Welcome to our brief travel guide to The Gambia. This tiny West African nation is one the smallest countries on the entire African continent. Yet for such a small destination it sure does pack a punch.
The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal and has 80km of coastline with golden beaches, scenic lagoons, fishing villages and coastal reserves.
Both our families don’t travel that much, so in the beginning of our relationship, we never really discussed traveling to exotic destinations.
We were hooked. We stepped out of our comfort zones, met so many awesome people, learned so much on the way and discovered the most beautiful places.
We recently finished a trip to The Gambia and what an experience that was. A real eye-opener on so many different levels!
What Inspired us to Visit The Gambia
I work as an online marketer and Leroy as a front-end developer. During our road trip through Europe, we saw a project for a company (Travel2Learn) to help them with their website and content. We never visited Africa and it was high on our bucket list, so we applied and got it!
We were so happy. In three days we traveled from the south of Portugal back to the Netherlands so we could catch the plane to The Gambia.
Our first impression of The Gambia was that the country was chaotic but in a good way. There is never a dull moment in West Africa that’s for sure! It’s buzzing and full of life. The colorful markets, people cooking and children playing. It’s quite the contrast to Europe.
There is also a lot of poverty which was hard to see at the beginning. But after a while, we learned from the people of The Gambia that happiness is not always dependent on money and the amount of stuff you own.
It’s about family, kindness and health. These are the most important things in life that money can never buy.
The Gambia Travel Guide: Our Incredible Itinerary
We traveled with Travel2Learn who organize unique trips to The Gambia. With Travel2Learn you get to know the real Gambia. For example, you will visit the busy Serekunda Market by yourself with local transportation. Our main accommodation was in Tanji and from here we visited many places.
We also went inland for a couple of days to see more of the country. The company skips most of the tourist places, which is just what I like. You can also add your own program and do things by yourself. A couple of places we visited were:
Tanji Fish Market, Serekunda Market, Baboon Island, AbCa’s Creek Lodge (a beautiful lodge at a mangrove), Paradise Beach and Lamin Lodge. We also visited a school, went to a Marabout (someone who can help you and see the future) and had a day with a local.
I would recommend all of the above places for any travel guide to The Gambia. It was amazing to have Travel2Learn with us who organized our trip. However, I’m sure you could plan a similar trip on your own to The Gambia if you wanted to.
Favourite Places and Memories in The Gambia
I loved AbCa’s Creek Lodge and Baboon Island the most. It was very quiet and green and perfect for pictures. Baboon Island is also known as Chimpanzee island and its located in the middle of the River Gambia. It’s approximately 100 miles east of the coastline.
One of the best things to do here (that should be in every travel guide to The Gambia) is to visit the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project. It was founded by an English lady in the 1960’s and it gives orphan chimps support and a home in a natural environment.
Aside from Baboon Island, the most special moments from our trip were with the local people. For example when we got invited to a naming ceremony or during the day we spent with a local where we visited their family and joined them for lunch.
The people of The Gambia are amazing. They have so little but are willing to share everything with you. They are one of the most friendly people we have ever met. The culture is very different than in the Netherlands. It’s a lot more open, warm and family-oriented.
Everyone is always outside and everybody helps each other out. You should definitely take your time to get to know the people of The Gambia. They stood out as the highlight for us.
The Most Challenging Aspect of The Gambia
The hardest part about visiting The Gambia is to see the sex industry. Gambia is known for old European men and women traveling here to hook up with young guys and girls.
We visited the tourist area for one day and it was horrible. You will find a lot of big resorts completely secluded from the rest of Gambia. It’s such a shame! This country is so beautiful, it has so much to offer and the people of The Gambia deserve more. Hopefully things change for the better.
I’m sure an increase in responsible tourism would help the country move in a better direction. There’s so much potential in The Gambia!
The Gambia Travel Guide: Tasting the Local Food
The local food of The Gambia was amazing. They cook lunch and dinner for hours with amazing spices so it becomes an intense taste and flavour. I loved Benachin. It’s cooked in one pot with a lot of spices, vegetables and fish. And Domoda is also very good.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
For starters, you should definitely skip the touristic area of The Gambia and avoid staying at a resort. Look for a small accommodation or lodge. Try to see the real Gambia too. Get to know the local people and eat where the locals eat. That’s where you’ll find the best food.
In terms of destinations, one of our favourite places was Baboon Island. We highly recommend visiting here. It’s an amazing experience to see these beautiful creatures living free as nature intended on their islands.
For us now, we are currently helping a local organization start up an inland trip called the Santoto trip. The trip goes for a couple of days with a local who will show you the real Gambia.
For example, you will visit a local home, a market, a mangrove and also visit Baboon Island. Like we said before, this was our favorite part of our trip through The Gambia.
Thanks for reading our brief travel guide on The Gambia. We hope it has provided some insight into what travelling is like through this unique West African nation. You should definitely give The Gambia a visit – you won’t regret meeting its wonderful people!