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Gunjur (Beach & Village, Gambia)

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Introduction:
Gunjur Village and Gunjur beach resort, are in the Kombo South District, of the West Coast Region, in the southwest coastal strip of The Gambia, in West Africa. It has an estimated population of 27,000 made up of mostly Mandinka, Jola, Fula, Manjago, Balanta, Karoninka and other ethnic groups, mainly employed in artisanal fisheries and farming. The settlement is 10 kilometres from Sanyang and 39 kilometres by road from the capital of Banjul. About 3km from the main town, and on the coast, is the bustling fishing village with its fish smoking houses and rows of multi-coloured African pirogues. North of the fish centre the beaches are excellent for miles.

Accommodation:
Despite the locality's relative remoteness it has a respectable selection of good quality seafront resorts and inland travellers' lodgings. If you really want peace and quiet then go for the coastal hotels & lodges such as Nemasu Eco-Lodge, a unique and Earthy retreat, combining traditional and modern in 8 huts, a clean place on the sands. The Footsteps Eco-Lodge is set some distance from the beach but has a natural swimming pool and well honed services with 9 huts. There is also the Gunjur Project Lodge with its 8 chalets. All the above have ensuite bathing and WC. This part of Gambia is great for camping backpackers.

Beach Area:
The seafront area of Gunjur resort is, at most times, gloriously deserted, save for the odd passing cow and the occasional passerby.

The strand is less geared to tourist than some of the northern holiday resorts and there are a few dotted beach bars and lodges nestled on the edge of huge rhun palm clusters and shoreline bush. Pristine yellowish sand sweeps the edges of broad bays, presenting impressive views into the distant shoreline, and the sunsets are magnificent. In terms of natural beauty, this region's seafront perhaps only comes second to Sanyang, located further north.



 

General Area:
The village  is a tranquil, sleepy quarter, with dirt roads and simple block-work abodes topped with corrugated sheets. The community is well served with good paved road connections along the coast and a highway leading up to Brikama town; the taxi rank is located in the edge of town. There are a few stores, diners and a couple of mini-markets in town and the village is now connected to the water and electricity utilities.





Outside the settlement are large and small farm field holdings, woodland scrub, some forest and dotted with a few private residential homes. Between the main village and the Atlantic Ocean is thick tropical palm forest, dry woodland, coastal scrub, mangroves, a coastal lagoon, baobab trees, acacia and cashew orchards riddled with dirt roads.

There are various NGOs working in the rural and urban community such as the Trust Agency For Rural Development (TARUD),

the Gunjur Environmental Protection & Development Group (GEPADG), and the Marlborough Brandt Group (the village is twinned with the town of Marlborough in UK).

Founding Family History:
Oral history suggests that  the first people to settle in Gunjur were the Sanyang family who are Bianunkas of the Biyaro tribe. It is said they established a small settlement close to an Atlantic coastal lagoon called Bolong Fenyo. According to a colonial commissioner's note of 1941, the village was founded by the Darboe family, who were pagans who migrated from Manding (Mali) hundreds of years ago and obtained permission from the kings of Brikama to make this area of land their home. Their site was nearer to the sea than the present village in what is today known as Senga Forest. Some time later they were joined by the Tourays from Futa Toro, and the Sahos.

Tourist Attractions & Things To Do:
 Gunjur Fishing Village
Visiting the largest fisheries centre in Gambia, at Bator Sateh, at the end of the Beach Road, is one of the best ways to experience vibrant village life. In what would appear to be smoke-filled organised chaos at the harbour, you can see brightly painted, multi-coloured African longboats heave, sway and surge on the often threatening Atlantic Ocean waves. Women sometimes wade in shoulder high to collect the catch in wide plastic buckets on their heads. Once the pirogues are on shore they are then manually hauled in on chunky wooden rollers to the shouts of fishery workers. The fish catch, often bonga, is traded by fishmongers, sometimes gutted and washed, then dried, frozen or smoked in dim, hazy, rusting sheds and pungent cold stores, while fishing nets are mended and pirogue hull breaches repaired. Most of the fishermen are Senegalese, many of whom live in the town.





 Gunjur Village Museum
Located in Babilon, the initiative to build the Cultural Heritage Museum came from Lamin Bojang in 2008, while working at the Footsteps Eco-Lodge. The small museum, which is now registered with National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), aims to preserve the areas oral historical accounts, culture and artifacts. Among the ancient and more modern pieces on exhibit are intricately carved  human figurines, wooden stools and bowls, carved wooden masks, decorated bino horns, clay water containers, hot press irons, metal cooking pots, musical instruments like the Kora and Balafon.
[Email: bojang55@hotmail.com - Tel no: +220 643 6637]

 Koofung Private Forest Park
Located to the west of the Kombo Coastal Road this is a small nature reserve where you can see various bird species and animals such as green vervet monkeys and other wildlife.





 Bolong Fenyo Community Wildlife Reserve
The 345 hectares of protected coastal and marine park called Bolong Fenyo is managed by the Gunjur Environmental Protection & Development Group (GEPADG bnbajo@gmail.com  Tel no: 8800986 / 4486001). You can contact them for a tour of the wildlife park, and gain some good community insights into how it combines the preservation of the area's delicate biodiversity to local job creation, and can organise cultural dance performances and food. For birdwatchers, their focus of interest would be the coastal lagoon, a site that draws in over 75 recorded bird species (some claim to have seen 119), including Double-banded Sandgrouse, Green Crombec and Little Crake. There are also reptiles, snakes, mammals and invertebrates such as humpback dolphins and green turtles.

 Bird Watching
Visitors to Gunjur who fancy doing a bit of bird watching can find numerous bird species in variable habitats. Among these are the African Spoonbill, Hybrid Red Bellied X African Paradise Flycatcher, Red-billed Firefinch, Lavender Waxbill, Brown Babbler, Vinaceous Dove, Pied-winged Swallow, Common Bulbul, Abyssinian Roller, Bronze mannikin, Spur-winged Lapwing, Western Red-billed Hornbill, Village Weaver, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Black Heron, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Wire-tailed Swallow, Black-winged Red Bishop, Piapiac, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Laughing Dove, Spur-winged Plover, Senegal Firefinch, Striped Kingfisher, Variable Sunbird, Western Bluebill, African Thrush, Black-necked Weaver, Grey-headed Gull, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Blue-bellied roller, Senegal Parrot, Western Bluebill and Purple Glossy Starling.


See also Kartong Bird Observatory

 Sports Fishing
Shore angling can be quite rewarding among the Gunjur coastline's shallow reefs, sandy bays and rocky outcrops. With the right rod and tackle you might snag Barracuda, Catfish, Guitarfish (Shovel-nosed Rays), Captain Fish, Butterfish, Stingrays, various Croakers, and Red or Guinean snappers from the seafront. Shore fishing is good throughout the year, at high or low tide.

 Surfing
'Secret Bay' has been deemed suitable for all levels of surfers by wannasurf.com. Waves have an estimated swell size of 1m / 3ft and holds up to 2m+ / 6ft+ and a frequency of 150 days a year, with a good day length of 50 to 150m. The bay is located south of the coastal fish landing site, between Bator Sateh and Gunjar Madina.

 Holy Site
About 1km from Gunjur's main fishing centre is a sacred site called the Sand Dune Mosque, or Kenye-Kenye Jamango ('Mosque soil' in Mandinka), which overlooks a spectacular sweep of beachfront from a high dune. Made famous by a visit here by the much revered Sheikh Umar Futiu Taal in the late 1830s. He had thousands of loyal followers and had imposed his authority from Senegal to Nigeria. The palm-frond mosque, and associated grounds, such as rocks and buildings are all considered sacred, and some pilgrims have been known to stay for up to one year here. A half mile south of here is Tengworo ('6 Palm Trees') where recently circumcised boys are bathed. North of Kenye-Kenye is Nyanitama-Dibindinto, a holy place of prayer where infertile women make offerings in the hope of conceiving. If you want to visit any of these sacred places you should be accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide. Note that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque.

Health & Safety:
When staying in the rural area beware of animal as well as possible human risks. There are a few poisonous snakes in the bushy areas such as cobra, therefore it's advisable to always wear boots when trekking in the scrub. During the evenings it's best to stay within close proximity of your lodgings, and if you have to go some distance then to only go out at night by car and accompanied. If you are camping on the beach or remote locality, then do be aware of your personal safety when on the coast at night. Use the services of a tourist guide and get advise from one of the local organisations. Finally, don't drink water straight from the tap. Drink purified water, use a portable water filter or sterilizations tablets. If possible bring along plenty of insect repellent, preferred toiletries and sun block cream.

 



Travel Information:
Gunjur can be reached by taking one of the yellow normal taxis or one of the four wheel drive green tourist taxis from the northerly resorts of Kololi and Kotu, and travelling south along the Kombo Coastal Road, it is about 10 km after Sanyang. To get back to your hotel go to the taxi rank on the outskirts of the village, and consider taking a shared bush taxi (van) all the way to Brusubi, then take a cab from there. This last trip can be reversed making it the cheapest option of travel.


See also Travel Packing List

If you are visiting this area then do pack plenty of your most essential supplies. There are some mini-markets now open in town.

[Geographical coordinates 13.1833 N, 16.7667 W / Kombo South, Western Region]
 
 
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