Bullen is on the beach, at the estuary of the River
Gambia, and the Atlantic Ocean, in the northwest
periphery of Barra
town, known as Barra Point, in the Lower Niumi District
of the North Bank Region. It was built by the British
in 1826 to thwart the efforts of some European slave
traders. In the early 1970s it was declared a National
Monument, and in 2003, along with the Six-Gun Battery
was inscribed as a World
Heritage Site (UNESCO).
Bullen is basically an open rectangular courtyard, fenced
in by low, thick walls of brick or laterite-block, cemented
with seashell lime and patched up with concrete mortar.
On each corner of the walls are circular bastions and
embrasures. You can still see a WWII anti-aircraft gun
emplacement in one of the bastions, while an improvised
lighthouse is atop another, and various rusting cannons
litter the beach, while a few are aimed across the river,
empty. There is a dilapidated, stilted former government
rest house outside the fortress, along with a few baobab
trees and scrub.
construction of Fort Bullen began in 1926, and most
historians believe the present fort was completed around
1833 / 1834. Initially it was just a few mud huts around
a couple of cannons, and a handful of soldiers.
It was built by the British with the specific aim of
preventing the trade in slaves after the passing of
the Abolition Act of 1807 made the slave trade illegal
in the British Empire. The Six-Gun Battery in Banjul
could not cover the 5 kilometre expanse of the River
Gambia, and this allowed Portuguese and French slave
traders, who were still trading with Albreda village,
to slip through further north of the estuary, thus necessitating
its construction by Commodore Charles Bullen.
the rulers of Niumi were opposed to the building of
the anti-slaving fort, due to their suspicion that its
cannons could be fired against their stronghold in Essau.
However, in 1823 Burungai Sonko, a troublesome Mandinka,
became king, and in 1826 'HMS Maidstone', together with
the steamship the 'HMS African', made an intimidating
presence; the British governor suggested a yearly payment
of £100 and Burungai finally relented, and agreed to
the north bank's one mile wide strip of land, ('Ceded
Mile') and Barra
Point's fortification on behalf of George IV of England.
Two cannons from Bathurst were
installed to begin law enforcement. After 1870 Fort
Bullen appears to have been abandoned, however during
World War 2, the 1st Coast Battery took up their positions
against a possible threat from Vichy-allied Senegal.
They positioned a 12-pounder and a 4-inch Vickers and
also used the place as a military observation platform.
Tourist Attractions & Things To Do
• Bird Watching
the military structure is located on the river mouth
and the Atlantic, with a marine delta to the north,
it is a good spot for bird
watching, where you might see various migratory,
and Palearctic bird species, such as Whimbrels, African
Darters, Royal Terns, Oystercatchers, Sandpipers, Caspian
Terns and Sanderlings.
• Jinack Island
low-tide you can stroll from Barra Point across the
nearby stream called the Niji Bolon, and onto Jinack
Island, which has miles of unspoilt beach, and
is part of the
Niumi National Park. While here there are plenty
of wildlife spotting opportunities as well as just relaxing
on the 10 kilometre long strand.
Travel Information & How To Get There:
The fortifications at Barra
town can best be reached by boarding the Banjul to Barra
ferry at the
port terminal. Before you go do try and pick up a leaflet
from the NCAC offices
at the National Museum of Gambia on Independence Drive.
[Geographical coordinates 13.4733° N, 16.5600° W /
Lower Niumi District, North Bank Region]