As of right now, unfortunately, there are no direct flights to the Gambia from the UK. The preferred route, however, is to take a Royal Air Maroc flight to Banjul via Casablanca in Morocco. The total duration of the trip is eight hours.
The Gambia has only one international airport. The tiniest nation on the African continent, the Gambia is a strip of land that envelopes the Gambia River.The Banjul International Airport (BJL), named after the city it is located in, singularly meets the travelling needs of the people of Gambia. NASA once used the airport and its runway was upgraded to handle an emergency landing of the space shuttle. The airport is not far from the city centre and is 25 kilometres away from the point where the Gambia River meets the Ocean.
The cheapest time of the year to visit the Gambia is in the fall, from September to November. This is the time when the rainy season quenches the thirst of the land. The rains, at times, flood the banks of the Gambia River. The entire country is located on the banks of this river; therefore there is a high chance of flooding. Coming to the Gambia during this season, however, could save you much money. Since the hotels are empty and the airlines at not selling as many seats, the fares dial down to attract more customers. The second cheapest time of the years is from December to February.
The British tourist does not need to obtain a visa before travelling to the Gambia. Upon arrival, the Gambian immigration officer will stamp a 28-day permit on your British passport. If you prefer, you can stretch your stay for another 28 days just by visiting the immigration office in Banjul or by visiting the Tourist Police Station in the tourism development area in the city.
The Gambia has a classical equatorial climate. The temperature does not vary significantly throughout the year. The best time to visit the Gambia is from October to March. During this time the average temperature remains between 27⁰ C and 30⁰C. The best time is not necessary the busiest time of the year either. Most people visit the Gambia in the summer when the day time temperatures can reach to 40⁰C, especial from April to July, which can be liberating for some but a bit uncomfortable for most. There is little to no rain during this time as well, and most to the local festivals are also celebrated during this time.
The Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country. The Portuguese, French and eventually the British colonised the Gambia for more than 150 years. During this time the West African slave trade left its mark on the country.
- The Kunta Kinteh Island or sometimes known by its old name James Island is one of the last remaining landmarks that tells the tale of slavery in the Gambia. The island is located 30 kilometres from the river’s mouth and only a short ferry’s trip from the Gambia Rivers northern bank at Albreda. The UNESCO heritage site is a collection of ruins that used to house the produce and slaves traded from the West African coast with the rest of Europe. The ruins were used by the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch and the British until slavery was abolished in 1807. Visit the ruins to delve into the history of the Gambia.
- Kachikally Museum and Crocodile Pool are located in Bakau, not far from Banjul –the capital of the Gambia. The ‘museum and pool’ is sacred for the local population and many fertility rituals are performed at the site. The pools belong to the influential Bojang family who takes care of the roughly eighty crocodiles living in the pool. Of spiritual importance are the albino crocodiles that are considered auspicious by the local population. These animals usually roam freely in the enclosure where tourists can touch the thick skin of the crocodiles.
- Bijilo Forest Park is a large forest reserve situated about 12 kilometres from Banjul. There are many local, endangered and rare trees in the sanctuary that are taken care of by the park staff. Approximately twenty thousand visitors come to the park each year to breathe in the fresh air and promote the ecological conservation of the area. Amongst the trees, there are large populations of Green and Campbell’s Mona monkeys that take shelter the branches. Apart from that, the bush babies, African civets, mongooses and squirrels also make up the micro-ecology of the park. There are also one hundred and thirty different kinds of birds nesting in the Bijilo Forest Park.
The Gambia does not have a developed public transport system. For the British tourist, the best and safest choice is the Green Taxi, which is in service for the tourists visiting the country. The Green Taxi is a bit more expensive than other means of transportation, but these taxis are the only sort of vehicles permitted into the tourist sites and attractions. You can also share the ride by letting the driver know that “you do not want a town ride”. It would indicate the driver that you wish to sit and wait for another passenger going in the same direction. Alternatively, you can also walk a little further off the tourist destination to get yellow cabs, meant to serve the general public. These taxis are cheaper than but not as comfortable as the green cabs.
The Gambia’s economy depends heavily on the travel and tourism industry. In recent years, there has been a significant development in the luxury hotel and travel industry of the country, which has attracted many tourists to the Gambia for vacations. These luxury hotels include:
- Coco Ocean Resort and Spa
- Ocean Bay Hotel & Resort
- Kairaba Beach Hotel
- Kombo Beach Hotel
- LABRANDA Coral Beach Resort