We definitely experienced the real Gambia in our tremendous three week stay in February-March 2009. We were based in Brikama, a medium-sized town about 20 kms inland from the Atlantic and an hour south of the capital Banjul. It’s a fascinating town with a vibrant feel but none of the tourist-area trappings and hassles.
People are very hospitable and very warm to strangers – especially those who are respectful and show a genuine interest in life there.
Our host, Abdoulie Sarr, was a young entrepreneur whose aims are to create a range of locally-based enterprises to enable visitors to genuinely engage in the life of an area: get to know local people in depth; learn something of a local language; be part of local events; explore the beautiful country areas, learn about a different culture and exchange experiences; and to spend their money in ways that benefit local people rather than international tour operators.
He provided excellent quality accommodation and three substantial meals a day while we were in Brikama. Breakfast consisted of a choice of very tasty rice porridge or omelette delivered to our accommodation every morning and we had the option of having the other meals brought to us or of eating with his family. My travelling companion is vegetarian and we thought this could be a bit of a problem; nothing could be further from the truth. He was served excellent food with his ‘not even fish’ requirements fully respected and catered for.
Eating with the family was much more fun and gave us the opportunity of spending time talking with people and playing with the children. In fact, we spent a lot of time just talking and debating a wide range of subjects and laughing a lot– a real exchange!
Brikama is a fascinating town to explore and Abdoulie’s relaxed but efficient style meant we could go it alone or have him take us to specific locations of interest.
We wanted to see the country and Abdoulie organised a three-day trip into the interior travelling by local transport and combining road and river journeys. We enjoyed travelling in the normal vehicles that Gambians used and not in luxury coaches or 4X4s – much more real.
Our trip took in the Wassu Stone Circles (evidence of ancient civilisation here); the wonderful Janjanbureh Camp with its perfect location on the River Gambia and good quality accommodation and food; the historic towns of Janjanbureh and Kuntaur, the bustling ‘crossroad’ town of Farafenni, the riverside Tendaba camp and the rural villages along the country’s South road.
Abdoulie was an excellent guide with a wealth of local knowledge and contacts which made the trip run smoothly and tailored to what we wanted to see we never felt we were being herded along on a package tour.
Back in Brikama we became familiar with the local music scene seeing a number of bands and talking with the musicians. Brikama is major centre for music using the Kora.
The trip was a mind-altering experience into the way of life of a country with wonderful people and beautiful scenery in which the hospitality was outstanding and where we felt welcome and safe at all times.
At the end we felt we had had a real experience and had got to know a place and some of its people in depth – a place that is now very special.
Abdoulie Sarr provides a range of tailor-made options for accommodation, travel and local experiences across The Gambia and we highly recommend his professional yet personal approach.
Contact: Abdoulie Sarr Tel 00220-7722099/6720999;
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