I went to the Gambia in December and as per my Vietnam research I thought I’d check out what the other travel bloggers are saying about this little country, the smallest in Africa, and share it with you.
Farming, fishing and tourism are the big industries in The Gambia – and hopefully during my five days there I’ll get the opportunity to support them all. We’ll be checking out the Makasutu Forest on foot and via canoe, visiting a village and a school and cruising down the river by night. We’re also going to a monkey park, hanging out with a bird watching pro and making the most of the markets at Banjul before experiencing a fishing village.
All I know about The Gambia so far is that my friend went and said she melted in the heat, and that it’s on the west coast of Africa. So, with my brain as absorbent as a sponge, I’m ready to find out more.
Luxury lodges, on stilts
I’ll be staying at Mandina Lodges, like Simon from wild-about-travel.com did. Check out her pics from her trip. This one has got me really excited – she went into the Makasutu Forest too. Can’t wait to check out all the colourful birds in there. I’ll be staying in a lodge rather than a house on stilts, which will be fun. Hopefully I’m less likely to be bitten that way as those little mozzies just love my blood.
Schools, villages and fish markets
Jayne paints a vibrant image of life at the Tanji Fish Market and on board the buses. She also touches on the controversial topic of voyeurism when it comes to Africa, and the effect rich tourists have going over there. Sometimes it makes me really uncomfortable when I see travellers going into schools and orphanages – can you imagine someone coming to London and wanting to visit the children’s homes? Everyone seems to do it when they visit Africa though. This is a huge topic for a different time, but visiting schools abroad is definitely something I’m confused about. It is on my itinerary too, so I’ll be keen to learn more about what the teachers over there think about it.
Monica from thetravelhack.com visited some of the successful Gambian community projects while she was there. From the torch project where families are given torches to use at night that double up as generators, to the Stove Initiative which gives stoves that run on briquettes made from peanut shells to the poorest families. She also visited a school and a clinic, both of which are really struggling to provide for the communities they serve.
Tourism in the Gambia
Kat is the organiser of the whole trip, and seems to know all there is to know about the Gambia. We’ll all be travelling together, but she’s been a few times before. Check out her Welcome to The Gambia post for more facts about the country, and what happened when a bunch of bloggers went there in April.
“It may be the smallest country on mainland Africa but it has a big, big heart, the friendliest people you could hope to meet anywhere and is known as The Smiling Coast of Africa with good reason.”
For more practical information on visiting the Gambia James Merriman also has a lot of advice over on his blog. From taxis to conversions to vaccinations, his post if full of useful advice. And he has this to say about the ‘bumsters’ who follow you around…
- Say it isn’t your first time to The Gambia – This tricks the bumsters into thinking you have been here before, and know how to handle them.
- No means no, don’t say maybe – If you don’t want to go on that fishing trip, or buy that souvenir, be polite but firm, and say no thanks.
- Don’t hand out personal details – Try not to tell the bumsters your real name, or hand out email addresses or telephone numbers. Try not to tell them which hotel you’re staying at either.
Photography in the Gambia
Photographer Jason Florio and his wife visited The Gambia and took some incredible images and made videos. They journeyed up the river for over two months and 1000km meeting the local people and hearing their stories. It was an incredible project, and in their words aimed to…
“Create an historical – visual /audio/written – document of the peoples, cultures and environment along one of Africa’s last, free flowing, major rivers – The River Gambia.”
Jo from indianajo.com discusses the ‘prostitution’ and female sex tourism in The Gambia. I witnessed a simliar experience in Zanzibar at the most awkward wedding I’ve ever seen, on a beach in Nungwi. The lady must’ve been pushing 60 and a strong, fit 20 year old with a face like thunder was holding her hand reluctantly near an arch decorated with flowers. That night we saw them again on the beach and they joined our campfire, she told us they were now married. He just stared at the flames. Apparently the young guys hang around the expensive hotels hoping to pick up a rich and ripe oldie. According to Jo, it’s the same case here.
Volunteering in the Gambia
Maddi paints a beautiful picture of her summer in East Africa – in Senegal and The Gambia – and has written a great blog about every experience at Maddigoestoafrica.wordpress.com
“My neck of the woods is called Dippa Kunda and it is characterized by dusty, rocky roads and an assortment of compounds with corrugated tin roofs and mosaic tiled pavement.”
If you are looking to volunteer in the Gambia, I’d definitely recommend checking out Kate’s blog at katbb.blogspot.co.uk. She left the area two years ago, but I’ve been glued to her posts about her experience as a VSO. Kate can offer a deeper understanding into the issues plaguing Gambia better than anyone on a quick holiday there, which it seems is what most people seem to visit for.
I ended up having a great time in Gambia – click through to find out more about my adventures.