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Kotu - Beach & Village, Gambia
 
 
INTRODUCTION:
Kombo Beach HotelThe Kotu resort and village in Gambia is in the Kombo Saint Mary District, in the West Coast Region, and forms one half of the main centre of Gambia's coastal tourist industry, with the other being in Kololi. The village is 17km from the Banjul capital. The Badala Highway leads from the Bertil Harding Highway and crosses the creek (aka River Sando or Sandu) at the bridge and proceeds to Kotu Strand. Partly enclosing the beach based tourist enclave is the Kotu Stream, rice fields and the Fajara Golf Course behind. The focal point of the area is the BB Craft Market (Bengdula), an oval, half enclosure, lined with souvenir shops, bars, restaurants and other amenities. Just outside the market entrance are bureau de change, minimarkets, taxis and other hospitality services.

ACCOMMODATION:
In the Kotu holiday resort, the accommodation choices are all medium or large tourist-class hotels, mostly supported or owned by some of the big tour operators, either on, or very near to respectable length of beach. They are mostly low-rise and blend in well with the scenery.  The Palm Beach and Sunset Beach hotels are nestled close to the stream and face the Atlantic Ocean, while the Kombo Beach Hotel and the Bungalow Beach Hotel are a little to the north east and are also on the strand. The Bakotu Hotel lies on the opposite side of the craft market and has no beachfront.

BEACH AREA:
The coconut palm fringed Kotu beach area has a reasonably good width to the waters edge and the sand is of good quality however, the sea water is sandy. Around the Palm Beach Hotel are some small lagoons with far less turbulent water. This section of the Atlantic Ocean ranges from flat calm to choppy with the occasional small waves lapping at the shore. It's shallow enough to allow you to get out to a reasonable distance from the shore (about 25 metres), but then the shelf drops steeply, so do be alert. Often there are waves breaking up to 300m off-shore. You sometimes see numerous chaotic waves building fast, with a flat shore break to surf. There are lifeguards based on the beach with their own high lookout post. Be aware of the warning flags they put out to warn about current swimming conditions.



GENERAL AREA:
Palm Beach HotelAs your flight comes over the Kotu Point area en-route to Yundum's Banjul International  Airport you'll see the Gambia's coastline with good number of  hotel swimming pools scattered among the palm trees, rice paddy fields and sandy roads. You won't however see any residential houses, except inland, behind the coastal road to your left. On this coastal strip called the TDA, the tourist infrastructure takes precedence. During the five months of the low-season, when many of the hotels, restaurants and bars are closed, the locality is quiet and sleepy, only gearing into life towards the end of the monsoon in late September / early October, when the restaurateurs, bar owners and hoteliers  get on with their yearly repairs and repainting program. As soon as the first peak-season visitors arrive in mid-October, does it metamorphosize into a bustling, gregarious package-holiday resort once again.



The dirt path that meanders from the Badala Highway, past the connecting road to the Palm Beach Hotel, and on into Kololi resort, is a pleasurable 1.5 mile stroll. The Kotu Stream area is particularly beautiful during the rice-growing season (Aug-Nov), when the fields are an emerald green. By the end of the dry season, the creek is almost dry, but at any time of year there are many birds species and tall, mature palm trees to admire, and sometimes you might see vervet monkeys and monitor lizards. You'll often see plastic bottles clustered round the tops of the palms, and palm wine tappers shinning up to collect the fermenting sap. This area is also used by cattle herders so don't be surprised if you see cows making their way along the shoreline, as well as the roads and fields.

 

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO:
 Craft Market
Also known as the BB Hotel Tourist Craft Market Bendula, it was established on the shore in 1975 to regulate the activities of Gambian women selling baskets to holidaymakers. It is an open-air, oval shaped courtyard with a central roundabout which is surrounded by approximately 42 souvenir shops, restaurants, and fruit sellers. It is also used as the main entrance to the strand by hotel guests, and lies between the Kombo Beach and Bungalow Beach hotels. Here you can find tourist souvenirs such as wooden masks, batik and tie dye clothing, African jewellery, oil and sand paintings, handmade leather shoes, bags, beachwear, kaftans, djembe drums and more. There are also bureau de change, mini-markets etc. From the entrance and to your left there are several bars and restaurants.

On Kotu's Atlantic Ocean beachfront end there are a number of fruit stalls offering freshly squeezed juices and whole fruits such as oranges, mangoes, papaya, bananas and other local tropical fruits. There are various fruit stalls spread out along the beachfront which are regulated by the Gambia Tourism Board, and the women are forbidden from pestering tourists for their business, though this doesn't stop them beckoning tourists for their trade however. These women can be identified by their green T-shirt uniforms.

 Cycling
You can hire bicycles just outside most of the hotels on the strand. There is also a bicycling track which follows the northern fence of the Badala Hotel, and continues for a few hundred metres to the back of the Palma Rima Hotel in Kololi.  It is possible to ride a bike at low tide all the way to Kololi, just make sure you have good, rugged tyres. Another possible nearby route is to cross the road and make your way to the road leading into the Kotu Power Station. Where it forks left it leads you eventually to Manjai's urban area and its main road. The area around the stations is relatively quiet with plenty of trees and scrubland.

 Sunbathing
Sunbathing here is pretty straight forward but be aware you are exposed to the full glare of the sun on most days between November to April - clouds are few and far between at this time of the year. Try taking little breaks under you parasol every once in a while and use a good sun cream with high factor.



 Horse Riding
There are a number of people operating horseback riding sessions along the strand. You can also enquire at your reception desk about any local operators near where you stay.
Harriet Horse Riding Stable
Sololo  (Tel no: 770 3204)

 Restaurants
Kotu's lively holiday resort image is reflected in its density of touristy venues to eat and drink. In this vicinity there are also lots of juice bars, beach bars and fruit stands. You will find various kinds of restaurants, starting from strand itself all the way through the craft market and onto the Badala Highway, up to the Elton junction and beyond. Among these are:

 Al Baba GFC
 Boss Lady
 Captain's Table
 Garden Kitchen
 Hong-Mei Chinese Restaurant
 Jamaican Spice
 JD's
 John Raymond's Bar & Restaurant
 Julas
 Kunta Kinteh's Beach Bar
 Ninke Nanka
 Oscars
 Paradise Beach Bar & Restaurant
 Paradiso Pizza
 Sailor's,
 Samba's Kitchen
 Tandoor
and many others.

 Birdwatching
Kotu's tourist-class hotels are very near to a number of bird habitats, making this an ideal centre for birders visiting Gambia. The area is made up of mangroves, coastal scrub land and rice fields which provides a relatively easy introduction to West African birding. There is an abundance of bird species and populations here due to almost no human habitation here and the spacious areas of natural habitat with lots of water, bush and trees.
 
A good starting point for birdwatching professionals is the Fajara Golf Course where the short grass of the fairways is alluring to the likes of Senegal wattled plover, black-headed plover,  piapiac and the long-tailed glossy starling. The areas of scrub and trees can yield up an amazing variety of birds. Some of the more regular species included red-billed hornbill, yellow-billed shrike, green wood-hoopoe, grey woodpecker, black-billed wood dove, black-cap babblers, beautiful sunbirds, double-spurred francolin, bronze manikin and bearded barbet.



From here you  can walk across the golf course at Fajara, and you will come too Kotu Stream, a tidal creek bordered by rice paddies and mangrove wetlands. Several species of Palearctic waders are commonly found along the stream, along with Senegal thick-knee. Plenty of grey-headed gulls roost on the mud at low tide and various herons and egrets are easily spotted here. Around the area you can spot giant pied and malachite kingfishers and red-chested swallows. The Kotu Bridge is well known as a place to find Gambian trained bird guides for hire.

Another good area to go visit the sewage ponds, which can be accessed by a footpath on the other side of the road from the Badala Park; it is behind the Elton Petrol Station. At the sewage works the productive pond life here  lures many bird species; you may see waders like wood and marsh sandpiper and spur-winged plovers,  pink-backed pelicans, white-faced whistling ducks and white-winged black terns. Little swifts are regulars and the surrounding scrub had starlings and fork-tailed drongo.



HEALTH & SAFETY:
Between the tourist village and about 250 metres before the well lit section of road, is mostly wilderness and farmland. The road itself is lit along its entire length making it possible to walk at night. However, it is advisable to take a cab, if possible, to and from your hotel after 9pm. If you have to walk then make sure you are with several other people and always carry a pocket torch light just in case.

The area around the Strand is fairly safe and there is a Gambian tourist police post there, as well as at the start of the road leading in from the Bertil Harding Highway. Not far from the junction of the highway, towards Manjai, is the fire station.

TRAVEL INFORMATION:
There are green tourist taxis parked within the vicinity of the accommodations on Kotu Strand. Yellow taxis are only permitted to enter to drop off their passengers but not allowed to wait, unless they get special permission.



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[Geographical coordinates 13 27' 34" North, 16 42' 19" West / Kombo North Saint Mary District (Ksmd)]



















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