“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow–mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
– By Chiamaka Obuekwe
This quote holds true on so many grounds. Before visiting The Gambia, I had heard so many unpalatable stories about the country; the most prominent being that it was just a poor country with nothing much to offer apart from a few beautiful beaches. My visit there completely changed my mindset and I fell head over heels in love with The Gambia.
The Gambia which is also known as ‘The Smiling coast’ is a West African country that is surrounded by Senegal except for its coastline. The capital being Banjul, The Gambia is the smallest country on Mainland Africa with a population of less than 2 million people. Their economy is majorly sustained by tourism, farming and fishing. English is the official language but the average Gambian speaks either Mandika, Wolof, Serer or Fula. The major religion is Islam as over 80% percent of Gambians practice Islam.
Like I said, I had a wonderful experience in the country which surpassed my imagination and I believe strongly, it is an experience you will want to have as well.
If you want to go to the Gambia, here’s a brief guide to exploring this beautiful country:
How To Get There (Flights and Visa)
There are direct flights from Lagos and Abuja to Banjul on a few airlines. If you plan to go, book your flight on time and plan well because the flights are not daily. Regarding visas, all ECOWAS passport holders do not require a visa to gain entry into The Gambia. Entry from many other countries is also visa free or visa on arrival because tourism is a major focus for them, so they want to encourage ease of entry into the country.
Where To Stay
The Gambia is an avalanche of beautiful resorts and beach hotels. As a result of the extensive coastline, most, if not all, hotels have their own beaches and there is something for every type of traveller. For the vacation seeker, you should stay at Kombo beach hotel or Senegambia hotel, while the business traveller should stay at Swiss boutique luxury hotel. The honeymooners should stay at the dreamy Balafon hotel, while families can stay at Djembe hotel or Ocean bay hotel and resort. The Luxury traveller should definitely stay at Coco ocean hotel and spa.
Places To Visit
The Gambia has some interesting tourist attractions and places of interest. The Kachikally crocodile pool is a major attraction where you get to see live crocodiles; there is also a museum in Kachikally. Most likely, your hotel will have a beach, however if it has a small one, you should visit Kotu beach or Kombo beach. Fort James, also called KuntaKintehIsland, is a major historical attraction. Gambia also has a number of wildlife parks. The tourism development area is great for restaurants and lounges.
While in Gambia, you should try some local cuisines; the food in Gambia is tasty, I must confess. I enjoyed the baobab juice and Gambian jollof rice. You should try yassa, baobab juice, peanut sauce called domoda with rice and chere.
Explore the Night life
For entertainment and fun, you should definitely not miss out on the groovy nightlife. The night life is an attraction on its own. From live bands to great outdoor clubs and traditional performances, The Gambia has it all. You should visit the Senegambia strip, also known as the Tourism development area, which has a great line up of outdoor clubs, lounges and restaurants. You should also visit Poco loco which has a great line up of live band acts and a Nigerian DJ playing great music.
The Gambia offered me so much more than I expected. It just goes to show that you can never know a place until you move closer. Block out the voices on the street and go have your personal experience. I assure you that you will fall in love just like I did.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.
Chiamaka Obuekwe Ntia (Social Prefect) is a travel enthusiast, travel writer, tour guide and tour operator. She is the CEO and Co-founder of the innovative company - Social Prefect Tours: a tour operating company that promotes African tourism and connects people and has organized over 50 tours since its inception in 2015. She has been featured and interviewed on popular media platforms including Guardian Life, Guardian woman, Genevieve magazine, Bellanaija, Punch, Channels TV, Leading ladies Africa, etc.