Gambia Travel Guide
As Africa’s smallest country, Gambia (more often known as ‘The Gambia’) hugs the banks of the Gambia River for over 300 kilometres, but it only 50 kilometres wide at its broadest point.
Most visit the beaches on its frontage on the Atlantic Ocean, but cultural travelers will have the opportunity to explore an authentic, peaceful African country that is home to some of the warmest people on the continent.
Currency: Gambian Dalasis
Languages: English, Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, various indigenous languages
What To Do
Start your holiday in The Gambia by paying a visit to Kunta Kinteh Island. Also known as James Island, this strategic piece of land was originally held by the Dutch until the fort here was captured by the English in 1661. Although it was captured and held by the French in the latter portions of the 17th century, it remained a British possession from the 18th century until its abandonment in 1870.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its role in the slave trade (and after slavery was abolished in 1807, its role in helping to disrupt it), the ruined remains of this outpost on the fringes of Western Africa draws plenty of visitors on day trips, so be sure to head out early to dodge the biggest crowds.
Traditional rural villages are getting harder to find these days, as the influences of the modern world slowly find their way to even the least developed parts of the globe. However, those looking for a taste of how life was lived here a short time ago will be able to experience it by spending some time at the Tanji Village Museum.
A living history park that uses locals to bring the past to life, visitors will be able to walk inside the round huts that most Gambians called home just a few generations ago and view tribal artifacts, household utensils, weapons, and much more.
Local markets are the lifeblood of many African communities, and the situation is no different in The Gambia. There are many of these gathering places across this small country, but those looking for a beehive of activity will find it at Albert Market, the largest of its kind in Banjul, Gambia’s capital city.
Named after Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, this place of commerce has roots dating back to the mid-19th century, although its ramshackle appearance makes it seem like it could have been slapped together the night before.
Despite this, the chaotic nature of the place makes enduring the various hassles (touts, aggressive merchants, etc) worth it for the experience you’ll get.
Those wanting to see some wildlife during their time in The Gambia will want to check out the Abuko Nature Reserve. Despite its small footprint, this park is home to three different types of primate (vervet, red colobus, and patas), as well as Nile crocodiles, monitor lizards, mongooses, and various species of snake (mambas, cobras, etc).
There are a few trails you can walk here, so be sure to bring sunscreen and insect repellant if you plan on going for a wander while visiting this wildlife reserve.
Despite all the attractions and activities listed above, the majority of tourists that visit The Gambia to experience its magnificent and under-trafficked beaches. Kotu Beach attracts plenty of visitors with palm trees that rustle in the consistent Atlantic sea breeze and locals that put out to sea in search of fish and offer fruit to tourists as they relax in the equatorial sun.
Those looking for a less touristy scene have been making their way to Sanyang Beach in increasing numbers. A five-kilometre long crescent beach with plenty of space for everyone, all one needs to do in the busy season is simply walk a quarter of a kilometre from the most built-up areas of Sanyang and you’ll have all the solitude you require.
What to Eat
Those looking for a hearty local dish will want to seek out some Maafe. A groundnut stew consisting of tomatoes, garlic, onions, peanuts and one of a variety of meats (lamb, beef, chicken), it occupies a prominent position on the dinner tables of many Gambians.
Those wanting to dine on the national dish of The Gambia will want to ask around where they can get their hands on some Domoda. Made with peanut butter instead of peanuts, and featuring whole lemons and pumpkin in addition to the ingredients commonly found in Maafe, it is a meal that will satisfy those with healthy appetites.
Those looking for a rare sweet dish in sub-Saharan Africa will enjoy trying some Thiakry. Made from millet or wheat granules that have been mixed with sweetened condensed milk, ordinary milk, or yoghurt, it also comes with various kinds of dried fruit such as raisins, as well as dried coconut and spices like nutmeg.
Perfect for a snack, or a sweet ending to a meal, be sure to track some down while visiting The Gambia.