Banjul, a small port city in West Africa, is the capital of The Gambia. Check tap Portugal flight change it’s on Saint Mary’s Island, in the southern part of the Gambia River estuary, separated from the mainland by a series of waterways bordered with mangroves.
Banjul is virtually undiscovered by tourists who prefer to visit the beaches. The sandy lanes with sun-bleached colonial structures give a historic sense that the more modern beach resorts lack. It also has a bustling harbor and a market that represents the best of urban Africa.
The Gambia’s safety
Many people are about the safety of Banjul, particularly in light of the possibility of political upheaval posed by President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to surrender office following the election. But, former President Yahya Jammeh has stood down and left the nation, and the elected President, Mr. Adama Barrow, is returning to The Gambia soon.
As a result, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has dropped its advisory against visiting here. The situation is now stable, and military action is no longer an option.
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With the political update out of the way, I can declare that visiting Banjul in The Gambia is safe. As with any nation, you should take common sense precautions such as not wearing valuable jewellery, carrying significant sums of money, or displaying electronics such as iPhones or cameras. Pick-pocketing in crowded settings like Albert Market is not unheard of, so be cautious. Also, avoid dark streets, and if in doubt, ask your hotel or a nearby restaurant to contact a trustworthy taxi. Aside from the usual precautions, it’s safe.
The one thing to be cautious of (especially as a female) that is more of a bother than a threat is the enough of ‘bumsters’! These are young Gambian men who wish to be your friend, guide, boyfriend, and so on. They will bother you, especially around the beach and markets. They are, but, generally harmless and will leave you alone nine times out of ten if you tell them you’ve been there before or that you have a husband or partner. Don’t let this deter you from visiting an otherwise fantastic location.
6 Fantastic Activities in Banjul, Gambia
So, let’s return to Banjul, which is generally overlooked. Despite the fact that it is rarely frequented by visitors, there are some fantastic things to do there if you have the time. Here are seven fantastic activities in Banjul.
1. Arch 22
This 36-meter-high arch dominates Independence Drive, the main road into Banjul. It was constructed in 1996 to commemorate the military takeover of July 22, 1994. The top floor of the arch provides magnificent panoramic views over the city, giving you a clearer sense of it being an island. The Atlantic Ocean surrounds it, as do the River Gambia and some of the Tanbi mangroves. There is a cafe and a tiny ethnographic museum on the higher level (which can be reached via an elevator or steps). Traditional fabrics, clothing, agricultural tools, and weapons like bows and arrows are on show at the museum.
2. Albert Market
This lively market, open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., is Banjul’s primary attraction. On the first floor, you’ll find a colourful selection of fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, and dried goods, as well as lovely coloured fabrics and beauty products. Many tailors operate side by side in separate cubicles on the top levels. It’s worth spending a couple of hours here to watch the jostling natives in their traditional garb barter. If you want to buy something, expect to haggle because it’s all part of the enjoyment. If all that has made you hungry, there are various food and drink kiosks where you may get a snack or a quick refresher.
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3. Joseph’s Adult Education and Skills Centre
For 20 years, disadvantaged young women have received skill training in an old Portuguese building. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a free tour of the classes, which include tie-dye, crafts, sewing, and embroidery. There is also a priced shop where you can buy products handcrafted by the women, which make great mementos. The centre and shop are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday.
4. Sports Fishing
If you want to go sports fishing, you have a few possibilities. You could hire a local long canoe (pirogue), which comes with an outboard motor and a driver, to take you out on Oyster Creek. The mangroves are home to a variety of fish species and other fauna, making for excellent fishing. You can do this on your own with one of the small boat operators at Dentons Bridge or with a local fisherman on the shore near the Barra Ferry Terminal. The other alternative is to charter a larger, more professional boat to take you fishing upriver or out to sea. Many of these larger boats also include a bar and restaurant.
5. Gambian Home Cooking Experience
This is an experience that is well worth making time for, especially if you are a foodie. It will also give you a different perspective on Gambian life. It begins with a trip by Landrover to a crowded local market to buy the fresh ingredients needed for the dishes you’ll learn to cook later. A native juice, such as Wonjo or Baobab juice, can also be prepared. All the meals including the herbs and spices used for seasoning, will be you and cooked in a large pot balanced over a tiny fire.
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6. Bird Watching
If you enjoy bird viewing, use the most road, Kankujereh Road. This travels through salty marsh areas, home to many bird species. Pelicans and cormorants roost here for the night. Many wading birds can be on the mudflats during low tide, where they feed. Soon after, on both sides, are the Tanbi Mangroves. A word of caution: the ground can be uneven, and there is a lot of scrap metal dumped, so wear enclosed shoes or boots.