Dubbed the “The Smiling Coast”, The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa. This former British colony which gained self-rule on the 18th February 1965 boasts a myriad of tourist attractions that are worth visiting. It has something for every tourist and never fails to impress its visitors. This vibrant African nation is well-known for its magnificent sandy beaches; exotic cuisine; colonial architecture; luxury resorts; history, friendly people and their traditions; and the rich bio-diversity evident in the several wildlife sanctuaries the most prominent being River Gambia National Park, Abuko National Park, Bijilo National Park, Kiang West National Park and Niumi National Park. During Gambia safaris, there is also the likelihood of seeing antelopes, baboons, hippos, warthogs and even possibly dolphins in these parks. Today, Gambia tourism is booming and currently it’s the second economic mainstay of the country.
About The Gambia
The James Island
James Island is an island situated approximately 30 km upstream on the Gambia River. It contains the old Fort of James. The original European settlers on the island were Baltic Germans from the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, who also had other colonial possessions in the area. Today it’s a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site housing the ruins which once belonged to colonial Britain. It at some point acted as the stop-over for many African slaves before being transported in the bowels of transatlantic slave ships to the Americans. Several other ruins found here include a small cell that was used to house the most troublesome captives, a small jetty and a number of skeletal baobab trees. The Island is a legacy of a long history of relations between Africa and three European countries of Britain, France and Germany.
This is a small Gambian village which rose to fame in the 1970s following the publication and television release of the popular, “The Roots” series, written by the African-American writer Alex Haley, a descendant of Kunta Kinte. The series told the story of Kunta Kinte’s capture in Juffure by slave dealers and his subsequent enslavement in America round 200 years ago. The village is situated 30km in the Upper Niumi District, West of the Gambia River and lie just 500 metres apart on the river bank. Juffure has a population estimate of 5,800 residents. The area draws visitors who wish to follow the ‘Roots Heritage Tour’. Also worth visiting nearby is the Museum of Slavery Museum at Albreda opened in 1996.
Bakau Botanical Gardens
Bakau botanical gardens are the premier attraction in Bakau. Bakau is a town on the Atlantic Ocean coast of The Gambia, lying west of the capital Banjul. The gardens are world class and unparalleled; and offers perfect living conditions. The area has both evergreen and exotic plants including Bougainvillea and tropical palms. The garden area has plentiful Lotus flowers which create sweet fragrances and wonderful aroma. They boast a shady alternative to lounging on the nearby beach. If you fancy leisurely walks, the gardens offer nature trails and birding tours with prospects of spotting some of the area exotic birds.
Serrekunda is the biggest city in The Gambia and has a population of more than 200,000 people. This ever lively market located on the Mosque Road is said to have originally started by just a handful of Gambian women sitting by the dirt road selling a few fresh vegetable and dried fish. As time went on, other local sellers joined them until it is what it is today. It is presently packed with local shops with merchandise including staple foods like fish, meat, vegetables, clothing, jewelleries and fashion accessories.
The Gambia Beaches
Most beaches in Gambia are virgin in nature. The country’s key beach resorts are Kololi Beach, Bijilo Beach, Sanyang Beach, Palma Rima Beach, Senegambia Beach and Cape Point Banjul beach. You will find these palm-fringed and shell-strewn beaches to be free of crowds. They offer some of the most striking beach holidays to enjoy the hot African sunshine. They get overwhelmed by the locals especially during festive seasons like Christmas and major musical shows. These beaches have attractive traditional bars with natural juice, canned drinks, barbecue and special packages for visitors. They are a common holiday spot for many white tourists (the Toubabs) who usually come here on Gambia holidays. There are also numerous private beaches in the country.
Bakau Woodcarving Centre
The Bakau Woodcarving Centre is another celebrated stop-off point for adventure travellers in The Gambia. Bakau has plentiful woodcarving attractions have become known as the centre of The Gambian woodcarving trade. The centre offers local craftsmen and their apprentices an opportunity to show off their woodcarving skills, from roughly shaping the wood through to finishing and polishing. Visitors are also able to visit the several stalls outside the centre.
Gambia National Parks
The Gambia is also a paradise for wildlife lovers. River Gambia National Park is the visited destination for eco-tourist and wildlife lovers. Established in 1978, the Park was named after the Gambia River. The Park is well-known for the Guinea Baboon, Green Monkey and Western Red Colobus. Abuko National Park; popularly known for the three primate species vervet monkeys, red colobus monkeys and patas monkeys. Kiang West National Park; gazetted in 1987, this is one of the largest and most important wildlife reserves in The Gambia. It is a great habitat for reptile species particularly the African python. Other National Parks are Bijilo National Park; and Niumi National Park. Several rare mammals are found antelope, squirrel, porcupine, warthog, African palm civets, mongooses, galagos, and several types of rodents, including cane rats. Reptiles are likewise plentiful such as Nile crocodile, snakes, and lizards in the Gambia National Parks. The Parks also provide habitat to a host of wild birds whose population is one of the most abundant in West Africa. Over 540 species are found in the country such as storm-petrels, pelicans, cormorants, hamerkops, and storks.