round with relaxed beach resorts and short airport transfers. Relaxed resorts like Bijilo and Kotu attract a nice mix of independent travellers and picturesque Cape Point boasts a superb tropical location for families and couples. Aside from the beaches, Gambia’s biggest attraction is the highly atmospheric River Gambia. The relaxed, friendly atmosphere, even in the enjoyable capital Banjul, makes Gambia a fine, gentle introduction to Africa.
When To Go To Gambia?
Most people visiting the Gambia will spend their Gambia holidays on the fabulous beaches of resorts like Bijilo, Cape Point, Kololi and Kotu. High temperatures in popular resorts like Banjul and Kombo are pleasantly cooled by the Atlantic. Gambia climate is subtropical, with a hot rainy season from June to October and a slightly cooler dry season from November to May. Don’t let the rain put you off, in the summer months it tends to fall in the evenings in short intense bursts. The rainy season still sees an amazing amount of hot sunshine by British standards! Gambia rainfall is highest from July to October. August is the rainiest month in Gambia.
Gambia - The Place
Gambia holidays are a gentle introduction to Africa. It is possible to take a boat trip up the Gambia River with thick forest on both sides, monkeys in the trees and a variety of birdlife on the shores. The Gambia is for those seeking sun, sea and sand with a little nightlife. The Gambia is also a popular destination for those wishing to experience bird watching. The Gambia is a very small and narrow country whose borders mirror the meandering Gambia River. Its present boundaries were defined in 1889 after an agreement between the United Kingdom and France. It is almost an enclave of Senegal, and is the smallest country on the continent of Africa.
The Gambia is a former British Colony and the official language is English but there are also several tribal languages including Mandinka and Wolof. Educated in English, most Gambians are at least bilingual. The people of The Gambia are friendly and hospitable and life is taken at a very relaxed pace. Whilst the various tribal languages are used by the Gambians to converse between themselves, the official language and language of instruction in most schools is English (The Gambia is a former British colony). It is common to receive an invitation to a Gambian 'compound' and this will give you a remarkable insight into the local way of life. If you accept it is polite to take a small gift, for example a bag of rice or bars of soap for laundry. You may also be invited to try one of the local Gambian dishes such as Benachin (rice and vegetables) or Domoda, (meat, stewed in groundnut puree and served with rice). There are many tribes but the main ones are Mandinka, Wolof, Fula and Jola, each having its own language and traditions. Dress is varied but always bright and colourful and some of the complicated plaited hairstyles are a work of art, often taking up to two days to complete.
In the evenings, guests have the choice of staying within their hotel or enjoying dinner and drinks in the wide range of restaurants and bars either nearby or a short taxi ride away. Most hotels offer some form of evening entertainment, varying from a single kora player to a lively stage show or an African dance troupe. Las Vegas it isn't, but there are a number of bars, a few clubs and three casinos, located mainly in Kololi, Kotu and South Kotu.
In the Gambia the craft markets outside the hotels in the main resort areas offer a variety of items and the most popular are tie and dye materials, batik, antique masks and other wood carvings, leather goods, jewellery, sand painting and basketry. Buy with caution and use the African practice of bargaining for a fair price using your own judgment. The main markets in Banjul, Serrekunda, Bakau and Brikama are also interesting to visit. Shop and stall owners literally sell everything under the sun.
Food in the Gambia is varied, fresh, delicious and often spicy. Gambia has a selection of excellent local dishes, usually with rice, meat and vegetables, including Chicken or Fish Yassa, Benechin and Domoda (ground nut sauce). Fresh seafood is caught daily and prepared to delight in restaurants along the coast. There are many great restaurants offering all types of international cuisine and usually a selection of Gambian food. Snack on locally grown, fresh seasonal fruit which is amazingly sweet and often made into mixed or individual juices at vendors along the beach including mangos, papayas, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple and watermelon. Also find sorrel flower juice (locally called "Wonjo") with its unique taste. A good selection of imported spirits, beers and wines are available. The local beer, Julbrew, manufactured in the Gambia by Banjul Breweries can be found everywhere.
Local Gambia Customs
It is recommended to greet a person before starting a conversation. A handshake is widely used together with the words ‘Assalamu Aleikum’ meaning peace be upon you. The majority of Gambians are Muslims and their religious belief should be respected by visitors. The right hand should always be used to give or receive things. Gambians are a very friendly people and visitors should not be afraid to accept their hospitality. Although dress in the beach hotels is very informal, ladies should avoid wearing bikinis or go about topless outside the hotel grounds or beaches.