The Gambia

The Gambia Destination Guide

The popularity of The Gambia with British tourists as a summer and winter sun holiday destination stems from the country’s link with the British that dates back to the seventeenth century. Situated in North West Africa The Gambia was a centre of the slave trade and was continually fought over by the French and British until 1783 when the British finally gained possession.

In 1889 The Gambia became West Africa’s first British Crown Colony, a status that it would retain until it finally gained full independence and became a republic in 1970.

Just like its neighbour Senegal, The Gambia has some spectacular Atlantic coastline, which provides the location for some stunning luxury hotels that front beaches which, more often that not, look like those photographed for the typical desert island/palm tree wall poster. It is these wonderful beaches that are the main reason holidaymakers travel there.

Of course the British connections are quite important still. It means that anyone travelling there from the UK will not be treated like a visitor from outer space; the Gambian locals are used to the British presence and you will be looked after very well, even if the hawker’s constant attempts to sell you anything from Mars Bars to bits of plastic junk will gradually wear you down. The sanctuary of your hotel will always be a pleasant relief after a day trip outside it’s boundaries amongst the local community.

As a winter sun destination, The Gambia remains very popular with both British and Scandinavian tourists because it is only a slightly longer flight away from the UK compared to places like Egypt and Dubai, with flights to Banjul taking less than six hours from most UK airports. Operators like run flights throughout the winter with fares starting at around £250 for a return trip.

But beach holidays are not all that The Gambia has to offer. It was the Gambia River that first helped define the boundaries of this, the smallest country in Africa, and the river itself is still an important transport link for the many villages that occupy its banks as it wends its way inland for over 200 miles. The area is known as a birdwatchers paradise, with over five hundred species to be seen.

As a visitor you are unlikely to venture all the way along its length to the inland border with Senegal, but some wildlife enthusiasts do travel the 170 miles upriver to MacCarthy Island, also known as Janjanbureh Island, the home of The Gambia’s second largest town Janjanbureh. This seven mile long island sits in the middle of the Gambia River and probably become a favourite place to settle due to the ease with which it could be defended. Amazingly for a river of such length, there are no bridges that cross it, although talks about building one have gone on for many years. Because of the lack of any road crossing there are numerous foot and vehicle ferries that operate at different places, but, as you might expect, the boats are an eclectic mix of all types of antiquated and second hand craft, with origins, and no doubt busy careers behind them, in other countries around the world. These include the famous pirogues, a special narrow boat designed to navigate easily around the Gambia River delta.

So whether you are a beach lover looking for that perfect golden sand experience, a winter sun traveller trying to escape the colder climates of northern Europe or a wildlife enthusiast seeking new adventures, The Gambia may just be the next place on your list of places to visit.