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Banjul am Fluss Gambia, Bild: Vytenis84 / shutterstock

The most popular destinations in The Gambia

Rainforest, sandy beach and African culture – the small country of Gambia has great things to offer

On the Atlantic coast, completely surrounded by Senegal, lies the small state of Gambia in the far west of Africa. Beautiful stretches of beach, the breathtaking natural scenery of the Gambia River and tropical rainforests make The Gambia a beautiful destination for travelers. Those interested in culture can visit historical places such as the former transshipment point for the slave trade on Kunta Kinteh Island or enjoy the flair of the colorful capital Banjul.

Banjul

Where the Gambia River flows into the Atlantic Ocean lies Banjul, which was founded in 1816 by British colonists and originally built on a sandbank in the sea. The name Banjul translates as “Bamboo Island”, which is due to the fact that this sandbank used to be overgrown with bamboo forests. Today, the city offers a wide range of hotels, restaurants and cafés, which blend very authentically into the colorful, breathtaking and colonial architecture. The Atlantic coast also invites you to take walks and beach holidays on the sandy beach. An important cultural attraction is the National Museum, where visitors get interesting insights into the history of The Gambia from the time of the British colony to the present day. The triumphal arch “Arch 22” is also worth a visit. As a landmark of the city and of the whole of Gambia, it commemorates the military coup of 1994 and is therefore of enormous cultural importance for the country. The triumphal arch impresses with a height of 35 meters and is also one of the few buildings in Banjul that does not have any characteristics of colonialist architecture.

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Kunta Kinteh Island

Kunta Kinteh, Fort James, Gambia
Fort James on Kunta Kinteh, Image: stikstofstudio / shutterstock

The island of Kunta Kinteh in the Gambia River, which was called “James Island” until 2011, is very small with an area of only 0.35 hectares. Nevertheless, Kunta Kinteh Island is of great historical importance: The actually inconspicuous island was the scene of the cruel slave trade of the colonialists for centuries and was consequently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Until the 19th century, Kunta Kinteh Island served as a gathering point for slaves, who were then sold to America by the French and British for forced labor. The former fortress, Fort James, now consists only of the remains of the walls, which remind us of the dark history of this place. Visitors can reach the island by ferry and take part in guided tours there at any time.

The Gambia River

In addition to beautiful beaches, The Gambia also has beautiful natural landscapes to offer inland. The Gambia River, surrounded by densely overgrown banks, meanders impressively through the country. Due to the nutrient-rich soil in combination with plenty of water, a rainforest was created around the river, which is home to over 500 different species of birds as well as various species of monkeys and crocodiles. By ferry or kayak – sunrise or sunset are particularly suitable for this – visitors can marvel at this breathtaking flora and fauna. Guided tours also usually stop in Janjanbureh, the oldest city in Gambia. The “sacred forest”, the so-called Makasutu Culture Forest, is also accessible from the river. Especially in the early morning hours, numerous animals such as baboons or monitor lizards can be seen in this nature reserve. As a habitat for locals, the traditional life of The Gambia can also be admired here.

Niumi National Park

The Niumi National Park in the northwest on the border with Senegal covers an area of 4940 hectares and is one of the most oppressive places in the country. The national park is made up of mainland, beach sections and part of the island of Jinack, which makes for enormous variation. Variety is also guaranteed with regard to the animals living there: the dense mangrove forests provide a habitat for countless bird species. The section on the coast offers protection for green sea turtles, which lay their eggs there. With a bit of luck, manatees of the extremely rare and endangered species “manatee”, river dolphins and otters can also be observed.

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Kololi and Kotu Tourist Centres

Kololi, Gambia
Kololi beach, Image: evenfh / shutterstock

Kololi and Kotu are popular holiday resorts on the coast of Gambia, especially due to their beautiful beaches. Consequently, the two places are fully developed for tourism. Numerous hotels and restaurants in Kololi offer an attractive offer for visitors. At the local handicraft market, locals offer traditional souvenirs such as leather goods or masks for sale. The so-called Senegambia Strip, where bars and clubs can be found not far from the beach, is also particularly recommended. The town even has a casino. Not far from Kololi and Kotu is the Bijilo National Park, which offers numerous hiking trails and can be explored on foot. Typical of The Gambia’s national parks, visitors can also view the fascinating nature and wildlife of the country here.

The Sacred Crocodile Pool of Kachikally

Kachikally, Gambia
The sacred crocodile pool of Kachikally, Image: DorSteffen / shutterstock

Only a few kilometers away from the capital Banjul in the coastal town of Bakau is the Kachikally Crocodile Farm, which offers an adrenaline rush of a special kind for its visitors. The crocodiles can be viewed and even touched up close in the sacred crocodile pool of Kachikally together with guides. Both the place and the crocodiles are considered sacred in Gambia. In addition, the wishes of those who wash themselves with the holy water of the place of worship come true – at least that’s what the locals believe.

The Gambia is undoubtedly a paradise for holidaymakers. Both nature lovers and those interested in culture get their money’s worth in the small country on the Atlantic coast of Africa. The varied mix of beautiful landscapes, cities worth seeing and tourist infrastructure offers ideal conditions for a stay in West Africa.