Before I visited the Gambia over a decade ago, I had no idea of how a 3rd world country really looked like. I only knew the things I saw on the television and boy, I can tell you that seeing stuff on the television is nothing compared with visiting a 3rd world country like Gambia yourself.
The Gambia is the smallest African country but made a big impact on my view of the world. Here are the things that left me with mixed emotions, a lot of WTF’s and a different perspective of the world.
1. The Huge difference between Rich and Poor in Gambia
I had no idea of the huge difference between rich and arm in the Gambia, and that there was no in-between of those two. Apparently, 60% of Gambians live in poverty, with a third of those living on less than $1.25 a day.
It really made me realize how lucky we are to be born, raised and able to live in very stable and economically great countries.
2. Gambia has the most disgusting money in the world
This is no joke or exaggeration, the Gambia definitely has the most disgusting money in the world. It’s greasy, broken, dirty. Basically, a wiped toilet paper is cleaner than Gambian money ( Dalasi ). Yes, I am serious.
3. A 3-star Gambian resort is like a 1-star backpackers in Asia
A 3-star hotel in the Gambia is not comparable with a 3-star hotel in Western Countries, and even not comparable with Asian countries.
We stayed in a 3-star hotel that was more like a 1- star hotel and had the biggest rat I have ever seen lying dead in front of our terrace.
The outside area wasn’t too bad, but all very basic and not very clean, and so was our room. As my friend and I were on a budget at that time we just went with the cheapest deal to skip the cold Dutch winter for a week, so we couldn’t really expect more.
4. Having African braids that left me like Tina Turner
I got those typical African braids in my hair because I thought it was cool. Well, it might have been a little bit, but getting those things in so tight that it hurt and turning me into Tina Turner after my brother spending almost 2 hours to get them out, wasn’t particularly worth it.
I just say one thing: Please Don’t laugh! 😉
5. Petting a Nile crocodile at the Kachikally Crocodile Pool
Another stupid thing I did in the Gambia. Sitting leg to leg and petting a Nile Crocodile at the Kachikally crocodile pool in Bakau ( around 15 km from the capital Banjul ) Now, after living in Croc Country for 5 years, I would know those ones could have easily bitten my hand off.
Although it is a bit of a tourist trap, The Kachikally Sacred Crocodile Pool is known by local Gambians for its healing powers and as a place where people come to pray for blessings, especially for the infertile woman who wish to conceive.
There are about 80 crocodiles in and around the pool and on a good day, you might see more than half-a-dozen crocodiles chilling out in the sun. Some of them are longer than 2 meters, but they say they are totally used to human visitors and getting touched.
Well, we all know that crocodiles are predators and although the Nile crocodiles mainly eat fish, in nature, they will attack almost anything unfortunate enough to cross its path, including zebras, small hippos, porcupines, birds, and other crocodiles.
Yep, not a very good idea, but hey, I can say I touched a crocodile 😉
6. Getting followed by Bumsters
One very annoying thing in the Gambia is getting followed by the so-called bumsters. People trying to hustle tourists into giving them money or things like cigarettes.
Even though most of them are harmless, it’s just bloody annoying as some just won’t let you alone. We had one guy walking all the way with us from the hotel to the village trying to sell something, even after we said no 10 times.
In a way, it’s also understandable.These people are unemployed and need to feed their families too. We also saw kids on the streets doing this. They dropped out of school as they noticed earning money by selling stuff on the streets and trying to get tourist to get them money, pays more than a ‘normal’ job after school.
This is why you should never give them anything. How harsh it sounds, and how sweet they look. What you are doing with giving them money is encourage them to stay out of school.
7. Driving through local towns in the Gambia
Is a great way to get an impression of life in the Gambia. We traveled in one of those massive trucks and passed villages with local people making beautiful artwork, markets, and also saw the poorest parts of the Gambia.
9. Visiting the Markets in Banjul, the Gambia
Be warned if you visit the Markets in Banjul, The Gambia. It stinks. Horrible. There is rubbish everywhere, lot’s of people, and fish and meat laying in 30-degree heat.
10. Going to the Beach in Gambia
If you think you are going to have this tropical, pearl white beaches with wavey palm trees in the Gambia, you will be disappointed. The Gambia certainly has some nice beaches, but nothing compared with the beaches in other African countries like Egypt, Tunisia or Morocco.
Also keep in mind, that if you go to a public beach, you will get people coming up to you ( Bumpsters ) and try to sell stuff.
If you are going to the Gambia only to get a tan and skip the cold winter weather and aren’t interested in the rest of the country, book a resort with a private beach.
11. Exploring Nature in the Gambia
I must say, that I wasn’t really impressed with the nature of Gambia. Gambian Nature is nothing compared with other African countries. It is flat, dry and not particularly special in my opinion. Apart from one elephant tree we saw ⇓
12. Visiting a local school in the Gambia
This was one of the most impressive things of our trip to the Gambia. Visiting a local school. You can see it in the above picture, I was visibly impressed. It made me realize how lucky we were as kids and all the opportunities we have in life. While I am writing this and looking at the pictures I made in the Gambia, I really wonder what happened to all of those beautiful kids.
As soon as we stepped through the school gates my head was spinning with all different thoughts.
‘Omg, those kids are so cute and lovely’ ‘What?! This is the classroom?! Look at those walls!’
The kids were so well behaved. There were no posters, geographic maps, books or other things we are used to see in a classroom. There was literally nothing. We brought some toys and balloons which was very appreciated by all of them.
I think some pictures say more than 1000 words…