BUDGET FOR TRIP: N250, 000 (3 night stay per person)
DISCLAIMER: The budget above is based on my expenses and I would advice you do a further enquiry as to the actual figures. We got a MASSIVE discount on accommodation and paid little or nothing for transportation. Further, the trip was in 2013 and prices would definitely have varied.
My Gambia experience was scheduled for 3 posts away but I got a lot of requests from readers and decided to publish it early. I visited Gambia due to persuasion from my close friend who moved there immediately after law school in 2009. Amidst our tears and goodbyes, I had promised to visit her in Gambia the moment she gets settled in. It took me 4 years but I still stayed true to my words, lol. As luck will have it, my husband (then boyfriend) had been talking about getting away for a weekend, somewhere, not too far away. We agreed on Gambia (yay!!!) and I began planning in earnest. I called up my friend and told her to roll out the red carpet, Yej is coming to town! As usual, I researched everything that could possibly be done in a weekend in Gambia. However, nothing beats having a contact person in a city you are visiting especially if the person is a kindred spirit. My friend helped us with practically everything and made our stay memorable.
VISAS: There are no visa requirements for Nigerian citizens to Gambia and you could fly with your ECOWAS passport. You will need your yellow fever card.
FLIGHTS: The only operating flight to Gambia from Nigeria is Arik Air. I need to get you mentally prepared for this. Ignore the part of the booking that says “non-stop” flight to Banjul. This is a big lie as the flight operates like a commercial bus and stops at 3 cities (Douala, Monrovia and Freetown) before Banjul. We got on the flight thinking we would be in Gambia within the hour or two. As the pilot announced the first stop, we kept wondering what was happening till the hostess informed us we had 2 more stops to go. It took us over 4 hours to get to Gambia (considering the disembarkment and embarkment of passengers at the various stops). We were so frustrated we began taking pictures of the various airports.
So if you re not very patient and you have A LOT of money, kindly rent a jet! Cost of ticket: N99,000
HOTELS: My friend recommended one of the best hotels in Gambia, Coco Ocean, and got us a HUGE discount on the room. She told her Aunt, the manager, that her friends from Nigeria, “newly weds”, were coming to Coco Ocean for their honeymoon. They were so kind and decorated the room for their “honeymooners”. We were constantly getting “awwwwwww congratulations” from everyone at the hotel. We felt so awkward but had to keep pretending! It’s so much fun being a “newly wed”. Accommodation cost 3 night stay = $450 (N72, 900)
Other hotel options include:
- Coconut residence
- Djebila Hotel
- Kairaba beach hotel
- Senegambia Hotel
TRANSPORTATION: Gambian friend to the rescue! She took us everywhere and we didn’t have to pay for anything save our transportation to the airport which cost about $25 (N4,050).
- VISIT BEACHES: Besides the beach by the hotel, the only beach we visited was Kotu beach where we had Baobab juice. My only memory of a “Baobab” is from the poem Abiku by J.P Clark. I was surprised to find out the tree actually bears edible fruits that could be juiced. It tasted very nice too.
(I know, I know! This blog is not about my weight lol)
- FISHING IN RIVER GAMBIA: Fishing is a prominent activity in Gambia and we were very excited to do this. We haggled and paid about $40 (N6, 480) to rent the fishing boat for an hour. We were hoping to catch a barracuda and got frustrated when we didn’t after 30 minutes.
- CROCODILE POOL: Apparently the crocodiles here have special healing powers and the pool is used as a site for fertility rituals.
I tried to “tap” some anointing and the guide promised the crocodile wouldn’t move
….I guess NOT!!
- SPA TREATMENT: Usually I wouldn’t put this as an activity but this has to be the best spa treatment I have received in my life (for now). This was done at Coco Ocean. The masseuse had the softest, most delicate hands on a human being. Every other time I got a massage, my husband will always ask “on the scale of zero to Gambia, how good was it?”.
- WOLOF “JOLLOF” RICE HUNT: This shouldn’t be an activity either, but this hunt is worth documenting. I am ashamed to say that we missed our flight because of food! I promise you, I am not a big eater and it was just satisfying my curiosity that cost me. Back in law school, my friend always argued that the Nigerian Jollof rice was a joke compared to what was made in Gambia and I was not going to let my holiday go without trying it. She had directed us to a few spots where we could get the rice and I decided the “best” time to get it was on our way to the airport. We got to the first restaurant and 10 minutes later they told us they didn’t have Wolof Rice. I was so angry but my anger did not lead me to the airport. We headed to yet ANOTHER restaurant that wasted our time for an additional 30 long minutes! We rushed out when we realized the time and headed towards the airport. Long story short, we got to the airport late, missed our flight and had to fly back the next day. Verdict on the Wolof or Jollof Rice?? Gambia wins it!
Anyone had a near miss or missed flight experience? Kindly share!
“Airline travel is hours of boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror “- Al Boliska
P.S we got on instagram @naijanomads!!! Kindly tag your travel photos using #naijanomads for a chance to be featured.