Tourist Information

Overview

Minister: Hon. Ousman A. Bah

Email: info@mocde.gov.gm

Location: Tenengfara Building, Bakau

Digital Address: F889+WWH, Bakau

Operating Hours

Monday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Tuesday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Wednesday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Thursday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Friday 8:00 am – 12:30 pm

Affiliated Departments/Agencies:

GICTA

The Gambia Information & Communication Technology Agency

GAMTEL

Gambia Telecommunication Company

GAMCEL

The National GSM operator

GAMPOST

Gambia Postal Services

DGL

Digital Gambia Limited

Policies:

Strategies:

What to Expect

There are five main resort areas in what is referred to as the palm-fringed coastline, and log stretches golden sands, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Outside this area, there are exotic camps mainly situated on the banks of the beautiful River Gambia, a meandering flow situated at the heart of this tiny nation.

Activities

We can make your holiday a memorable one from river cruising, fishing, village tours, to African wrestling, bird watching, trekking, horse and camel riding, and adventure trips. Musical events, family visits, evening entertainment, cultural orientation, and sporting events. The choice is yours.

Nature

Nature lovers will derive pleasure visiting Abuko Nature Reserve and other varied bird and wildlife sanctuaries as well as cruising on the River Gambia. The Gambia is a Birdwatchers Paradise! Visitors can also see a variety of tropical plants as well as monkeys, crocodiles and other wildlife. Dolphins and hippos are spotted in the river.

People and Culture

Hospitality is second to none!

The Gambia has a population of over 1.5 million people belonging to eight ethnic groups as well as fairly large communities from neighbouring West African countries. We are an open and friendly society. Our hospitality is second to none. The people live harmoniously in communities, freely exercising their religious and cultural traditions. Gambians are recognized all over the world for their spontaneous warm smile, their peace-loving nature and their hospitality.

Cuisine

Hotels and restaurants in the Gambia serve various international and African cuisines. Gambians have a variety of delicious dishes, which are mainly prepared with rice (staple food of the country), millet and maize. Do not miss the “Benechin”.

Arts and Craft

The craft markets outside the main hotels offer a large variety of antique masks carvings, batik products, handwoven fabrics, leatherwork and jewellery. Prices for these products are affordable, and the whole process of picking what you like for the right price is an experience not to be missed. The fun is in the conversation and bargaining. Locals often engage visitors in conversation whilst negotiations go on. In the end, both buyer and seller come out acquainted through a healthy dialogue of cultural exchange. This is typical of Gambian hospitality and warmth.

Music

Like other African countries, The Gambia has a variety of traditional musical instruments and the most famous of them in the Kora, a 21 string harp. The drum is also popular, because it plays a major part of the culture in most of the ethnic groups, whether it is a wedding or a naming ceremony, the drum has kept communities informed and entertained for many centuries.

As far back as the time of Hannon the Carthaginian in 470 B.C., The River Gambia has attracted visitors to its magnificent estuary, and its meandering waterways. It is no different today.

Golf: The Fajara Club has an 18-hoel course, which is close to most of the resorts. The Club offers a variety of sporting activities including squash and temporary memberships is also available.

Cycling: Bicycles are available for hire outside most of the resort hotels or in the craft markets. The hire rates are half-hourly, half day and full day at reasonable prices.

Swimming: The beaches in front of most hotels are generally safe for swimming but please look out for the flag before you dip in. Never swim when the red flag is flying. Nude bathing is forbidden in the Gambia.

Table Tennis: Available in most hotels and generally free of charge.

Tennis  :Available at almost all the hotels, and at the Fajara Club, by prior arrangement. Racquets and tennis balls are also available at hotels where tennis is advertised.

Horse Riding: A couple of stables in the country have a good set of horses. Rides can be booked through your agent.

Jet Skiing: This is generally available at the Corinthia Atlantic Hotel, Sunbeach Hotel and Resort and Denton Bridge. Please ask your tour rep or hotel receptionist for other places where it is available.

Windsurfing: Equipment can be hired at some hotels but it should be noted that that only strong swimmer should venture beyond their knees.

Casino

For those of you willing to try your luck, there is the Kololi Casino in the Senegambia area. Few others scattered in the TDA. Check with the hotel receptionist.

Massage

More and more hotels in The Gambia are setting-up their massage facilities. If you are in a hotel without one, please ask for the nearest facility.

Salons

Most hotels have beauty and hairdressing salons. There are many more outside the hotels, throughout the country.

Hair Braiding

Many female tourists and some males have their hair braided African style by women and girls offering this service on the beach. Some add colourful beads to the tip of the strands. Please ask for the fee before your start. It might take a few hours.

Creek Tours/River Trips/Fishing Trips

A peaceful and relaxing day out on the creeks or around bolongs (river tributaries) of the River Gambia is not to be missed. Most creeks tours and fishing trips start off from Denton Bridge or Lamin Lodge, but local camps in the rural areas along the river also organize such tours. The sundeck of your pirogue will give you a good view of the mangrove swamps, the birds and the women who are often seen harvesting oyster from their dugout canoes. You may also catch fish large enough to be listed in the Guinness Books of Records! Enjoy the sun and the tranquil waters of this great and historic river.

Bush and Beach Safari/South Gambia

Different operators have different names for this full day tour using 4-wheel drive land rovers or mini-trucks. You will visit small fishing villages and experience life in the rural areas. This is a good opportunity to see monkeys and the riche bird life of The Gambia. Several hours are spent on the beach where a picnic lunch is taken before returning to your hotel. You may drive back and track the stunning African sunset.

Roots

This is a popular excursion, inspired by the historic epic, based on the classic novel of the tragedy of the slave trade and triumph of freedom, a full circle, inspired by Alex Haley’s bestseller and movie “Roots”. The long and drawn out saga commenced in rural Gambia, in a village called Juffureh, and tracks almost five generations across the mighty Atlantic Ocean to the USA, and back. The Gambia’s little known continuation is steeped in this true story of survival, love of country, people and freedom immersed in strong linkages of tradition and culture still seen today. And, although slavery has long been abolished, the ancestors and direct descendants of the hero of many extracted Africans in the Diaspora, Kunta Kinteh’s trail can still be followed from this birthplace in rural Gambia.

A converted yacht takes you on a three and a half hour journey to Albreda – a former French trading post. Then a 15 minute walk to the village of Juffureh – Haley’s ancestral home where you will see a slavery exhibition in the museum before re boarding your boat and the continuing journey to the former slave fortress of James Island. On the return journey, you may allow to swim with the dolphins.

Bird Watching

There are 560 different species of birds in The Gambia living within six protected areas aggregating about 40,000 hectares nationwide, under the protection of the Department of Parks and Wildlife. The Gambia has remained committed to the Wildlife Act, which was signed into law as far back as 1977. This political commitment to ensure that the environment is protected as a natural resource is still at the heart of the national policy. Eco-tourism has massive potential in the Gambia and plans are further a foot to guarantee that every major habitat within the country is covered. If this is fully implemented, five percent of the land within tiny Gambia will be protected. The Abuko Nature Reserve, which was established as far back as 1968, is still home to many of the birds that fly Gambian skies. There are other bird reserves in Tanji, a coastal village in the western area of the country, as well as the Kiang West National Park and the Ginack Island National Park in the Niumis.

There are daily trips for bird watchers and visitors whose passion for bird watching never ceases. Gambia’s abundance in diversity of birds is ranked as one of the highest in the world, couples with the fact that it is the most accessible destination on the continent. Visitors can book tours nationwide for bird watching, or even spend a few days at the many resorts and lodges in rural Gambia where the choirs of feathered friends sing continuously; whether it is in the early dawn, or under the midday sun, or even the cool evening, when the sun melts into the horizon, and the moon peeps out of the sparking skies littered with stars, there are always sights and sounds of birds everywhere. The Gambia is a paradise for many things, most of all it is certainly a dreamland for birds, and those who love watching them. Come join us so that we can listen, look and learn with the bliss of being in the country where beautiful birds of very different feathers actually flock together.

Fishing

The river, which meanders with The Gambia from the west on the Atlantic into the east, cutting the country into two halves, carries with it a rich variety of fish, as does the vast ocean of the Atlantic which surrounds the capital city of Banjul. The Gambia is renowned for its sports fishing, and both experts and amateurs can enjoy the chances of catching the “Big One”, on either the silky river of the salty waters of the Atlantic. There are a variety of options available: beach-casting is popular, and the best area is the western part of the country, (Sanyang, Gunjur or Kartung), the creek fishing, also very popular, attracts visitors who sight see, big watch, sun bathe and catch fish all on the same trip! There is also the deep sea fishing for those that are still looking for the biggest catch of the lot, where variety is the name of the game.

Visitors often bring their own gear, however for those that prefer to travel light, there is plenty of gear in the Gambia for hire. The cost is often included in the trip. For about 3—60 pounds a full fishing gear plus the trip on the boat is assured. The GTA licensed boats are very safe, with all standard safety equipment life jackets, VHF radios, mobile, etc.

The Gambia has many different fish, and it is reckoned that between November and April, a barracuda catch is virtually guaranteed! So get hooked onto the fish that awaits you, whether it is on the banks of Denton Bridge, or on the golden sands of Gunjur, the wandering waters of the river or the roaring surfs of the Atlantic. Wherever you choose to go, there is bound to be a catch.

Photography

Visitors with camera will find a lot of sights to capture during organized excursions or while visiting the towns and villages of The Gambia. Gambian children are normally very keen to smile for the camera. However, some Gambians have certain beliefs about their pictures being taken particularly by a stranger; you should seek first their consent before taking a picture of anyone. Your guide will come in handy in situations like this. Guides can speak the language, and can therefore be an invaluable resource when photos of people are being taken. Not all types of film are available in The Gambia, so you would be wide to bring along what you need.

Entertainment (in the Hotels)

All the hotels and upriver camps organize nightly entertainment programmes during the busy winter season and on most days in the summer. The most popular are African ballet, with the powerful Djembe drums, fire-eaters, Kora and Balafon (traditional instruments) performances, karaoke music playbacks, fashion shows and beauty contests. “Dance along with the locals”.

Outside entertainment

Some restaurants in the resort area use their spacious gardens to organize live musical performances. Some tourists also venture out to attend local ceremonies in the town and villages. Thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating. Nightclubs and discos are open most evenings in the winter season. Please check with your receptionist for details of local and opening hours.

Eating Out

In addition to the facilities in your hotel, there are many outside restaurants and fast foods in the resort areas and in the towns. Some offer international cuisine whilst others specialize in Gambian, Lebanese, Indian, Italian, Mexican and Asian cooking. The drivers of the Tourist Taxis outside your hotel know the locations of most restaurants. They charge for waiting time and this should be negotiated, prior to your venturing out.

Conferences

Most of the hotels have conference rooms for hosting seminars and workshops. The biggest and best-equipped conference facilities are at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. It has one large conference and banqueting hall, which can accommodate up to 800 people, as well as several smaller committee rooms.

Excursions

There are many different excursions designed to give the tourist a good feel of the Gambia. There are land-based tours, river trips and mixed excursions. Many of the excursions are conducted in the coastal area but others take place in rural Gambia. There are also round-trips to neighbouring Senegal. Check with tour rep on how to join any of these trips. Please remember to take your camera, plenty of sun tan lotion, insect repellent, and sunglasses. Bottled water and soft drinks are available on most organized tours.

Coastal Excursions

Half-day Orientation Tours

There are many variations of this trip but it is generally half day tour of Banjul and surrounding area, covering visits to the National Museum, Banjul Market, Arch 22, Serrekunda Market, the batik and tie-and-dye factory in Serrekunda, Bakau Craft Markets and the legendary Katchically Crocodile Pool.

The Abuko Nature Reserve and Brikama Wood Carving Centre

Walk through the jungle of Abuko Nature Reserve to see the hyenas and other animals in the nursery, crocodiles in the pond and the monkeys and birds in the trees. You will need at least two hours for a visit. Then proceed to the Brikama Wood Carving Centre to observe craftsmen at work. Lunch may be at the picturesque Lamin Lodge.

Tendaba Camp

This safari style camp located nearly 165 kilometres from Banjul is is one of the first tourist camps in rural Gambia. It is on the banks of the river that meanders in front of the woodlands, which have plenty of birds, bush hogs and other wildlife. Tendaba offers bush safaris, river trips, village tours and entertainment. Rooms are comfortable with cooling fans, a generator, two bards and a restaurant. There is also a swimming pool within the camp, and conference facilities for meetings. There is even crocodile pit, where one can see these ancient animals in their slumber. Do not miss the Bamboo Bar at night.

Janjangbureh

Formerly called “Georgetown”, this is one of the oldest towns in The Gambia. The old “second” city of colonial days is the administrative headquarters of the Central River Division; it is situated on the island of Janjangbureh, which still has relics of the Gambia’s colonial past. There are a number of camps around the island and visits normally include a trip to the prehistoric Wassu Stone Circles – a megalithic site believed to be a burial ground thousands of years ago.

The trip sometimes includes a journey by river from Sapu or Kudang to Janjangbureh where hippos can be seen wallowing in the river and on the muddy banks. Basse and Bansang, two towns further up the River Gambia can also be visited.

Round Trips to Senegal

Some of the tour companies organize extensive adventure tours, which include parts of the neighbouring Senegal. These normally last between three and seven days and with all expenses covered. An excellent way to see life in the Senegambia region.

Makasutu Cultural Forest

Makasutu (“Holy Forest”)

The name Makasutu is a Mandinka word, which translates into English, as “Holy Forest”. There is a history to this dwelling. Legend has it that tribal wars took place in this forest centuries ago. A particular King was also killed here, and his head, crown and throne were all buried in the forest. The local community avoided the area, for another reason: the legend also states that the devil lived in this forest.

Nevertheless, the owners of this beautiful resort forged ahead and began a venture that would, after almost fifteen years, earn them a reputation of having The Best Eco Lodge in the World, according to Sunday Times in 2002. Another award was bestowed on the serene lodge two years later with the capping of the prestigious “Guild of British Travel Writers Award.” This comes as no surprise. Surrounded by six villages, Makasutu Cultural Forest is an all-in-one excursion and is all that the international media and the world travel body have described it. A safari drive, a guided forest walk, a boat ride, bird watching, and cultural entertainment galore are all at “Makasutu”.

There is a craft area where local artists show their talent and skills in wood carving, design ware and other traditional African artifacts. The fantastically high-class floating and stilted lodges, make this place unique. The beach-based holiday has strong competition with Makasutu, where nature, beauty and the calm ambience of ancient Africa captured in time resonate in its every part. The Makasutu Cultural Forest once called the “holy forest” is still blessed in all its beauty, grace and natural preserve.