From visiting a school or even a crocodile, to relaxing on a deserted beach, The Gambia offers so much to explore beyond your hotel - even if you're all inclusive.
The Gambia has a lot to offer away from your hotel or the beach, there are great restaurants and increasingly more nightlife to experience, from late-night bars to throbbing nightclubs. The Gambia is probably not renowned for the diversity of its shopping outlets but there are enough local crafts on offer to ensure you take some memorable souvenirs home with you.
In addition to this, the majority of our hotels have an onsite entertainment program, complete with daily activities to suit all ages. Outside of the hotels, you can enjoy soaking up the sun on the beaches, or if that doesn’t take your fancy then why not try some of the wide variety of regular excursions available? It's safe to say there is plenty to keep you busy during a holiday to The Gambia, so we've put together a list of 10 of our favourite things to do in the country.
1. Spend a day on an unspoilt beach
Many of the beaches directly outside the hotels are sandy and uncrowded but travel just a short distance and you can find some virtually empty, completely unspoilt beaches. If you prefer some facilities we suggest a visit to Sanyang in the south where you’ll find a beach bar, a few sunbeds and hammocks but little else! You may even be lucky enough to catch some local wrestling matches on Sundays.
2. Spot some of the 600+ species of bird
You don’t have to be a serious birdwatcher to enjoy the colour and the sheer number of birds in The Gambia - even in the hotel gardens, you’ll spot many different species. However, if you are one of the many who want to take things a little more seriously, we recommend one of the birdwatching tours led by local expert Malick Suso.
3. Visit a local school
The teachers and children of schools welcome visitors, often with demonstrations of their singing and methods of teaching. This is an excellent way to learn about everyday life in The Gambia. We recommend taking donations of pencils, exercise books or footballs with you which you can buy at markets in The Gambia, however, please give these to the teachers rather than the children directly. Please also keep in mind that school visits can be disruptive to the school day and we would recommend you visit a school well away from the main tourist area as they are unlikely to get many such visits.
4. Visit a Gambian family compound
Whether this is as part of an organised excursion or privately arranged, Gambians will be happy to welcome you into their homes, especially the children who are very inquisitive and endearing. The sense of community will hit you as everyone works together to provide for the extended family (including multiple wives!), often in very primitive and basic conditions. Why not consider donating a low-energy stove?
5. Support the local industry
Head to any of the local craft markets for the chance to try your hand at bartering and pick up some souvenirs. Bakau craft market is one of the best places for woodcarvings and the tie-dye factory in Serrekunda is also worth visiting to see how the fabrics are made.
6. Home cooking course with Ida
Experience a day in the life of a Gambian on this fascinating home cookery course. Ida will escort you to the local market to take in the hustle and bustle of shopping for ingredients before returning to her home to prepare and eat a traditional Gambian dish.
7. Watch local fishermen bring in their catch
The fishing markets at Tanji and Bakau are full of colour, sounds and smells as the men bring in the catch and the women and children help to unload and prepare the fish. A great way to experience local flavour and get some colourful photographs (just don’t forget to ask permission first).
8. Get up close with a crocodile
Kachikally crocodile pool in Bakau is one of the most famous tourist spots in The Gambia and has been attracting visitors for years. The pool has around 100 crocodiles including the most well-known, Charlie, who is an impressive two metres long. You can get some great photographs of the crocs basking in the sun, and learn more about traditional beliefs that the pool has special fertility and healing powers. If you prefer to keep your distance, enjoy lunch or a drink at Calypso Beach Bar in Cape Point which overlooks a natural sea lake where you might also spot a crocodile.
9. Watch a local football match
Gambians love football and you’ll see international football shirts and locals asking you which team you support. If you get the chance to attend a local match it’s a great way of experiencing the passion for the sport – it can be very noisy though with cheering, singing and drumming.
10. Pamper yourself at Coco Ocean’s world-class spa
This lovely boutique hotel has a 1800m2 spa facility with thalasso pool, small gym, Finnish sauna, Moroccan Hammam and a full range of beauty treatments. What better way to recharge your batteries than with a day of top-class pampering?
Now you know the sorts of things you can get up to in The Gambia, check out our great range of holiday ideas for even more inspiration.
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