Santa Su, normally known as just Basse, is a major town
located in the Fulladu East District, on the far eastern
section of the River
Gambia. It is the capital and regional headquarters
of the Upper River Region (URR), and is one of the eight
Local Government Areas in the Gambia. The upriver settlement
is 370 kilometres from the capital of Banjul,
and about 340 km by road from Yundum Airport. The town
has a bustling village market, a ferry crossing to the
north bank for passengers and goods, and it's an important
transit point for merchandise going to eastern Senegal,
Mali and Guinea. Basse has a population of about 20,000
people made up of mostly Fulani,
followed by Serahule, Mandinka
and other ethnic groups.
are a few hotels
& lodges in Basses that provide simple facilities.
Among the best places to stay are Fulladu Camp (tel:
9906791), based on the north bank riverside and facing
the town, with thatched round huts. The Basse Guesthouse
(tel: 6668283) is located in town, cheap basic rooms,
a bit dingy with messy shared bathing. The Jem Hotel
(tel: 9843658) provides reasonable, clean rooms, though
a bit dilapidated. Finally there is the nice riverside
Agasimon with a couple of large rooms, camp space
in the garden and a cafe with good riverside views.
lower part of the settlement is known as Basse Duma
Su, 'Basse' means a mat (oral history says that
the settlement's founder, General Tiramakan Traore,
first laid down on a mat here). 'Duma Su' means means
'lower home'. Due to flooding during the rainy season
the settlement contracted to a higher elevation, 'Santa
Su' meaning 'higher home'. The settlement is 4 metres
above sea level and its outlying area is characterised
by numerous hills.
Because this is an urban community with many visitors
from other parts of West Africa and further afield,
it is a multilingual place, where you will hear languages
such as Pular, French, Mandinka, Serer, English, Wolof,
and Arabic being spoken.
There is a rather empty feel about the area around the
port's jetty, but a little further south from here,
the commercial centre
is vibrant and loud. You will find plenty of housewares
such as metal pans and pots, fruits, vegetables cereals,
DVDs and colourful fabrics from Senegal. The town also
has banks, a police
station, post office, taxi rank, petrol stations,
GPTC (public transport bus) chemists, a central mosque
and a Gamtel office. The streets of central Basse are
alive with cyclists, goats, stray dogs, sheep, flies,
donkey carts, cars and lorries. In the shops lining
the roads you will find them selling all manner of imported
goods such as radios, bicycles, wheelbarrows, portable
generators, mobile phones and much more.
economy revolves mostly around seasonal crops,
though there is an active trade in earthenware and other
artisanal handicraft. From December to March boats
are often moored at the port waiting for their cargo
of groundnuts from the
local collection depot, for shipment downstream towards
Banjul. The town is also an important marketing centre
for rice, mainly grown by
the Mandinka and Wolof, and cattle herded by the Fulani.
Cotton obtained from Kapok tree pods are also loaded
here in February and March, which have been brought
in from the north bank of the river. After the setting
up of the local GPMB ginnery in 1974, and its management
given over to the Gambia Cotton Company (GAMCOT) in
1992, cotton became one of the settlement's most profitable
cash crops. Millet and maze are also cultivated in the
are a number of overseas organisations and NGOs
working in Basse which includes the Medical Research
Council, Child Youth Support & Rural Development
Agency, Humanity First, Children in Gambia Basse &
Suduwol, and GamMol,
Tourist Attractions & Things
of the main features of the town is the vibrant Thursday
morning market (lumo), with the star attractions being
pottery items such as bowls, colanders and plates. These
are made locally by Serahules and Mandinkas in places
like Mansajang, as well as in nearby villages, such
as Sotuma Sere and Alohungari, and brought in by donkey
cart and carried away on women's heads.
food market is at its most plentiful between January
to June, when women from just outside the urban area,
display their vegetables cultivated in Basse's community
held vegetable gardens. There are green and yellow bitter
tomatoes (jakato), plump aubergines,
heavy cabbages, bunches of fresh mint, piles of hot
red and yellow chilies, golden onions, yams, sweet potatoes,
and a huge amount of other foodstuffs such as dried,
smoked bonga fish.
• 'Traditions Agasimon'
by the riverbank, in a former colonial riverside trading
depot built for Maurel Frères in 1906, is a private
Canadian initiative called
Agasimon. The place is a combined cultural centre,
museum, bookshop, and craft shop. There you can buy
locally produced cloths, West African art, and handicrafts,
it also has a well appointed river view cafe. You can
also find various artists and artisans at work, and
if you're are up to it, Traditions can arrange weaving
and dyeing classes for you from skilled artisans. Traditions
also has a boat for rent and can get you in touch with
a local bird guide.
of the dining and evening entertainment here is of a
very localised character, and not really geared towards
tourists, but most are very friendly towards visitors.
There are places to eat with such names as the United
Restaurant Enterprise, Abdoulie's International Diner,
Aminata's, and F&B's Restaurant. Some of the best
eateries can be found in some of the lodges such
as the Traditions
Cafe & Boutique, the Jem Hotel's food gets a few
good reviews, the Fulladu Camp serves some of the best
dishes in the area from a well run kitchen. There are
also a few Afra joints selling grilled chicken or lamb
(very often goat).
the settlement and its hinterland has a varied habitat
of lush riverine woodland canopy, swamp, rice fields,
degraded savanna, and disused quarries, there is a respectable
variety of bird species to be seen in Basse Santa Su.
If you go along with one of the professional bird guides,
you might see Egyptian Plovers (Crocodile Bird), Hamerkop,
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, African Swallow-tailed Kite,
Chestnut-backed Finch-Lark, Red Throated Bee Eaters,
Pipits, Western Red-billed Hornbills, Speckled Pigeons,
Black-bellied Bustards, Brown-rumped Buntings, Bar-breasted
Firefinches, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Larks, Carmine
Bee-Eaters, and Adamawa Turtle Doves.
• Colonial Architecture
the town there are still some colonial era buildings
such as the water's edge Maurel Frères warehouse built
in 1906, now occupied by Traditions. There are other
elegant trading houses built at the turn of the century.
Further upriver, by the river's edge, at Perai Tenda,
you can see many abandoned stores formerly operated
by Lebanese, European and Gambian merchants, in the
days when up-river trade produced substantial profits
for businessmen and companies.
are plenty of fishermen who would be willing, for a
fee, to take you for cruising in their pirogues, around
the upper reaches of the River
Gambia. There are marshes where you might be able
to do a bit of wildlife
spotting, and there are plenty of birds to be seen among
the bushes, trees and just above the water line. You
can also use the opportunity to do a bit of sports fishing.
Health & Safety:
During the rainy season the heat in Basse is legendary.
Many cold water taps run so hot that you can make a
cup of tea, and birds keep a low profile during mid-day.
It is in fact quite common to see many people sleeping
outside at night. Therefore think about how to protect
yourself from the often oppressive heat at this time
of the year. If you are going to stay in any lodgings
then try and get one with an air-conditioner, think
about the same thing for your vehicle. Ask locals what
they do to counteract the heat and humidity.
get to Basse Santa Su from the capital of Banjul you
can hop on the Banjul ferry
and head northwards to Barra.
From there you can take one of the 'Gelle Gelle' taxis
heading east, and the total travel time is about 7 hours.
When you reach Janjanbureh
Island (Georgetown) you then make a river crossing and
continue by road until the destination. The alternative,
and faster route, is to take the South Bank Road east,
which commences in Brikama and passes through towns
and villages such as as Kafuta, Sibanor, Bwiam, Kwinella
Kaiaf, Soma, Jarreng, Madina Demba and Bansang.
Moving further to the east you'll get to the town of
Fatoto, the easternmost major place in The Gambia. Here
the South Bank Road ends, and the North Bank Road begins.
Still further to the north east is Koina village, and
finally, almost on the border check-point with Senegal
is Herama Kono village (Kemangbugu). This is in fact
the furthest east and last place in the Upper River
[Geographical coordinates 13.3167° N, 14.2167°
W / Fulladu East, Upper River Region]