Fun Things to Do Around Banjul, The Gambia

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Banjul, the charming capital city of The Gambia, is a hidden gem that offers a perfect blend of cultural, historical, and natural attractions.

Situated on St. Mary’s Island at the mouth of the Gambia River and connected to the mainland by Denton Bridge, Banjul provides easy access to the rest of the country.

This article will take you through the best things to do around Banjul, from exploring historical sites and vibrant markets to unwinding at tranquil beaches and spotting wildlife in lush reserves.

Banjul’s Rich Culture and History

Banjul is known for its relaxed atmosphere, diverse population, and unique architecture. The city’s population includes the Aku, Fula, Diola, and other ethnic groups, each contributing to the rich cultural tapestry of Banjul.

The architecture and local clothing styles reflect this diversity, making Banjul an appealing destination for those seeking a genuine African experience.

National Museum

The National Museum is an excellent starting point for learning about Gambian societies and history. The museum houses a collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that showcase the country’s heritage and provide valuable insights into its past.

Some of the highlights include traditional musical instruments, pottery, and textiles, as well as historical documents and photographs that tell the story of The Gambia’s journey to independence.

Arch 22

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One of the most notable monuments in Banjul is Arch 22, designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby. This decorative gate commemorates the 1994 military coup d’état and offers panoramic city views from its observation deck.

The arch stands 35 meters tall and houses a small museum dedicated to the history of The Gambia, with a focus on the events leading up to the coup.

Fort Bullen

Fort Bullen, located at Barra Point, is another significant historical site in Banjul. This well-preserved fort played a crucial role in suppressing the slave trade and offers a fascinating glimpse into the Gambia’s past.

Guided tours provide insights into the fort’s past and its impact on the region’s history. The surrounding area also offers stunning views of the Gambia River and the Atlantic Ocean.

St. Mary’s Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral showcases the craftsmanship and spiritual devotion of the local community. The cathedral’s beautiful architecture and peaceful atmosphere provide a space for reflection.

Admirers of intricate designs and stained glass windows can appreciate the cathedral while learning about the role of Christianity in Banjul’s religious landscape.

Other Fun Things to Do Around Banjul

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Banjul’s markets are a central aspect of the city’s life, offering a lively energy and cultural exchange that should not be missed.

Albert Market

Albert Market is a vibrant open-air market and a hub of activity, offering a wide array of goods, from colorful textiles and handcrafted souvenirs to fresh produce and local delicacies.

The market provides a sensory experience of sights, sounds, and smells as you navigate the narrow alleys. It’s an excellent place to find unique souvenirs, such as traditional Gambian fabrics, basketry, and jewelry.

Independence Drive

Independence Drive, the city’s main street, is lined with historical sites, shops, and cafes. A leisurely walk along this thoroughfare allows appreciation of Banjul’s unique architecture and local ambiance.

The various shops offer authentic Gambian crafts, textiles, and souvenirs, while the charming cafes provide a chance to sample local cuisine and mingle with friendly locals.

Banjul’s Natural Attractions and Wildlife

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Banjul is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, from tranquil beaches to lush forests and wildlife reserves.

Bijilo Forest Park

Bijilo Forest Park is a nature lover’s paradise, home to diverse bird species and monkeys in their natural habitat. The park is home to the endangered red colobus monkeys and various species of hornbills and bee-eaters.

The park is an excellent spot for birdwatching, with species such as bee-eaters, hornbills, and kingfishers frequently spotted. Feeding the animals is discouraged to preserve their natural behavior.

Kachikally Crocodile Pool

The Kachikally Crocodile Pool is a sacred site believed to hold powers of fertility and fulfill personal requests. Here, you can observe the crocodiles up close and even touch them under the guidance of experienced handlers.

The pool is also a fertility shrine and a place for various personal appeals. The site also features a nature trail and a cultural museum that provides insights into the local beliefs and traditions surrounding the crocodiles.

River Gambia National Park

River Gambia National Park consists of five rainforested islands that serve as a sanctuary for chimpanzees and hippos. Accessible only by private boat tours, the park is an excellent example of conservation efforts to protect endangered species in their natural habitat.

Accessible only by private boat tours, the park offers a unique opportunity to observe these intelligent primates in their natural habitat and learn about conservation efforts to protect them.

Oyster Creek

Oyster Creek is a serene spot for wildlife spotting and learning about the local oyster harvesting industry. A leisurely boat ride along the creek allows you to observe the mangrove forests and abundant birdlife.

The area is also home to a thriving oyster harvesting community, where traditional methods of oyster collection and processing can be observed. This eco-friendly activity supports the local economy and promotes sustainable practices.

Best Time to Visit Banjul and Practical Information

The best time to visit Banjul is from November to February when the weather is cooler and less humid. This period also coincides with the dry season, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the city’s attractions.

Getting around Banjul is relatively easy, with taxis and minibuses (known as “gelegele“) readily available. Taxis are the most convenient option for short trips within the city, while minibusses are suitable for longer distances and budget-friendly travel.

When shopping in Banjul, particularly at markets like Albert Market, you might want to carry cash, as credit card acceptance is limited. Bargaining is a common practice and negotiating prices can be quite fun.

Wrap-Up

Banjul is an alluring destination that combines cultural, historical, and natural attractions. This charming West African city offers historical landmarks, dynamic markets, peaceful beaches, and wildlife in lush nature reserves.

Its distinctive atmosphere, created by its rich heritage, friendly inhabitants, and beautiful landscapes, sets it apart from other capitals in the region and promises an authentic and memorable experience for travelers.

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