The Gambia is somewhere special,
as I have just found out. The people are amazingly friendly, obviously, some want to show you something or take you somewhere for money. However it is not intrusive hassle and never threatening. The country is beautiful verdant and rich in wildlife.
Gambia Maybe Time
This was my first ( but not last) visit. One thing that a new traveller has to understand is the concept of GMT, Gambia Maybe Time. When someone says that your meal will be ready in 10 minutes what they actually mean is slightly different. They mean “it will probably be more like half an hour, perhaps a bit, or a lot, longer”. As long as you accept that as a tourist then all is well and Gambia seeps into your bones and you feel at home.
The reference to GMT is not meant as a criticism not patronising. It is fact of life in Gambia that the Gambians laugh about, their point of view is why are Europeans so up tight? Why worry about something as unimportant as how long does it take to prepare a meal? If breakfast is supposed to start in your hotel at 7.00 is it really the end of the world if it starts at 8.30? 7.00 is an aspiration, not a promise. Understand that and you are well along to understaning life in The Gambia.
What about accomodation? Well, there are places in The Gambia that I would avoid, for example Kololi. But that has more to do with the Blackpool-esq nature of the area rather than anything else. (We lasted about 3 hours there before we had to escape!) On the other hand, people flocking to the beach and hotels of Kololi means fewer go to Paradise Beach near Sanyang.
There are things to understand about accomodation options in The Gambia. If you want a thoroughly nice couple of weeks in an eco friendly lodge with lots of courses and trips then you can do no better than check out Footsteps Eco Lodge. The cost is high, the food is lovely, the staff very proud to be working there. I visited and can see the attraction (if for no other reason that they have hot water! A topic of much debate among holiday makers that we met. The problem for me with Footsteps as that the visitors tend to be middle aged middle class and “worthy”. There were some residents that were younger, but they did look as if they knitted their own yoghurt…
So, where did we go? The first few days were spent at Aba’s Creek Lodge. Located in the magroves off the Gambia river it is an oasis. Idyllic is a word invented for thisplace. There are various trips that can be taken but the only 2 that we took were fishing among the mangroves and visiting a local familly to help cook lunch, after going to the market. It would be easy to dismiss the experience as a tourist sanitised outing but I don’t think that it was. The familly made us welcome, we talked and laughed and were made very welcome. Marvellous.
The last 10 days were spent at Jungle Beach Resort, although “resort” is overstaking it. No hot water, an elastic approach to cooking and meal times, but a beautiful beach and amazing people made this place a joy!
The Gambia Surprise?
The electricity might fail, there might only be cold showers, but the good food and the people are wonderful and it is impossible to even think about not returning in the future. Gambia is like a drug, you can not get enough! I expected winter sun, I did not expext to fall in love with a country!