Africa’s smallest country, Gambia, isn’t often the first on most people’s must-travel list within the continent. But the pint-sized country has an incredibly diverse offering of nature, culture, and history for visitors, and is absolutely worth the time. Here are twelve of the best reasons to visit The Gambia.
Sources: LonelyPlanet.com, AccessGambia.com, WorldTravelGuide.net, TripAdvisor.co.nz, Arch-Tours.com
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
With everything from lions to hyenas, and crocodiles from various monkey species, Abuka Forest, and the Abuko Nature Reserve located within, is a must-visit for animal lovers. Dozens of beautiful trails track through the forest and allow visitors the chance to immerse themselves within the wildlife.
Located in the waters off of eastern Gambia, Janjanbureh Island is home to dozens of bird species, making it an ideal destination for avid birdwatchers. The rustic environment is almost entirely untouched, and is a fantastic spot to relax and unwind on the beach.
Jufureh, along with its twin city Albreda, are the best places to see the Exhibition of the Slave Trade and explore the depths of Gambian colonial history. The cities were made famous by Alex Haley’s novel, “Roots,” that discusses the area’s slave history, and are nearby the James Island fort ruins, which is also worth a stop.
Banjul’s Albert Market
The bustling Albert Market in The Gambia’s capital city, Banjul, is a fantastic opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the lively and colorful daily culture of the country. It is also a great place to pick up everything from produce to spices to fish to clothing and household items.
Katchikali Crocodile Pool
Meet Charlie and other friendly crocodiles at the Katchikali Crocodile Pool in the coastal village of Bakau. The Mandinka tribe holds the site sacred, often holding fertility rituals there, but visitors can also stop through to see the docile crocodiles and experience the magic of the ancient site.
The “bolons,” or mangrove creeks, of the Tanbi Wetlands are best seen by small boat, and are located near the mouth of the River Gambia. Stretching all the way from Oyster Creek to Lamin, the Tanbi Wetlands are a must-stop on the Gambian bird-watching map.
Makasutu Culture Forest
Take a cultural tour of the Makasutu Forest, full of plants often used for medicinal purposes, as well as breathtaking woodland flora and fauna. Tours include traditional music and dance performances, as well as rides in dugout canoes, and are a great way to support both the ecosystem and local communities.
Wassu stone circles
The stone circles of Wassu in eastern Gambia date back 1,200 years, and are the most ancient man-made structures in the country. Though the story of the stone circles are not entirely clear, they are thought to be ancient burial grounds from prehistoric times, and are fascinating to visit.
The beach town of Kololi is one of the country’s most popular vacation destinations, with golden sand beaches and a bustling strip packed with bars and restaurants. The town also offers guided safaris and the chance to get up close and personal with the monkeys in Bijilo Forest Park.
Borreh is the Gambia’s national sport, and is a wrestling form similar to that of Greco-Roman times. A sport that was revived under President Jammeh, the matches often take place at national events and festivals, and often include intense dramatics and ferocious fighting.
Located in western Banjul, the Old Town is a collection of decaying buildings from the country’s colonial area, along with Krio-style clapboard houses, complete with steep, corrugated roofs and wrought-iron balconies. The area greatly resembles the architecture of Freetown, Sierra Leone, as many families came to Banjul from Sierra Leone from the early 1800s onwards.
River Island National Park
Also known as Baboon Island, River Island National Park is comprised of five flat islands that are home to several primate species, along with various species of reptile and birds. Visitors have the opportunity to take boat rides around the islands to see the wildlife, and get in depth details about the animals from knowledgeable guides.