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Bakau - Beach & Town, Gambia
 
 
INTRODUCTION:
The Bakau resort is in the Kombo Saint Mary District, in the West Coast Region of The Gambia, and is the nearest holiday resort to the capital of Banjul which is 12km to the east. Bakau town includes the Cape Point promontory, and its northernmost coastline marks the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gambia River. It is part desirable suburb, part shanty town and part coastal resort. The coastline is fringed with palm trees however, the beach area is composed of rocky, laterite cliff edges and at high tide the sand can disappear altogether. This is not the case with Cape Point which descends onto a wide beach area.

ACCOMMODATION:
For travellers there are a number of basic hotels and guesthouses, and the town is a suitable if you are eager to lodge in the general area but not be to far away from the resort's beaches. Coming from the south the first hotel you will come across is the African Village Hotel which lies on the edge of a laterite cliff with a slither of beach at low tide. The Romana Afram Hotel is a small lodge at the edge of the town but on the main road called. The Garden Guest House is located in the heart of the gritty urban area. If you are looking for something more deluxe then you need to go further north to Cape Point which has a much better beach in a more genteel location.

GENERAL AREA:
 Bakau Old Town
Local oral history says that the old village was established by the Bojang family over 500 years ago when crocodiles came and settled in what is now known as Katchikally. Today, along with the Sanchaba section, the Old Town is one of the oldest settlements in The Gambia. Among the first settlers to arrive were fishermen and their families. During the colonial era the locality was a desirable area for the British, and formed part of British Kombo which was basically the capital Banjul, Saint Mary's Island, and the outlying coastal areas to the west.



For holidaymakers, the Old Town's central points are the sections around the Atlantic Road junction, where it meets the Sait Matty Road. There is a post office, a few banks, a row of small bars and restaurants in front of the  African Village Hotel, shops, a minimarket, Bakau Market and the tourist Craft Market (bengdula), where the Atlantic Boulevard meets the Cape Point Road. If you move a few metres inland you are in urban Gambia. A little to the south of the djembe drum producers and batik stands is the village marketplace.



The overcrowded residential area just inland is a tightly packed mish-mash of family compounds, sandy lanes, small shops, mechanic's workshops and so on. Over the years fishing families are being replaced by tourist sector workers.  The residential neighbourhood, with its breeze block bungalows, rusting corrugated iron fences and smelly drainage ditches might not be everyone's cup of tea; however, there is virtually no traffic here so it's easier to travel around on foot than comparable areas in Serrekunda. Some of the densely populated backstreets have local diners, serving local food, which tend to be harder to find compared to the other resort areas.

 Bakau New Town
The residential area of New Town is rich in mature trees that bloom into a riot of colour in the rainy season. Its main high street is the Garba Jahumpa Road (aka New Town Rd.) which connects the Sait Matty Road to the east, with the Kairaba Avenue's Fajara section to the west, locally known as the Sabena Junction (the place where Sabena Airline used to be based). The road is lined with small offices, clothing shops, minimarkets, tailors' workshops and private homes. It is very poorly lit at night and does not have much of a pavement to talk about. Not far from the centre point of this road is the Independence Stadium, the Gambia's national stadium. Built by the Chinese as a gift, it is a grand open-air venue surrounded by brush and a purpose built ring-road. The stadium is used for some major music concerts, July 22nd celebrations as well as football matches.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO:

 Kachikally Crocodile Pool
Located on the southern section of the Old Town is the Kachikally Crocodile Pool. Local legend says it is a sacred pool which was later inhabited by crocodiles over 520 years ago. Its fresh waters are also said to be a treatment for infertility, bestow good fortune and occasionally certain rituals are held here, sometimes accompanies by drumming music. You can also visit a small ethnographic museum, a souvenir shop, a refreshment bar, all set in over 2.4 hectares of mini-forest which has a nature trail and is home to many tropical bird species, mammals, reptiles and insects.

 Bird Watching
While you can find many bird species in Bakau's green areas, beaches and cliffs such as hooded vultures, Senegal coucal, Verreaux's eagle owl and the yellow-crowned gonolek. The best place for birdwatching is in the vicinity of Cape Creek in Cape Point. This area is largely made up of mangroves, mudflats, and sections of lightly wooded areas which are rich in various birds species.

 Craft Market
For tourist shopping the Atlantic Boulevard's Craft Market is an ideal starting point. Here you can observe local craftsmen at work by the side of the road, under the shade of the trees. The bengdula has numbered stalls where you can find souvenirs such as African jewellery, batiks, wooden masks, tie-dye women's dresses, sand paintings, beads and more.

 Bakau Botanical Garden
Located in Cape St. Mary, on the Old Cape Road, is the Botanical Garden, which was established in 1894. It is often missed by most tourists as it looks just like someone's large private front garden. It is set in an enclosed area within a link chain fence and there is a nature trail meandering around the trees as well as a grass shaded seating area called a Bantaba. Its plushest greenery can be seen towards the end of the rains in October. Specially worth noting among the labelled trees are the cycads, spiny, young silk cotton trees and the teak tropical hardwood. Only some of the shrubs and trees are indigenous, such as the rhun palms, and some need urgent pruning and care. If you come with a pair of binoculars you might be able to spot a number of bird species such as the red-cheeked cordon bleu, bronze mannikins or the odd bulbuls. It's a nice place to visit and relax in the afternoons and there is very little in the way of noise. The garden is open Monday to Saturday, 9 am till 5 pm, and there is an entrance fee of about 1.25 per person. Note: Apply mosquito repellent onto exposed areas of your body.
(Tel no: 7774482 or 4497354)

 Bakau Village Market
Flies constantly make their way between make-shift stalls piled with habanero chili peppers, tomatoes and carrots, there are small hung yellow bags of cooking oil, chili powder, white rice, mounds of local fruit, used clothing, shoe stalls and lots shoddy, imported household products. You will also find bowls of fresh fish, beef and lamb on butcher's chopping boards and teeming with all manner of flies. The front of the market which is on the main road is lined with fruit and vegetable stalls selling tomatoes, guavas, bananas, oranges, apples and other fruits.

 Bakau Fish Market & Jetty
On the other side of the road from the village marketplace is the beach fishing port of the local Fish Market where stalls can be found either near quayside or at the road side 100m from the taxi rank. At the bottom of a steeply sloped road you can see smokehouses as well as fish, such as bonga or butterfish, being brought onto the shore area from the brightly coloured African pirogues, the filleting process and ultimately the smoking or chilling and packing of the fish. You can buy fresh shrimps from next door to the taxi rank.

 Other Points of Interest
There is the Gena Bes Batik & Tie Dye Batik Factory which has introduced modern designs that attracts higher-paying customers. 'Gena Bes' means 'newly out' in Wolof. Another place well worth looking at is the African Heritage Centre which is a combined art gallery and museum displaying and selling art objects from all over the country. 

The local area is also home to the main military camp known as the Fajara Barracks, which is next door to the fire service, which in turn is about 50m to the local police station. Radio Gambia is also located here on the road heading towards Sting Corner and the capital of Banjul in an area called Mile Seven. 

HEALTH & SAFETY:
The general area along the coastal strip is the safest place in The Gambia, given the presence of a large number of professional security guards, local watchmen, the military barracks, the police station and numerous residences occupied by international organisation workers. Safety and security is very good between the army camp and Kofi Annan Street in Cape Point, where the road is also lit.

TRAVEL INFORMATION:
To get to the heart of Bakau ask one of the drivers of the yellow or green tourist taxis to take you to the local taxi rank next to the fish landing harbour, and you can start your sightseeing trip from there. To get back to your hotel (if you are staying in Kololi or Kotu) just pick up a cab from in front of the nearby Trust Bank building which is near the African Village Hotel.


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[Geographical coordinates Latitude 13 48 N, Longitude 16 60 W / Kombo North Saint Mary District (Ksmd)]




















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