‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’, that is how the smallest country of Africa is called. Thinking of The Gambia is thinking of sun, sea, golden beaches, and fishing villages. But of course, there is so much more to find out beyond the beaches. Margriet tells us three ways to get off the beaten track in order to get to know the soul of Gambia better.
1. Rent a bike
The first way to explore the Gambia is by renting a bike. Of course, you can rent a car or grab a cab as well, but consider the great possibilities of biking. It’s not only cheap, it also gives you a nice workout and above all, it’s friendly to the environment. You slowly pass along the most beautiful sceneries and it gives you the great opportunity to meet local people along the way. In The Gambia, I biked on a car-free morning, which made it easier to also ride the larger roads. You can ask the locals what is the best time or route to go biking.
2. Visit the Bijilo Forest Park
Instead of visiting such projects like the crocodile pool, take some time to explore this piece of nature. Its quiet, old and quite easy to reach. Bijilo Forest Park, also known as Monkey Park lies about 11 km west of Banjul the capital of Gambia. You can get an enthusiastic guide to walk along the series of well-maintained walking trails.
The park is home to a diverse fauna of invertebrates, reptiles, and mammals. You can find different sort of monkeys in the park, as well as squirrel, lizards, dragonflies and over 133 bird species. Besides, the park also consists of beautiful flora. Sit down at one the park’s wooden benches and enjoy watching the flora and fauna. Furthermore, take the time to explore the overlooking views over the sand dunes, beachfront and the Atlantic ocean.
If you’re totally into birdwatching, I heard great stories about Kiang West National Park. About 300 different birds here, that’s amazing! We found this one in the tree.
3. Eat local Gambian food
The third must-do off the beaten track is getting to know the local culture through food. If you booked a hotel in one of the touristic places, you will have a hard time finding real local food at the restaurants of the strip. I managed to get some at a restaurant owned by Germans with Gambian women in the kitchen, but true local restaurants are hard to find. Therefore, eating with locals at their home is a must-do.
The food like Domoda (peanut stew) is simple and delicious, and in this way, you really make local friends. Since Gambian people in regular tourism jobs earn very little money, sharing a meal with locals gives them the opportunity to earn some extra money. Therefore, this is not only a unique experience, you support Gambian families as well. You can find more information about local home dining in The Gambia here.
Have a great time in The Gambia! And please feel free to share your stories and questions in the comments.