The Gambia is a great choice for a romantic Valentine's break, where you can get a nice big dose of African sunshine...
The weather may be turning decidedly chilly here in the UK, but in West Africa the temperature highs are well into the thirties and sun, sun, sun is the forecast right throughout the winter. While cosying up to a real fire with your loved one may be very romantic, trudging through the wind and rain to your favourite local restaurant is not, so why not try something completely different this year and take a Valentine’s break in the sun? The Gambia is the ideal destination for a romantic long weekend, flying out on the Friday and returning on the Tuesday. If you can spare a week or more away, you should also consider Senegal or Cape Verde. So why not spend this Valentine’s Day dining alfresco under the African stars?
Top 8 Romantic Places in West Africa
There’s a huge choice of restaurants and hotels to choose from and on the most romantic night of the year; you want to make sure you pick the right one for you. To help you ensure that your day lives up to your expectations (and those of your loved one) we’ve selected our favourite romantic locations.
Ngala Lodge is a fabulous boutique hotel, very popular with repeat customers and perfect for a romantic holiday for two in the sunshine. With no children allowed, it’s easy to find a quiet, secluded spot in the tropical gardens or on the beach. The cliff-top restaurant, which is reputedly one of the best in The Gambia, is popular with residents and non-residents alike and would make the perfect evening out for any special occasion.
One of the most luxurious hotels in The Gambia, the elegant Coco Ocean Resort and Spa is popular with honeymooners and the most discerning holiday makers. As is to be expected from such a sophisticated hotel, they have more than just one excellent restaurant. What’s more, their adult-only spa, which is open to non-residents, is second to none and the perfect place for a spot of pampering. They have a number of couple’s treatment rooms just made for two.
On the sand dunes of Boa Vista, part of the archipelago of Cape Verde which lies off the coast of West Africa, Spinguera Eco Lodge is the perfect choice for a quiet, romantic escape. In this unspoilt location, the hardest decision you’ll need to make is whether to read your book in a deck chair by your thatched stone cottage or from a hammock in the shade of the beach side cabana with a view of the clearest, bluest of seas. In the evening, dine under the stars in the hotel’s restaurant, Ca’Cabra, which serves delicious fresh Cape Verdean and Italian cuisine.
One of my favourite beach side watering holes can be found at the western end of the vast stretch of sand at Cope Point. Surrounded by nature while sipping a drink or tucking into some of the delicious cuisine on offer here at Calypso Beach Bar, you’ll feel as if you are a million miles away from the hustle bustle of the tourist hotspots (although in reality you’re on their doorstep). A row of thatched cabanas provide shade along the shores of the creek where crocodiles can sometimes be spotted. Birds flit from tree to tree and in the distance across the sands the sea gently laps the shoreline.
This small, eco-friendly, boutique hotel lies in an idyllic, elevated location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. With stunning views and peaceful surroundings, it’s perfect for a romantic getaway. The unspoilt beach below can be reached after a five-minute walk where you’ll find a local beach bar and very little else, with sand stretching as far as the eye can see in both direction. A most charming hotel, its secret lies in its homely feel, personal touches and attention to detail, not to mention the friendly and welcoming Gambian staff.
If the suggestions so far are a little too quiet, perhaps you might prefer Morabeza on Sal, another of Cape Verde’s islands. In the resort of Santa Maria, this hotel is very popular and has many returning guests. As well as being right on a beautiful white sand beach by some of the most stunningly clear water you could hope to find, the hotel’s restaurant, Les Palmiers, is well-renowned.
After your meal you’ll have the chance to dance the night away on their alfresco dance floor or in the in-house night club. Alternatively head into town and check out the many bars and restaurants on your doorstep.
On the other hand, if romance for you is reconnecting with nature, a night in your very own floating lodge on a tributary of the River Gambia in Makasutu Forest might be the perfect choice for you. Each lodge, though simply furnished, is stylishly elegant with a four-poster bed at its centre. The only sound to be heard comes from the forest with the occasional splash from the river as a kingfisher catches its dinner. Explore the forest and as well as a myriad of birds and other wildlife to spot, at some point you are bound to meet up with the troop of baboons that live here.
And on Valentine’s evening view the sunset on a gentle cruise through the mangroves and watch the birds of the forest come home to roost. Back on your private veranda watch a thousand stars come out, each one reflected in the shimmering water that stretches out before you.
8. A sunset walk along Kotu Beach, Gambia
There are of course many places to watch the beautiful sunsets of West Africa and another one of my favourites is Kotu Beach with the added bonus of it being completely free. You can access the beach via the craft market or a number of hotels including Kombo Beach. Kick your shoes off, take your partner by the hand and stroll through the shallows walking south towards Kololi for a front row view of the sky in ever-changing shades of pinks, reds and oranges. A simple pleasure but memorable nevertheless.
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