Debbie Potts recalls her trip to The Gambia, as she boarded our first plane back to the country after the resolution of the political situation in January.
As a winter sun destination, just a six-hour flight from the UK, with endless hours of guaranteed sunshine, no time difference, and English-speaking, warm and welcoming locals; there is simply no comparison to The Gambia. And so, when we were nearly prevented from travelling there towards the end of January, due to the initial reluctance of its former President to honour the newly-elected leader and hand over power, we were at a loss to find anywhere else.
Thankfully the situation was swiftly and totally peacefully resolved. We arrived on Friday 27 January on The Gambia Experience’s exclusive flight to a country delirious with joy at its new democracy, and we were met at the airport with a welcome band and exuberant dancers. From there it was a short minibus transfer to Ngala Lodge – a small, exclusive boutique hotel set in luxuriant tropical gardens on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
If you appreciate beauty, peace, fine dining, stunning views and non-intrusive service in a relaxed African haven and oasis of calm, you will adore Ngala Lodge. The hotel has two beautiful outdoor pools, but we loved sunbathing on the hotel’s own waterfront wooden deck, with the roaring Atlantic waves rushing underneath us, and then collecting shells on the private beach when the tide went out.
Although we were reluctant to tear ourselves away from the glorious garden setting, views and cuisine of the hotel restaurant, we did sample some other excellent restaurants nearby, just a short walk or taxi drive away, but we steered clear of the more touristy areas deliberately.
A highlight of our trip, apart from the warmth of the people and the hotel itself, was an incredible morning spent with the irrepressible Ida, as part of the Ida’s cookery class experience. Her passion for her country and its cuisine is truly infectious.
Dressed in vibrant local dress, Ida accompanied us to a market, the likes of which we had never seen or imagined. A riot of colour, laughter and wondrous ingredients awaited us, all set along the vibrant seashore, where fishermen landed their catches from brightly coloured boats, greeted by market traders. Aromatic herbs, exotic vegetables and freshly caught fish were selected by Ida for us to transform later, under her expert guidance, into mouth-watering Benachin fish stew - all in the shady setting of her own peaceful patio. Ida shared so many fascinating insights into her country and life; we could have chatted for hours.
Back in our superb Macondo Suite overlooking the ocean, with its own private plunge pool and palm trees, we enjoyed sunset cocktails. London and the UK winter had never seemed further away. In fact, we extended our holiday by four days, so reluctant were we to leave! I guess that says it all.
The Gambia was a total revelation. In fact, there almost seems to be a conspiracy of silence amongst those ‘in the know’ who, selfishly, seem to want to keep it all to themselves. I can’t blame them!
A huge thank you to the Gambia Experience, their staff and the staff at the Ngala Lodge hotel.
A family holiday in The Gambia this summer Read more