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“A Gambian Adventure!” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Gambia

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Worcester
Level Contributor
5 reviews
17 helpful votes
“A Gambian Adventure!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 29 March 2010

Well, after a crummy 2009, my partner and I decided to bite the bullet and marry.

My mother lives in the Gambia, so to kill two birds with one stone, we left the wedding arrangements to her, and decided to ship off there for 2 weeks and get wed abroad.

This was our first visit, and believe me, this country is an eye-opener!

Basics you should know:

It's a tiny place, and you can get around fairly easily, but keep your wits about you.
They see a white face and they think you are rich - beware a sob story.
Go in the dry season, fewer mozzies!
This isn't a place for the disabled traveller and it's not hugely family orientated.
Eating and drinking out is generally dirt cheap, and excellent quality.
It's a third world country, you will see poverty, and you'll see rubbish and animals in the street - don't let this put you off, it can be funny!
The gambia is a sex tourism hotspot - fine, if that's what you're into, but beware "true love" visa scams and remember to play safe as around 1 in 3 prostitutes have HIV.

Sounds scary doesn't it? And yes, it might not be the place for a first holiday, but if you're adventurous and you like to get involved then the benefits are amazing.

Hotels and beaches are deserted even in high season, the beaches are lovely soft sand and the sea is so warm in the dry season, it's like bathwater!

Locals are very friendly, there's much shopping to be had in local markets and if you fancy a change of scene jump in a cab - they are cheap enough but agree the fare before you go. Tourist taxis (the green ones) are more expensive.

You can drink local bottled beer for around 40 dalasi (£1) a pop, cheaper in happy hour. Go to a supermarket for spirits to bring home - we bought 1 litre of gin for 60 dalasi, and it's good stuff too.

We had our reception at the Sun Beach Hotel in Bakau, a BEAUTIFUL hotel and the staff are wonderful. It's right on the beach, the restaurant complex is lovely, and the pool is lush. I have heard the rooms are good too. Opposite the SunBeach is Bakau craft market. If you want a really good massage, go to the bar on the corner and ask for Bintu who has a room at the back. She's brilliant and will come to you if you like.

We also spent time at the Senegambia hotel at the bottom of the "strip" (this is where it all goes on in the Kololi/Senegambia area), very pretty grounds, lovely pool complex, and if you're not a resident you can pay for a sunbed for the day and enjoy the facilities (this applies to most hotels except the Coco Ocean and the Sheraton). They have monkeys running wild in the grounds (don't pay for the monkey park, spend a morning here instead!) and they also feed the vultures at 11am each day - well worth a watch!

The nightclubs on the Strip are only for the brave - they are basically brothels! But good fun if you take everything with a pinch of salt (do NOT flash your cash and don't leave a drink unattended - sound advice anywhere you go). The bars are generally good, and restaurants cover traditional Gambian food through to Thai, Indian and Italian.

La Romatica for italian - good pizza
Bamboo 2 (Jade) for Chinese - try the sizzling platter
Clay Oven for indian - take a cab, go on tuesday night for Sizzler night which is all you can eat and good value. It's pretty posh.
Tao for Thai food
Kora - Gambian and nice cocktails, and chocolate cake as big as your arm! But getting pricier by Gambian standards.

We also found an amazing beach bar, you can walk to it along the beach from the Senegambia. It's called Anna's (the Sand Plover). Food here is cheap - but despite appearances it is excellent. The ramshackle bar fronts onto a deserted stretch of beach, but can be reached by car if you're brave. Check out the rickety plank bridge to get to the "car park"! Lunch here can be had for as little as a quid.

Fill your pockets with sweets for the kids if you go out walking, who will see you and demand "minties" (they mean sweets). Good for photo ops :)

Don't let someone put something round your wrist or neck, even if they say "gift" - they want a gift back.

Don't book excursions through your tour guide, go direct. Try Anna's Boats for river cruises, or Tilly's Tours on the Strip.

Horse riding can be had for 300 dalasi for 30 minutes on the beach, but if you're savvy it can be had for much less - keep an eye out for posters advertising local stables. Go in the morning - yes, it's cooler late afternoon, but the horses are shattered and it'll be all you can do to urge them into a feeble trot!

This is an amazing country, with amazing, friendly folk who will literally make something out of nothing, and if you get out and about a bit you will discover loads. If you're the lazing-by-the-pool type then this place is ideal - but you'll miss so much!

And yes, the wedding was wonderful.

If you want help or tips, by all means email thorn1979ATyahooDOTcom.

Alison

Helpful?
8 Thank Thorn1979
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Idollic
Level Contributor
2 reviews
10 helpful votes
“The Gambia - My Utopia”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 March 2010

My holiday to The Gambia was phenomenal! The place exudes charm like one can never imagine! Being the smallest country on mainland Africa with a population of about 1,700,000 people, I felt like The Gambia would be the perfect place to experience Mama Africa as a novice. Oozing with excitement and a little fear of the unknown, I embarked on an experience of a lifetime! Here goes...


THE PEOPLE

The Gambia is known as "The Smiling Coast of Africa" and the reason is apparent from the time you step foot onto its soil. Gambians are very amicable people; they respect themselves, each other and show humanity in every way possible! They greet each other with a smile and a glow in their eyes. They are very generous, share everything and would give you their last dollar if you really needed it! Walking through the streets of the capital Banjul we were invited to join in on a communal meal, just because we glanced at the pot...In the nightclub guys would ask for a dance and would apologise when you say no...In the streets vendors would tell you to have a lovely day after you declined the offer to buy their goods...Everywhere you go guys would automatically start looking out for you as if you were their little sister...When I was contemplating extending my stay and mentioned it to one person, within minutes several strangers were on their mobile phones ringing around to try and find me accommodation! In The Gambia everyone has your back...the main saying being "Nice to be nice"!


SAFETY

The Gambia has one of the lowest murder rates in the world with a count of 0.71 murders per 100,000 people! Serious crime is virtually non-existent and if you ask a local when was the last murder they would struggle to remember! I felt safer walking the streets at 2am in The Gambia than at 2pm in London! Guns and knives are very few and far between and the fights that we witnessed were fist fights which were subdued within minutes. People run towards the fights, not away from them as there is no fear of gunshots, stabbing or bottle pelting! If you butt into someone or step on their toe, THEY would be the first to say sorry.

We went to a midnight reggae beach party with hundreds of rasta guys smoking d herb...Gill and I being 2 of about 5 females at the party! Where else in this world would you see a bongo natty dread smoking a gigantic spliff and sipping a fruit cocktail or a fanta!? Only in The Gambia! lol Even though it was pitch dark, at no point did we feel unsafe...we even took a ride after in a broken down car with 3 rasta men, without fear of harassment or intimidation...what an incredible experience!!! One thing I've learnt is never ever judge a person from the way they look...some of these guys looked like hardened criminals and escaped convicts...yet they had the gentlest souls ever with manners in abundance!


Another night we were "playing" hide & seek with some friends and ended up hiding behind some wooden shops at 1am...then out came this local guy from under the rubble and he started talking as if we had known each other for ages lol. Had that been in any other country we would have ran and bawl fo murdaaaa...whereas in The Gambia, we weren't even alarmed when he suddenly appeared out of nowhere! lol


THE LIFESTYLE

It is often said that Caribbean people are laid back! Well wait until you meet The Gambians! If they were any more laid back they would be horizontal! lol I sometimes wondered how anyone got any work done! Everyone would greet you and unless you end the conversation they would talk for hours! lol And even when you would say bye, they would start another discussion! lol Gambians are very inquisitive...in fact our whereabouts were known to all and sundry even when we only told the taxi driver where we were going! lol We would come back to the hotel and locals would ask "How was the Roots trip?" or "Did you have a good time in WoW nightclub last night?" lol Gambians are very sociable people, they love interaction, even if it's just a wave and a smile! Once you chat with someone and exchange names, you are considered a good friend! Many that we spoke to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, yet they are always full of energy and enthusiasm for life. Stress seems to be non-existent in The Gambia...It is the first place I've been where people don't know if it's Wednesday or Sunday...everyday feels the same! :O)

Islam is the main religion and many Gambians dress very conservatively and stay away from alcohol. However, they are very tolerant, non-judgemental people and they make every effort to welcome and accommodate persons of different cultures and beliefs. Reggae and rasta culture is loved in The Gambia! In every taxi, every restaurant, in many nightclubs you would hear the latest reggae tunes blasting and everyone singing along. I've never seen so many people wearing locs in one place...every other man and his momma wear locs! Everywhere I went I would hear people referring to me as "Rasta baby"! lol Gambians really respect natural hair and it is almost as if they look upon rastas as royalty...what an incredible experience!


NIGHTLIFE & ENTERTAINMENT

There is an abundance of entertainment in The Gambia! No matter what time of day or night...the place is always buzzing! There is something for everyone...drumming, singing, plays, dancing, karaoke...lots of entertainment on the beaches and a wide selection of delicious local dishes and international cuisine. We found ourselves at Solomon's Beach bar almost every day and by the 2nd visit our seats were reserved along with a special welcome. Then we would eat the tastiest freshly caught butterfish with chips and chit chat with Ousman or Sulayman ALL day, while one of their colleagues covered their jobs! lol

The Senegambia strip has the most amazing, lively nightlife I've ever experienced! The nightclubs are sensational, many opening until around 5am and the locals come out in force EVERY NIGHT to party! Transportation after the club is plenty...the local buses run late and there are scores of cheap yellow taxis and green tourist taxis outside the clubs, plus everyone wants to give everyone a ride home! lol In all the partying we did we only saw 1 drunkard, and along with the locals we found him very entertaining! lol The Gambia has entertainment on lock! 10/10!


ATTRACTIONS

The attractions were absolutely amazing! Serrekunda market was truly an experience, with every possible product being sold...and with so many people selling the same thing side by side, I wondered how there was never any animosity amongst the vendors! lol

The monkey park in Kololi was interesting...the monkeys were really fascinating with their human-like features and antics and it was great that they were not caged but left to roam in the open...with a few of them ending up in our garden! lol

I fell in love with the crocodile park! I especially loved that they roamed freely...I've never seen so many happy/healthy looking crocodiles before...and they all had full tummies just lazing in the sun! It was hilarious learning that they have been raised to only eat fish...vegetarian crocs...so humans are not enticing as a meal! lol The funniest thing was that the crocodile park has no barriers and so the crocodiles could wander into the local community as and when they feel like it! This seldom happens though...life is simply too sweet in the park! lol

The highlight was our trip to Juffureh and James Island. Here we visited the slave museum and saw the remnants of the cells in which captured Africans were housed in appalling conditions to be shipped off to "The New World"...it was a very surreal experience, especially being in the same cell where Kunta Kinte was chained to the walls awaiting shipment. With such a dark past, it truly amazed me how The Gambian people are always so happy and cheerful! Life really goes on!

As we were about to leave James Island guess who showed up to film a documentary!?! Mr Rockmond Dunbar...famed for his role in Soulfood and Prison Break! As he passed right in front of us...my biggest regret was not causing a scene by fainting! He is HOT HOT HOTTTT!!!!


THE DOWNSIDE

We saw many old European women coupled with barely legal Gambian boys! It appears that The Gambia is now a haven for older women seeking toy boys. I had heard about it before but I didn't expect it to be so prevalent! In one instance, we saw a 70 yr old lady, barely able to walk holding hands and being affectionate with a Gambian man in his 20s! This was all hilarious to watch but it did sadden me a bit. In fact, many of the local men seemed to think that we were looking for toy boys too, being 2 women on holiday alone! The hassle rained...and the hassle poured! lol

I was extremely saddened to see that many Gambians seem to have an inferiority complex where skin complexion is concerned! On more than one occasion after refusing to dance or speak with men in the club, I was told "Sister don't think you better than me because you have lighter skin"! I was shocked, hurt and appalled to say the least! I made sure to educate each and every one of them...just one feel of my coarse hair and they stopped the nonsense. lol My line of defence was always "Well hear foolishness! My hair is more afro-kinky than yours"! That usually secured an apology followed by The Gambian smile :O)

There are many North African and Middle Eastern investors in The Gambia. Many are categorised by the locals as "Lebanese" and there is a bit of a divide between them. The foreigners tend to stick together, liming in the posh bars and cruising the strip in their luxury cars, and so the locals feel like they don't integrate and refer to them as racists. We met some amazing guys from North Africa who really went out of their way to make sure we had an enjoyable time...yet when the local guys saw us liming with them they were hardly pleased! One even came up to me and said "You don't wanna talk to the black guys but you would talk to the Arabians"! In true Gambian style, he later apologised for his wayward remark! lol


THE VERDICT

The Gambia experience truly captured the essence of what I consider to be a fulfilling life...they embrace peace and love in everything that they do...they smile as if it they are being paid to! The negative aspects are barely noticeable and the positives are countless! The Gambia is my Utopia...my paradise on Earth! (*_*)

Helpful?
10 Thank Idollic
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
newcastle
Level Contributor
2 reviews
7 helpful votes
“T.I.A.--This Is Africa ...the good and not so good”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 February 2010

We are a well-travelled (Asia,North America, Europe and central America) couple in our early 30s but this is our first time in Africa. The hotel itself was quite good for a 3 stars rating in a 3rd world country. clean, quiet, nice garden, friendly staff, decent food , and good entertainment. I did quite a bit of research before we went and yet was a bit annoyed with the bumster situation. We checked into our hotel and went for a walk on the beach (Prob not the best thing since they can tell that you just arrive by your lack of tan!) and was approached by several people. We kept saying no thanking and yet people kept on following us. Anyways this one guy ended up showing us the surrounding area ( even thought we kept on telling him we just want to go for a walk on the beach, but he insisted that we can walk to the beach this way as well) where they tap the palm tree juice for about 15mins and told us to make a wish under the tree. By this point my partnar gave him 40D( keep in mind that local employed people makes about 1000D-1500D a month) as a tip and said we really want to go back to the beach. He demanded that we pay him 200D and said that is the going rate . After a bit of debate (well, it was not very pleasant ) we gave him the only money we had on us another 50D and his last words were " this is nothing to you english people! what comes around goes around! We Gambian are nice at least we dont kill or rape tourist!) needless to say, that didnt leave a positive first impression on us.
I got in contact with a registerd charity www.goal4gambia.org before i left UK cause we wanted to go visit a not-so-visited school when we are in Gambia and that turned out to be the best decision we could have made. Sandy, one of the trustee of the charity brought us to the nursery school that is about one hour away from Kuto and that was the best day of our Gambia trip. We did quiz for the kids and the winner get to choose a prize ( they LOVED little cars) and everyone after got some sweet, ballons and pencil or crayons) THE KIDS ARE SIMPLY AMAZING :) got invited to one of the compound ( Blaze's compound) for lunch (got them a large bag of rice as a thank you)and really enjoy that. When we are chilling under the mango tree after lunch, we arrange a day trip with one of the local charity worker who used to be a tour guide Fansu to take us out 2 days after. We wanted to use the local yellow taxi drive Baboo that we had to been using on the day of our school trip and since yellow taxi can not come in to where we stay ( only green tourist taxi who charges 2 or 3 or 4 times more are allowed go figure!) Fansu said that he will meet us at our hotel and Baboo will meet us a bit furthur on the main road so he doesnt get in trouble. On our tour day, Fansu and us met up and walk towards the main road and of course we were approach by several green taxi driver quite persistantly. We just kept on walking. However when we saw Baboo and his yellow taxi, one guy with military outfit and one other guy we later found out was the "boss" of the green taxi driver showed and stop us. A fairly large argument broke out ( they were going to take Baboo's license away and take him to the station, Fansu tried to explain to them we were the guest of the chartiy, they insisted that since we were tourist we HAVE to take the green tourist taxi and if we dont like if we should go back to england etc) spend anout 45 mins arguing, more taxi people showed up to join the argument.... it was not pleasant. Finally, Fansu called Sandy the chartity trustee and Sandy smooth things over. Again it kind of left a not so great impression on our mind. We went on our little tour with Fansu and Baboo to Lamin lodge and paradise beach, and that was nice. My feeling towards Gambia is mixed... I do feel for them and I want to do what I can can to help and there are some lovely Gambian people working hard. But some of them has this "get as much as you can out of tourist" mentality which is quite upsetting.
Over all...
the good--- school trip (if you can please pick a school AWAY from the tourst area cause they are the ones that really need help! and i wished i would have organized a toy drive before i went so i have more toys for them! ) our hotel ( towards the end we just wanted to stay in the hotel which is VERY unlike us to avoid the constant hassell and bargaining) our local friend Fansu, Baboo, Blaze (thank you so much for the necklaces!) and of course Sandy from www. goal4gambia.org keep up your great work! and thank you for an amazing school experience!
the not so good-- well you have an idea.
One of our Gambian friend sum it up the best -- "This IS AFRICA"

Helpful?
4 Thank kohlainie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Altrincham
Level Contributor
6 reviews
11 helpful votes
“Catch some warm in the winter”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 December 2008

Lovely, exotic place not so far from Europe. The cheapest option to get to tropics in the middle of European winter. Short seaside with long stretches of yellow sand. Interesting people with their history and beautiful natural enviroment. Not so many predators, but huge number of birds. Read more at www.onmyisland.com

Helpful?
4 Thank pjck
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Newquay, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
19 reviews
18 helpful votes
“Trips aruond The Gambia”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 May 2007

If you are staying at Kotu and wish to see the real Gambia please go to the official tourist guide office. Abuot 100 yards to the left of the Kombo hotel you will find this small office. It is painted green and very basic. Do not be put off by this. The guides her are very friendly. Our guide Kevin and our driver Hassan made our tailor -made trips fantastic. They took us to places that the the big coaches could not go to! If you go there please tell them that you were recommened to see them from the three English Ladies.

Helpful?
6 Thank wombatCornwall
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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