My experience in The Gambia
I am just back from my latest adventure to the Gambia. What
a wonderful place it is! We were in search of some winter sun but wanted
something a bit different and it was a place that neither my boyfriend nor I
had been before. I am a complete sun worshipper, so 38 degree heat sounded like heaven to me! It took just 4.5 hours to fly from Gatwick to Banjul and we arrived an hour ahead of schedule. We were shuffled through passport control and collected our luggage in good time. We were pre-warned that there are many ‘helpful’ luggage men who are only too happy to take your bags for you in exchange for a small tip; they are not fussy about
25 minutes drive brought us to the Sheraton Hotel. Keeping in mind that Gambia is a third world country, we were not sure what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised. We were greeted with smiling faces and shown to our room immediately. We wasted no time unpacking and going down to the pool to cool down. At 4.30pm the sun was still high in the sky and it was lovely to feel the warmth. Gambia has no time difference to the UK so we had no jet lag to worry about.
Being a beachfront property, there is a constant cool breeze from the Atlantic which is much needed! The pool is just a few steps away from the white sand beach (and the bar!) so you get the best of both worlds. Although an all inclusive option is available we opted to stay on bed and breakfast, so we could go out and sample the local restaurants in nearby Senegambia. It is very inexpensiveto eat out in Gambia and transport is relatively cheap and very safe, making it a very pleasant experience. Senegambia strip is a lively resort full of restaurants and bars where you will find both locals and tourists making the most of the nightlife. One thing that struck me was how safe I felt walking around at night. Gambia has a very low crime rate and the locals are only too happy to give advice or point you in the right direction if you get lost.
We always like to see a bit of the country so booked two day trips at our welcome meeting. A lazy day boat trip and a monster truck adventure! The lazy day trip, although very relaxing, there wasn’t very much to see but Mangroves and the odd bird! We had a very refreshing swim and lunch before heading back. The Monster truck adventure was brilliant and a perfect opportunity to experience the real Gambia. Firstly we stopped off a at local school where we were greeted by lots of excited children, who happily sang and
danced as we wandered around the school. Education is only available to those who can afford it, so it is not compulsory. Many people brought sweets and stationary for them, and we were encouraged to give donations. Another highlight of the day was a visit to Uncle Jones’ local palm wine compound. Uncle Jones is a little withering old man who speaks little English and has clearly been drunk most of his life. He lives with his massive family, who continue to run the business. It was only polite to sample some of the wine, and I
guarantee I will never try it again! At 45% alcohol it is a wonder that any of us were still standing afterwards! Lunch was served on a beautiful stretch of beach and there was just enough time to take a much needed dip in the sea before heading to the nearby fishing village of Tanje to see the evening catches coming in. The sea was lined with African pirogues (boats), whilst fishermen and housewives bustled along the shore haggling over prices. All in all it was a great day!
We spent the rest of the holiday relaxing in the sun and swimming in the pool and sea. We also treated ourselves to a lovely massage at the Sheraton’s spa. I went horse riding along the beach three times as it is very cheap. I absolutely loved it until I was thrown off- Marcos my horse was having a stubborn moment and this is when we fell out! I was unscathed luckily and got straight back on, however we weren’t on good terms for the rest of the ride!
I have been to Northern Africa a few times, but the West was another world and both of us loved the experience. I have never met such genuinely friendly people, considering they work so hard for very little money and live in such poor conditions. It was a real eye opener and I can’t wait to return!