With miles of coastal beaches and the Gambia River running through the country’s entirety, Gambia is one of the most beautiful and peaceful lands in Africa. As the continent’s smallest nation, with fewer than 1.5 million residents, Gambia can be known intimately in no time. Visit the Albert Market in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, and stay for a few days at an oceanside hotel in Fajara. Explore the tributaries of the Gambia River on a fishing safari, and see the monkeys and birds in the Abuko Nature Reserve.
The sun shines year-round in Gambia. If you’re traveling to the African continent, make sure you book an excursion to this amazing country.
The Top 10: What to Do in Gambia
The capital of Gambia is located on St. Mary’s Island, at the mouth of the Gambia River. Albert Market is the place for trinkets, including jewelry, local crafts, and clothing; but if souvenir shopping’s not up your alley, go for some visual exploration instead. MacCarthy Square is home to some great 19th-century colonial architecture, and we recommend the National Museum, too. You can take a taxi to the coastal resorts, or, if you have time and want to explore the local waterways, hop into one of the small motorboats called pirogues and see the wildlife of Oyster Creek.
Touted as “the unofficial capital of Gambia,” Serekunda is about four kilometers inland from the coast and is worth a day’s visit. This city is the country’s largest and provides the best glimpse into the daily life of a Gambian. Visit the market on the city’s main street, and sip some pints at a local bar. For a memorable event, we recommend watching the traditional wrestling matches, called boreh, which occur frequently in public areas; ask a local t for his advice on when and where to watch the next match.
3. Bakau’s Crocodile Pool and Botanical Gardens:
The Kachikally Crocodile Pool
is a sacred spot for many local people, similar to the Ganges in India, and has been used for public bathing for generations. Do not be surprised if you see people coming to pray and bathe in the water during your visit. About a hundred 100 crocodiles reside in the pool, and having grown accustomed to the presence of people, they allow brave visitors to pet them. Approach the seemingly docile crocodiles at your own risk!
Also in Bakau, the cliff-top botanical gardens
are a great place to visit during the early morning, when the gardens are shady and cool. Nearby, you can watch fishing boats bring their day’s catch to the shore or walk through the foliage and admire the many colorful birds that live in the treetops.
4. Wassu Stone Circles:
Believed to be a burial site constructed over a thousand years ago, the Wassu Stone Circles are located in Central Gambia. Hundreds of these stone circles can be found throughout region. Visit the site’s museum, and learn about the human bones, weapons, pottery, and other artifacts discovered at the site.
5. The Coastal Beaches:
There is a reason why the coast of Gambia is popular with tourists: it is located on some of Africa’s most beautiful beaches. (Come on: you deserve a chance to relax, right?) Spend the day on the beach and go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. In the evening visit a local restaurant, and have a good night’s sleep in one of the cozy hotels. Everything is within a few minutes’ walking distance, so it’s easy to enjoy the beach and get back to your room without effort. For more information about the coastal resorts, visit our page on Fajara
6. Abuko Nature Reserve:
Teeming with monkeys, birds, and more, the Abuko Nature Reserve is one of the finest such sites in western Africa. Because it’s the most visited tourist attraction in Gambia, you will have plenty of company when you make the trip. The animal orphanage is one of our favorite sites, home to a large group of hyenas and birds.
7. Gambia River:
Running through the entirety of the country, the Gambia River is 700 miles (1,126.5 kilometers) long and stretches all the way to northern Guinea. Although you don’t have to leave land to take in river views in Banjul, we recommend a boat ride up the river to explore more of its staggering beauty. Birds, crocodiles, and hippos are frequently observed during these trips; you can even go on a fishing safari. Ask your hotel staff for their recommendation of a reputable river tour organization.
8. Bintang Bolong:
The largest tributary of the Gambia River, Bintang Bolong is home to a complex of lodges built on stilts above the water among the mangrove trees. The lodges offer daily boat trips—good to consider if you’re traveling with a group; they offer a great opportunity to get away from the larger towns of Gambia and relax by the water.
9. Bijilo Forest Park:
This small rain forest nature reserve is just south of the coastal resorts. You can see more than a hundred species of birds, as well as four different primate species, as you walk through the park. Be wary of the monkeys, though, as they are given to stealing food. We recommend hiring one of the park guides to show you around the area.
If you want to see a small, authentic fishing village, we’d recommend making a trip to Tanji. It’s located south of the coastal resorts; you can come for a day and see fish smoking houses, the local market, and fishermen hard at work. The Tanji Village Museum is built in the local fashion and is worth a look. Conveniently, the Tanji River Bird Reserve is also nearby: with an assortment of environments, it’s a great place to see more than 300 varieties of birds. Visitors sometimes also spot turtles, seals, and (if they’re lucky) whales in the surrounding waters.
When to Go
Gambia sees sunshine year-round, but it has a rainy season (June through September), during which the country’s lush foliage and the rushing water of the Gambia River are at their finest. We prefer to visit between November and June, when almost no rain falls and temperatures are lower.