Karen, our Destination Expert, shares her thoughts on her recent luxurious trip to The Gambia and Senegal.
When you think of the top destinations for a luxury holiday you may not immediately consider The Gambia, but we believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
What’s more, not only will you enjoy the facilities and comfort of your luxury hotel, but alongside this are all the advantages that a holiday to The Gambia has to offer, be that the fabulous climate, the uncrowded beaches plus the cultural and wildlife attractions.
On my last visit in April, I stayed in four hotels in The Gambia, all of differing grades, and amongst these were a couple of our most fabulous properties; I also visited some new contenders in neighbouring Senegal and would love to share my thoughts with you.
Flying in style with Titan Airways
Our flight from Gatwick with Titan certainly helped to start the trip off on the right foot – access to an airport lounge for a relaxing breakfast before being settled on board ahead of the other passengers to avoid the congestion at the gate. Welcome drink, personal menus, freshly warmed rolls, hot towels and iPads with a wide range of films and entertainment certainly create the right impression, and the only negative comment I have ever heard about the food in Star Class (served with metal cutlery and free Prosecco on demand) is that there is too much of it!
What really strikes you however in this separate forward section of the aircraft, is the sense of relaxation and exclusivity which, coupled with the professional service from the dedicated Titan crew, really sets the mood for a luxurious break.
Boutique luxury at Ngala Lodge
It's some time since I've stayed at adult-only Ngala Lodge, as it's often fully booked when I visit. This time I took the opportunity of an opening there to experience the newest rooms - the Macondo Suites. They're spacious and elegant with all conveniences you would expect, but the memory that remains with me is the stunning view overlooking the tropical gardens to the Atlantic Ocean. Freshly prepared pancakes served to our table in the morning were a treat and I also squeezed in a meal in the restaurant and certainly wasn’t disappointed!
Glamping at Fathala Wildlife Reserve
Then it was on to the Sine Saloum Delta in Senegal and the wonderful Fathala Wildlife Reserve. Although you'll inevitably arrive hot and dusty after the ferry crossing, to be met with a basket of cool towels and a refreshing local drink certainly makes any negative memories fade quickly – and indeed many people appreciate the opportunity to experience the ‘real Africa’ – at least for a few hours.
Wildlife is undoubtedly the main reason to visit Fathala, yet your time here will be extremely comfortable. I think the photos of the air-conditioned tented lodges speak for themselves – this property is unique but also must be strongly considered by those in search of a luxury experience. I chose to take the Sunset Mangrove boat trip which I had never done before, and to be served a G&T (or two!) with snack platter whilst viewing crocodiles, pelicans roosting and flying fish as the sun set was magical.
New hotels in northern Senegal
Our newest programme has just been launched on the Petite Côte in northern Senegal. Accessible via the new airport outside Dakar, or as a twin centre with The Gambia, this area offers some excellent quality accommodation, along with calm waters ideal for water sports, French-influenced cuisine, and friendly, professional service. We transferred from Fathala in an air-conditioned vehicle in approximately 3 1/2 hours.
The Lamantin Beach Resort & Spa received excellent feedback when we featured it a few years ago and is a real example of a well-run hotel, complete with hydrotherapy spa and fantastic à la carte restaurant with wine cellar. Sold on a half board basis, the buffet meals are also excellent, as I can verify from the quick lunch we took there. I'm excited about the new Blue Bay beachfront accommodation complex, complete with its own pool, due to open this autumn – generally this property has an exclusive feel to tempt our most discerning guests, although is much larger than boutique Ngala Lodge in The Gambia.
An exciting discovery is Les Manguiers de Guéréo, a small eco-lodge perched above the lagoon of La Somone with an infinity pool and, while it's not on the beach, this is just a 20-minute walk away. Les Manguiers de Guéréo is well worth a visit for a few days of relaxation in the heart of a natural reserve, and ideal for a twin-centre holiday.
I hope that my small taste of what this part of West Africa has to offer has whet your appetite. Our website shows the full range of luxury accommodation available next winter so please take a look.
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