Getaway to The Gambia

Green Vervet Monkey, The Gambia

Often overlooked as a tourist destination in favour of more well-trodden African countries, the tiny finger-shaped nation of The Gambia is finally starting to come into its own. Nicknamed “The Smiling Coast of Africa” (although some would argue it resembles more of a moustache), The Gambia is one of the safest places in Africa to enjoy a getaway. And with plenty of beaches, nature activities, and world-class resorts, you’ll be smiling too. It’s also pretty easy to get there. Thomas Cook Airlines flights to Banjul, the nation’s capital, operate several times a week.

Here’s a quick look at what you can expect while you’re there.

Albert Market

Albert-Market-Banjul-The-Gambia

Occupying the same space since the 1800s, Banjul’s chief market is also the hub for most of its activity. Shops, stalls, stand and carts manned by friendly (and colourful!) locals offer everything from fabrics to fish and clothes to chickens. Bring your haggling skills though — the first price is never the agreed upon price, with discounts to be had up to 90% off the initial quote. Allow a few hours to meander through the maze of alleyways, and another hour to find your way out.

Kachikally Crocodile Pool

Kachikally-Crocodile-Pool-The-Gambia

Located in Bakau about 20 minutes outside of Banjul, the Kachikally Crocodile Pool pulls double duty — it’s a premiere attraction for tourists, and it’s a sacred site for locals. The crocodile is a symbol of fertility in The Gambia, so women travel here from all across the country, and even neighbouring countries, to undergo a ritual bathing and blessing ceremony. It’s thought that the waters have healing powers to aid in conception. More than 100 crocodiles inhabit the banks along the water, and many are tame enough that they can be petted — with the assistance of a guide of course. Laws forbid locals from getting financial gain from the pools, so the fear of getting ripped off here is never a worry.

Bijilo Forest Park

Green Vervet Monkey, The Gambia

No visit to Africa would be complete without monkeys, and the Bijilo Forest Park has them in spades. Situated just 11 kilometres outside of Banjul, this small nature reserve occupies a spectacular location just up from Senegambia beach and its stunning cliffs. You’ll see plenty of Green Vervet Monkeys, and if you’re lucky, the endangered Western Red Colobus Monkey as well. Although it’s tempting, refrain from feeding the monkeys with nuts being hawked by local vendors. Discarded bags become a problem for the wildlife and the park’s caretakers, and hand feeding these beautiful creatures disturbs their natural behaviour. There are also over 130 species of birds in the park, so plan on spending a full day here.

 

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