I can categorically say that it a lot more. Even though it’s the smallest country on mainland Africa, it is steeped in culture and a vast array of unique landscapes and wildlife, combined with a people known for their hospitality. Gambia is fast becoming the biggest tourist destination in Africa for its many choices of things to do and enjoy.
Here are just a few.
Nature and Wildlife
For nature lovers, there are lots to see and even participate in. Gambia’s diverse landscape of mangrove swamps, bamboo forests and salt flats that border the river Gambia, encourage all kinds of unique wildlife. For this reason Gambia is one of the bird watching capitals of Africa with over 500 species of birds to view, even within the tropical gardens of the major hotels as many actively encourage birds to breed on their hotel complexes.
For major wild life lovers, Tanji and Abuko Nature Reserve, which is a 20 minute drive from most hotels, features some of wild life’s greatests with diverse vegetation; 200 species of birds, monkeys, hyenas, antelope, hippos and crocodiles, just to name a few. Although if you really want to do something daring, visit the Katchikally Crocodile Pool whose crocs are said to be so tame you can touch them.
Arts and Culture
No vacation is complete without a little bit of exposure to culture and a few trips to an art market or two. At the Albert market, the sights, smells and sounds will draw you in. Batik, gold and silver filigree jewellery, woodcarvings and leather goods are just a few souvenirs that are available. Tailors are also available to make clothes in record time. If you happen to be in Serrekunda town on a Sunday, you can checkout some wrestling in the market and also visit the tie-and-dye factory.
For a more scenic view of culture, join a tour to the Makasutu Culture Forest and learn about the history of medicinal plants and woodland fauna. Afterwards, take a trip in a dugout canoe and enjoy some local music and dance. One thing you must do before you leave is take a trip upriver from Banjul, to explore the colonial history of Gambia by visiting the twin villages that were made popular by Alex Haley’s novel Roots at the Exhibition of Slave Trade in Albreda.
Beaches and Fishing
Enjoy endless golden and almost untouched beaches in several vacation hot spots. In Bakau, Cape Point, Fajara, Kololi, Senegambia Strip and Kotu areas, you can also enjoy leisure activities like water-sports, bird watching, golf and quad biking. With all that expanse of water, you may want to go for a cruise but there are also endless fishing excursions for a bit of adventure. All you have to do is hire a boat and a tour guide and choose between sea, river or creek fishing. Check out your options at Denton Bridge where you can locate tour operators.
Food and Drink
If you are going to make the trip, then you might as well try the unique food and drinks available. Gambia has its own version of Jollof rice called Benachin; made with meat, fish or vegetables for those who don’t want to try anything too far away from their comfort zone. Chicken Yassau made with lemon and black pepper and Domoda, a beef and peanut butter stew are staples with rice for the locals and a favourite of tourist too. Julbrew is Gambia’s own brew that is worth a try for beer drinkers, though there is nothing quite like fresh palm wine and baobab juice. For international cuisine, one is spoilt for choice as there are Japanese, Indian, German, Lebanese and Mexican restaurants just to name a few.
The Night Life
Night life in Gambia varies depending on your interest as there is something for everyone. If you’re looking for a bit of the “Casino Royale” experience, visit the Senegambia and Palma Rima areas. Don’t be surprised to find entertainment come to you as most hotels offer in house shows, be it a single kora player, a lively stage show or an African dance troupe. Check out the “the strip” at Kokoli and you can find many bars and nightclubs offering unique tastes of music as well as performances by local artists.