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Great days out for families in Gambia

A narrow country in West Africa, following the course of its namesake River Gambia, Gambia has beaches to the west, wildlife spotting opportunities along the river and in the many wildlife reserves, plus colourful fishing villages and cities with bustling markets.

Read on to find out where to go to make the most of this country that's rich in family activities.

Natural tours

Seeing green vervet monkeys playing in your hotel grounds might give you a taste for a wildlife tour, and the options for either guided or unguided tours are vast.

The Bijilo Forest Park – also known as Monkey Park – is a protected area full of monkeys and birds, as is the Abuko Nature Reserve just south of Banjul, which was the country's first designated wildlife reserve.

Or head to Kiang West National Park to experience a vast park of woodland, savannah, mangrove creeks and tidal flats that's home to over 300 species of birds as well as the West African manatee, otters and antelopes.

You also have two options in Bakau – the Kachikally Crocodile Pool houses 100 crocodiles plus a museum and woodland trail, and the Bakau botanical gardens mix beautiful native plants with a whopping 550 exotic birds and reptiles.

Visit the capital

Gambia's capital, Banjul, is the smallest capital in Africa, in fact it's not even the biggest city in Gambia as that title goes to Serekunda.

Among its colonial buildings is the National Museum, where you can learn about Gambian culture and history. Another option for a taste of Gambia's past is Arch 22, which was built to commemorate the military coup of 1994 and houses traditional robes, old tools and weapons.

A fun pastime with the kids is a visit to one of Banjul's beaches, which veer slightly from the traditional idea of bucket and spade fun. Although you can also do that here, they're great places to watch local fishermen, boat-builders and river-ferry operators ply their trade.

For more family-centric beach facilities and watersport activities, nearby Kotu Beach is the place to head.

Gambia River day cruise

You can float along the Gambia River on a pirogue boat all the way to Senegal, but there are so many places to stop on the way that we very much doubt you'll get that far.

With islands called Bird Island, Deer Island and the Baboon Islands you get an idea as to the variety of wildlife here. But one place that isn't named after its inhabitants is Janjanbureh Island, where you can see hippos wallowing on the banks.

Just before Janjanbureh, you can stop at the River Gambia National Park, a fairly small park of just under six square kilometres that facilitates a chimpanzee rehabilitation project. You and the family will also get to see marmosets, warthogs, aardvarks and honey badgers here.


Every town in Gambia – and also some of the villages – has its own market where you and the family can wander stalls of fruit and vegetables and pick up crafts like carvings and paintings, plus handmade leather goods and decorative bowls.

In Banjul, the Royal Albert Market sells everything the locals need plus it has a tourist craft market on the side. And Serekunda is another large one, which is particularly good for its fabric, but may be more suited with older children as it gets pretty busy.

If it's just crafts you're after then head to Cape Point, Kotu Beach, or the Senegambia Craft Market in Kololi.

And to sample some freshly grilled Gambian fish, Bakau and Tanji have fish markets by the shore. You'll see people wading out of the water with buckets of fish on their heads straight from the fishing boats and it's filleted, smoked and packed right there or you can choose your fillet and have it barbecued for lunch.

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