Try to use a local company for trips rather than the overseas big holiday companies that way more of the money you pay stays with the locals and directly benefits their families. We used Tilly’s Tours http://www.tillystours.com/ who are also a charity working in the Gambia on the S.P.A.D.E. Project. Please make sure though that any tour operator you do use has a valid operator licence as your insurance company will not pay out in the event of an incident which requires you to claim for lost property or medical etc etc.
Why don't you surprise your family, relatives, friends and your boss when coming back from your trip? I did it, and didn't get fired ;O)
For women I can tell that it helps a lot: just wash and go! Act like a man, finally. No hair conditioners, no mousse, no gel, no hairspray, no extra time wasted - just wash your hair gently and let it dry as it is. And what is best: you always look as good/the same, no matter if you sleep, wake up and get up from bed, shower, swim, sunbath...And no brushing or combing around the day. Just let it be!
In Africa they really know what they do and it is cheap. I have very long hair and I paid 20 euros for the four-hour work (yes, you have to be patient to sit that long). But once done, it lasts even many months - depending on the hair. I kept them a bit over 2 months - unchanged.
You can also forget the horror stories about loosing your hair afterwards or having to cut them short - I didn't go to the hairdresser's but opened the thing together with my husband (ask a friend if he is not enthusiastic...) and just used lots of conditioner after the first wash.
A must at least once during the trip is to see a local dancing and drumming show. Now you might think "I've seen this already" - but it is far from the tv ads or pictures in magazines. You got to see it live.
What amazed me most was the fact that this is not only show - it is tough sports! Those dancing (and drumming) had to have an unbeliavably good physical condition. How could they dance, dance, jump, go on and on so long? It was just amazing. The pace and rhythm was something very different from what we hear or what kind of picture we get of this "traditional African dancing" in Europe or USA. At least in Gambia (and Senegal) it was very fast paced and special looking.
This area is great for bird watching, just in the grounds you can see a gerat many different species. Just along the coast is Bijilo Beach Forest Reserve, which is a birder's paradise, with hornbills, various local forest varieties, seabirds and variagated waders.
Most people who stay here are either here for pure relaxation, the only activity being walking from the pool to the beach; or they use it as a base for exploring the rest of this area.
Whatever your reason for staying here, you cannot go home without having done some beach combing. Just walk along the lovely soft sand and let the warm sun thaw your aching limbs.