The best 5 reasons to explore the Gambia

The Gambia is a beautiful country to visit. I will say this to anyone who is willing to listen. By far the most photogenic countries on the continent that I have ever visited.

I have shared things to know before planning your travels to the Gambia and you can read more here.

Today I will be sharing with you a bit more on things to do. What would be the best things to discover? 
Rather important to mention that, travel time will be a bit difficult to manage while traveling the Gambia, I am a solo traveller who travelled on a budget and I basically just went with the breeze as to were it drifted me and what I would explore.

Since the country has the river that runs through it, you will have to cross that river on the ferry often. It may not be expensive but this kills your time. The ferry waiting game can be as long as 2hours and there is no way to time the ferry since there is no ferry schedule and you don’t know which ferry is in service or if both are working on your day of exploring. 

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Most of us may be aware of the history of the Gambia and the not so recent anymore ousting of their dictator. 
First things first, walk the streets of Banjul and discover the street art. Banjul is the capital city of the Gambia and you will be greeted by some street art. The roads are bad and if this is during the rainy season, puddle ducking will be part of the fun. 

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Back in Banjul, you don’t want to miss the markets. I visited the Royal Albert Market in Banjul. No one in the world could have prepared me for all the flies that are in this place. I have never seen so many flies in one place. And I have visited my fair share of markets across this continent. Fish markets to be specific. The market is on Liberation Avenue, the isles are very narrow with vendors selling fresh produce, wooden carvings, second-hand clothes, Ankara material and a whole lot more. The market is named after Albert, husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, who controlled the Gambia during colonial times.

The Gambia has an interesting nightlife, the most popular music being blasted from the various speakers will be reggae music. The tourism market on its own is rather interesting and something worth exploring. Here, people watching is as exciting as people watching at an airport for any traveller. This country has a bustling sex tourism industry like no other African country. We all know that sex tourism is huge in coastal Africa. Here rich Europeans come to find their African squeeze. Very important to note that sex tourism is very different from prostitution. Prostitution in the Gambia is illegal. Sex tourism is with older travellers with money who travel to date or just for sex with younger people. In the Gambia, like all the other African countries, the sex tourism market is made up of elder Europeans. You will find this mostly around the bars in Kololi close to the beach. There is a street that is made up on restaurants and bars and this is where the meetings usually happen. 

Most of the hotels will not allow you to go into a room where you are not booked into and visiting a friend as a way to curb this trend but it still goes on. 
As I was people watching on a solo night out, I did not realise I was being watched. I was dining alone and I guess people still find that weird. Especially being a woman. I do after all look like all the other women in the Gambia but they all walked in with their Caucasian persuasion and dined and sipped their local brews with reckless abandon. The stares were mostly from older European men wondering why I was alone. But I kept ordering my food and my drinks and settled my bill and left. They probably thought that I had been stood up or my suitor was running late. 

Across the river Gambia from Banjul the ferry will take you to Barra, this is the small town on the north bank of the river Gambia. This small town is also worth exploring. As you arrive on the ferry you won’t miss the pigs swimming on the river banks. I found this so special, those pigs were my spirit animals as a water lover. The locals will be working on their fishing boats and everything around you seems to just look like the perfect travel postcard. 

Barra is where you would get the long distance shared taxis that go to the border with Senegal but also anywhere around the country as long is on the north side of the river. My most favourite thing about navigating my way through Barra were all the colours through the markets. It was during the rainy season so it gets muddy, the roads here are not the greatest within the city but it's easy to overlook that when you are met with such perfection. 
From Barra, you can take a local shared minibus to Juffureh. A small village which I was very proud to visit. The bus will cost you USD1 one way. The village was made popular for its appearance in Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, as the birthplace of Haley's ancestor Kunta Kinte

I could say this village is in the middle of nowhere, although the Gambia is an Anglophone country, I found that most people I met out of the city mostly could not speak English. But that has never stopped me from exploring and finding what I needed and where I needed to go. I had spoken to the driver and told him I would be going to Juffureh and I needed to get off close to the Kunta Kinte island. He knew were this was and he agreed. When he dropped me off he came out to try direct me on the small path I would walk following the cows that roamed freely through the houses. 

He was afraid for me, being foreign in a small place like this and not speaking the language. I had arrived rather late in the day and there was no way I could do the trip back to Banjul as there would be no more busses to take me back unless I hired a private taxi. He was concerned as to where I would sleep. I told him I would figure it out after doing my tour. I am rather simple, if there would be no hotel, I don’t mind knocking on someone’s door and asking for a place to sleep for the night. I would leave at the crack of dawn to find the first bus and head out. 

I walked down to where the island was and I found a group of men sitting tending to their fishing nets. Obviously a small village and walking in alone speaking English will cause attention and before I knew it, the villagers had come out to see this lone traveller who spoke English and came for a tour of the island. 

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There is only one tour guide and he is licensed according to the Gambian tourism authority as the tour guide for the island. He came and fetched me on a boat and his godson joined us for the tour. He advised that there was a hotel close by where I could sleep for the night and he would go with me after the tour and see if I could get a room. Of course I got a room, they had no other travellers booked in. 

The Kunta Kinte island in Juffure, #Gambia 🇬🇲 Kunta Kinte was born in Jeffure Village in Gambia West Africa in the year 1750. When Kunta Kinte was 15 years of age, in the year 1765 he had just finished Manhood Training and went into the woods to select a tree trunk to make a drum for his younger brother, when he was ambushed by black traiters and white Tobabs. He was among 140 Africans, who were placed in the hole of the slave ship Lord Legoneer and was taken to Maryland. About 42 of them died on the journey, 98 of them were sold as property and were scattered to various slave plantations in the USA. The man who bought Kunta Kinte for 155 pounds tried to change his name to Toby but Kunta Kinte would refuse. He ended up getting a lot of beatings for his refusal to accept a slave name - (and that is WHY you should never allow a white person to mispronounce your name. And trust me, theres nothing hard about your African name). #BreakingBorders #Thesolowanderer #Gambia
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Kunta Kinte Island is a UNESCO world heritage site. In various West African countries you visit, there is always history to learn regarding the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Kunta Kinte is said to be one of the 98 slaves that were transported from the Gambia on the slave ship Lord Ligonier brought to Annapolis, Maryland in 1767. Most of the island has been wiped out due to the erosion as the island is low-laying and the heavy storms wash away what is left of the ruins. The island is home to the ruins where the slaves were kept, surrounded by a forest of baobab trees. 
The hotel was more of a lodge, no star grading. Nothing fancy and would be ideal as a place for safety and they owned a restaurant where they would prepare food for me. They had to open the restaurant for me. There is no electricity in the village except for a few households that have solar power or generators for electricity. The lodge will cost you USD10 a night. The generator will go off at night and the mosquitos will come out to play. The humidity is intense even during the rainy season. The trip is doable in one day where you go in and leave later in the day after your tour but then you would have to start your day very early to survive the ferry delays.

#BreakingBorders is sponsored by Simeka Capital Holdings.