Take a tour with Habib
Favorite thing: As an alternative to doing the holiday company's excursions I would recommend booking a trip or two with a good local guide. One of the best, judging by the many plaudits he gets, is Habib. He can be booked through the reception at Ngala Lodge or via the contact details below, and offers a range of half-day and whole day trips.
Although we did one organised excursion (to see the various places associated with the slave trade in general and with Alex Haley's book "Roots" in particular) for the most part we prefer to do our own thing – either alone or with a guide, depending on the location, ease of getting to places and so on. So we booked Habib's services for two morning trips in the more immediate area and after chatting to us and making some suggestions he came up with a great programme.
The first trip took us to Serekunda market, where he guided us through the narrow lanes and told us about all the produce on sale. From there we went to Kachikally Crocodile Pool, then to the Botanic Gardens and finally to Calypso at the Cape where we all enjoyed a cold drink and a spot of bird watching. We were out for over three hours and he charged us just £15 per person. Our second trip was shorter, just to the Bijilo Forest Park to see the monkeys; we were out for about two hours and he charged just £10 per person for this.
Habib is very knowledgeable, looks after his customers well and is great company. Seeing the sights with him costs roughly half the price of a comparable excursion and you have the benefit of flexibility and the complete attention of your guide. Do give him a try.
You can contact Habib on (220) 989 1905 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Next tip: Bakau fishing village
Birds of The Gambia
Favorite thing: The Gambia is considered to be a birdwatcher's paradise, and even as non-experts and only mild enthusiasts we had great fun spotting and photographing (or in some cases trying to photograph) the myriad species here. Those we saw included:
At Ngala Lodge, Fajara
~ Common Bulbul
~ Long-tailed Glossy Starlings
~ Pied Crow
~ Red-billed Firefinch
~ Red-billed Hornbill
~ Senegal Coucal
~ various species of dove including Mourning Dove and Laughing Dove
At the Botanical Gardens in Bakau
~ Green Wood Hoopoe
~ Long-tailed Glossy Starlings
~ Red-billed Hornbill
At Calypso on the Cape
~ Caspian Tern
~ Cinnamon Roller
~ Pied Kingfisher
~ some sort of weaver – Habib said Village Weaver but after studying some photos I think it was more likely a flock of Red-billed Quelea
In Bijilo Forest Park:
~ Hooded Vulture
~ Red-billed Hornbill
~ Red-throated Bee Eater
~ African Darter
~ Bearded Barbet
~ Black Kite
~ Blue-spotted Wood Dove
~ Cattle Egret
~ Goliath Heron
~ Great Kingfisher
~ Great White Egret
~ Grey Heron
~ Hooded Vulture
~ Long-crested Eagle
~ Long-tailed Cormorant
~ Long-tailed Glossy Starling
~ Malachite Kingfisher
~ Pied Crow
~ Pied Kingfisher
~ Purple Heron
~ Purple Starling
~ Red-billed Firefinch
~ Red-billed Hornbill
~ Sandwich Tern
~ Senegal Thick-knee
~ Speckled Pigeon
~ Spur-winged Plover
~ Swallowtailed Bee-eater
~ Variable Sunbird
~ Village Weaver
~ Violet Turaco
~ Western Grey Plantain Eater
~ Western Reef Heron
~ White-faced Whistling Duck
~ White-throated Bee-eater
Fondest memory: It is impossible in such a long and varied list to pick out favourites but I was fascinated by the majestic Goliath Heron, which stands 120–152 cm (47–60 inches) tall and yet moves so slowly and carefully along the bank looking for fish, or flies so apparently effortlessly despite its size. I managed to capture a brief moment of that flight on video, as well as some footage of one that stalked the decking of the neighbouring lodge early one morning.
I also enjoyed watching the many different birds around the swimming pool at Mandina. The firefinch photo was taken there, as was another short video.
I have also put more bird photos into a travelogue as I had far too many for this tip!
Next tip: Bijilo Forest ParkRelated to:
Favorite thing: The Gambia River defines the country – almost literally. The Gambia’s boundaries were set in 1889 when Britain and France agreed to divide up the disputed territory in this region, with France having the major share (present day Senegal) but Britain, crucially, retaining control of the river through the establishment of a Crown Colony, British Gambia, which consisted of a 25 mile wide strip of land on its north and south banks.
The river is 1,130 kilometres (700 miles) long, with about half of that length flowing through The Gambia and all of that part being navigable (the border was set at the limit of navigability). It is tidal to a point about 460 kilometres upstream of Banjul and salt water reaches about 150 kilometres upstream, influencing the flora and fauna – in particular, mangroves are prevalent on this stretch. So you need to travel further upstream to find the crocodiles and hippos that many visitors are eager to see.
We enjoyed a boat ride on the river on our way to the villages connected with the slave trade. Here, near the sea, it is naturally at its widest (over 10 kilometres wide at the point where it meets the sea). The banks were for the most part distant smudges, and there was relatively little to be seen. But we were lucky enough to spot dolphins – in the distance on our outward journey but much closer on the return; indeed, a couple of them came to swim briefly under our bow.
We also saw a few fishermen in their traditional colourful pirogues, mainly near Banjul and around the villages, but as most prefer to fish at night, when it is cooler, there were not a great number of these. Nevertheless the trip gave us some insight into the reliance of the Gambian people on the river that runs through their land.
Later in our holiday we saw much more of life beside the river, as we spent four days in a lodge nestled among the mangroves in Makasutu. I will write a separate page about that peaceful location soon.
Next tip: the Roots excursion
Favorite thing: These distinctive trees, called by the locals “upside-down trees” because their branches look so much like roots, dominate the landscape in The Gambia as in so many other parts of Africa. They are relatively unusual here in that they lose their leaves in winter, so at this time of year they stand out even more. They can live over a thousand years, and store water in their massive trunk to enable them to endure long dry seasons and even drought.
The tree is also known sometimes as the monkey-bread tree because of its edible but rather dry fruit whose flesh looks a bit like chunks of bread. When staying at Mandina we visited a village, Kubuneh, with our guide Amadou and he broke open a baobab fruit for us to try. Each seed is surrounded by a chalky white flesh that you can suck off and enjoy. It was quite a nice flavour but not refreshing as most fruits are. But also at Mandina Lodges we had baobab juice for breakfast on a couple of mornings and I really loved it – just like an exotic smoothie! Its use is growing in developed countries as it has become known as something of a superfruit (it contains 50% more calcium than spinach, is high in antioxidants and fibre, and has three times the vitamin C of an orange), but so far, despite trying a few places, I have not been able to buy any near home. I will keep looking!
Next tip: Kapok trees
Favorite thing: The other stand-out trees for me from the Gambian landscape are the massive and often ancient Kapok trees. Also known as silk cotton trees, the fibres from the pods of this tree are used to stuff mattresses and pillows, sofas etc., and can be used for insulation. They grow to a large size and the trunks are massive, with striking buttresses. We saw these both inland in Makasutu and in places near the coast. The tree in photo four is the so-called Serekunda Big Tree, a silk cotton tree so well known that it has given its name to this district of the town (tell any local you are going to Big Tree and he will know where you mean).
Next tip: Makasutu
Gambia Visas - BEWARE
Favorite thing: GAMBIAN VISAS
If you can't trust a country's High Commission Consulate - then who can you trust?
We recently decided to experience a warm short break in Africa and decided to go to The Gambia as the prices were extremely competitive. My Partner required a Gambian visa although a European Commonwealth Citizen, which was double-checked and a cost of £20.00 was required in order to obtain the visa. Our travel agency disputed the requirement for a visa and both telephoned and email the Gambian High Commission in London. They confirmed the requirement and also confirmed the cost of £20.00.
The visa prices were also advertised on the Gambia High Commission website i.e., a single entry visa - £20.00. The necessary paperwork was completed and sent only to receive a phone call 2 days from The Gambian High Commission, saying that they wanted a further £20.00. After disputing this cost, now increased to £40.00 for the application, we were told that all this information was on the website, which we double-checked and it clearly stated £20.00. After challenging the Gambian High Commission, we received a blatant refusal to issue a visa and was simply told "if we don't send another £20.00 then we don't get the visa".
Not wishing to challenge this matter and miss out on a holiday, we decided to challenge this after we had received our visa and later received a reply to our letter of complaint stating that the price was increased on 1st September 2013. The Gambian High Commission confirmed three times after the 1st September, that it was £20.00 both verbally, by email and via their website. A 'snap-shot' of their website some 6 weeks after the 1st September 2013 still illustrated it was only £20.00. for a single entry visa. They emailed the travel agency with such information referring to their website. To date, they have still refused to return the excessive charged amount and we are still in dispute.
It is disappointing that such a beautiful country, so dependent on tourism is blighted by the upper echelons of their Government representing their country which can only go to damage to the country's reputation.
I bring this to everyone's attention, so please beware.
Travelling as a single woman?
Favorite thing: Well, travelling alone is not a problem really, I did it quite often. Just came back last week.
Which part of Serrekunda is he stayig? I would not prefer it since it is loud, noisy and full of exhaust gases. But Serrekunda is big, far bigger than Banjul, the Capital, so it might be o.k, sepending on the area.
The Gambians are used to tourists, at least in the urban areas, so to be white is also not a problem. But be aware it is a muslimic country. To stay with a man you are not married to might have an impact on your reputation. Please give a thought to the way you dress. Inside the villages or cities is not like being on the beach. So no shorts please, better cover your legs. When entering a house, take off your shoes and great with "Salam aleikum" and shake hands. Some elderly men might refuse because they won't touch another woman than their wife, so don't worry!
People might invite you for food. If they are poor, secretly give a little "fish money" (money for the next day's food) to the housewife. It is also polite when somebody visits you to give hinmsmall money for the fare.
Since I'm not on this site frequently, you can also ask further questions if you like to email@example.com
Otherwise I wish you a pleasant stay!
Favorite thing: The currency they use in The Gambia is the Dalasi.
The exchange rates are 35Dalasi for 1Euro.
You’d better change your money at the airport, banks or hotels because at the black market they sometimes try to rip you off.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Favorite thing: Banjul was founded by the British in 1816 as a trading post and a base from which to attempt to suppress the slave trade going on in nearby French West Africa. It is located on Saint Mary's Island at the mouth of the Gambia River, and is connected to the mainland by bridges to the south and ferries to the north. The city's original name was Bathurst, after Henry Bathurst, then-Secretary of the British Colonial Office. In 1973, the name was changed to Banjul, which is a corruption of bang julo, the Mandé tribe's words for "fiber." The Mandés gathered a type of fiber that grew on the island for use in making ropes.
Banjul is Gambia's capital and largest city. But with only about 360,000 inhabitants in its metropolitan area, it is one of the smallest capital cities in Africa. It therefore lacks many of the attractions of larger, more cosmopolitan cities, and there is little of interest for the traveler. However, it is still worth visiting the capital city to experience Gambian urban life. Most travelers only go to Banjul to take the ferry across the Gambia River on their way to the river's north bank or Senegal.
warning about gambia
Favorite thing: (the good points) . its very relaxing . and a good place for winter sun without too much of a long flight . with the gambia people they either love it or hate it . it depends on the kind of person you are.its very dusty and the top end of the hotels are not to the strandards that we are used to here. if you enjoy something different . its is exactly that . but if you enjoy your luxuries it certainly isnt. one thing i would like to point out to people that havnt been there before is this .... its a very poor country and there are quite a lot of scams going on there. particulary if you have a tender heart .you will be taken advantage of , maybe you have heard of "the bumsters" unemployed youths that hang around hassling tourists. in my opinoin these are not the problem . they are very harmless and are just after 50p or £1. the people you have to watch are the hotel workers . tourist taxi drivers etc. they will befriend you suss you out . . suggest buisness deals etc . and fleece you of everything very quickly . there is much rumour . that the gambians are angry with the british . they say that when they gained there independence in 1965 we left them with nothing and so now. they think they are totally justified to be naughty to us . they see it that we owe them finacially . there are some very nice people in the gambia . but unfortunately not around the tourist areas .
Getting a guide
Favorite thing: out of the tourist areas ,see more than just Senegambia,the main tourist area.this is easier with a good guide,all your read in VT about Bumsters is true they can be non stop pestering and hassle.but they are just trying to earn a living.you soon learn to deal with them.the first day on the beach,our second encounter of the day we booked a trip out with a with a guy who approached us toting for business.9am on the dot he turned up with a taxi,and took us out for the day.All i can say is he was brilliant took gave a great day out full of information and humour .he got us good deals while haggling prices allways tried to keep our money going into local people.he keep the other guides at bay.we hen used him all week,and he never let us down his humour and ability to fix whatever we wanted always impressed us.
His name is OUSMAN and he can be found outside Bijilo Forest Park by the bike rental or just down from there on the beach.
Ousman can be contacted on 002209984010 and email firstname.lastname@example.org phone is best as email is only via internet cafe visited weekly less if busy.mention my name John and Yana
Fondest memory: COLOUR every thing in The Gambia is colourfull the people the birds
NOT A FINISHED PAGE WILL FINISH SOON I HAVE PHONE EMAIL PHOTOS OF OUSMAN IF YOU NEEDRelated to:
- National/State Park
Favorite thing: You get a better rate in the Gambia for currency rather than travellers cheques. In Feb 2007 I got 51 Dalasi to the £ for cash as against 49 for t. cheques.
You will need a room safe obviously, and you will also get a better rate outside the hotels, but only at designated currency exchange offices. One such place is Barries very close to Sarges hotel in Kololi.
Fondest memory: Visiting a school taking writing materials can be very rewardingRelated to:
- Women's Travel
- Family Travel
Favorite thing: The Gambian women are just beautiful and atleast what I saw, very fine dressed. Traditional clothes are colourful and nicely cut. Meny women use scarf in their head in traditional way.
They and little girls use lot of effort in their hairdos too. Wigs are quite popular also.
Of course I knew that people in Africa carry things on top of the head but really seeing it felt truly exotic. Another thing exotic for me was how women carried their babyes in slings.Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
Cats in Bakotu hotel
Fondest memory: One of the four cats of Bakotu gave a birth on the bed in our hotelroom on our last night in The Gambia.
We became friends with te mothercat during our vacation. First thing in the morning it was always behind the door asking for food. In the evening when we were getting ready for going out, it was always keeping us company. Maybe it felt safe to bring the three kids to the world in our room.
One was born before we went out and when we came back there was two more.
On the next day we had to move the mom and the kids to a small sementshelter in a garden. The staff was very helpfull. Biggest worry was that the monkeys of the hotel will kill the kittens. We made some blocks into the doorway to prevent that but..
The staff named the kittens after us. So, if you know how Susu, Pete and Sirkka are doing, please let me know.
Favorite thing: If like me you always take several books with you on your holiday why don't you donate the ones you have read to the Banjul library? On recent trip to banjul I visited the library and was dimayed at the condition of the few books they have to offer, and was only too pleased to give them the books I had brought with me. The library is situated on the outskirts of Banul just 100 metres beyond Arch 22 and down a road on the left. Your books would be greatly apreciated and If the condition of the books they have now are anything to go by they will certainly be well readRelated to:
- Historical Travel
- Study Abroad
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