Rich culture and history, traditional kora music, dance, smiles, beaches, exotic nature, bird watching, mixture of tribes, peacefulness, delicious food, relax
Country's population: 1.9 million inhabitants (2013 estimate)
Currency: Gambian dalasi
Language: English, Mandinka, Wolof, Jola and Fula
Flag of The Gambia
The Gambia might be the smallest country on the mainland of Africa but that shouldn’t deter any potential visitor as it offers plenty of variety for either more adventurous type, a casual sun-seeker or a more culture orientated traveller!
This West African nation is probably better known as ‘The smiling coast of Africa’ which we can definitely confirm as people are very open, easy going and welcoming to all visitors and are especially very happy to hear that this is your first visit (and of course not your last one).
In our first three weeks stay in The Gambia we had also chance to visit more remote parts in the west and the landscape varied dramatically from the seaside resorts to rural villages with traditional mud –walled grass-roofed round huts.
Map of The Gambia
The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal on all sides except from the Atlantic coastline. The River Gambia runs through the middle of the country some 300 km inland. The river played an important role in slave trade and nowadays there is Roots trip organized by various tour providers that follows the slave trade route and visits the most important landmarks of this dark past.
In 1965 the Gambia gained the independence from the British under the leadership of Dawda Jawara. The country is known for its peace and stability and only recently there has been an unrest during the change of power between the former president Yahya Jammeh (in power for 22 years) and the newly elected Adama Barrow. Fortunately for us ,the situation has resolved peacefully and we were able to experience the Gambia without any issues.
The tourist season runs between October and April (dry season) and the tourism is the main motor of the Gambian economy followed by farming and fishing. However, many people still live below the poverty line and especially young people want to leave the country , risk everything and thus undergo a perilous journey through the desert and the the Mediterranean to reach Europe in hope of better future (known as the Backway).
One of the main characteristics of the Gambia is the cultural mix of tribes and immigrants from another African countries. The most present tribe is Mandinka followed by Wolof, Fula, Jola, Sarahule, Serer, Aku, Manjango. While you are in the country you will have a chance to listen to the traditional kora music of griots or maybe hear some African drumming!
And finally, let’s not forget the rich natural heritage! Habitat varies from the coast with sandy beaches to mangroves and wetlands, from Guinean savannah and the sahel to the River Gambia! The Gambia has been crowned as birdwatcher’s paradise for a good reason-almost 600 species have been recorded here (you will highly likely see an array of parrots, kingfishers, vultures, hornbills or pelicans). If birds are not your thing than you can enjoy primates in one of the nature parks.
One thing is for sure: If you come to the Gambia with an open mind (and heart) you will be pleasantly surprised and will want to come back again!
Bradt Travel Guide The Gambia by Philip Briggs
Published: 14th Oct 14
Sources of information
Bradt Guide Book The Gambia by Philip Briggs