A day out in The Gambia: Crocs, monkeys, fish and markets

I’ll admit that I was quite settled in the routine shown in the photo below after just one day at Nemasu Lodge but when invited by some of the other guests to join them on a day trip to see some of the highlights The Gambia has to offer, ranging from a crocodile pond to a tour of Serrekunda market, it was too good to turn down.

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Our trip, led by the lovely Mamadou, started off at a tourist focussed market selling all sorts of art, sculptures and trinkets. The products on offer were very similar to pieces that I’d bought on previous trips to Ghana but we did pick up some giraffe fridge magnets (good presents for family) and one of the other guests bought a gorgeous, entirely hand-carved chess set to take back to the UK with him.

The next stop was Kachikally Museum and Crocodile Pool. The museum had some interesting artefacts and history about The Gambia; pre, during and post-colonial times but the crocodile pool was the highlight. Apparently the water possesses magical healing powers and can help with fertility! I’m sure that fortune favours the brave but with a reported 100 crocodiles in the water, and plenty of them lounging around in the sun on the banks, I didn’t fancy testing it to see if it was magical or not.

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Before lunch we hit the main market in Serrekunda which was a brilliant mixture of sights, smells and sounds. The market sold everything from fish, spices and live goats to televisions, clothes and cooking utensils. All of the goods were in towering stalls where the corridors between them could only just fit two people passing by each other at a time. Each stall owner was trying to cut a deal with everyone that came past and plenty of expressive haggling was happening at every turn. Aspiring entrepreneurs could learn a lot in any West African market like this one.

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After a lunch consisting of pizza and refreshed by a couple of cold bottles of Julbrew we arrived at Bijilo Forest Park; home to canopy forest, exotic birds and troops of monkeys. Although small, it has some attractive trail walks between the towering trees and shrub and the monkeys approach looking for food from the moment you step in.

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Our final stop was Tanji fishing village where, when we arrived, thousands of fish were being distributed from the colourfully decorated boats and sold to the market traders. Again, haggling was top of the agenda for all to ensure the best deal could be reached. Hundreds of birds were hoping for a stray fish for their chance for a free dinner.

Photo credit to Anna Gilthorpe.
Photo credit to Anna Gilthorpe.

Tanji is also home to the region’s smoke houses where many of the fish end up. As soon as I stepped in the the building I could I feel the smoke clawing at my throat, my eyes starting to scratch and the intense heat bearing down on me. I have no idea how the workers tending to the fish managed to do hours at a time but it didn’t seem to affect them in the slightest. With the evening sun streaming in I was really pleased with the atmosphere it created for a couple of quick photos.

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And with that our tour was done. It was a great day exploring some highlights of the country and a chance to talk to some fellow guests and our guide, Mamadou. It was brilliant to see how some Gambian people go about their daily lives too. I’d recommend it for anyone looking to get out and about for a day.

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