Holidays to The Gambia have exotic wildlife, palm-packed beaches and haggle-friendly markets in the bag.

Bite-sized Africa

Squeezed onto Africa’s west coast, The Gambia’s basically taken a chunk out of Senegal’s shoreline. Savannahs and sandy beaches, baboons and buffalos, markets and mangroves – it packs a culture-blazing itinerary. Plus, its small size is actually a perk – it means you can cram more sights into one break. Not only that, but it’s only six hours away and in the same time zone as the UK, and the official language is English, so you get winter sun without the stress.

Chimps and crocs

The Gambia goes wild with wallowing hippos, chimps swinging along the Gambia River and Nile crocodiles at the Kiang West National Park. Africa's known for its safaris, and this spot doesn’t disappoint, either. Tonnes of nature reserves and national parks let you inside these animals’ natural habitats, at a respectful distance, of course. Look up, too. The Abuko Nature Reserve alone is home to more than 300 species of exotic bird to suit you twitchers.

Beach life

When you’re not wildlife-watching, you can be sunbathing on strips of sand. Kotu and Kololi are both top resorts – Kololi is backed by a big strip of bars and foodie places, as well. But the wildlife is never far away. In Bakau, Cape Point beach rolls down to the bird-squawking wetlands of Cape Creek. And on the other side of the river, Jinack Island’s 11-kilometre stretch of au naturel shoreline will have you dreaming up your desert island discs selection.

Post-sunset shenanigans

Daytimes in The Gambia are at the chilled end of the scale – wildlife-watching and sunbathing will probably take up a big chunk of space on your itinerary. Come nighttime, though, there’s no shortage of bars, clubs and restaurants to get your teeth into. Kololi’s the country’s nightlife hub. Here, the famous Senegambia Strip buzzes with energy after dark – once a row of roadside shacks, it’s now the go-to spot for eating out, mingling with the locals and late-night clubbing.

Off-beat adventures

Like a lot of developing countries, The Gambia comes with a few unique charms – but they’re all part of the authentic experience. The roads are on the bumpy side, Wi-Fi isn’t always as reliable as what you’re used to at home, and not all hotel lobbies and restaurants have air con. You’ll probably notice the odd power cut during your stay, too. However, all of this makes for an adventure to remember – and the smiling locals, tropical shores and off-the-beaten-track experiences you’ll get here will more than make up for the lack of mod-cons.

At a Glance

  • Dig your toes into the sands along Cape Point beach
  • Keep your eyes peeled for crocs in Abuko Nature Reserve
  • Seek out the street art in Kubuneh village