Why The Gambia should be your next destination


Africa’s smallest country, The Gambia, is a great place to explore. What the country lacks in size, it makes up for in culture, wildlife, and stunning nature. Of course, there are the hotels, the resorts, the beaches, the restaurants, the nightlife; all up to western standards. But this blog will show you the other side of The Gambia. The real African experience. The things you will see when you leave the safe environment of the 5-star resort. In short, this blog will tell you why the Gambia should be your next destination.

Gambia’s colorful culture

Emerge yourself in the Gambian culture, and experience the African way of life, with upbeat music, colorful customs, and abundant dancing. As a matter of fact, dancing is an important part of the Gambian culture. Visiting a dance performance or simply joining a festive campfire gathering on the beach is something I’d highly recommend.

Friendly locals

The locals are very open, friendly and always happy to help. It is for that reason The Gambia is called “The Smiling Coast of Africa”. People are always willing to share their culture with you.

Chances are that you will be invited to their home for a bite to eat within a couple of minutes of conversation. If you have the chance to visit a Gambian compound, you will get an interesting insight into the local way of life. Children are very curious about tourists and will want to hug you.

That being said, in the tourist areas, some people can be (very) intrusive and want to sell you all kinds of stuff. The locals call them hustlers. The way to deal with them is just to try to ignore them. Don’t engage in conversation, and politely but firmly rebut their advances.


The Gambia is a true paradise for nature lovers! Explore all the wildlife this African country has to offer in one of the many parks in the country. Visit Monkey Park in Kololi to see wild monkeys, also known as Bijilo Forest Park. At least 5 different types of monkeys live in this park. But also other African mammal species call this park home, such as African civets and genets and mongooses.

Abuko Nature Reserve is another terrific place to spot animals. This zoo keeps exotic animals in their own recreated habitat. As the park rules already state: Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footsteps.

Cruise the Gambian river

The heart of the country is the river “The Gambia”. In fact, the country itself is just a small strip of land around both sides of this river. As a result, lots of fishing villages are located on this river. There are multiple tourist agencies that offer a relaxing boat ride on the river. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the water, the sun, and the scenery.


Bird watching in the mangroves at dawn

The Gambia is well-known for its large diversity of birds. A popular way to enjoy the birds is to book an excursion to Lamin Lodge, with a boat tour through the mangroves at dawn. First, you will spot the birds and watch the sunrise during a relaxing tour with a rowing boat. The excursion will end with breakfast in Lamin Lodge. A small tip, protect your food as the monkey will seize every opportunity to sneak the food off your table.

Local Food

The Gambian cuisine can be described as simple yet delicious! One of the main traditional dishes I can really recommend Benachin, which literally translated means “one-pot”. Basically, it’s a rice stew with fish or chicken and vegetables and spices. So delicious! It is all cooked in a single pot, hence the name.

Most of the restaurants in the tourist areas around Kololi and Kotu are owned by rich European or Indian people. In other words, the money you spend here will go to them and not benefit the local Gambian economy. We asked the locals who worked in the hotel to take us to more local restaurants. Here the food is traditional, the atmosphere is more authentic and the prices are much cheaper (and benefit the local restaurant owners, a big plus!).

History of The Gambia

Sadly, slavery plays a large role in the history of The Gambia. The life story of Kunta Kinte, as described by Alex Haley in his novel “Roots”, is the best-known example of this part of The Gambia’s history. Kunta’s hometown Juffureh still exists today and is open for tourists.

There are excursions available that will take you inland to the village of Juffureh, with a boat tour on The Gambian river. Once in the village, there is the opportunity to explore the area and visit the descendants of Kunta Kinte. There is also a museum and a monument in remembrance of all the people who were enslaved in the 18th century. There is a small island in the middle of the river with the remains of an old fort. The fort, built around 1650, has a long history in the European colonial era. During the slave trade, it served as a prison for slaves, before they were shipped to other parts of the world. All in all, this tour provides an insight into a sad but interesting part of The Gambia’s history.

 Are you planning to visit The Gambia? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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