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Thinking about The Gambia

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Has anyone been to The Gambia, I am thinking of taking my family in 2000 (two boys 7 & 1) on a package in Feb 2000. Any tips or advice?

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    We're going in three weeks, will be back in five weeks and will post a reply when we return. We fly in and out of Dakar and will bushtaxi or bus to Banjul. We're traveling husband/wife and 18 yr old son. Anyone who has tips for staying in Dakar, please respond.

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    Well, we're back. The trip to West Africa was, I can't explain it. It was wonderful, fantastic, memorable, emotional. We flew into Dakar on Thursday morning and left for The Gambia on Friday afternoon. This place was my favorite. The local people and children are wonderful, very kind, honest and loving. We practically went all over The Gambia, we took a full day's drive as far as Farafenni, crossed in three ferries, we went to wrestling matches, schools, building department, even spent a few moments with Judge Haley at the American embassy. There is so much we can share with you. We met a very nice family that took us around to anywhere we thought we wanted to see. Please write back to us with any questions you have. There is so much to tell and pictures to send. Bye.

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    Hope you have taken Brun up on his offer to talk about the Gambia. I spent two six-month work terms there in 94 and 96 and enjoyed both of them, and would like to return if the chance presents itself.
    The people are genuinely friendly and want to be helpful, but, like any poor country that has taken to tourism to bring in money, some strains have started to develop.
    If possible, arrange to travel to some of the more remote parts of this tiny country. There is an excellent birdwatching camp on the river at Mansa Konka, and if you take the road to the end of the country at Basse, there is a shop that employs local weavers. There is a boat cruse that goes along the river, with overnights at camps along the way. I did not do this myself, but know of others who recommended it highly.
    The beaches are wonderful, but if you are in the more central tourist areas of the Bakau, Fajara, St. Mary's area, there are "bumsters" that you should be wary of. As soon as you step outside of your hotel, you will be approached by young men wanting to show you around, arrange almost anything you would wish for, including a meeting with their sister! Keep your show of wealth to a minium, including jewlery, fancy sunglasses etc. Use some caution, some of these guys are out to rip you off, but there are also good guides amoung them. Check with the hotel security staff, they usually know who to avoid. On that note, the hotel staff are usually very friendly and willing to help tourists enjoy their stay, after all, you are putting bread in their mouths!
    Check with your tour provider, there may be opportunity to donate materials to local schools. They are always in need of pencils, paper, basic supplies. That may be a more satisfying way of giving, as you will see beggers.
    If you are staying in the coast areas in the dry season, Feb. you may not have to worry about malaria, but if you decide to travel upriver, be sure to take anti-malaria medication. Also, remember that there are lots of water-borne paraities, so only swim where the water is salty. The drinking water in most of the large towns is chlorinated, or was in 94 and 96, but still best to avoid it as I contracted giardia, which is resistant to chlorine. (easily treated and cured though)
    Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any specific questions.

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