Become A True Traveller in the Gambia
While your world is spinning around you filled with top technology, social media and the hottest television series, think for a moment about the less fortunate. Think about the struggles they go through on a daily basis, not to afford the newest iPhone, but to simply get clothes on their backs and roofs over their head. In fact, I don’t just want you to think about it, but I encourage you to take part in making a difference, and travel to Gambia, West Africa.
There are so many reasons as to why you should experience this trip, which completely outweighs the first impressions you may think of. The historical roots of the slave trade had taken place on the Gambia lands, which was very significant as to the placing and keeping of the colony on the Gambia River. Kunta Kinteh Island on the Gambia River holds such significant history; you can feel the vigorous emotions through the land. Originally called James Island, in 2011 they had renamed to Kunta Kinteh to give the island a more Gambian name. Whilst also Kunta Kinteh is the character in Alex Haley’s book and TV series, Roots. Kunta Kinteh was one of the 98 slaves in 1767 that was brought to Annaplos, Mayland on the slave ship Lord Ligonier. Many of the surviving structures from the West African slave trade still stand, including Fort Bullen, which a cell, a small jetty, and a good amount of skeletal baobab trees endure.
Just recently in 2013, the Republic of the Gambia had withdrawn from the Commonwealth; which was disappointing to the Gambian people. Now in 2014, they are even considering to stop teaching English in the schools, as the government doesn’t feel as if it’s important to their culture. This however, would affect the people of Gambia in a negative direction, especially when it comes to tourism and further schooling past West Africa.
Before traveling to the Gambia, you will need to make sure that you have the appropriate vaccines. It is highly suggested that you consult a doctor at least one month in advance, especially to get your yellow fever vaccination. If you would like to travel outside of the Gambia, you will also need to bring with you the yellow fever certificate. It is advised that you bring with you malaria medication, rehydration salts, antiseptic cream, mosquito repellent, high factor sun creams, and an insect bite cream.
You should wear you’re most travelling material. You don’t need to wear the most expensive brands, or do your make up perfectly ladies; this is not what the trip about. You should wear a simple pair of shorts, and a comfortable shirt. Put on your travel shoes, and leave those Louis Vuitton’s back home! Another piece of advice is that when you are taking money out, put a smaller amount in your pocket and the rest somewhere safe. You will be bombarded with communities that will be in need, but trying to get money from any tourist to help themselves and their families. Whilst giving is a blessing on this trip, there is also an extent of which you need to be able to keep the rest put away so you are not appearing as a vulnerable target to the salesman. The currency in Gambia is the Dalasi, and it can fluctuate just like any other currency. The largest note you can carry is the D100 and the smallest is the D5M but it’s important to bring the smaller amount with you to stall traders as they will not be able to give you change for larger denominations. Some restaurants and hotels will accept credit cards, however it is still recommended to rely on that.
As for how to get around the Gambia, you will have taxi’s awaiting around the hotel areas. This is a country in which decent road surfaces, traffic and direction signs are still uncommon, which is important to keep in mind when traveling. They have public transport called Bush Taxis, however they do not have a set schedule and can often be very over crowded. You also may car hire, but its quite expensive and not advised. As for river travel, you have the ferries available but like the Bush Taxis they are very over crowded, and try to fit as many onto one as they can. You can find separate boats in the community to get onto, but this is one of those experiences that you will need to step out of your comfort zone for.
The tropical seasons are between June to November, which is hot and rainy, and the cool drier seasons are between November through May. The rainfall has declined by 30% in the past 30 years, which is why it’s very important to stay hydrated and protected on your holiday. If you are searching for the perfect hotel to stay at, I would suggest looking into the Loico Atlantic Banjul, or the Coco Ocean; both of these hotels of which are around five stars, are safe and well suggested by former travellers.
This trip you will to be let go of being a tourist, and become a traveller. You will need to step out of your comfort zone, and experience West Africa the fullest of what it can offer you. Whether it’s a history lesson, and digging deeper into your soul. It’s about giving, and I will advice you to bring with you anything in your household that is not of importance. Bring extra clothes with you for all ages, bring unused jewellery for the ladies, and throw in some toys for the younger crowd. Take a moment of your time to talk to the community; become friends with the people. Be humble, find the deeper meaning of life, and make a difference this holiday in the Gambia.