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Not even 50 miles long, the stretch of Atlantic coastline that separates the Gambian capital Banjul from the country’s southern border ranks as probably the leading beach destination in West Africa, certainly where English speakers are concerned. Dozens of beach resorts are strung along the short stretch of coast, ranging from exclusive upscale retreats and isolated backpacker haunts in more remote areas such as Kololi and Sanyung to the more mainstream package hotels of the "Kombos" immediately south of Banjul. Scenically, the Gambia’s beaches here don’t compare with East Africa’s gorgeous Indian Ocean Coastline, but the proximity to Europe ...

Not even 50 miles long, the stretch of Atlantic coastline that separates the Gambian capital Banjul from the country’s southern border ranks as probably the leading beach destination in West Africa, certainly where English speakers are concerned. Dozens of beach resorts are strung along the short stretch of coast, ranging from exclusive upscale retreats and isolated backpacker haunts in more remote areas such as Kololi and Sanyung to the more mainstream package hotels of the "Kombos" immediately south of Banjul. Scenically, the Gambia’s beaches here don’t compare with East Africa’s gorgeous Indian Ocean Coastline, but the proximity to Europe and the USA, overall affordability, welcoming vibe and high standard of English spoken makes it a great destination for nervous first-time visitors to Africa. There are also plenty of opportunities for undemanding exploration beyond the beaches. Banjul is as low-key and unthreatening as African cities get, and it boasts some interesting colonial architecture and a lively market. Most visitors make the pilgrimage to Juffereh, which lies on the opposite side of the river mouth from Banjul and is reached by ferry. Juffereh is the village to where Roots author Alex Haley traced his ancestry, and it is now the site of a harrowing museum documenting the iniquities of the slave trade, as well as offering access to the old European fort of James Island. For wildlife lovers, Aburi Nature Reserve, only a few miles inland of the Kombos, is a good place to see monkeys, forest antelope and various birds, while the highly regarded Makasutu Cultural Forest combines low-key wildlife viewing with a program introducing visitors to traditional African cultures.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The ideal time to visit is November-January, while the rainy season of July-October is best avoided, but you could visit at any time.