RejsRejsRejs » Destinations » Africa » Gambia » The Gambia: 5 fantastic travel experiences on Africa's smiling coast
Gambia

The Gambia: 5 fantastic travel experiences on Africa's smiling coast

Gambia river rips people Gambians travel
The Gambia in West Africa has for many years been a well-known charter destination from Scandinavia. See here why.
resin banner Hotel Skt. Anne banner
Sponsored post, recalme, graphics, disclaimer

Gambia: 5 fantastic travel experiences on Africa's smiling coast - from the Senegambia Strip to Banjul is written by Jacob Gowland Jørgensen. The editors were invited along for the ride travel agency Apollo. All opinions are, as usual, those of the editors.

Gambia Banjul map travel map

“Welcome to Gambia – happy to see you!”

The breeze catches my hair as a kind soul pours a cold beer into my glass. The sun has just set and a bunch of us are sitting at a table directly on the golden beach in Kololi close to the Senegambia Strip in the Gambia.

We are a little pinched by the fact that Scandinavia's rain has now really been replaced by Gambia's lovely heat. The locals' big smiles, words and gestures say welcome. And to that extent we feel welcome at the newly renovated Kombo Beach Hotel.

competition tropical islands

It's a bit crazy that you can come from cold in just 6 hours direct flight København to golden Gambia in West Africa close by Cape Verde. In winter there is even only an hour difference and in summer two.

The small country with only 2 million inhabitants is a former English colony. And thanks to the English language, a stable government, wide beaches, lovely weather and smiling locals, The Gambia has been a regular charter destination since the 1960s from both Sweden and Denmark. At least until corona devastated the world.

Fortunately, there are now regular direct departures from Copenhagen to the capital Banjul again, and this opens up a unique world for anyone who wants to experience West Africa the easy way.

We have therefore collected 5 tips for what you should experience in The Gambia, which rightly calls itself Africa's smiling coast.

  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip dead turtle beach travel
  • Gambia kombo beach hotel senegambia strip pool travel
  • Gambia kombo beach hotel senegambia strip breakfast travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip sign flower travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip beer gambians travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip river by beach travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip Gambians on beach travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip horse on beach travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip travel

Senegambia Strip and Cape Point: The long beaches

There are miles upon miles of beautiful beaches in The Gambia.

Baden-Württemberg, banner, 2024, campaign, europa-park, europa-park resort

The best known are from Cape Point at Bakau – close to the capital Banjul in the north – to Kololi at the Senegambia Strip and down to the Bijolo National Park further south. They are all connected by the main road, which is actually named after the Swedish Bertil Harding, who was the first to bring Scandinavian tourists to the country.

The beaches are wide with fine sand and warm water and are good for bathing. And what is almost even better: the hotels in Gambia are usually located directly on the beach, so you can walk from your room past a nice pool and directly onto the beach. Here you don't have to cross roads or anything else, and therefore there are often sea views at the hotels.

There are two experiences that always get me straight into the holiday spirit: Being able to go straight into havet to swim and then to enjoy a good brunch on a beach terrace, where you can soak up nature while enjoying a cup of morning tea and a freshly made omelette.

So both parts were naturally on the program from the first day in Gambia, and the body quickly got into gear.

Perfect.

In the morning it was 23 degrees, and during the day we reached 28 degrees. Usually with a breeze, and occasionally with clouds, so it was very perfect spring weather for a nice walk along the beach, where we also saw several of the other beach hotels.

Princess cruises banners

Here we talked to locals, ate a good fish lunch, and met a giant turtle at the water's edge. It was unfortunately dead, the old giant, but they are out there in havet a place.

There is plenty of space on the beaches here in the spring, but even in the absolute peak season in winter there is always plenty of space. Because there are no tall buildings here, and the beaches are long and wide.

  • Gambia banjul market food people Gambians travel
  • Gambia banjul market basket travel
  • Gambia banjul market clothes travel
  • Gambia banjul market food people Gambians travel
  • Gambia banjul market Gambians people travel

Markets and music: Banjul market and craft market on the Senegambia Strip

Although the beaches are a clear attraction, The Gambia offers much more than that, and you should not deceive yourself.

The local cheerful music fills the streetscape, and there are many talented musicians who perform every night in the many restaurants and bars on the Senegambia Strip, which is made up of a few streets close to the beach in Kololi. And the Senegambia Strip is certainly not just for tourists: there are also plenty of locals out to enjoy themselves.

We visited a few local 'craft markets' where you can buy fun souvenirs and beautiful bowls, masks and other goodies. And of course a sun hat when your old one can't do it anymore. So for the princely sum of 50 Danish kroner I got a nice broad-brimmed hat at the Senegambia Strip.

                                                                 

Did you know: Here are the 7 cities in Europe with the most hours of sunshine!

7: Nice in France – 342 hours/month
6: Valencia in Spain – 343 hours/month
Get numbers 1-5 immediately by signing up for the newsletter, and look in the welcome email:

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.

                                                                 

It took some negotiating, but in the end everyone was happy. However, I had to promise that I would not tell the other hat sellers what I had paid now that I had gotten such a good price.

Salesmen will always be salesmen, but the Gambians are now mostly of the pleasant kind who can talk the hell out of them. They know all their sales tricks, but they also understand a clear no thank you.

The market inside Banjul is a pretty nice little place.

Here is a food market with vegetables and fish and then a tourist market with all sorts of things. Most of it clearly locally made.

I got a small homemade basket and 1/2 kilo of local cashews home from Banjul. Plus a simple offer of lunch and marriage from the cheerful ladies manning some of the shops.

Although it was probably the best offer of the day, I skipped it, but you could see from some of the couples we met around the country that not everyone says no thanks.

In The Gambia, as the locals said, all colors meet, and sometimes it is the man who is local and other times the woman. It seems outwardly completely accepted here on the smiling coast of Africa. And it's not just colors that meet. Just in little Gambia, there are countless different tribes and languages, and therefore also big differences in how the people look.

competition tropical islands

Add to that the many migrant workers from all over West Africa who come to work here, and it makes for a beautiful mix of West Africa gathered in one place, and that is certainly evident here in the capital, Banjul.

There are big and small, tall and short, slim and big. It is quite fascinating to experience.

  • Enjoy life sign Abcas creek river lodge river travel
  • Enjoy life sign Abcas creek river lodge Gambia river travel
  • Abcas creek river lodge Gambia travel
  • Abcas creek river lodge Gambia river travel
  • Abcas creek river lodge river travel
  • Abcas creek river lodge Gambia river travel
  • Enjoy life sign Abcas creek river lodge Gambia river travel
  • Abcas river lodge Gambia travel

The mangrove forests by the river: Abca's Creek Lodge

We slide slowly through a mangrove forest in a small boat.

We have driven 90 kilometers on a good road into the country in search of the river that has given the country its name and shape: the Gambia River. We drive along the southern bank.

From cozy Abca's Creek Lodge we have sailed out on the many canals that run in large areas on both sides of the huge river, and here in the mangrove forest there is complete peace and lots of birds. And divinely beautiful.

We sail around and hear about nature and the place from our skilled guide. How water flows the almost 100 kilometers out from the Atlantichavet all the way into the small canals every six hours, and how enormous amounts of fresh water flow into these wetlands from the neighboring countries.

Maybe it's because the water is in perpetual motion, but we don't meet a single mosquito here in the woods. Maybe because of the salt. Or maybe it's because there are so many birds. Either way, it's lovely.

It is a bird paradise, and no matter how much you know about the feathered animals, there is something for everyone to experience.

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.

The lodge is a great change from the beach.

Culturally, we are in agricultural country far from the big city and the tourists, and in terms of nature, we are deep in Africa. Here, a small Gambian-Dutch family has built a place with great respect for nature and the people who live here.

We live in cozy cabins, and in the evening skilled local chefs come and prepare a full feast, while a local band with brother and sister sets a fantastic atmosphere in the evening. Barhama & Mariama can do something with their voices that few can, and as the sun sets over the river, we enjoy the intense atmosphere that they and their brought drummer create.

magisk.

In Africa you can often find nature lodges like this one, where you are not just close to nature, but are i nature and where there are people who really make a virtue out of giving you an experience. It is one of the great experiences on the continent.

  • Gambia river rips people Gambians travel
  • Gambia tears people travel
  • Gambia tears Gambians people travel
  • Gambia tears Gambians people travel
  • Gambia tears Gambians people travel
  • Gambia tears people travel
  • Gambia river fields termite travels
  • Gambia river bush forest baobab travel
  • the river rips salt salt extraction travels
  • the river rips salt salt extraction travels
  • Gambia rips people Gambians travel
  • The Gambia river rips the baobab leaves
  • Gambia river rips cashew nuts fruit travels

The villages and the bush inland

From the lodge you can go on a number of different local trips by boat, by bike, on foot or in a safari vehicle. We go on a 'cultural safari', which could potentially be a strange experience, where you go out to look at the locals. But fortunately it is a completely different experience that we get here.

Our guide Abdel tells us that they always go to new places so as not to make the locals too used to visitors. Not that there will be so many, but just to take care of the local environment.

We drive through a landscape worthy of Africa. Small bushes mixed with the impressive baobab trees, which you can't help but love. A lake reveals itself, where local women extract the finest crystal salt together. All year.

He says that many young people in The Gambia are traditionally sent to 'bush training' as teenagers, so that they can manage in nature and learn to respect it.

We experience small villages that come to a standstill when we pass by, and where we are quickly invited in to dance for those who feel like it. We see their small fields of herbs and admire the cashew fruit, where only one nut hangs per fruit.

We visit a nomadic tribe that is in a festive mood because there has just been a wedding and a new young woman has been incorporated into the extended family. They happily invite us inside, and they look at us just as curiously as the other way around. And because there is always someone who knows English in addition to the local tribal languages, we can understand part of what is happening.

If we had more time out at the amazing lodge I would have gone on their river trip to the Unesco site Kunta Kinteh Island, also known as James Island, which tells about the country's colonial history, and where you can also see the cheerful chimpanzees on the same trip.

Although we are only 100 kilometers from the coast and the capital Banjul, this is the real West Africa we find here. And what an experience. It can definitely be recommended.

  • Gambia senegambia strip Gambians children travel
  • Gambia tears Gambians people travel
  • Gambia banjul market food people Gambians travel
  • Gambia kombo beach hotel senegambia strip lunch food gambians travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip Gambians on beach travel
  • Gambia beach hotel senegambia strip beer gambians travel
  • Gambia river rips people Gambians travel
  • Gambia rips people Gambians travel
  • Gambia banjul market food people Gambians travel
  • Gambia Senegambia Strip motorcycle rasta travel
  • Gambia Senegambia Strip motorcycle rasta travel

The Gambia is also the Gambians

It is not only the beaches that are alluded to in the slogan "the smiling coast of Africa". So are the people. For the smiling locals are an indispensable and unavoidable part of the experience on a trip to The Gambia.

That includes both the hard workers in the shops and hotels and the more laid-back types who hang out to sell their local wares.

It's the soccer team training on the beach and the elderly woman offering foot massages. It is the guide who knows everything about the city and has also learned to speak Swedish.

It's the bus driver who has lots of grandchildren. It is the singer who sets the tone for her city, and the drummer who provides the rhythm.

                                                                 

Did you know: Here are 7 overlooked food experiences you must try in Austria! 

7: Gourmet at an altitude of 3,000 meters at the Ice Q restaurant in Tyrol
6: Eat cheese on the cheese street in Bregenzerwald near Vorarlberg
Get numbers 1-5 immediately by signing up for the newsletter, and look in the welcome email:

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.

                                                                 

It is the woman who picks the cashews and she who sells them at the market in Banjul.

It is also the Rastafarian who has painted his motorcycle in the right colors and has a matching leather suit. It is the 8 children waving and greeting from the back seat of the car where they are waiting for their babysitter while she is inside shopping. And all the other locals who are genuinely happy for you to come and visit them.

In The Gambia, the locals are part of the experience. And you just have to be happy about that, because they are talkative, spacious and helpful. And yes, occasionally they also want to sell something on the beach, and that is also part of the experience. Smiling and being friendly goes a long way, and the phrase "nice is nice" can always be used if you are ready to go on the beach.

If you have yet to experience West Africa, The Gambia is a good place to start. And when you land at Banjul airport, you know you're well on your way to new adventures.

Good trip to an overlooked part of the world. Have a nice trip to Gambia.

Here are 5 fantastic experiences on the journey in The Gambia

  • The long beaches at Senegambia Strip and Cape Point
  • Markets and music at Banjul market and at the Senegambia Strip
  • The mangrove forests by the river with Abca's Creek Lodge
  • The villages and the bush inland
  • The Gambians
There may be links to business partners in this article - you can see how it goes here
Baden-Württemberg, banner, 2024, campaign, europa-park, europa-park resort
  Princess cruises banners

About the author

Jacob Jørgensen, editor

Jacob is a cheerful travel geek who has traveled in more than 100 countries from Rwanda and Romania to Samoa and Samsø.

Jacob is a member of De Berejstes Klub, where he has been a board member for five years, and he has extensive experience in the world of travel as a lecturer, magazine editor, adviser, writer and photographer. And, of course, most importantly: As a traveller. Jacob enjoys both traditional travel such as a car holiday to Norway, a cruise in the Caribbean and a city break in Vilnius, and more out-of-the-box trips such as a solo trip to the highlands of Ethiopia, a road trip to unknown national parks in Argentina and a friend trip to Iran.

Jacob is a country expert in Argentina, where he has been 10 times so far. He has spent almost a year in total traveling through the many diverse provinces, from the penguin land in the south to deserts, mountains and waterfalls in the north, and has also lived in Buenos Aires for a few months. In addition, he has special travel knowledge of such diverse places as East Africa, Malta and the countries around Argentina.

In addition to travelling, Jacob is an honorable badminton player, Malbec fan and always up for a board game. Jacob has also had a career in the communications industry for a number of years, most recently with the title of Communication Lead in one of Denmark's largest companies, and has also worked for several years with the Danish and international meeting industry as a consultant, e.g. for VisitDenmark and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Today, Jacob is also a senior lecturer at CBS.

Add comment

Comment here

Newsletter

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.

inspiration

Travel deals

Facebook cover picture travel deals travel

Get the best travel tips here

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.