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The smallest country on the continental mainland, Gambia ranks among the most oddball legacies of the late 19th century colonial carve-up of Africa. An Anglophone territory sharing all terrestrial borders with francophone Senegal, it comprises a serpentine sliver of land that follows the Gambia River inland for 200 miles east of the Atlantic coastline, but is nowhere more than 30 miles wide. Despite this, the Gambia has made the most of its limited assets to rank as probably the leading beach destination in West Africa, certainly where English speakers are concerned, with dozens of relaxed beach resorts strung along the short stretch of ...

The smallest country on the continental mainland, Gambia ranks among the most oddball legacies of the late 19th century colonial carve-up of Africa. An Anglophone territory sharing all terrestrial borders with francophone Senegal, it comprises a serpentine sliver of land that follows the Gambia River inland for 200 miles east of the Atlantic coastline, but is nowhere more than 30 miles wide. Despite this, the Gambia has made the most of its limited assets to rank as probably the leading beach destination in West Africa, certainly where English speakers are concerned, with dozens of relaxed beach resorts strung along the short stretch of coast that separates the capital Banjul from the southern border. Scenically, the 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. And while the interior lacks the volumes of wildlife associated with southeast Africa, there are plentiful opportunities to see monkeys, chimpanzees and crocodiles, and the country is very popular with ornithologists thanks to the high standard and enthusiasm of local bird guides. There are also some worthwhile historical sites in the form of the Wassu Stone Circles and slave-trade related sites around Juffereh (the village to where Roots author Alex Haley traced his ancestry), both of which are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The annual Roots Festival is designed for American, British and Caribbean descendants of the "black diaspora" associated with the trans-Atlantic slave trade to rediscover their African roots.

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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