Gambia may be the smallest country in Africa, but it’s one of the biggest when it comes to personality. Bursting with natural beauty, vibrancy and an infectiously happy atmosphere, Gambia earns its title as the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’. Gambia has around 80km of scenic coastline, natural parks with picturesque sights and a long and rich history. Whether you’re looking for a destination for a romantic couples’ getaway or a unique family holiday in 2019 / 2020 and 2019 / 2020, Gambia has it all.
In addition to the famous Gambia River, the country has marshlands, huge savannahs and tropical forests. In the north, the capital city of Banjul offers bold colours and a traditional African ambience. Simply stroll around the streets to peruse the markets, taking in the culture and history around every corner. The city boasts a scenic coastline of clear blue waters and soft white sands, a favourite for beach lovers. Gambia has all of the stunning scenery, wonderful heritage and top-class attractions to guarantee it as a top African holiday destination in 2019 / 2020.
Gambia’s warm climate, friendly people and varied landscapes make it easy to simply get up and go each day. You’ll come across a number of entertaining activities and places of interest. Gambia is a popular location for wildlife lovers, with rhinos, giraffes, monkeys and warthogs to see at the Fathala Game Reserve. For an unrivalled experience, journey to Makasutu to take in the wonder of this eco-friendly nature reserve - all from the comfort of a traditional dug-out canoe.
Thanks to the lovely waters around Gambia, seafood is always on the menu. Gambia’s cuisine is a dream for foodies with barracuda, lady fish, and Atlantic prawns on the menu. You can ask for the ‘catch of the day’ at one of the many beach bars in the south of the country and the friendly staff will even go to the nearest fishing village to buy freshly-caught fish just for you. That’s superstar service you won’t find anywhere else in the world outside of a five-star resort.
Some of the best venues are in Kololi, a popular Gambian beach resort. Coco Beach Restaurant at the Coco Ocean Resort serves tasty fresh salads and a good range of snacks, while Solomon’s Beach Bar has reggae music, the favourite local lager Julbrew and seafood. If you’re hungry come evening, Jojo’s at Senegambia Road has some of the best steak and pasta in the region.
Gambia has all of the attractions and natural beauty to make the ideal destination for your next family holiday. If you’re an outdoorsy family, you’ll love Gambia’s beaches and natural beauty. You can walk, run and play sports on the beach as a family, take your little ones for a paddle and relax together in the sunshine.
To teach your children more about Gambia, you can visit the Wide Open Walls Project, located in the villages around the Ballabu Wildlife Conservation Area. This is a stunning living art project that was lovingly created by local people, with street art covering homes, village buildings and streets in colourful caricatures of famous local figures and local animals.
Action & Adventure
The abundance of natural beauty in Gambia sets the scene for all types of outdoor adventure, whether you’re looking to explore the jungle, make your way along the snaking rivers in a canoe or go running on the white sands. For wildlife lovers there are a number of must-see attractions including the Fathala Game Reserve and the Gambia River to see warthogs, giraffes and monkeys in their natural environment.
There’s an ecological nature reserve at Makasutu, with the opportunity to take a trip on a traditional dug-out canoe to explore the waterways at your own pace. At Kiang West National Park and the River Gambia National Park, you can come face-to-face with rare species of both animals and plants and take in the spectacular views from the peaks. The lesser-known Bijilo Forest Park is a favourite with holidaymakers that enjoy hiking, with plenty of lush greenery and cheeky red colobus monkeys entertaining visitors with their raucous antics.
Gambia’s sandy beaches are a dream for beach lovers looking to lounge around in the tropical sun, with temperatures staying between a scorching 29°C to 34°C. Gambia’s climate isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you’ll love it if you like things hot. If you’re looking to spend a lot of time at the beach in Gambia, your best bet is Kotu. It offers warm white sands, clear blue waters and a smattering of palm trees rounding out the ‘tropical paradise’ vibe. The beach has a relaxed atmosphere with a number of beachside bars and restaurants, as well as a handful of luxury hotels and quaint guesthouses. It’s also famous for its incredible subsets.
Karting and Gunjur are renowned for their environmental friendliness and have some of the country’s best-kept beaches, alongside a number of eco-retreats. Bijilo is a long, unspoilt expanse of sand with several small hotels and no bars or restaurants.
If the bright lights of Las Vegas aren’t your style, try another famous ‘Strip’ at Kololi for a different, but just as exciting, nightlife experience. The first time you see Kololi’s Strip, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the range of excellent bars, nightclubs and restaurants on offer. Many of the nightlife venues in Kololi stay open until the early hours and have a variety of music ranging from reggae and rap to traditional Gambian music.
South Kotu, Kotu and Fajara have a more low-key vibe with a range of restaurants and bars within close proximity of the hotels. Luckily, while the nightlife continues into the early hours none of the nightclubs or bars are close enough to hotels to disturb your peaceful night’s sleep. Many of the hotels and resorts in Gambia have touring dance troupes and other exhilarating nightlife attractions including fire eaters, drummers and musicians. At Ngala Lodge, jazz music is their speciality with an internationally acclaimed trumpet player and the resident Police Jazz Band performing regularly.
It goes without saying that the stunning natural beauty of Gambia is one of the main draws for couples of all ages. Whether you’re trying to decide on a honeymoon destination or are celebrating a special anniversary, Gambia’s magnificent scenery gives a sense of history and romance to any activity you choose. Gambia has a good selection of adults-only hotels and resorts, many of which offer beauty and wellness treatments to soothe you into a state of deep relaxation. There’s nothing like soft white sands and clear blue skies to get you in the mood for love. And if you’re planning to pop the question, what better place to do it than a country steeped in history and culture?
Some of the best romantic activities in Gambia include taking a River Gambia Sunset Cruise through the swamps, full of mangrove trees, wildlife and friendly locals fishing for oysters. Enjoy a romantic morning dip in the ocean or a soothing sunset swim. Top your buffet dinner off with a glass of champagne and join a boat tour to take in the magnificent views of the surroundings. If you’re looking to whisk your significant other away from it all, plan a trip to the peaceful island of Jinack, which has no roads or bustle to distract you from a romantic holiday together.
Gambian culture has a beat at its heart and is alive with vibrant music and dance. Thanks to the French and other colonial influences, Gambia became a melting pot for cultures and ethnic groups from all over the world and has evolved to boast a bustling multi-cultural scene. You can learn more about the history of Gambia, including its role as a former British colony, through cultural attractions including the fishing village of Albreda and its small but fascinating museum. Here you’ll also find a fortified slaving outpost, a poignant reminder of the fortitude of the Gambian people.
Fort James Island is home to ruins of one of the British Empire’s foremost slave forts, another must-see historical attraction that offers an educational day out. At Banjul’s National Museum you can explore the ruins of the Sao Domingo Church, one of West Africa’s oldest, and learn about the heritage of wider Gambia too. One of the most meaningful cultural draws is also one of the easiest to come across: Gambia’s people are incredibly friendly and hospitable, and are happy to chat with tourists, often offering them small gifts and delicious local dishes.