After a flight of about 6 hours you land at Banjul Airport, the only airport of the country. And then, what to expect ? Good to know is that you can divide The Gambia into the much populated coastal region with cities as Banjul, Serrekunda and Brikama, and the urban inland on both sides of the river. One of the big differences : the traffic !!! So, after leaving the airport it is possible you will be very soon stuck in your first gambian traffic jam !!!!!! But no panic, good chance that it will be also your last one. So, sit back and enjoy, let the friendly people of The Gambia surprise you. Also : when you arrive early, let's say in the beginning of the afternoon : let's immediately do some birding, and then later go to the lodge or hotel. Ok ?
Arrival at Banjul Airport
- with bus to the airportbuilding
- paying airport fee , aprox. 17 pound
- controling pasport
- picking up luggage
- Fatou or another guide is waiting at you in the building.
The population of The Gambia is aprox. 2.300.OOO, with the coastal region as the most populated. Biggest cities are there : Serrekunda ( 340.000), Brikama ( 77.000), Bakau ( 43.000), Banjul (35.000). 90% of the population is moslim, 4% christian. The past decenia the life expectancy did go up from 40 year to 62 year, but the poverty of a lot of people is still a big problem. The offical language is english, other languages are mandinka, fula, wolof and jola
The Gambia, situated in West Africa, is the smallest country of the continent. Around the river The Gambia it is about 300 km long and only 25 to 50 km wide. Or 11.000km2 : 1/3 of Belgium, 1/4 of the Netherlands, a little bigger than greater London. Around the river it is almost a flat country with only some little hills, highest point only 40 m ( that means even flatter than the netherlands !!!!).The Gambia divides the country into the northbank and the southbank, both banks only connected by some ferries and one tollbridge ( Farafenni).
So, what about a typical day ? When you wake up early, maybe because of the birds or the apes on your roof,just make a walk in the garden of the lodge, the first birding of the day !!!!After the shower the breakfast is ready ( 07.30am? 08.00am?), followed by a first birdingtrip mostly close to the lodge or a always spectacular boattrip. Even when driving to the next lodge there is constantly birding , with all the time stops , because you know : the birds are all over The Gambia. At noon : the picnic, between the ....birds.In the afternoon new birding or, when at the lodge and when it is a really hot day, a little rest during the heath of the day, and then new action from late afternoon till evening. Don't be surprised the dinner at the lodge can be suddenly interrupted for a few minutes of birding : the owls, you know......
As already written , there is a big difference between the very busy/touristique coastal region Banjul-Senegambia ( most hotels) and the quiet inland. When visiting the inland you will drive mostly on the excellent paved Transgambia Highway. When leaving this highway, it will be mostly on gravel roads to reach the little villages - and their always soo enthousiastic children - the many birding sites and the lodges, most of the times situated at fantastic places close to the river.Where there is no general electricity the lodges have generators, working most of the time until late in the evening, and starting again around 07.00 am. Internetconnection is mostly no problem.