My first visit to The Gambia was in 2008 due to my love for the culture, I returned a year later. My week long trip included a mixture of charity work and sampling what Gambia has to offer tourists. The Gambia, in West Africa after gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1965 has become known for its tourism industry and agriculture, particularly its production of peanuts.
Beautiful beaches, mini markets, a wonderful climate and exotic fruit juices
However many are still unaware of the delights that the Gambia has to offer. I gained the opportunity of going to the Gambia on a Sixth Form charity trip, which has well-formed connections with the small villages in the core of the Gambia, formed over a period of 19 years. We soon began our charity work by proceeding to the core of the Gambia in safari like trucks, which was an experience. Although the Gambia is developing its roads, the rural areas are still undeveloped and we travelled along dirt tracks.
On our arrival to rural Gambia our group checked into Tendaba Camp which has basic lodges and its located on the River Gambia. The next day we were split into groups and all went to a separate village to offer financial aid, review projects from the previous year and example true Gambian culture. We presented our aid, which included clothing, stationary and so on, which they were delighted with. We sung some English songs to the Gambians and they joined in with ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ which the children found very comical. There were speeches to welcome us and we even got given a tour. Every village is given £50 each year, as well as further financial aid if they need it, so we provided them with money for medicine. We saw where their crops grew and the children fascinated by our appearance clung to our hands. At the end of our visit we were presented with traditional Gambian tops as a thank you. We were also given a musical performance, radically different from those in England, which included a lot of drumming and feet stamping!
Bambako was just one village I got to visit and each village was as welcoming as the next. We were always welcomed with singing, dancing and a series of bright colours. The Gambians were happy despite facing many difficulties each day such as not having access to clean water and schooling. In the centre of the Gambia there is an array of tourist activites. We visited Banjul, the culture is different from England, watermelons were in abundance and people are in brightly coloured clothes. We visited the Banjul market which sells everything from food (raw meat was even sold on the roadside!), to clothing and jewellery, which is a must see. In the markets the Gambians are willing to enter into some bargaining where you can pick up some beautiful souvenirs and speak to the locals. The Gambia also has beautiful beaches many of which have mini markets, a wonderful climate and a chance to sample some of the local produce such as exotic fruit juices.
In rural Gambia awaits the real hidden gems, particularly for those interested in wildlife. Tendaba Camp runs daily boat rides on the River Gambia where you may see alligators as well as a variety of birds. The Gambia has much to offer and for many is still an unknown gem in Africa waiting to be explored!