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Beaches in Gambia

Bakau Jinack Island
   
Bijilo Kartong
   
Brufut Kololi
   
Cape Point Kotu
   
Fajara Sanyang
   
Gunjur PHOTOS
Northern Kombo:
The Gambia's foremost tourist beaches meander from the south bank edge of the Gambia River at Cape Point (Cape of Saint Mary) to Brufut village;

encompassing resorts and hotels in Bakau, Fajara, Kotu, Kololi, Kerr Serign and Bijilo. These beaches are on a 12.5 km strip of wide and flat sandy shore, sometimes backed by sand dunes, or narrow, sometimes rocky beachfront at the bottom of low sandstone or steep laterite cliffs. Though you will be hard pressed to find clear, turquoise seawater there are some delightful spots to be discovered.

Strong Atlantic Ocean currents buffet sand continuously resulting in an ever changing shoreline and some tidal erosion hotspots, some being repeatedly combated over the years with large volumes of added sand and other measures. Further down the coast the beach sand has avoided its worst effects.

Southern Kombo:
The Kombo South District has some of The Gambia's best, widest, most deserted areas of beachfront. It extends the total southern shore to between 50km to 56km (depending on measuring method, shifting sands & date). This section of coastline extends from Brufut Heights to Kartong, terminating at the mouth of the Allahein River and is characterised by a number of seafront lodges, sweeping shallow bays and lagoons, often adjacent to towering fringes of rhun / coconut palm trees, baobabs, dune scrubland, sand convolvulus and low sandstone ridges.

The next place down from Brufut Heights is Ghana Town. Its seafront is a malodorous spot with piles of smashed orange-pink Cymbium mollusc shells brought in by the boatload, shelled and sold. The area is largely bypassed by visitors. Then you arrive at an attractive lagoon, a bridge and Tanji Fishing Village, a busy working oceanfront full of pirogues, smoking houses, people and millions of darting flies! You need to move south about 500 metres to find a quiet stretch of beach. After here the beaches grow more beautiful and rustic as you reach Batokunku, Tujering, Sanyang, Gunjur and Kartong.

You can still find some fishermen in small pockets but most of the beaches are largely untouched. Only a few of these areas see the occasional tourist, while others have makeshift beach bars thatched with dry grass or corrugated iron roofs and discreet lodges where you can dine on fresh seafood or stay over for a few days and enjoying tranquil evenings by open fire grills. Such places usually have a limited selection of beers and spirits as well as various fruit juices.

North Bank Region - Niumi:
Along the westernmost edge of the north bank of the river, in the Niumi District, is a strip of land known as Jinack Island, arguably the longest stretch of near deserted beach in The Gambia. Most of its 10km of Atlantic facing beachfront only has the occasional passing cattle or local villager. Most of its inhabitants live in the northeast of the island while the Atlantic Ocean side is largely uninhabited save for a few beach lodges aimed at tourists.

Some of the best beaches in The Gambia are listed below:

Bijilo
At Bijilo, the odd fishing hub is separated by broad empty swathes of sand. From here you can cycle or hike straddling the shore all the way south to Kartong and the Allahein River which separates Casamance in Senegal from The Gambia.

Brufut
This far down the coast the beaches have far fewer people and are more appealing. You may see the occasional fishing boat parked on the sand waiting for the next incoming tide and women separating the recent catch. Starting at the top of a cliff and rolling down to the sands you will find the Gambia Coral Beach Hotel & Spa. Otherwise, large areas of the seafront are empty aside from the occasional jogger, passing villager or the odd cow or two.

On a cliff clearing at Brufut there is the sacred site of Senneh-Mentering - a simple hut with a giant baobab tree, semi-encircled by tall, proud rhun palms. You can still see graffiti carved in the trunk by WW2 Allied soldiers as well as a large stone at the foot of the tree for alms. People come here to offer prayers, gifts and visit the local marabout. Only visit here escorted by a knowledgeable local and with permission.

Cape Point
This is a wide stretch of desirable beige coloured beach, peppered with fully-grown idyllic palm trees and ubiquitous thatched sun shades nestled between plastic sun beds. There are quite a few coastal bars and restaurants nearby and on the adjacent main road (Kofi Annan Street). The sea / river currents can be strong here so it's not usually recommended for swimming. Look out for the lifeguard's flags.

Fajara: (Leybato Hotel oceanfront)
The beach here is flat, narrow at high tide and quite peaceful. During the off-season weekdays this spot is among one of the quietest stretches of beach in The Gambia's Kombo North. In the Mandinka language 'Fajara' means "by the seashore". This is a favourite place for many expats, VSO and Peace Corps volunteers as it attracts far fewer bumsters than its more tourist orientated neighbours to its north and south at Cape Point and Kololi (Senegambia) respectively. Leybato offers relaxing hammocks under the palms and shade for snoozing, taking in the sunset scenery or reading. It also has a well-stocked restaurant serving professionally prepared and presented food as well as a variety of soft and alcoholic drinks.

To get to Leybato, follow the steep walkway at the T-junction of Kairaba Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard. The tree shaded dirt path goes up a hill and down the other side; when you see a two storey apartment block keep going to the left through an entrance gate, where you will see accommodation huts on the left and a restaurant on the right; enter here to access the beach.

A sandy path affording idyllic views from a cliff can be accessed from the beach; take a right when you emerge from the shady restaurant area and look for any of the several routes to get to the top of the cliff where you will see a better trail. (The path ends on Atlantic Road, by the NAWEC booster station and water tower.)

Gunjur
On either side of the Bator Sateh fishing centre Gunjur  offers one of the quietest beaches in The Gambia. Enjoy mile upon mile of virtually unspoilt golden sands, occasionally interrupted by boulders, rivulets and rock pools.

Jinack Island
This is a remote strip of land cut off from the mainland by a creek, and is part of the Niumi National Park. The Atlantic side of its 10 km stretch of beach is largely deserted and gloriously unspoilt. Only a few small lodges intersperse the golden strand. At low-tide the water is shallow and the sand flat, at high tide the seawater laps up against the coastal vegetation. At night you can see the lights of Banjul city twinkling from across the wide, open bay.

Kartong
If you really want to get off-the-beaten-track then you should consider travelling to the southernmost point of The Gambia to the delightfully secluded beach adjacent to Kartong Village. The seaside area is wonderfully unspoilt backed by sand dunes, scrub and tropical trees teeming with wildlife such as monkeys and birds. After a good spell of sunbathing there are plenty of activities nearby and in the village itself such as fishing, bird watching at the Kartong Bird Observatory, or visiting the local Lemonfish Art Gallery which has a small guest house attached.

Kololi
This is a popular beach because of the large, tourist class Kairaba and Senegambia hotels which are located at the end of the tourist strip. Back before the early '80s the beach was superb. It has over the years suffered from the ravages of tidal erosion. Efforts have been made from time to time to replenish the sand and bring it back to its former glory. So, depending on when this is done, it can be described at various times as either a great beach or a terrible one! However, to the north and south of the above hotels sand conditions tend to be better. Large variations in sand cover width over short distances are quite normal along the 'Smiling Coast' of Africa.

Kotu
To the southwest of Fajara is Kotu. Here the topography of the land flattens out and the beach becomes an open arc down towards Kololi and Bijilo. During the tourist season the Kotu Strand area is quite lively and popular with many locals. Nearby is the Kotu Stream area which is where a creek runs into the sea and is more subdued.

Sanyang
The beach is about 30 km down the coast from the main resorts, making a very enjoyable retreat for the day or half-day. If you choose to go by taxi then remember that if you are dropped off at the village it is several kilometres walk to the 'Paradise Beach'. It may be better to go with a specialist ground tour operator or hire a car / taxi for the day or half-day.

Tanji
The Tanji Village shoreline area is not suitable for sunbathing as it is a working fish centre and the seawater tends to have lots of flotsam and jetsam such as decaying fish, sea snails, plastic products, discarded fishing nets and other rubbish. You need to move further down from the bridge about 1/2 km from the smoke houses to find a clean, decent area to relax and soak in the sun. Just before the bridge are some nice lagoons as well as an undisturbed bird reserve adjacent to the beach with virtually no people.

Banjul Capital
The city's beach in and around the island capital start from 'Town Beach' to the northwest of Albert Market and continues in front of Quadrangle ministries, the State House, RVTH, the Atlantic Hotel and beyond, skirting the Banjul / Serrekunda Highway. The Atlantic is the only tourist class accommodation in the city. The beachfront continues beyond the bounds of the city proper, past the old cemetery and continues west hugging the Banjul / Serrekunda Highway up to Oyster Creek at Denton Bridge. Between the capital and the bridge you can find some splendid deserted beach and the occasional lagoon. The now defunct Wadner and Palm Grove hotels used to lie just outside the city and just before Denton Bridge respectively.

Swimming:
The Kombo resort area is conveniently close to the ocean. Be warned that the tides and currents along some of The Gambia's coastline can be surprisingly powerful, and sandbars are common, though the seawater is generally on the shallow side a good distance from the beaches.

There are only a few lifeguards in The Gambia, so use great caution when swimming and it's not a good idea to go into the sea if you have come by yourself. *Note: Before swimming in any location do look out for the lifeguard warning flags for current sea conditions. If you are caught in a riptide current, try to swim parallel to the shoreline to escape it, and then swim back towards the land.

In some zones the rocks can be quite jagged, so it is recommended you avoid swimming or wading near visible boulders and crags. The same eroded black sandstone offers a good opportunity for dipping in tide pools, but avoid coming into contact with any sea life such as snails, fish and crabs. Finally, never touch any jellyfish, even if it is lifeless and washed-up on the sand, it may still sting you seriously.
 
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