The Gambia is a country strategically located in the Western part of the African Continent. With capital in Banjul, The Gambia is bounded by Senegal and has surrounding beaches running from Bakau to Kokoli.
Although The Gambia has little or no spectacular mineral resources as most citizens depend on Agriculture. However, the country is blessed with different kinds of tourists’ attraction and this contributes up to about 18% of the countries’ GDP. The fact that the language spoken in the country is English also makes it a destination for most tourists. Highlighted below are the important places that make The Gambia a place to visit.
1. The Gambia River
Formerly known as the River Gambra, the Gambia River is 1,130 km or 700 miles from the Fouta Djallon plateau in north Guinea through westward to Senegal and Banjul in Gambia to the Atlantic Ocean. Near Juffure, the river comes to KuntaKinteh Island which was used as a camp during the slave trade – it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although the Gambia River is rich in various aquatic fauna and flora, only one type of fish and three species of frogs are localized to this ecoregion basin formed by the merging of the Gambian-Senegal River. However, local women harvest lots of oysters which are used in local cuisines and soups from the Gambia River.
2. Kiang West National Park
Managed by the Gambia Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, the Kiang West National Park was declared a national park in 1987. It is one of the largest wildlife reserves in the Gambia, and covers an area of 11,526 hectares in the Kiang West District. There are three creeks within the park – Jarin, Jali, and Nganingkoi, and there are villages situated outside the park boundaries.
The Kiang West National Park is 145 km or 90 miles from Banjul, the capital city of Gambia. The park has several reptile species that include the African python, puff adder, royal python, spitting cobra, Bell’s hinged tortoise, Nile crocodile, and Nile monitor. There are over 300 bird species that include the eagle, falcon, hawk, vulture, harrier, and brown-necked parrot among others. And hundreds of animals including the bushbuck, caracal, duiker, leopard, marsh mongoose, spotted hyena, warthogs, and African clawless otter among others.
3. Kachikally Crocodile Pool
There are three sacred crocodile pools in Gambia, and each of them is used for fertility rituals. They are Folonko in Kombo South, Berending on the north bank, and then the Kachikally crocodile pool in Bakau, just 16 km or 10 miles from the capital Banjul.
Although Kachikally is a shrine owned by the Bojang family of Bakau, the crocodiles in the pool are estimated to be between 80-100, with some of them growing as long as 4.5 meters. People say there are albino crocodiles in the shrine, but most of the crocodiles are wild Nile crocodiles captured and then reared in the sacred pools with visitors touching some of them as they roam freely.
4. Gambia National Museum
The Gambia National Museum is located in Banjul, and it was inaugurated in 1985 to document historical materials and artifacts about Gambia. It is administered by the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), which was established by Act of Parliament in 1989 to promote and develop the culture of Gambia and her peoples.
Situated on three floors of a massive building, the museum provides physical information of over 70 years of Gambian history. The ground floor gives the cultural and political history of Banjul the capital; with other floors showing off the musical heritage and the archaeological history of the country. Tourists and visitors – mostly school children, can learn about the history of the Gambia via video presentations and materials that tell the colonial history and post-independence story of the country.
5. Abuko Nature Reserve
Located in the south of Abuko Township, the Abuko National Park is the first designated wildlife reserve in the Gambia. The popular Lamin Stream flows through the reserve; and in 1967 wildlife officer Eddie Brewer together with his daughter Stella Marsden requested the government to make the forest and the wildlife a protected area, and the Gambia Department of Parks and Wildlife Management (then the Department of Wildlife) was set up within the reserve in 1968.
With over 270 bird species and several moths and butterflies sighted at the park, there are also primate species like the velvet monkey, red colobus monkey, and patas monkey among other animals like antelope, squirrel, porcupine, African palm civets, mongooses, galagos, rodents, and several reptiles.
6. Kunta Kinteh Island
The Kunta Kinteh Island is formerly James Island under the Dutch, but later renamed Fort James by the English who took control of the base in 1664. It was later given the Gambian name Kunta Kinteh Island by President Yahya Jammeh on February 2011 to commemorate the abolishment of the slave trade that took place at the site.
The Kunta Kinteh Island is located within the Gambia River. It was listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several buildings used by the British administrative officers are now in ruins and storms hit upon the remaining structures during high tide. The slave character Kunta Kinte depicted in Alex Haley’s book and TV series Roots was based on events that must have happened at the island in past centuries at the height of the slave trade.
7. MacCarthy Island
Located about 272 km or 170 miles upriver in eastern Gambia, MacCarthy Island is also known as Lemain Island or Janjanbureh Island. It is also known as Georgetown – the name given it by its European founders; and it houses Gambia’s largest prison. The name MacCarthy Island was givben to it in 1823 after Sir Charles MacCarthy, the former Governor General of the British West African Territories.
8. Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve
The Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve is a 220-square-kilometer national park established in 1996 on the north bank of the River Gambia. It is a rich spot for mangroves, salt marches, savannah, avifauna, mammals, fish and other water animals, among other fascinating ecosystems. It is a place to visit for sure.
9. The Arch 22
The Arch 22 is a commemorative arch built onto a road in Banjul to celebrate the military overthrow of a democratic government in 1996, and which paved way for the rise to power of President YahyahJammeh on July 22, 1994.
It is located on the Banjul-Serrekunda highway, and a statue of an “unknown soldier” is placed close to the bottom of the arch. The statue of the soldier has a rifle strapped to its back, and with one hand it makes the V-sign for peace while with the other hand it carries a baby. The image of the Arch 22 is printed on the back of the Gambian 100 dalasi banknote.