© Creative Commons / Mishimoto
The longest-established of the resorts fringing The Gambia's sun-bleached Atlantic coastline, Kololi is a mixed bag of dignified, low-rise hotels and rustic guesthouses jumbled together with tourist-trap restaurants and brash nightspots. The quarter known as the Senegambia area, a development hotspot, is the hub of The Gambia's mainstream tourist industry; in peak season its main road is busy with vendors, taxi drivers and touts, all vying for the attention of the tourists who come here to eat and drink. A little further inland is quiet, leafy Kololi Village, and to the north is the Palma Rima area, with a great beach and more tourist hotels.
Kololi's beach is a generous sweep of sand that's almost entirely man-made: tidal erosion sweeps away sections of the shore on a regular basis. Gambian beaches are common ground and sunbathers share the sand with local youths fishing, jogging, working out or peddling fresh juice; there's plenty of room for all. The beach hotels provide sun-loungers, shades and attendants for their clientele and tend to keep their patch clean. Powerful currents occasionally make the sea unsafe for swimming: it's important to heed local advice.
Kololi has a tiny nature reserve, the Bijilo Forest Park, graced by attractive palm trees and dense shrubs. Red colobus and vervet monkeys are easy to spot here - they're wild but surprisingly tame, thanks to thoughtless tourists feeding them titbits. On a sandy backstreet in Kololi Village is the Village Gallery, an interesting, right-on local venture which showcases art and photography from The Gambia and elsewhere in West Africa.
Head down to Tanji, where you can watch fishermen haul their brightly-painted canoes onto the shore, or follow the coast south to explore the attractive beaches near Gunjur, Sanyang and Kartong. The wetlands and palm groves of nearby Kotu are excellent for birdwatching, and nature-lovers should also try an early-morning visit to the Abuko Nature Reserve or Pirang Forest Park, both a short journey away. Local tour operators offer enjoyable day trips to James Island and the Makasutu Culture Forest, cruises through the mangrove creeks near Lamin, and eye-opening visits to local villages, schools and clinics.