Find out what Chris, from our Commercial team, thought about his first trip to The Gambia. From first impressions and expectations to his own list of hotels he would like to go back to!
Did you have any expectations for your first visit to The Gambia?
Before working at The Gambia Experience, it was never a destination I would have thought about visiting before, but I was very keen to try it for myself after hearing everyone in the office talk about how lovely it was and their own brilliant experiences out there. As I didn’t know what to expect, I thought going and finding out for myself was the best thing to do!
What was your first thought stepping off the plane once you’d arrived?
The glorious sun! Having left the UK’s very wet weather, it was lovely to arrive to 35-degree heat. It was not as humid as I expected, but you certainly feel the heat walking out of the airport and towards the coach taking you to our hotel for the evening. So, it was a real treat to be greeted by our reps, with ice-cold bottles of water in hand.
How was your coach transfer to Kombo Beach Hotel?
There was so much to see as we drove through Serrekunda, which is the largest urban area in The Gambia. I really enjoyed the journey, as one of my favourite things to do on holiday is to people watch and I found it fascinating to see all the hubbub and activity in the markets, where they were selling vibrant textiles and the biggest watermelons I’ve ever seen! There seemed to be stacks of them for miles! The journey was such a nice introduction to the country, coupled with the insight from LT, our rep on the coach who was full of stories, we even passed his old school. So, there is plenty to keep you entertained as you make the pleasant journey to your hotel.
Is there anything that stuck out for you during your trip?
There were two main things that really stood out for me, first being how lush and green the landscape was – it was stunning. The Gambia had just been through its 'green season' and the scenery was beautiful. The other thing that stood out was the smiles, wherever I looked people were smiling! It seemed like such a friendly place and that continued throughout the whole trip.
Where did you stay during your trip?
We spent the first two nights at Kombo Beach Hotel. I was offered a cold hand towel as I arrived, perfectly refreshing. As I walked through reception and past the pool, there in front of me was the most idyllic sandy beach. This called for a beer, so I enjoyed a couple of Julbrews and watched the sunset through the palm trees. There was a very friendly vibe in the hotel and plenty to do, I particularly enjoyed the reggae band at dinner, which was followed by a local drum troupe who were brilliant!
During the second two nights of our stay, we had rooms at the wonderful Ngala Lodge; a luxury boutique hotel high on a cliff over the Atlantic Ocean. It was amazing! Upon arriving at the hotel, you have no idea what lies behind the entrance, it’s like walking through a door to another world. I stayed in the Macondo Suite, which had a stunning open-plan layout and a huge balcony. The whole experience here was lovely, the setting is breathtaking, and I could talk all day about the food! The fine dining cuisine of Ngala Lodge is one to add to your holiday ‘to-do’ list.
Did you get to stop and view the mangroves that were planted with donations from The Gambia Experience in 2021?
Yes, we got the chance to take a break from our busy schedule to visit the mangroves that were planted. This was part of the Carbon Offset Scheme to fight climate change. I had seen a picture of our MD there from about six months ago and it was great to see how things had changed and it is very inspiring that we are working with the local community to make a difference.
The Gambia is very well known for its beaches, what did you think of them?
In between our many hotel visits, we did manage to enjoy some time on Paradise Beach in Sanyang. The ocean was so lovely and warm, the word ‘paradise’ describes it perfectly. The sunset was magnificent, and I couldn’t help but take hundreds of photos! Paradise Beach features on our six in one tour and it was a highlight for me. Read our 'Beach Lovers Paradise' blog here.
You viewed many of the wide range of properties we have on offer at The Gambia, what did you think of them?
We had a busy schedule and viewed more than 20 hotels that we sell. I was so impressed by the variety; we have something for every taste and each one has its own personality. I have even picked a few out that I would love to be able to bring my young family to as there are plenty of hotels that cater to families. Overall, however, my top five favourite hotels were Ngala Lodge, Kombo Beach Hotel, Mandina Lodges, African Princess Beach Hotel and Bakotu Hotel.
Did you have any unique moments that really stood out for you?
During a tour of a hotel that is currently undergoing construction, we had an amazing moment where there were around 20 monkeys dotted around from the neighbouring monkey park, playing and just going about their day! Not only did this hotel have brilliant potential with a beachfront location, but it will also be able to boast about have being home to these amusing creatures. This was a great experience to see them up close and I made sure I took lots of photos so that I could show my children, they really loved it!