The Gambia may be the smallest country on the continent, but its captivating array of attractions belies its tiny size. Surrounded by Senegal, Exotic and redolent of the dark age of the slave trade and of the trans-Saharan camel caravans, Gambia also makes for a thoroughly practical and convenient holiday destination. The Gambia has a mere 80km of coastline, but what a magnificent stretch it encompasses: golden beaches backed by swaying palms and sprinkled with scenic lagoons, sleepy fishing villages and biologically rich coastal reserves.
Of course there’s much more to The Gambia than just sun and surf. Its namesake river is teeming with wildlife, including nearly 600 bird species, plus manatees, hippos, crocodiles and troops of wily colobus monkeys. Boat trips and overnights at forest ecolodges reveal some of the great wonders of the hinterland, from a chimpanzee island reserve to the ruins of a 17th-century British fortress. The greatest treasures, though, are the warm-hearted Gambian people, who more than live up to their homeland's moniker of the ‘the smiling coast of Africa’.
BEST TIME TO VISIT GAMBIA
The tiny West African nation of The Gambia lies in a region with arguably the most agreeable climate in the area – the weather is subtropical, with distinct dry and rainy seasons. If you’re planning to take a trip to this most unique of destinations, check out our below to the best time of year to visit.
Humidity and temperatures combine to make this season feel very warm. Highs range from 102°F (38.9°C) and 97.7°F (36.5°C) with similar temperatures in the later months. Rain is nonexistent with roughly 0 days of significant precipitation per month. Spring is the second busiest for tourism, which makes it a good time for those looking for things to do.
The middle-year months have very comfortable weather with high temperatures that are quite warm. These months see the most precipitation with 1 to 10 days of precipitation per month. June – August is the busiest season for tourism in The Gambia, so lodging and other accommodations may cost more than usual.
Fall daily highs range from 96.5°F (35.8°C) and 88.9°F (31.6°C), which will feel very nice given the humidity and wind. It rains or snows a normal amount: 0 to 8 days per month. Tourism is the slowest during these months due to the weather, so hotels may be affordably priced.
Weather is perfect this time of year in The Gambia to be enjoyable for warm weather travelers. The average high during this season is between 98.8°F (37.1°C) and 91.8°F (33.2°C). On average, it rains or snows a insignificant amount: consistently 0 times per month. These times of year are fairly slow with tourists.
GETTING TO GAMBIA
Gambia is becoming a popular vacation destination for Northern Europeans. Therefore, many charter and holiday operators offer reasonable airfare and accommodation if desired.
By plane - Many visitors arrive by plane at Banjul International Airport (BJL), which is served by many scheduled and charter flights from across Europe and West Africa.
By car - Sept-places or bush taxis run from Dakar to Banjul and Banjul to Ziguinchor.
It is possible to use your private car to drive from Senegal to The Gambia via the border town of Amdalli (just north of Barra). The border crossing is pretty straight forward. You will need your V5 logbook. The road approaching the border from Senegal is terrible and its easier to drive next to the road as opposed to on it. Check before you travel if it is OK to bring in a right hand drive vehicle, as there are conflicting reports on the possibility of this (although some have).
By bus -There are direct GPTC buses running from Barra (a ferry ride away from Banjul) to Dakar, but these are not recommended as they are slower than the bush taxis.
By boat - It's possible to privately charter small fishing vessels from Dakar and neighbouring areas; though this can be fairly expensive and slow should one not be proficient at bargaining.
GETTING AROUND GAMBIA
By public transport - You can travel via shared taxi, if there is already someone sitting inside, you will pay 8 Dalasi per route. If there is no one else sitting in there, tell the driver you don't want a "town trip" (privat taxi), you want a shared trip. You can also take shared minivans, just ask before where they're going, it's slow but it will just cost 8 dalasi.
By Taxi - There are two types of cabs: green ones (tourist cabs) and yellow ones (regular cabs). Green cabs are expensive and the price is regardless of the number of passengers. Although there is no vehicle safety inspection system in Gambia, these taxis must have basics such as seat belts and working indicators. Yellow taxis are much cheaper and the price depends on the number of persons in the cab. They are used mainly by locals, and in many tourist areas they are prohibited from picking up tourists. Often it is worth it to walk a little to get a yellow taxi.
By bike - You can rent a bike from pretty much anyone that owns one at a negotiated rate. Cycling on major roads can be risky, as motorist safety is unreliable, some roads are not well-maintained, sand and steep shoulders cause road hazards, and pedestrians may walk or veer onto the open road without warning. In high traffic areas, taxis and vans often cut off cyclists to pick up travellers and the car horn may be used excessively to warn of impending passage.
By boat - The Gambia River is navigable the entire length of the country. Some river creatures, both large and microscopic, can be dangerous, however.
WHERE TO STAY & EAT IN GAMBIA
Situated in Kotu, 100 m from Kotu Beach, Sunprime Tamala Beach features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Among the various facilities are a bar, a shared lounge, as well as a garden. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. All rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel the rooms have a wardrobe and a private bathroom. Sunprime Tamala Beach offers a continental or buffet breakfast. The accommodation offers a sun terrace. You can play table tennis and darts at Sunprime Tamala Beach, and bike hire and car hire are available. Palma Rima Beach is 1.4 km from the hotel.
Located in Kotu, 400 m from Kotu Beach, Kunta Kinteh Beach Complex provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a bar and a shared lounge. 650 m from Palma Rima Beach and 2.3 km from Senegambia Beach, the property features a garden and a terrace. The accommodation offers evening entertainment and room service. Guest rooms in the resort are equipped with air conditioning, a seating area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a kitchen, a dining area and a private bathroom with a hairdryer, a shower and a bath. The units will provide guests with a wardrobe and a kettle. Guests at Kunta Kinteh Beach Complex can enjoy a continental breakfast.
Offering an outdoor pool and a restaurant, Bakotu Hotel is located in Kotu. Rooms here will provide you with a balcony. Private bathrooms also come with a bath or shower. At Bakotu Hotel you will find a 24-hour front desk, a garden and a terrace. Other facilities offered include a tour desk. The property offers free parking. Banjul Airport is 14 km away.
Badala Park Hotel is located in Kotu, a 10-minute walk from the beach. It offers an outdoor pool. For a fee, Wi-Fi access is available in all areas. Free private parking is possible on site. All units provide guests with a fan. Some accommodations include a seating area. Private bathrooms also come with a bath or shower. Breakfast buffet is served each morning at Badala Park. International and local dishes can be enjoyed in the onsite restaurant. At Badala Park Hotel guests will find a 24-hour front desk, a garden and a terrace. An array of activities can be enjoyed on site or in the surroundings, including horse riding. The property is a 10-minute drive from Fajara Golf Club and from Bijilo National Park. Banjul International Airport is a 25-minute drive from Badala Park Hotel.
Offering an outdoor pool and a restaurant, Palm Beach Hotel is located on the white sands of Kotu Beach. WiFi access is available. Private bathrooms also come with a bath or shower. At Palm Beach Hotel you will find a 24-hour front desk, a garden and a terrace. The property offers free parking. Banjul Airport is 14 km away.
Boasting a terrace and a 24-hour front desk, House Lamin Bijilo beachside is ideally situated in Bijilo, 7 km from Bijolo Forest Reserve and 3 km from 1st Gambian Cart Racing Track. Situated on the beachfront, this property has a restaurant, a garden and a casino. The holiday home features 2 bedrooms, a kitchen with a fridge and an oven, a washing machine, and 3 bathrooms. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings.
Situated just 7 km from Bijolo Forest Reserve, House Lamin features accommodation in Bijilo with access to a garden, a terrace, as well as a 24-hour front desk. This beachfront property offers access to a patio and free private parking. This holiday home includes 2 bedrooms, a living room and a flat-screen TV, an equipped kitchen with a dining area, and 3 bathrooms with a shower and a washing machine. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings and the holiday home can arrange a car rental service. 1st Gambian Cart Racing Track is 3 km from House Lamin.
Offering free WiFi and an outdoor pool, Regal Apartments is situated in Kololi. Afromed Clinic is 1 km away. Free private parking is available on site. All units have a seating area. All units include a kitchenette equipped with a fridge and stovetop. There is a private bathroom with a shower in each unit. Bed linen is offered. The property also offers grocery delivery. Little Monkey Zoo (Bijilo Monkey Park) (Banjul) is 1.2 km from Regal Apartments. Banjul Airport is 13 km from the property.
Situated in Kololi, 1.5 km from Senegambia Beach with its strip of restaurants and bars, Balafon Beach Resort features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a fitness centre and a bar. Among the various facilities of this property are a garden, a private beach area. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. The rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a desk. With a private bathroom, rooms at the hotel also boast pool view. At Balafon Beach Resort, rooms include a seating area. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy a buffet breakfast. Balafon Beach Resort offers a terrace. You can play table tennis, darts and mini-golf at the hotel, and the area is popular for snorkelling. Guests can make use of the business centre, rent a car to explore the area, or buy a gift at the souvenir shop.
Metzy Residence Hotel is set in Serekunda and has an outdoor swimming pool, a garden and a shared lounge. This 4-star hotel offers free WiFi. The property offers a 24-hour front desk. The rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, fridge, a kettle, a bath or shower and a desk. All guest rooms include a wardrobe. The hotel offers a continental or buffet breakfast.
Set in Kololi, 500 m from Senegambia Beach, Djembe Beach Resort offers accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Among the various facilities of this property are a bar, a shared lounge and a garden. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a desk. At the resort the rooms are equipped with a wardrobe and a private bathroom. Continental and buffet breakfast options are available every morning at Djembe Beach Resort. The accommodation offers a children's playground. You can play table tennis, darts and mini-golf at Djembe Beach Resort, and bike hire and car hire are available. Popular points of interest near the resort include Palma Rima Beach, Afromed Clinic and Little Monkey Zoo (Bijilo Monkey Park) (Banjul).
Set on Paradise beach, Santana Beachclub offers accommodation, a restaurant, a garden, a bar and a private beach area. Some units feature a balcony and/or a terrace with lake or pool views. A continental breakfast is available every morning at the bed and breakfast.
Set in Bijilo, 2.3 km from Senegambia Beach, Kasumai Beach Resort offers accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a bar and a garden. 4.2 km from Bijolo Forest Reserve and 700 m from 1st Gambian Cart Racing Track, the property provides a private beach area and a terrace. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. Guests at the resort can enjoy a Full English/Irish breakfast.
ACTIVITIES TO DO & WHERE TO GO IN GAMBIA
A tiny West African nation bracketing the Gambia River, The Gambia offers an amazing array of places to see and visit. Here you can spot bottle-nosed dolphins, puzzle over the UNESCO-listed origins of human-sized stone circles, or dance the night away at any of the music venues lining the Senegambian strip. Here’s our pick of the best experiences around.
With its 80 km (50 miles) of coastline, The Gambia boasts magnificent golden beaches that allow visitors the chance to relax and make the most of their down time lying in the sun. These beaches are on a 14.5 km (9 mile)-strip of wide and flat sandy shore, sometimes characterised by sand dunes, or narrow, rocky beachfronts at the bottom of low sandstone. One thing is for certain, The Gambia’s coastline is everything that you would expect of a tropical paradise, warm sea, miles and miles of uncrowded sandy beach and swaying palm trees. The country has relatively mild temperatures throughout the year and the favourable climate makes it a must-visit.
Kayaking in the Gambia River
The Gambia River stretches some 1,100 km (684 miles) from the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean at Denton Bridge to the interior where it gets it source in Fouta Djallon highlands in Guinea-Conakry. It is one of the longest and most navigable rivers in West Africa. The river divides the country into two strips of land on either side, and is a dominant feature of the country. It’s become a popular tourist destination especially for day excursions towards the interior. River boat excursions expose visitors to some fascinating wildlife, historic slave trade stations, and attractive views of the countryside.
Located in the Central River Region, these areas are believed to be the burial sites of ancient kings and chiefs. The stones date back to 750-1000 AD and their layouts vary from 4-6 metres (13-20 feet) in diameter, with each layout having anywhere from 10 to 20 stones. It was declared and listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. Each stone has an average height of 6 feet (1.8 metres), and to this day tourists and archaeologists have puzzled over their origins and true meaning. Though the biggest concentration of stone circles is in the Wassu area, there are hundreds of these types throughout the country.
Go to Bijilo Forest Park
Situated along the coast just few kilometres from the city of Banjul, Bijilo Forest Park or Monkey Park, is a small reserve with a growing primate population and bird species. Some of the primate species include the red colobus, monkeys, and patas. Many visitors flocked to the area for a number of reasons including but not limited to bird-watching, and to explore the charming nature of this ecotourism reserve. Here local tour guides are always willing to escort visitors through the amazingly lush vegetation, a gallery forest, grass and low bush as you head towards the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
Walk through Makasutu Culture Forest
Makasutu Culture Forest is a private woodland and ecotourism reserve situated on the Kombo Central District of the West Coast Region. It was established in the 90s by two Britons, James English and Lawrence Williams, who came up with the idea to conserve the area as an ecotourism park. With over 1,000 acres, the protected reserve is a pristine forest of riverine filled with palm and hardwood trees, mangrove creeks, salt flats, and savanna. Today it has become a popular destination for day outings because of its sacred nature. Its flourishing vegetation gives visitors a chance to see one of the most beautiful densely forested areas in The Gambia. The reserve is also credited for its increasing primate population like monkeys and baboons.
Formerly named Georgetown, Janjangbureh is an old colonial administrative hub situated in the Central River Region. The 200-year-old island town was once inhabited by freed slaves during the colonial days. The stunning, elegant island has a lot to offer and is a one-stop spot for visitors, especially those interested in historical adventure. The inhabitants in this old settlement are always welcoming and open to visitors which make it by far a perfect site in The Gambia. Its geographical location makes it an ideal spot for bird-watching and game hunting.
Created in the early 20th century to serve as a water collection point for nearby communities, Abuko Nature Reserve is The Gambia’s first reserve officially formed in the 1960s. The 260-acre reserve is rich in wildlife species and is now among the most visited tourist attractions in the country, with over 30,000 visitors annually. The reserve is inhabited by a number of primate species as well as antelope, porcupine, African palm civets, crocodiles and over 400 bird species. Its strategic location makes it a perfect place to explore and beside it is one the closest tropical forests to Europe.
Visiting a nightclub for the first time in urban parts of The Gambia is all you need to have a great time. Locals and tourists alike party in an ambience of peace and friendship. Apart from at Ramadan, there are ongoing events in many urban neighborhoods some involving international performances. Many visitors are surprised to find out that there are certain areas that literally never sleep. Several bars and night clubs are dotted along the strip of Senegambia where all type of music genres, from dancehall, reggae, mbalax, salsa and even hip hop are constantly playing from the evening until daybreak. Hotels are also a great place to watch local and international bands perform.