Kotu is in the heart of the tourist area.
The Gambian coast is very short, just 50km so its easy to see the attractions along here.
Going in land is more complicated and we didnt have enough time.
Heres what we did:
-Monkey Park, (Bijilo forest park) Kololi - you can walk along the beach to here from Kotu. Walk all the way, about 30mins to Senegambia hotel, walk through the hotel (not meant to but no one checks) and then off he side road off Seengambia road and eventually you will see the monkey park.
Its 40 dalasis (£1) each to get in and you have to (maybe not if request not to) take a guide. We tipped 25 dalasis for his hours work.
There are 4 routes you can take around the forest, the green being the shortest, about an hour. You will see birds and 2 types of monkey - red and green.
Its ok, quite good fun.
-Crocodile pool, Bakau - get a taxi from Kotu, should be able to for 100 dalasis. It may seem the taxi driver is taking you down some dodgy back street but thats where its located. The pool has 100 crocs in it. You pay 50 dalasis (£1.10) each to go into a museum. As you exit the museum, you walk through some wooded area and suddenly you walking past crocodiles with no barrier keeping you from them! which is a bit of a shock at first, but theyre not that big (largest is 2metres) and they are usually just sun bathing! a guide will evetually come up and ask to take you around and tell you some stuff and you can take pics shaking hands with the crocs! tip the guide 50 dalasis.
-Walking the beach - the beach is pleasant enough for a walk, just expect to be hassled by sellers of fruits, bars, restaurants, the whole walk. Walking to Kololi from Kotu is about 30mins.
-Sunset - being on the west coast, sun sets are pretty decent although we didnt happen to see a mind blowing one. From the palm beach hotel, it disappears behind some trees so you may need to move.
-Go to a local football match if you can. i had a contact from Senegambia and he took us to a semi final (the equivilent of the english FA cup) match which was a great experience - 25 dalasis (50p) to get in, about 3k people there, non stop singing and dancing. They won on penalties and the fans went wild! great experience.
-Serekunda/Serekunda market - Serekunda is the 'big smoke' of the area - a hustle and bustle of a 'city' with a large market. a good place to people watch. Beware of scams (see tourist traps). We sat in a cafe just a 5min walk from the market on the Sukuta road and peopple watched, good fun. We then just walked back towards Fajara. A taxi to Serekunda was 175 dalasi but should probably have got for 100/125.
-Tanji-a fishing village about 15km south - worth a stop to see the fish smoke houses and people bringing in the fish.
-Sanyang-another tiny village with a nice beach and fishing village. Theres a handful of bars on the beach - nice place to chill out, a good quieter alternative to Kotu and the northern part of the coast.
-Jinack island (sometimes spelt Ginack)- See my Ginack Niji page on VT. This place is a 1hour boat ride from Banjul. Its classed as a 'desert island' - mainly as its just got 4 villages on it and a handful of tourist lodges each with just a handful of rooms, and yet the island is about 11km long and 2km wide, separated from the mainland by a creek. The island is owed by the village elders - there are no vehicles here and police/government do not venture here.
The attraction is the tranquility, its so quiet - perfect for getting away from it all, and all those Kotu husslers. It not paradise as in turquoise waters, the beach is similar to Kotu except you will have 11km of beach all to yourself! (maybe a few cows too).
The island is 2/3 in Gambia, 1/3 in Senegal, there is no border crossing, you can just walk across an invisible border.
The lodge staff can organise a pick up from Kotu/the coast but they charge alot and you could do it yourself much easier/cheaper, although the lodge will likely need to send a boat out to get you from Banjul.
For me, it was a perfect getaway on the island, the lodge could do with some more work, but after the bustle of Kotu, this was well worth the effort.
The main 'strip' on the coast around Kotu and Kololi is Senegambia road in Kololi.
Its about 2miles from Kotu, a 50 dalasi taxi ride (£1.10).
Its full of tourists, but the food is generally decent.
Theres a few bars and clubs down here too although we didnt venture.
Below is where we ate and my thoughts:
-African Queen - one of the better ones we ate at. Very busy. Good character and atmosphere. We had 1 starter (lovely calamari) and mains of chicken yassa and shrimp banniche, both local dishes and very tasty. We had 7 beers and the total bill came to 910dalasis, about £20.
-Ali Baba, on the corner where the road branches off. We had lunch here-they do lebonese food so i tried kerrah plate (200D). For the 2 of us with water, it was 360D (£8).
-Spanish restaurant (In between Paradiso and African queen - doesnt seem to have a name) - the menu has tapas and other spanish food.I had butter fish skewer which was nice. Total bill incl an expensive glass of (not great) white wine, was 575D (£14).
-JoJo's - down the side street off Senegambia - its more of a bar but they do do food although we just had a beer - its a bit more upmarket, a beer is 70D for a full draught pint. Nice atmosphere.
-Yasminas - the first restaurant on the right at the top of the road, was always busy so thought we'd try. i tried barracuda after a nice humous starter. WE had 4 beers and it all came to 810D (£18). Service was very quick and very friendly. one of the better ones.
-Palm beach hotel in Kotu - this is where we stayed so we ate here a few times. The Domoda (local dish like stew) is very nice. Pizza is good, chicken sandiches are good. Infact, the food is decent enough although slightly more than youd pay in a restaurant elsewhere.beer is 35D (for 300ml)
Local bus is by far the cheapest way but they dont come by Kotu, you need to go into Serekunda, by taxi, in which case its usually easier to go back taxi all the way if going local (around the coast area).
Kotu to Senegambia is 50D.
From the airport to Kotu, 400D. takes about 30mins, 45min to banjul.
I had a friend in Senekunda who had a driver who gave us some 'decent' rates - we paid 900D for him to take us to Tanji then Sanyang and back , for 4hours.
You can just hire taxis to take you around all day.
Barter the price!
Green taxis are meant for tourists and yellow for locals, hence green are more expensive but its fine to get a yellow taxi and may get a cheaper price.
Getting to Jinack-get a cab to banjul then arrange a boat from a lodge.
my friends friend who drove us around is Abdoulie, his number is +220 7004792 (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Whilst the locals are incredibly friendly on the 'smiling coast' (as they call it or its been branded), shaking your hand at every opportunity and asking your details, 90% of the time, they are trying to sell you something.
Ive been to far pushier places and at least these people are polite and at the end of the day they are trying to make a living in a 3rd world country - you cant degrudge that.
However, it does become tiring when you cant hardly walk 30yards without the next person coming up to you after youve just shaken off the last.
Some scams - if you read the lonely planet guidebook this lists various scams in detail very well and we experienced one of them but luckily spotted it quite early on and were able to 'escape'.
This was in Serekunda.
We were walking by the market and a guy starts asking what our names are and what hotel - something we'd been asked every 5mins on the beach. We told him and after a couple more questions he left and we carried on walking. a few metres up the road, we got stopped by a guy shouting out 'Dave and Anna' (thats our names by the way) - 'how are you, its Lamin from the hotel'. I cant say i recognised him but i didn recognsie the name (only later did i find out nearly everyone is called Lamin so its obvious why he used this name) - however, given we'd met so many people i couldnt be sure if we had met him or not at the hotel. He said it was his day off as he got married yesterday and that we should meet his wife.
He then wanted to take us down a side street to meet his 'wife' - this is when i twigged and made my excuses to leave to which he got quite arsey about and then tried to get to me sign his 'book' of congratulations (similar to a scam id read in lonely planet) - at this point, i knew exactly what had happended and we just walked off.
Basically, he had stood behind when the first guy came up to us and asked our names, therefore learning our names and hotel, then walkking on ahead and then when we walked past, by shouting out our names making us believe we knew him. the plan would probably have been to take us to an apartment or somewhere and get pressured into a 'donation' for the wedding similar to other tourists listed in his 'book'.
Complete scam, - safe to say, i never did see him back at the hotel and was a little annoyed at myself that we stood and talked to him in the first place.
Its these scams that spoil it for all the genuine people out there. From then on, we were Tamara and Jonny from Russia staying with a friend in Sukuta - fair to say, we got less hassle with this bullsh!t of our own!
Other people will come up to you and say hey remember me from yesterday and not wishing to appear rude in perhaps not recognising one local from another, you say hi and then it leads into a pressured sale....we experienced this exepct it didnt work as someone tried it on our first day there!
Jinack island (Or Ginack)-see my Ginack Niji page, is a tranquil island with no tourists and just a handful of small villages, its an hour by boat fromm banjul, organised by one of the few lodges in the island. a definite if you hate the tourist hype.