Right on the westernmost point of Africa lies the Republic of Gambia – the smallest country on mainland Africa. Filled with long white beaches, radiant colours and beautiful people, it is a country with a long history of slave trade as well. From wild beaches to wildlife-rich forested parks, The Gambia offers you everything you need to enjoy a fabulous time in this African paradise. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about Gambia.
1. Gambia is the smallest country on the continent of Africa. The country is 113 miles wide and the length is roughly 37.23 miles.
2. Gambia? Zambia? One might get them confused right? Well in 1964, the then president took measures to prevent persons from confusing The Zambia with Zambia? He added the “The” to Gambia so that the country was now officially recognized to as The Gambia.
3. During elections, Gambians vote using a stone in a private booth; they are presented with holes in the ground marked with each candidate, they drop the stone in the hole they choose and done! Very eco-friendly, saves on paper!
4. Even though 96% of the population adheres to Islam, Islam in the Gambia is characterized by less strict rules than in all the rest Muslim countries. The fact that alcohol is widely available makes the natives of the Gambia the most liberal Muslims. Some of them like beer so much that they decided to brew their own beer that is known in the country under the brand “Julbrew”.
5. All ethnic groups living in the Gambia practice a unique ritual that is meant to mark the transition of boys from childhood to adulthood. Upon turning eleven or twelve years old, a boy is supposed to change his location and go to a remote area for many months. This period is crucial in his life because this is when he learns about important aspects of the culture as well as his responsibilities as a man in the community.
6. Gambians believe that boys who are just circumcised are most vulnerable to evil spirits and witches who might want to possess them.
7. The fear of evil spirits is so strong among the people that they prefer to ignore any sounds they may hear during the night-time. They believe these sounds to be the work of evil spirits who might harm them. In some tribes, people are afraid of the sound owls because the sound is considered to predict the worst – the death of a tribe’s member.
8. In 1969, English woman Stella Brewer Marsden started the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP) to return rescued chimps back to the wild. Rehabilitated chimps were given homes on the Baboon Islands in Gambia.
9. In 2007, the Gambia’s president shocked some people when he announced that he had found the cure for AIDS. His overall treatment consisted of applying the herbal paste to the body and drinking herbal concoction consistently for thirty days. A UN representative subsequently questioned his cure and was thrown out of the country.
10. Gambia has a number of crocodile pools. The Kachikally crocodile pool located in the heart of Bakau, is one of three sacred crocodile pools used as sites for fertility rituals.
11. The people of Gambia believe that crocodiles have a magic power. For example, when a woman is infertile, the marabou – the sacred one, sends her to a crocodile pond to wash herself in the water. After this she should be fertile.
How to reach?
Banjul International Airport (Yundum International) is the main airport of the Gambia and operates many connecting flights from India every week. This airport is located about 20 km from the capital city Banjul and can be reached via taxi, shuttle, or car rental services. There are also numerous cheap charter flights as well from European countries.
Captain Nero’s recommendations in Gambia:
Abuko Nature Reserve: A short drive from Banjul will take you to the best nature preserve in the country. Here you’ll get some great wildlife encounters. The reserve is inhabited by a number of primate species as well as antelope, porcupine, African palm civets, crocodiles and over 400 bird species.
Kachikally Crocodile Pool: Located about 30 minutes north of Abuko, you will run into the Kachikally Crocodile Pool where you can spend some time with some freshwater crocs and learn how the pool is used in local fertility rituals Locals believe in the healing powers of the water and it’s a popular place to come for a blessing.
Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Camp: Comprised of so-called Baboon Island and several smaller islands, this is one of the most important wildlife sites in The Gambia. No one is allowed to set foot on Baboon Island (including staff), but visitors can see many of the simians during a boat tour around the islands. Alternatively, many tourists can choose to stay at the projects accommodation camp to watch them more closely. There are many guides as well who can give you a detailed information about the camp and the lives and character of the island apes.
Brufut Beach: Brufut Beach is located 23 km from Banjul, the capital, and has terrific golden sand and lots of privacy. Because it’s less touristy, it’s a great place for sunbathing, water sports, walks along the sand, and cycling.
Sanyang Village and Beach: Sangyang Beach, which is made up of Paradise, Osprey, and Pelican beaches, is considered by many to be the best beachfront in all of The Gambia. It is a perfect escape if you want to get away from the crowd. You’ll feel like you have the whole Atlantic shore to yourself as you stroll down long stretches of white sandy beach surrounded by mangroves.
Wassu Stone Circles: Located in the Central River Region, these circles are believed to be the burial sites of ancient kings and chiefs in 750-1000 AD. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006, local legend has it that if anyone disturbs the stones they will be cursed – a good clue as to why they have remained undisturbed for so long.