Things to see and do in Gambia
Attractions in Gambia
Abuko Nature Reserve: Explore tropical forests
Walk through the tropical forests of the Abuko Nature Reserve, where crocodiles, monkeys, forest antelope and reptiles thrive. There are around 50 types of tropical trees in this area and 290 bird species. Among these birds are the Willow Warbler, Pied Kingfisher and Violet Turacoes. Get a good look at them while trekking the nature trail, a couple hours’ walk through the jungles and savanna.
African music: Dance the night away
The Senegambia Strip in Kokoli is the place to be as the sun sets. Having grown from a row of shacks, it now boasts a variety of fantastic bars, restaurants and live music venues. A number of resorts host dance troupes and live bands for guest entertainments. For real kicks, head to a live session from one of Gambia's many excellent local bands, or a concert featuring stars from neighbouring Senegal, home of Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal and many other West African greats.
Banjul: The capital of The Gambia
In the capital, visit the National Museum, which has some interesting ethnographic displays, then admire the colonial architecture in the area near July 22 Square and climb to the top of Arch 22 for great views over the city. Shop in Albert Market, the city’s lively open-air bazaar, for an illuminating glimpse of daily life. Peruse its many stalls for a selection of colourful printed fabrics, carved wooden masks and local produce.
Bask on the beach
Gunjur and Kartong are southern Gambia's most pristine beaches and home to a number of excellent eco-retreats. Alternatively visit Kotu, the best beach along Gambia's main resort strip. Be wary, though: the seas can get a little rough.
Borreh: Watch a wrestling match
Gambia’s national sport, borreh (wrestling) was in danger of slipping into the history books until it was revived under President Jammeh. The sport now features in most national events and festivals. Similar to Greco-Roman wrestling, contests, played out against a theatrical backdrop, are ferocious and frequently bloody.
Gambian rhythm: Do a little dance
Fancy moving your feet to the local beat? Then book a few lessons with a dance teacher, a master of the kora (Gambia's national instrument) or with a drumming instructor who will be able to help you buy a djembé (drum) from a local craftsman.
Katchikali Crocodile Pool: Mind your fingers
Meet a friendly croc at this ancient site, sacred to the Mandinka tribe, in the coastal village of Bakau. The crocodiles, though wild, are well fed and docile. Fertility rites are sometimes held here.
Kiang West National Park: Marvel at the mangrove creeks
Trek through this stunning national park, the most diverse ecosystem in Gambia, to see more flora and fauna than anywhere else in the country. Straddling the impressive Gambia River, this region boasts extensive mangrove creeks where West African Manatee and Nile and Dwarf Crocodiles reside. Bird lovers will be thoroughly at home, with around 250 bird species flocking the trees. Monkeys are the star attraction, but you might also catch sight of leopards, warthogs, hyena species and much more.
Makasutu Culture Forest: Take a cultural tour
Join a cultural tour of this beautiful forest park, learning about local medicinal plants and woodland fauna, then take a boat trip by dugout canoe and enjoy a spirited display of local-style music and dance in this award-winning eco-attraction. During your walk, look out for massive termite mounds, which can reach a staggering two metres.
Microlights: Get a bird’s-eye view of the country
Soar over the fields, villages, creeks and beaches of Gambia by going up in a microlight. Short airborne tours and longer trips can be arranged from the microlight base at the airport. There are various landing spots up and down the country, so you may be able to stop at a few key tourist sites.
National Museum of Albreda: Learn about the slave trade
Upriver from Banjul, explore Gambian colonial history by visiting the exhibition of the slave trade at Albreda and Jufureh – twin villages that were made famous by Alex Haley's novel Roots. The museum features exhibitions detailing human captives and a replica slave ship – then cross to Kunta Kinteh Island (formerly called James Island), mid-river, to see its ruined fort.
River Gambia National Park: Mess about on the river
Take a long-distance boat trip on the River Gambia, the dominant feature of the country. The River Gambia National Park is the most beautiful stretch of riverine vegetation where you can spot monkeys leaping through the foliage, pelicans feasting on fish and hippos relaxing in this peaceful waterway. As you drift up the river, lush rainforests will turn into Savannah and mangrove swamps emerge. A key spot to visit, is the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Camp (CRC), which looks after and fosters orphaned chimps.
Tanbi Wetlands: Go birdwatching
Birdwatching is the most popular pastime for visitors to Gambia. Take a boat into the mangrove creeks of the Tanbi Wetlands around the mouth of the River Gambia and drift along under canopies of forested wilderness, spotting lagoons, mudflats and tidal creeks. Often visitors will see locals collecting oysters from small boats. Head south to the Tanji Reserve or travel up-country to the world-renowned Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve to spot some of the country's many resident and migrant species.
Wassu stone circles: Solve a mystery
In Eastern Gambia, catch sight of the fascinating circles of standing stones around Wassu, the most ancient human-made structures in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The origin of these megalithic circles, which stand between 1m (3.2ft) and 2.5m (8.2ft) tall, is shrouded in mystery but they are thought to mark the prehistoric burial grounds of a society long-since vanished.
The Gambia Tourism Authority in the UKAddress: 57 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DG
Telephone: +44 7535 476494
Mon-Thurs 930-1600; Fri 930-1300.