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;
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.
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
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.
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
Some of the best beaches in The Gambia are listed below:
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.
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.
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
Fajara: (Leybato Hotel
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.