Article by Kathryn Burrington, the Gambian specialist for Fleewinter, a UK based tour operator offering tailor-made holidays & expert advice.
 

Picture the scene. It’s a warm sunny morning, and you’re sitting soaking up the sunshine with a view across the golden sands to the sea. A white egret is perched in a nearby tree. Now to the first tough decision of the day. Do you opt for fresh fruit, crêpes, eggs benedict or a full English breakfast? Or, perhaps you should try a local dish, golden balls of akara, served with a spicy dipping sauce? Fabulous food, fantastic weather, palm-fringed beaches, unique hotels, there are so many reasons to opt for a holiday in The Gambia this winter.

 

Why The Gambia is a fabulous winter sun destination

 

1. The weather

The Gambia enjoys warm weather throughout the year. The hottest month tends to be March when the average temperatures highs are around 34°C. From November to the middle of June no rain is virtually guaranteed.

Three palm trees againast a blue sky dotted with just a few fluffy white clouds
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2. The beaches

The vast majority of The Gambia’s coastline is unspoilt with long stretches of golden sands backed by palm trees with barely a sole insight. By the main tourist resorts, you will find a few rows of sunbeds. Yet even here, the beaches don’t get overcrowded even in the hight of the season. A number of the more off the beaten track hotels, including Coco Ocean, Leo’s Beach Hotel and White Horse Residence, make the most of the quieter long stretches of sandy beaches. In contrast, at Ngala Lodge, rust-coloured cliffs form secluded coves.

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For more information or to book a holiday in The Gambia visit Fleewinter.

 

3. The people

Known as the Smiling Coast of Africa thanks to the friendliness of the locals, The Gambia is a very welcoming place. As a former British Colony, the official language is English. Several tribal languages are also spoken. The majority of people, however, especially in the coastal tourist areas, also speak English.

People from the Jola tribe, smiling and dancing, welcoming visitors to their village in The Gambia
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4. The wildlife

With over 540 species of birds, The Gambia is well known as a favourite destination for bird lovers. Green vervet monkeys are easily spotted in the gardens of many of the hotels and in woodlands such as Bijilo Forest. If you’re lucky, you may also see a Red Colobus Monkey. Baboons can be seen in Makasutu Forest and crocodiles at Kachikally Crocodile Pool. You can also see them on the banks of the creek by Calypso Beach Bar in Cape Point.

Two Green Vervet Monkeys wide eyed and ever hopeful that visitors to their forest home have some food (but please don't feed them)
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above: Green Vervet Monkeys in Bijilo Forest

 

5. The flight time

With a flight time of around 6 hours from London to Banjul, The Gambia is nearer than most other winter sun destinations. The shorter flight time means less carbon emissions. It’s also in the same time zone as the UK, so there’s no need to worry about jet lag.

The wing of a plane refelcts the pink tinged clouds at sunset
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6. The culture

Women dressed in colourful batiks. Drummers and dancers performing in local restaurants and the hotels. Craft markets with wooden carvings, brightly coloured paintings, traditional jewellery and more. Soak up the vibrant West African culture.

Gambians, with beaming smiles, are dancing and drumming in the dappled sunshine beneath some trees
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7. The hotels

From the elegant Moroccan inspired Coco Ocean Resort and Spa to the barefoot luxury of Mandina Lodges, there are some fantastic and unique hotels in The Gambia. Another favourite of mine is the quirky cliff-top boutique hotel, Ngala Lodge.

One of four swimming pools at Coco Ocean Resort & Spa in The Gambia
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above: Coco Ocean Resort & Spa, below Mandina Lodges

Stilted Lodge, Mandina Lodges | Barefoot luxury in The Gambia
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For more information or to book a holiday at Mandina Lodges visit Fleewinter.

8. The food

Italian, Thai, Indian, French, Lebanese – you’ll find cuisines from around the world in The Gambia. If you like the familiarity of fish ‘n’ chips or a full English breakfast you won’t be disappointed. However, if you enjoy trying something new, look out for local dishes like spicy fish benechin or the lime flavoured chicken yassa. Either way, you won’t be disappointed by the range of restaurants in the tourist resorts. Tucked away off the main track you’ll also find some hidden gem’s such as Gida’s Garden in Fajara, a particular favourite of mine. While my top choice of hotel restaurant has to be Ngala Lodge.

French cuisine at Gida's Garden, one of my favourite restaurants in The Gambia
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9. The beaches

Can I include the beaches twice? This time though I’m referring to the beaches at the fishing villages. Here you can see the fishermen unloading their colourful pirogues while gulls squark overhead and people haggle over the price of the fish. It’s a colourful cacophony that assaults all your senses.

Man dressed in a purple waterprrof coat holds a bright green bowl on his head over flowing with fish on the beach at Tanji in The Gambia
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10. The excursions

Would you like to try your hand learning to cook West African style with the enigmatic Ida? Perhaps you fancy a lazy day cruising along the River Gambia. There’s an excellent range of private and group excursions you can enjoy in The Gambia. Visit colourful markets, watch wrestling matches on the beach or see the hundreds of crocodiles at Kachikally Crocodile Pool. My personal favourite is heading out in a canoe along Tanji Creek birdwatching. We spotted over 40 different species in just a couple of hours.

The black and white Pied Kingfisher sitting on a branch in The Gambia
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For more information or to book a holiday in The Gambia visit Fleewinter.

 

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Top 10 reasons to visit The Gambia this winter
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