While The Gambia is relatively undiscovered by US travelers, this will likely change. The smallest country in Africa is working hard on making its tourism offering more eco-friendly. In fact, recently Big 7 Travel ranked them at no. 3 of the best eco-friendly destinations in the world. Read on to find out more about Senegal’s neighbor and upcoming ecotourism destination.
The Gambia as an eco-friendly destination
Hamat Bah, the Gambian Tourism and Culture Minister explained how the country is diversifying its tourism attractions. While The Gambia is famous for its golden beaches and waving palm trees, Bah explained that ecotourism is their latest focus. On top of this, the African country is putting a new focus on culinary and cultural tourism.
Eco-friendly River Gambia National Park
The national parks in this small African country are teeming with wildlife. One great example is River Gambia National Park, one of the most important wildlife sites in the country. Here, more than 600 bird species can be found, along with hippos, crocodiles, manatees and colobus monkeys.
Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project
The park also hosts the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project, where more than 100 free-living chimpanzees can be found on various islands. One island is known as Baboon Island and while visitors are unable to set foot there, it is possible to see the animals, along with other wildlife and birds, on a boat tour.
Meanwhile, there is an eco-camp for visitors at the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project offering four, twin-bedded safari tents. The tents are set on raised platforms – high enough to keep dangerous animals away, but also to give guests remarkable views of Baboon Island and other places in the national park.
Abuko Nature Reserve
Abuko Nature Reserve consists of 259 acres of rainforest and is easy to reach from most of the resort hotels in the area. This is the perfect place for birdwatchers to see the many bird species, along with other wildlife. Designated guides take visitors on the forest trail to help them locate the various species.
However, besides the wildlife, Abuko hosts around 50 types of tropical trees. Its main feature is its thick tropical canopy and savannah. It is estimated that the forest gallery is home to around 290 bird species, including willow warblers, pied kingfishers and African paradise flycatchers. Of the primate species, Abuko is home to red colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, bush babies and red patas.
Animal Orphanage at Abuko
While in the nature reserve, tourists can visit the Animal Orphanage. Started in 1997 by the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, the rehabilitation center cares for parrots, hyenas, and various types of monkeys, including chimpanzees.
Meanwhile, Abuko Nature Reserve features the Darwin Field Station, a research station set up to maintain The Gambia’s biodiversity.
Cultural tours of The Gambia
While the wildlife in The Gambia is remarkable, the people and their culture are what truly sets the African country apart. For this reason, the country is launching a number of homestays and cultural tours.
One example is Ndemban Homestay, which offers visitors a chance to learn about rural Gambian life. Here, they can experience the Gambian dancing and singing, as well as cooking lessons on an open campfire. They can also take lessons in the traditional batik tie-dying craft of The Gambia.
To really get into the role, visitors perform common village errands, such as working with the women in the gardens, roasting cashews, picking fruits and generally helping out. After a busy day, visitors can have fun, playing football with the local youths.
Visitors can also have a culinary experience during their time in the country. One example is Ida’s cooking school in Tanji. Lessons begin with a visit to the local market, where visitors will haggle for the necessary ingredients. In the kitchen, they will learn more about the country’s favorite flavors while the friendly Gambian chef shows them how to prepare a traditional dinner. Along the way, Ida also tells stories about her homeland.
No. 3 eco-friendly destination in the world
Meanwhile, Big 7 Travel has recently announced that The Gambia is the third-best eco-friendly country in the world behind Bhutan and Botswana. In their press release, they explained that they have selected 50 destinations around the world that are “doing good for the planet.”
Each of the cities, regions, or countries has committed to protecting its natural resources, heritage and people.
The website describes The Gambia as follows:
“The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa, best known for its scenic lagoons, golden beaches and year-round sunshine. For a few years, it became popular (and dependent) on the charter flight brigade seeking out warmer winter climes. But post-pandemic, the country has started developing alternatives to all-inclusive beach getaways. The Ninki Nanka Trail is an excellent example; the trail aims to draw visitors from the golden coast to discover rural communities along the River Gambia.”
The following are Big 7 Travel’s top 10 best eco-friendly destinations to visit in 2022:
- The Gambia
- Southern Carpathians – Romania
- Costa Rica
- Azores Islands – Portugal
- Scotland – United Kingdom
Enjoy an eco-friendly vacation in The Gambia this year, learning about the local culture and cuisine while viewing the incredible diversity of wildlife and bird species.