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Kololi - Beach & Village, Gambia
 
INTRODUCTION:
The Kololi resort town and Senegambia Strip tourist area began life as a typical coastal fishing village, set back from the Atlantic Ocean, in the Kombo St. Mary District, Western Region of The Gambia, West Africa. The village is 18km from the Banjul capital. Since the early 1980s Kololi has been radically transformed by tourism, growing significantly and spreading right down to the beach, at what are now called the Palma Rima and Senegambia resort areas. Since the completion of the GamNor or Gambia-Norway Hotel in 1982 (now known as the Senegambia Beach Hotel), as well as the establishment of the tourist craft market in the same year, the town has seen a massive growth in the accommodation sector, and other tourism related industries. The original settlement, Kololi Village, is now home to an increasing number of professionals, expats, retirees and workers in the hospitality industry.

ACCOMMODATION:
Depending on your preferences there are numerous types of holiday accommodation dotted around Kololi. From tourist-class hotels, to guesthouses, lodges, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation. Standards and room costs can vary widely, from a simple budget priced room in a down-at-heel guesthouse, to a luxury hotel suite with air conditioning and an en-suite bathroom.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO:

• Craft Market
One of the area's biggest draws is the purpose built, lively Senegambia Craft Market (a bengdula), which was first built in 1982, re-built in 1990 and subsequently re-built again on the junction in 2001, with a capacity of about 64 stalls. It has a respectable choice of locally made souvenir handicrafts, including carved wooden masks and djembe drums, basketware, paintings of landscapes, people, wildlife, tie and dye, jewellery, beaded necklaces, leather handbags, sandals, shoes, colourful batik wraps, and food such as cakes, hot sauce and dark honey, fresh from local women's co-operatives. The stallholders are bound by an agreed code of conduct, which prohibits hassling visitors for their custom. Those who breach the code are liable to suspension for a fixed term.

Mandela's Seafood and Steak House Restaurant

• Kololi Village
On the other side of the Bertil Harding Highway from the tourist strip, is a calmer, more peaceful residential district of sandy roads and family homes. There is a relatively new paved road from the Senegambia Junction connecting to Kololi Road and onwards to the old village and Manjai Kunda. This route has already begun to rapidly develop with restaurants, bars and other tourist amenities. Around this area is a smattering of basic facility guesthouses, and several venues to learn dance, music and painting. There is the 'Village Gallery' Bar & Restaurant which is a privately run art gallery which exhibits and sells paintings, sculptures, and photographs for West African and Gambian artists. It also organises art workshops / lectures for individuals and institutions, arranges art and cultural trips through local tour operators, uses their contacts to arrange for cultural and musical performances and above all encourages its partners to work in a way that preserves the social and cultural heritage of The Gambia. Special lectures are also organised as it is intended to be also used as a focal point for aspiring and established local handicraft professionals. (Tel no: 4463646 or 9917343)

• The Beach Area
In late 2003 the Kololi resort beaches were replenished (nourished), by a Dutch company called Delft Hydraulics, with about 1 million cubic meters of sand over 1.5km of its length, with a width of 120 meters. This was done to reverse previous coastal erosion that had seriously compromised the resort area's ability to continue to attract large numbers of foreign tourists.



When sunbathing put on some good sunscreen with a high SPF as there are usually few clouds in the sky during the winter season and the mid-day sun can be unrelenting. The day-time temperatures are simply too much for sunbathers to lie out in the open sand for extended periods of time. This is where the beach bar's huts provide much needed respite with their thatched, woven palm roofs and canopies.



Kololi's beach bars are a vivid and quintessential part of the Atlantic Ocean's scenery and provides a more relaxing, scenic alternative to their inland counterparts. They often play reggae on their portable sound systems, and the occasional visit by dance troupes or local singers to liven up things a little in the evenings. These are convenient places to chat with some of the locals. Food here is usually cheaper, typically comprised of shrimps or fish, oven baked in silver foil such as red snapper, ladyfish and barracuda, with a small choice of drinks. Fresh fruit pressers' stalls also dot the coastline and are inspected and regulated by the Tourism Board to ensure they conform to minimum set hygiene standards.

• The Village Complex
Also known as the Horseshoe Shopping Complex this is as close as you can get to a European style shopping mall. It is a unique, modern building on two floors, and the shaped like half a doughnut, located on the Bertil Harding Highway, opposite the Atlas Petrol Station. Is has a supermarket, clothes stores, a fountain, cafes selling cakes, drinks and ice cream, varied restaurants, some offices, a nice central garden, a rooftop terrace accessed by two spiral staircases, car parking space, and a children's playground, to keep the kids occupied while you shop or dine. The Village Complex is a landmark you can easily spend all afternoon at, and there are no shortages of taxis to take you back to your hotel or guest house.

• Quad Biking
This method of getting around, and exploring the locality and beyond, is growing in popularity. You can hire a quad bikes from near the junction at 'Freedom Hire' near the Binis Bar and the Britannia Pub. Sometimes all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are available directly on the beachfront.

Quad bikeWest African Powersports offers guided quad biking safaris as well as buggies along dirt roads to Tujering. They can pick you up and drop you off by car at any of the hotels in the main resorts such as Kololi or Kotu and take you to the start of the safari which is at Brusubi and goes to Tujering beach for lunch. From there it's back to Brusubi and a drop-off at your accommodation. 

Tilly's Tours, on the Senegambia Strip, also offers quad bike safaris (Tel no: 9800215 or 7707356). Note: before getting on one of these do make sure that quad biking is covered by your travel insurance policy.

• Restaurants
Kololi, and in particular the Senegambia vicinity, has a profusion of different restaurants scattered throughout, especially along the main tourist thoroughfare and nearby roads, serving a broad range of international cuisine. There are various types of restaurants serving Indian, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese and European food on their menus. Near the corner from the craft market is Gaya Art Cafe & Restaurant, a unique diner which displays and sells art and craft artifacts from around the world. They also serve top quality, international cuisine and drinks in a shaded, relaxed small garden setting at the front. If you want to try some authentic Gambian food then you are best advised to go deeper into the district, in some of the private local restaurants or along the easterly road from Palma Rima, heading away from the beach.

The village also has a diverse mix of restaurants, bars and clubs, tempting to people wishing for a change from the mass-tourism feel of Kololi's mainstream diners and nightspots, as well as independent travellers. As you travel further south towards Kerr Serign the options of restaurants are more limited, but growing each year along the coast and in the nearby residential neighbourhoods.

• Night Clubs
Whether you like your nightclubs small and cosy or large and spectacular there is something for you. Near the Senegambia Strip is the Aquarius, plush, compact, within easy walking distance of Sarges Hotel, and playing pop and hip hop mixes till late. There is also the Club Paparazzi which is right on the strip, again small, nice bar and a tiny, central dance floor. The 'Wow' is also nearby; a bit rough and frequented mostly by locals, but has reasonably priced drinks and seating area outside. If you want something resembling a large, dedicated nightclub then you can't do better that the massive Duplex Nightclub. It is a huge complex with several bars, a large, purpose built dance floor, numerous automated disco lights, a high ceiling and a thumping, pumping sound system.



• Bijilo Forest Park
Also known as Monkey Park; the nature trail can be reached by walking south from Sarges Hotel, near the tourist strip, for about 500m and you will see the wire fence and trees of Bijilo Forest Park in front of you. To get in however, you turn right and walk down for about 100 metres and the entrance is to your left, clearly marked by a ticket office. Monkey Park covers an area of about 0.5 sq. km of beach side woodland reserve. The reserve is dominated by proud rhun palms which once flourished along the coastline of The Gambia. The vegetation also includes tall deciduous trees, shrubs, and savanna grassland. The forest floor has plants such as vines, lilies, wild orchids, cotton trees. Once inside there is a very good chance of spotting vervet monkey, red colobus, a few squirrels and a plethora of birds.

• Bird Watching
Kololi's beach hotel area is not the best birdwatching territory, but there are still opportunities to see over 70 species for the amateur and professional who wants to stay near or in their hotel. There is the Bijilo Forest Park which is within easy walking distance from the tourist strip. The closed forest and coastal scrub is home to over 130 species such as the Palm-nut Vulture, White-throated Bee-eater, Peregrine Falcon, Little Bee-eater, Stone Partridge and the Ahanta Francolin. Some of the larger hotels themselves are good bird spotting grounds due to their plentiful vegetation of palms, trees, bushes and shrubs. They actually have a policy of encouraging avian visitors through specially created bird gardens.

Among the species of birds visiting the Senegambia and Kairaba hotels you might see poking in out out of the hibiscus variable sunbirds, with their small, delicately curved beaks and colourful plumage. You might also see cattle egrets, red cheeked cordon-bleu, Abyssinian roller, brown and red-billed firefinch, Caspian terns, yellow-crowned gonolek (shrike), Senegalese coucals, starlings, chestnut-crowned sparrow weaver and many more of our feathered friends.

• Horse Riding
If you like to do a bit of horseback riding on Kololi's strand, then ask at your reception desk. They should know a few operators nearby. You can also contact Lama Bony who arranges horse riding along the northern Kombo beachfront.

• Women's Skills Centre:
The training project was the idea of two German visitors who founded it in 1997, and its aims are to help young women from the Kololi  village gain skills in sewing and design, batik and tie dye, embroidery and other handicrafts, as well as teaching them to write and speak some basic English.

PALMA RIMA AREA:
The Palma Rima resort is comprised of a relatively small group of hotels (dominated by the Bakadaji Hotel, Palma Rima Hotel and its crossroads), lodges, restaurants and small clubs located between 150m southeast of the Bertil Harding Highway (aka Kombo Coastal Road) and the Atlantic Ocean's beach, about 1km southwest of bridge at Kotu Stream. On one side of the junction are fruit and vegetable, and fish sellers' stalls.  Though obviously touristic in appearance, it's relatively modest in contrast to the main tourist hotspot, 1.5km further to the southwest. If you are looking for a good quality self-catering accommodation near the beach with a pool then try Luigi's Holiday Apartments (which also has a great Italian restaurant). If you're looking for a night spot / bar and diner then try Shiraz Restaurant. Further towards the beachfront is the popular Solomon's Beach Bar & Restaurant, right on the sand and facing the ocean, serving good food and drinks. For more budget priced places you need to go further inland, but try and stay within 200m or so from the main coastal road.

SENEGAMBIA AREA:
The Senegambia Strip - Kololi's central beach resort, named after the country's biggest hotel, is the hub of The Gambia's tourist activity, with a bustling, mostly fairly tacky strip of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, and a variety of tourist-class hotels. This is strictly not a residential location; the area is designated in the Tourism Development Area (TDA) and is meant only for visitors. At times it is one of the most bumster-riddled locations on the coast; until the local paramilitary police clamp down do their numbers suddenly melt away. Development in the adjacent area, particularly on the main highway, is proceeding at a frenetic pace, and the results are not always pleasing. You will often come across tacky plaster sculptures of people and animals placed outside diners and bars and bizarre mouldings fixed on building faηades. Along the strip are restaurants, bars and clubs galore as well as several bureaus de change, the Standard Chartered Bank, a few mini-markets, a net cafe, souvenir shops, car hire, green tourist taxis etc.

HEALTH & SAFETY:
After endless decades of darkness along the coastal highway, street lighting was installed in 2006, which starts at the main traffic lights in Fajara and goes all the way south to the airport, as well as Brufut, and other locations, thereby increasing safety for tourists who venture out on foot at night. The sides of the roads have had extra gravel added to provide more of a 'walkway', reducing your chances of getting hit by a vehicle. Watch your back though as bikes also use it, as well as taxis pulling over for passengers. It's best to walk towards the traffic.

If you are going out at night do carry your money in a money belt, and carry a small torchlight. Crime, such as muggings, are pretty low, but it pays to be vigilant. Avoid unfamiliar places at night and try to walk with a companion. Try and get a sim card from one of the mobile phone operators and keep some useful numbers handy, like the hotel reception, a taxi driver known to you, a friend and so on.  It does no harm to tell someone where you are going, day or night. Finally, note that the nearest fire station is in Kotu.

TRAVEL INFORMATION:
To get to Kololi village from Gambia's Banjul Airport you taxi hire or car hire and drive north, until the Brusubi Roundabout, then continue straight north along the Kombo Coastal Road, and past Bijilo, for a further 4 km. The cost of taxi rides is posted just outside the entrance to the airport, usually on your right side at the exit. It should cost you about £15 though this depends on prevailing exchange rates (the prices board is usually in Dalasi).

To travel out-and-about there are green tourist taxis outside the major hotels, but they do cost more than the yellow taxis which can be found on the highway outside of the Senegambia Strip, about 150m from the junction on your left.


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[Geographical coordinates 13° 25' 38'N, 16° 40' 58'W. / Kombo North Saint Mary District (Ksmd)]



















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Some images from flickr.com 
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