We went to Gambia on an educational with work to familiarise ourselves with the country, accommodation and excursions on offer to our customers in the UK.
On arrival at our hotel the Senegambia Beach, on Kololi Beach, we were greeted with wide smiles from all the hotel staff. Some of the Gambian tour operators even greeted their guests at the airport with traditional Gambian dance and singing. It was fabulous to see. The hotel itself was just 3*, this oasis looked like a luxurious 5* resort compared to some 3* med hotels.
As I noticed in Gambia the accommodation is often 2*, which is basic but clean. Most people that I spoke to were returning travellers to Gambia and preferred the 2* properties as the staff were brilliant, worked so hard, and it was a more intimate holiday where you could get to know everyone staying there. Plus the food was beautiful. Most of the larger hotels offer beauty treatments, and these services are extremely cheap and the standard is second to none. I had a massage; it was heavenly.
We were taken around most of the resorts available to book in the UK and I mentally rated each beach. In my opinion, Kotu’s beach was by far the best, with Kololi coming a close second.
Locals did pester us on the beach to buy whatever they were selling, but as soon as you we said “no” they don’t hassle you. The Gambian locals are really friendly and will do anything for you. I didn’t feel at all intimidated at any point of my stay in Gambia.
We took part in some excursions in Gambia. We went to one of the local schools. This is a real eye opener and you realise just how lucky we are to have access to free education in the UK. The children here are all so eager to learn, and know how privileged they are to actually attend school, unlike in this country where children would rather not be educated! They don’t have many supplies in Gambia, so a lot of tourists go to the schools with cases full of pens, pencils, paper, etc. for the children at the schools. The look on their faces when they receive even a pencil is just overwhelming, the way their eyes lit up was so sweet. This is a real must when you go to Gambia. We also went on a trip to the local market. It is so big, bigger than I’d ever imagined, and you could so easily get lost. I was glad we had our wonderful guide there to see us around. The markets sell everything from spices to leather and carpets and all at very good prices. It is definitely worth a trip to a market if you get the chance when you are here.
I think the best excursion in Gambia is probably the Roots trip. You visit the village of Juffureh, home of Kunta Kinteh, the famous slave who was forced into slavery in the mid 17th century. There is a book and a screenplay on this subject by the author Alex Haley, and the book traces all the events of the transatlantic slavery trade. There is so much history to uncover on this trip and you see so many different places of interest which all link to the slave trade. It is definitely worth a visit when in Gambia.
I gained a lot of knowledge and first hand experience from this trip, and the Gambia has so much to offer in terms of culture, in addition to sun, sea and sand. I would recommend Gambia to all travellers and I bet many of them will visit the Gambia more than once. I had a fabulous time, and if you go, I hope you do too!