It feels weird that I can’t write “backpacking in The Gambia” as I’d be lying. I have never gone backpacking in The Gambia, but I have been travelling there and I still was able to see the sights I wanted despite being on an insane lost luggage challenge with MoneySupermarket.com and without my notorious backpacking brace of Osprey and MindShift.
This post is also a rare one, where I combine a “whackpackers” (OK travellers) top 5 from two different places into one, just because I day tripped them all in one day and recommend you to do the same. The rest of the time I was too busy chilling out in my two resorts – the swanky Coco Ocean by the Atlantic and the cosy village apartments at Banana Lodge.
You can see my top 10 sights in Banjul and Bakau (and Fajara incidentally) all in one day of sunshine. Oddly the other two places I visited most in Gambia were called Brufut (where I slept at Banana Lodge) and Barra (where I crossed the ferry having come from Senegal) and therefore we have four places all beginning with letter B!:
While based at Banana Lodge, I was able to get a driver, Zacariah to give me a full day tour of all the sights I wanted, those on this list and a few others for £30. You can also hire a car, but as far as public transport is concerned, you will have a mission doing all these in one day on local buses, which are few and far between and a tad sweaty!
These were my top sights in Bakau and Banjul.
This impressive Victory Arch means a lot to the local people. It sits on the way into Banjul city on a prominent roundabout. The meaning of the 22 relates to the military coup and uprising from 22nd July 1994.
From that moment forth, Gambia entered a presidential republic, where it has been run by the same leader for the last 20 years, Yahya Jammeh.
The Arc gives stunning views over Banjul City, has a musuem at the top and costs 50 Dalasi to go to the top (15 Dalasi for locals).
While Senegal’s capital city Dakar has a totally chaotic market scene in the Medina, Banjul slows the damn thing down a notch and you can wander round at your leisure. Again be on the lookout for thieves and locals trying to talk to you.
Selectively ignore them all and keep walking. Albert Market is huge and goes right from Liberation Street/Russell Street down to the harbour at the Atlantic Ocean.
Within a minute of being inside the market, you are swept onto a pristine beach admiring views and golden sands which sink low into the Atlantic Ocean. For a moment, this is a paradise.
4.Banjul War Memorial and July 22nd Square
There are two memorials in the top 10. Weirdly my driver Zacariah told me that the downtown one in Banjul was not allowed to be photographed due to the strikes and border disputes. I ignored this and took a few photos anyway. It’s a huge monument near Albert Market and the entire square is called July 22nd Square.
5.Election House (Bakau)
On a main road near Bakau is the Election House. Press briefings and announcements are often made here, we stopped off by the side of the road just to see it from the outside.
I was shocked to see how modern and swanky the Gambia’s National Assembly building was. It puts other countries to shame. All governmental meetings happen here.
7.Mile Two Prison (Banjul)
Mile Two Prison is a notorious shithole of a place for anyone who disagrees with Yahya Jammeh. The cells of this places are brutal and grim and full of mosquitos and excrement.
It is famous for a cult of witchcraft exercisors, I remember reading about this in the Telegraph a few years back. The prison is closer to Banjul on the Banjul to Bakau highway and you cannot go inside, but my driver stopped outside and I had a detailed look around the outer walls. Be very conspicious if you are taking photos.
8.Kachikally Crocodile Pool (Bakau)
I have already written about my crazy experience stroking crocodiles that were neither asleep nor drugged, when I headed to the Kachikally Crocodile Pool.
It’s probably the most touristy attraction in all of Gambia and my personal favourite on this list – I loved checking out the crocodile pool, which also has a small museum.
9.Independence Stadium (Bakau)
When I took out my Northern Ireland flag and flew it at Independence Stadium here in Bakau, The Gambia, it was a moment of personal achievement. This was the 100th different country that I had visited a National Football Stadium in.
I remembered that back in 2007 I had actually watched the Gambia live when I went to the Under 20s World Cup in Toronto, Canada.
10.Fajara War Cemetery (Fajara)
Strictly speaking the Fajara War Cemetery is neither in Banjul or Bakau, it’s in a village called Fajara but if I don’t include it on here, I will never write about it.
It’s a war cemetery dedicated to those from the Gambia who fought and died in the Second World War.
Another cool thing to do in Banjul is to get the ferry to Barra, I came and went twice on this one and loved it.
Here are some videos from my time NOT backpacking in Banjul, Gambia: