Off Piste Backpacking in The Gambia

The Gambia – Yep that’s right it’s actually called that and it’s the only country in the World that we’re aware of that uses ‘The’ to officially introduce itself. Along with this there are two other reasons we immediately loved The Gambia, one – English is the national language and two – they don’t charge Australians anything for a Visa. Heaven.

What else will you love in The Gambia?

It moves to a slow beat and it’s a fairly chilled out scene, most locals will want you to stop for a chat to welcome you. You’ll also get used to the familiar calls of ‘Toubab’ (the local term for white man) from the local kids as you high five them and they hug you back as you roam the streets. It’s famous for its eco-tourism scene and it’s all well organised, it’s easy to get around and it’s refreshingly progressive with loads of worthwhile organisations and programs doing great local work.

After dark it’s a place like no other – we learnt a lot on our first night out. Don’t be fooled, you’re not in a retirement village, in fact it’s anything but – the older women you will find in the bars have found their inner youth and that’s why they’re here. It’s a lesson in the food chain as these predators of the night stalk their younger prey across all parts of the dance floor.

If you hadn’t guessed sex tourism is booming here, predominately with older Brits, surprisingly mostly women but there’s also a few men floating about in search of, well, (for lack of any other non-offensive term) love.

Back to the city and around Banjul, there is an awkward sprawl of 5 or 6 local areas, each with their own scene. As a whole if it’s nightclubs you’re after you’ll find them centered in one spot, known as ‘the Strip’ – and they pump. The local lads can truly dance so you’re in for a treat, but as we witnessed time after time, if you’re a white guy stay seated – it’s embarrassing for everybody when you dangle your limbs awkwardly around trying to compete. As one of the local ladies said – ‘White guys can’t dance and black guys can’t swim’.

What seals the deal?

The Gambia is supremely cheap if you stick with the locals. The ‘street meat’ here is well above board and on any given night you can find anything from Nigerian cuisine to loaded long baguettes to fruits to the insides of a goat. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to wash that down with one of no doubt Africa’s best beers, Jul Brew and yes, it’s pretty special.

You can also check out some other places to go backpacking in Africa here.