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Five things you might not know about Gambia

There's a reason why one of Africa's smallest countries is also one of the most fascinating. In fact, we can actually think of five fantastic reasons why a Gambia holiday is a smart way to experience new sights on your next break.

Myths of origin

Both in Gambia and elsewhere in West Africa, myths and legends have emerged regarding how Gambia came to be.

If you look at the country on a map, it's thin, wriggly and distinctive, and it's also Africa's smallest mainland country. The local legend holds that the shape of the country stems from the Age of Sail and the colonial era.

This part of Africa saw much attention from the empires of France, England and Portugal in centuries past, and it's said that the shape of the country is owed to the trajectory made from British cannonballs fired from the coast into the heartlands of what would become Gambia.

Regardless of whether you believe that tall tale, here's a more believable one – that the name of the nation evolved from 'cambio', the Portuguese word for 'trade'.

Why Gambia rocks

Together with Senegal – the African nation that surrounds Gambia's north, west and east like a geographic cuddle – Gambia is home to the Senegambian Stone Circles.

We're all familiar with Stonehenge, and it's a similar story here, although the individuals megaliths are nowhere near as large. That said, it's recognised by UNESCO as the largest collection of stone circles in the world, comprising almost 30,000 stones over an area of 30,000 kilometres.

Adding to the mystery, nobody is certain why these ancient markers were put together, or indeed how. Experts and scientists continue their studies even today, but you can visit a few of the sites for yourself during your holiday and form your own opinion.

Water, water everywhere

Almost 12% of Gambia's entire surface area is water, making for roughly 1,300 square kilometres of the country's total size. That's because Gambia traces the curves of the River Gambia.

More water is to be found on Gambia's west coastline, which slopes serenely into the Atlantic Ocean, with Kunta Kinteh Island offshore, where the ruins of an English fortress remain.The overall size of the country is fairly small though – comparable to that of Jamaica or, for a reference closer to home, Yorkshire.

Nuts for exporting

Outside of the thriving tourism hubs that exist along the coast of Gambia, the people tend to predominantly work in rural communities. In fact, around 70% of the country's workforce is employed in the agricultural trade in some shape or form, and that ties in greatly to Gambia's massive love of peanuts.

Peanut butter is used as the base of countless soups, stews and sauces here, but it's also one of the major exports for the country. You could say it's the bread and peanut butter of their economy.

Natural splendours

While Gambia may not have the natural versatility of somewhere like Slovenia or Costa Rica, this is one country rich in animal life. In fact, with over 520 species of birds in the tropical trees for which Gambia is so well loved, birdwatchers make a beeline for this destination time after time.

Fans of fuzzy friends will love it here too, with green vervet monkeys trotting around Gambia in abundance.

What's really interesting, however, is the superstitions around the Kachikally Sacred Crocodile Pool. Here, the majestic and daunting reptiles are tended to by friendly locals all too happy to share the local legend that a visit to the pool increases fertility in couples trying for a baby.

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