24 Hours in The Gambia
If your visit to The Gambia is short and you want to see as much as possible, then this trip is perfect for you.
We explored what we could of South Gambia in a 4 wheel drive. You can book this same trip with (local) travel agencies or locals themselves who are willing to take you around for some money of course. Just be safety conscious if you choose the latter. We chose the last option, met our driver ‘Soldier’, arranged a price and settled that he would pick us up the next day at 9am. We were pleasantly surprised at the prompt arrival of our driver as we heard some funny rumours about the GMT-time in The Gambia.
GMT is not known as Greenwich Mean Time, but as Gambia Maybe Time.
With Soldier ready for us, it was time to hit the road. Our first stop was the Kachikaly Crocodile Pool in Bakau.
Never in my life have I seen so much crocodiles in one place. They all hang around this small lake which is now called the Crocodile Pool. It is fascinating to see them so close to you. Of course this is a big tourist attraction so that loses some flair, but it is still a great place to visit.
The pool is a holy place for The Gambian people because they believe that infertile women can be fertile again after bathing with water from this pool.
Unfortunately we didn’t see any bathing women and with that.. it was time for the next stop: Serakunda Market.
The Serakunda Market is impressive, overwhelming and absolutely fabulous to see. No matter where you look there is always something going on. The women are selling vegetables, fruits, fish whilst the men are pushing around heavy wheelbarrows along the narrow paths.
There is a lot of noise and a variety of special scents.
The people at the market (and a lot of Gambian people in common) don’t like to be photographed. Be aware of this and ask people if you can take a picture of them before doing so. Don’t be surprised if they ask you for money though but hey! it’s up to you, if you want to pay.
After the bustle of the market we went to Lamin Lodge. This lodge is located on the Gambia River between the mangrove forest. We were warmly welcomed on arrival and were shown around the place. It was explained that they grow oysters on the branches of the mangrove trees here, which are then harvested at low tide. The oysters are eaten whilst the shells are used to make lime powder to make paint for houses.
‘’In the Gambia they waste nothing’’.
After the brief tour we were ready to go on a boat to see the river and it’s mangroves. Unfortunately we missed the low tide, so there were no oysters to see.
At low tide you’ll see the women harvesting the oysters and can look deep into the mangrove forest. If you ever go on this trip, that’s the best time to visit.
The name alone got me excited of what was to come and it did not disappoint.
Paradise beach is a beautiful beach among the palm trees. When we visited it was cloudy so they were only a few people there. We found places to sit, ordered a beer and a grabbed some lunch. Our driver, Soldier took that to grab a bite and possibly nap. After both our breaks we continued the tour.
The animal market near Serakunda was our next stop. Here you’ll find a lot of goats and cows for sale. If you are an animal lover it is somewhat hard to see how little moving space the animals have. They appear healthy and have plenty of food, but they can’t move at all because they are strapped.
However I am realizing as a Dutch girl that this is a way of life over here and is a little hard to see. A stupid reality check because in Europe the animals are probably treated much worse.
Brikama Craft Market
Now this is the place to buy your souvenirs. Here you’ll find dozens of shops selling hand crafted wood.
They all sell the same stuff so if you are planning to buy more items, a tip will be to buy from different shops to making more sellers happy. At the end of the market you’ll find men skillfully crafting the wood and you can watch to see how it’s done.
Tanji Fish Market
This was the highlight of our day.
Around 4pm all the fishing boats arrive at the beach after a long day on the sea. The beach is full of local people ready to buy fresh fish. Young muscular boys are tasked with running with buckets and bowls towards the wooden boats, braving the waves to bring to fresh fish to the shore.
Time after time the walk back and forth between the boats and the beach sees the fresh fish being sold directly. It is a true spectacle to see all these people together on the beach, the size of the fish coming from the small fishing boats and the smell of the smoke houses behind the beach are too.
I must admit the smell is unbearable in the beginning but you’ll get used to it and will begin to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the way of smoking. It’s incredible to see how much fish arrives every day and where it all goes.
We met two men who buy fish in the market to take Mali, Guinea and Liberia.
The fish market was the end of our tour. In one day we were able to see the culture of the Gambian people and taste the beauty of this country.
One day is definitely not enough to experience all this wonderful country has to offer so if you have more time make sure to visit the inland as well. Visit Janjanburah – the slave island, learn more about the farmers life, see how the kids go to school and enjoy the beautiful nature there. It is so worth it!
In less than 24hours The Gambia etched a special place in my heart.gambia