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Out of all the places you have been, which was your favourite? I don’t know about you, but I find it near on impossible to narrow it down to just one place. I love so many destinations for different reasons. But one of the main reasons I love The Gambia is because it’s the country that made me fall in love with travel.
Until I visited The Gambia, I’d never pushed my boundaries or stepped outside my comfort zone and it wasn’t until travelling to Africa that the world opened up to me. I am now so passionate about travelling that I want everyone to experience it. And I want you to visit The Gambia, the smiling coast of Africa, too. So, read on for 5 reasons to visit The Gambia right now.
1. The people
Known as ‘the smiling coast of Africa’, this is one of the best reasons to visit The Gambia. One of the first things I noticed when we landed in this beautiful little country was how warm and friendly the people are. While we were only there for a week, we meet so many happy and hospitable people and were invited to eat with two families. These families were complete strangers to us but by the end of the day, I felt like I had known them for a lifetime. If you want to meet happy people, visit The Gambia.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
If plucking, gutting and preparing a chicken for lunch sounds like your idea of fun, it definitely wasn’t mine. Call me whatever you want: prim, prudish, snobby. You’re right, I was all those things because when I was handed a dead chicken, I was horrified. Our western world shelters us from many of life’s harsh realities but when it comes down to it, we are as strong as we let ourselves be.
Rolling up our sleeves, we dove right in. And I’m so glad we did because although being outside my comfort zone isn’t always the most comfortable place to be, it’s the only place to learn.
3. You’ll learn that happiness doesn’t come from owning things
When you live in a materialistic society, it is easy to be sucked into consumerism and made to feel that you need possessions to be content. But visiting The Gambia turned this mindset on its head. Granted, no one wants to, or should have to, live in poverty.
But one of the primary lessons I learned from my time in Africa is that happiness does not result from the things you own; happiness is a mindset. And the people of The Gambia are the champions of this – always smiling, always dancing, always looking out for each other. So, while many in The Gambia are materially poor, they are rich in many other ways.
4. It’s easy to get off the beaten track
In this day and age, it can be extremely difficult to get off the beaten track and discover new and unspoiled destinations. While The Gambia is far from undiscovered, it is easy to escape the tourist trail and experience the culture of the country if you really want to.
The majority of tourists stay in the resorts of Kololi and Senegambia, where you’ll find hotels, guesthouses, bars and restaurants in abundance. We, however, stayed in Bakau, which is a little further up the coast, away from the resorts. By staying in Bakau, we were able to immerse ourselves in the local culture and see a glimmer of the real Africa.
The people of The Gambia are extremely hospitable, so don’t be surprised if you are invited to eat at a stranger’s home. Of course, you should always be cautious when around strangers, especially in a country you’re not familiar with. On the other hand, we accepted two invitations to eat with local families and because of this were able to see so much more of the country and culture.
5. It’s a beautiful country and has something for everyone
Whether you’re looking to relax on a beautiful beach or soak up the culture of a new destination, The Gambia has something for everyone. The scenery, the food, the culture and the people make this one of my favourite places on earth. What’s more, the best time of year to visit The Gambia is from October to April, making it the perfect spot for some winter sun.
Without a doubt, this tiny country captured my heart and I can’t wait to return. Do you need any more reasons to visit The Gambia?
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