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Trip Report short report: the wonderful gambia

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Me and Mrs Lyon visited the Gambia for the very first time this January.
My research was quite extensive and had high expectations and I was worried that I would be very disappointed, but my concerns were not realised.
What we both wanted from the holiday was beach, sun and warmth, beach bars, a good hotel, and for me nature: birds and monkeys. All of these wants were met.
The hotel was carefully selected because of its location and its previous reviews. The Hotel Senegambia is a delight. It is set in lush gardens which lead to a pleasant beach. Every morning you wake to the calls of beautiful birds and most mornings you can view the antics of monkeys from your room.
Breakfasts are included in the price and are extensive. There is a cooked breakfast bar: bacon, sausage, beans and potatoes. Omelettes are made fresh, pancakes made to order, fruit and various fresh fruit smoothies, cakes and pastries and bread.
The beach bar serves a range of small meals and sandwiches and is extremely cheap. One of the two pools backs onto the beach bar and is well served by friendly attendants. There is a tennis court where you can receive coaching and various other activities on offer, and evening entertainment. There is hairdressing and holistic therapies on site.
The hotel attracts non resident visitors at 11.30am for the vulture feeding, but there are many other species of bird resident in the grounds and you can frequently spot quite large monitor lizards strolling the grounds.
The hotel leads onto what is termed “the Strip” which has many excellent restaurants. We ate out every night and did not have one bad meal. The best was the African Queen where we had a fish sizzler: butter fish (melts in your mouth), calamari, prawns served with wild basmati rice. We also ate at the Scala; this is a highly recommended restaurant which I didn’t rave about but Mrs Lyon loved. Green Mamba is an atmospheric restaurant where you are seated in your own private dining area set in tropical gardens, the meal was good but we made the wrong choice. Darboes sells more authentic Gambian food and was very good.
Along the beach from our hotel are many beachside restaurants, Poco Loco sells seafood and fish dishes and lovely Gambian light meals and has a great atmosphere with local live bands at the weekends.
You can go on many trips from the hotel. Arch Tours is an excellent company who do a trip to many interesting areas all in the course of a day. They take you to various markets which really do overwhelm you with their diversity and products and sheer volume of people and noise. More sedate is the trip to Lamin Lodge for mid morning snacks. Lamin Lodge is on the River Gambia and quite peaceful apart from the monkeys pinching your food. On the River Gambia you can see kingfisher and various bee eaters, stork and pelican. Tanje fish market is overpowering with the smell of fish and hundreds of people. All in all, an excellent day visiting the above with very informative guides.
There are downsides to the Gambia – the worse offender is what people call “Bumsters” these are unemployed young people trying to make a living off tourists but can be a little too enthusiastic. I complained on a couple of occasions about their aggressive tactics but very rarely felt unsafe. They have failed to grasp the notion that these people create a lasting negative impression and would put some people off, but not me.
Gambia is very easily reached from the UK, or should be. It is a six hour flight and so for a UK resident with only a week to spare is an ideal location. The sun shines throughout the winter months and was well into the 30’s (90’s) all week we were there. Its dirt cheap when you get there with beer well less than a pound and spirits about a pound. Meals with wine for two costs about £15 – 20.
The flights were delayed going and returning and unfortunately turned out to be more like 8 hours each way. Thomas Cook seem to have adopted a process of refuelling in the Canaries and this adds time to your flight which is ill afforded if you are only going for a week. The people of Gambia can ill afford another reason (ie long flight time) for tourists not going.
Gambia is a place of very many positives and very few negatives and deserves to be visited by more people and we will certainly be returning.

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