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Holidays in Gambia
Gambia is known as the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’, and although it’s the smallest country in the mainland continent, it offers one of the biggest welcomes. With a warm climate, welcoming people and diverse landscapes, from long stretches of white sand beach to mangrove swamps and nature reserves, this friendly country attracts visitors seeking guaranteed winter sunshine.
November-April when it’s all mid-20°C temperatures and an average of 8-10 hours of sunshine a day.
Banjul (or Yundum) International Airport, which is approximately 27km south of Cape Point, 20-25km south-east and Kotu, and 21km south-east of Kololi.
Book your Gambia holiday with Thomas Cook, and find out why this vibrant country has long been the best-kept secret of smart sun-seekers and nature lovers.
A base for wealthy locals and foreign dignitaries, the village of Cape Point has a refined, laid-back feel. Enjoy your Gambia holiday at its beautiful best on when relaxing on a lovely wide sandy beach and at the bird sanctuary. Further down the coast is Kotu, with its lively bars, restaurants, clubs and a casino. For a more low-key experience, play a few rounds of golf, relax on the beach, or take in the botanical gardens. The village of Kololi is a little further south, and the popular ‘Senegambia Strip’ buzzes with restaurants, beach bars and an amusement park.
There’s much to see in The Gambia. It’s home to 39 forest parks, 7 national parks and reserves, 1 community wildlife reserve and 1 Ramsar-listed wetlands site, and 66 forest parks for seeing monkeys, giraffes and more. The dense and swampy Cape Creek sanctuary is one of the top places to visit in the Gambia for ‘twitchers’, with around 540 exotic varieties to spot, from eagles and babblers to weavers and finches. Head north-west to Bakau, famous for its botanical gardens and Kachikally crocodile pool – and the pool’s powers of healing and fertility, according to local traditional beliefs.
Make plenty of room in your suitcase for some Gambian goodies. Bring back an African drum, or a scaled-down version of a guitar-type instrument called a kora, which sounds like a cross between a harp and flamenco guitar. There’s a kaleidoscope of authentic patterned batik fabrics, wooden carvings and masks on offer. Negotiating prices is an absolute must, or else you’ll pay a good three times over the odds. For keen hagglers, the best places in the Gambia to shop are the busy Serekunda market, or the Albert market in Banjul.
Step back from the frenzy of the markets to enjoy the cultural attractions in the Gambia, such as the Gaya Art Café and Village Gallery, both in Kololi. There are plenty of original artworks, textiles, jewellery and decorative items made by local artists on sale. The National Museum in Banjul has a fascinating collection of Gambian artefacts on display, and an archaeological history of the region. On the North Bank of the Gambia River is Kerr Batch, home to some of the Gambia’s enigmatic stone circles, as well as the Ethnographic Museum.
Wildlife lovers: Senegal & Fathala: cross the Gambia River and head to the Fathala Game Reserve where rhinos, warthogs, giraffes and monkeys await.
Adventurers: Makasutu: a unique experience in this ecological nature reserve, which includes a journey in a 'dug-out' canoe.
Sun-worshippers: The Gambia’s sandy beaches are a must-visit for soaking up some tropical sun, gently eased by cooling breezes.
Language: The language spoken in the Gambia is English, plus around 10 local languages and dialects.
Currency: The currency used in the Gambia is the Gambian Dalasi (GMD). You’ll find a few ATMs in the resorts, but it’s best to take traveller’s cheques and exchange them for cash at a bank or bureau de change.
Local time: Gambia is the same time as GMT/UK time.
Fly to: Banjul (or Yundum) International Airport, which is approximately 27km south of Cape Point, 20-25km south-east and Kotu, and 21km south-east of Kololi.
Flight time from UK: 6.5 hours
Tourist Information: Further Gambia tourist information can be found at www.visitthegambia.gm
Visa & Health: Before you travel, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/gambia for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to The Gambia.
Temperature: High 30°C/low 40°C
Best time to visit Gambia: November-April when it’s all mid-20°C temperatures and an average of 8-10 hours of sunshine a day.
Gambia’s subtropical climate splits the seasons in two: rainy and dry. The rains whoosh down from July-October, and the country roasts under high 30°C/low 40°C temperatures and high humidity. It can feel rather cool at times; bring a couple of light layers for early morning excursions or evenings out.
By ‘bush taxi’: Flag down a bush taxi, which will be yellow with a green stripe. Popular with the locals (and cheap), they’re a great way to zip around.
By minibus: Minibuses come in all colours, and can be hired for groups and all-day tours.
By taxi: The tourist taxis can be found near your hotel; these are green, and more expensive than bush taxis, but are regulated. There should be a price board, so check the price of your journey and agree it with the driver before setting off.
Gambian music: Early in February the exhilarating Kartong Festival brings the sleepy village of Kartong to life, with its celebration of Gambian music, arts and culture.
Gambian history: Every other May, the quiet fishing village of Albreda plays host to the Roots Festival. Inspired by historian Alex Haley’s book ‘Roots’, it explores Gambia’s history and its role in the transatlantic slave trade.
West African culture: Street parades and symbolic ceremonies celebrate West African culture with pomp and colour; look out for trips to historic sites such as the museum in the village of Juffure, and to the UNESCO-listed Kunte Kinteh (James) Island in the Gambia River.