Africa’s smallest country, The Gambia, is wedged into surrounding Senegal. For many, it is seen as a country with beaches that invite visitors to relax and laze around. But there is much more than just sun and surf. Small fishing villages, nature reserves and historic slaving stations are all within easy reach of the Atlantic beach resorts.
Star-studded eco-lodges and small wildlife parks dot the inland like a green belt around the coast and The Gambia is a bird lovers' utopia: on a leisurely river cruise, you'll easily spot more than 100 species while your pirogue charts an unhurried course through mangrove-lined wetlands and lush gallery forests. You won't be able to resist wielding binoculars with the excellent network of guides.
When Alex Haley, the American author of Roots, traced his origins to Jufureh, the tiny village quickly turned into a favorite tourist destination. There's little to see, though the small slavery museum, which traces slavery in The Gambia and includes a replica slave ship, is well worth a visit.
One of Gambia's most significant historical sites is James Island. It houses the remains of Fort James, an important British colonial trading post since 1661 and the departure point of vessels packed with ivory and gold as well as slave ships. Over subsequent decades, it was the site of numerous skirmishes. Variously held by British, French and Dutch traders, as well as a couple of privateers (pirates), it was completely destroyed at least three times before being finally abandoned in 1829.
The ruins of the fort are quite extensive, though badly neglected – the only intact room is a food store, which is often called the slave dungeon for dramatic effect. The biggest threat, though, is rapid coastal erosion, which literally pulls away the ground the ruins stand on.
The Gambia is a destination well worth a visit in conjunction with Senegal.
Gambia Tours & Safaris
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