Island & Janjanbureh Town, are in the Central River
Region of The Gambia, in the Niamina East District,
300km upstream from the Banjul
capital. The former British colonial settlement was
founded in 1823, when king of Lower Niani, Kolli Camara,
ceded the island to Britain. It is the headquarters
of the Central River Region, and one of the eight Local
Government Areas, with an estimated population of 3,600.
It was formerly known as Lemaine, then re-named
MacCarthy Island (after Sir
Charles MacCarthy), with a mud brick Fort George
room choices in Janjanbureh are mostly eco-tourism orientated
bush lodges or basic guesthouses, most can be
found on or very near to the banks of the River
There is the in town Talamanca Lodge, with a diner,
3 rooms with ensuite shower and WC. The in town Alakabung
Lodge has 10 ensuite rooms plus meals (tel: 5676123).
There is the Baobolong Camp (tel: 5676133) and the Janjang
Bureh Camp (tel: 9816944). On the mainland and to the
west is the Kairoh Garden Guest House, Kuntaur. There
is also the island based Bird
Safari Camp with 36 rooms of tents or thatched huts,
a pool, bar and restaurant.
got its new name in 1995, and is sometimes referred
to by its colonial name of McCarthy, it is 20 square
kilometres in area, 10 km long, and 1.5 km wide. The
north of the island is linked to the mainland at Lamin
Koto village terminal by a vehicle and passenger ferry
service, while the south is linked by a 100m span vehicle
and passenger bridge, opened in July 2010, which connects
the settlement to the South Bank Road via Sankulay Kunda
The dominant vegetation type is tropical rain forest
in the form of a gallery forest, which are particularly
rich in bird species. The west of the island has abundant,
secluded woodland, as well as the West Rice Paddies.
• Janjanbureh Town
is a planned port town, formerly known as Georgetown,
and lies on the north side of the isle. It has a ferry
terminal crossing, a post office, a Methodist Church
opened in 1835 (claimed to be the oldest Methodist Church
in sub-Saharan Africa), a primary school, police
station, a village produce market, a bush taxi rank,
a prison, a Gamtel office, the Commissioner's Officers'
Residence, the co-ed Armitage High School, and a number
of colonial buildings dating from the 19th and 20th
centuries. The town is mainly used as a collection point
for groundnuts and rice
which has been harvested by the local farmers and in
outlying areas. It is sometimes referred to as
the Gambia's 'second city' and is still an important
trading and administrative centre of the Central River
Baobolong, Janjang Bureh and Bird
Safari Camp all offer birdwatching tours.
Janjanbureh's habitats of woodland, riverine,
scrub savanna and rice fields are particularly
rich in bird species. While on a bird
watching trip you might find Abyssinian Rollers,
African Crakes, African Finfoots,
African Green-Pigeons, Bearded Barbets, Beaudouin’s
Snake-Eagles, Black-rumped Waxbills, Blue-eared Glossy
Starlings, Broad-billed Rollers, Bruce’s Green Pigeons,
Egyptian Plovers (Crocodile Birds), Four-banded Sandgrouse,
Green Woodhoopoe, Grey-headed Kingfishers, Hammerkops,
Little Egrets, Long-tailed Glossy-Starlings, Northern
Carmine Bee-eaters, Northern White-faced Owls, Oriole
Warblers, Palm-nut Vultures, Pearl Spotted Owl, Pin-tailed
Whydahs, Red-billed Queleas, Red-billed Firefinches,
Senegal Coucals, Snowy-crowned Robins, Stone Partridges,
Striated Herons, Swamp Flycatchers, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls,
Village Indigobirds, Wood Sandpipers, and Yellow-crowned
• Sports Fishing
tidal waters of the River Gambia, this far upstream,
offer plenty of fish species for anglers. If you come
along with the right rod and tackle, you could catch
game fish such as the West African Tigerfish, or Threadfin
Salmon, Tilapia, Freshwater Sole, Elephant Fish, Captain
Fish, Ladyfish, African Pike, and Catfish species such
as Vundu, Silver, Electric, Channel and Hardhead. The
best time of the year to go fishing
in these waters is December to May. To arrange a fishing
trip enquire with one of the fishing tour operators,
or at the Bird
& Things To Do:
If you go on an one or two-day excursions by foot or
boat, you can roam much of the vicinity of the island,
as well as interesting sites a little further afield.
• River Cruises
are several options available for canoe or boating trips.
The first is to book an excursion on one of the boats,
such as privately chartering Jane's
Boats, departing from Denton Bridge in Banjul. This
could involve a few nights stay in one of the local
lodges. The other option is to use one of the boats
provided by the local accommodation such as the Lady
Hippo, which is operated by the Bird
Safari Camp. The last option is to simply ask one
of the local pirogue owners, likely a fisherman, to
take you along the river, for a fee of course. Interesting
places to explore are downstream along the spectacular
stretches of the riverside, and the various islands
called Miniang, Kajakat, Sapu and Brikama Island. If
you are going solo then do check if you are allowed
to set foot on any of them. Kai Hai, further to the
west, is off limits to visitors.
• Wildlife Spotting
There is plenty of wildlife in the wooded sections of
Janjanbureh Island, as well as along the river and the
closest parts of the mainland. There are mammals and
reptiles such as Green Vervet monkeys, turtles, Callithrix
monkeys, Temminck's Western Red Colobus.
About 14 miles downstream at the Central River Circuit,
around the three uninhabited Kai Hai Islands, you have
one of the few remaining populations of hippopotamus
in West Africa. Further downstream are the Baboon Islands
and the River
Gambia National Park. West African Manatees have
been known to visit here, but are rarely seen. These
last two locations don't allow visitors, but looking
on from a boat you might see crocodiles, herons, hippos
• Wassu Stone
UNESCO World Heritage-listed
site is 20km north of Lamin Koto. The megalithic Wassu
Stone Circles, dated between 927 and 1305 AD., are
comprised of 11 circles and their related frontal stones.
• Lamin Koto
This ancient monument is smaller than its more famous
counterpart at Wassu, but is closer to the island and
easier to reach at only 1.7km away from the North Bank.
1983, elders and the educated elite decided to revitalise
the cultural practices and norms of their ancestors,
with the purpose of educating youth. The ideas came
together in the form of an annual festival, first held
in that same year and organised by the Janjanbureh Cultural
Association. The festival is comprised of various cultural
activities, and gives a chance for visitors to meet
and talk to elders about various traditions and practices.
The opening of the ceremony is marked by a musical performance
with drums and dance, with a show of various types of
One of the most interesting ceremonies to be seen is
the initiation rite of circumcised Gambian boys, where
they would gather at the tinyang sita (a baobab
tree), where they would rest for the day. Other
activities that take place includes naming
ceremonies, weeding ceremonies and Kadeeboo. The
Kadeeboo is a ritual game in which girls try to unveil
the Kankurang mask in public.
• Colonial Architecture
are a few historic buildings in the town that tell of
the settlement's colonial past. On the riverbank 19th
century warehouses stand neglected and crumbling, aided
by the relentless encroachment of vegetation. There
is the Maurel and Prom Building, a former French
trading house from Bordeaux, on the slipway to the ferry
terminal. To its right are the roofless ruins of the
These structures are sometimes erroneously called 'slave
houses' or 'slave market', they are not, as both were
built long after Britain abolished slavery in 1807.
Furthermore many of the floors are tiled, something
a slaver is highly unlikely to have bothered with. In
all likelihood they were goods stores and warehouses.
opposite the market, on Owen Street, is a small wooden
house. It is one of the few remaining Creole buildings
of its kind, built by a family of liberated slaves who
settled here in the early 1830s. Beside the post office
is the old government rest house with its unusually
intricate corrugated iron roof design.
There are a limited number of dining choices for tourists
outside of the lodges. The
Bendula, located on Owen Street, is open from 11am to
9pm. It has a dining hall and serves cold soft drinks,
Guinness and reasonably priced meals. There is the Roadside
Pub on Findlay Street, opposite the Alakabung Lodge,
serving nice Jollof
Rice with a Fanta, Coke or Sprite. The wharf side
has a handful of simple eateries serving basic food.
You can also try the in town Talamanca Lodge, which
actually started out as a restaurant.
• Mungo Park Memorial
About 20km east of Janjanbureh is Karantaba Tenda Village.
Close to the village on the riverbank is an obelisk
on a thick, square base called the Mungo Park Memorial.
This place marks the spot where the Scottish explorer
began his adventure from The Gambia and into the interior,
to follow the course of the Niger River on the 2nd December,
1795. This tourist attraction can be found at the following
coordinates: latitude: 13.55 / Longitude: -14.57.
• Kunkilling Forest
The nature conservation area is located on the south
bank of the river, near the eastern end of Janjanbureh,
and just 10 minutes by vehicle from the village of Sankulay
Kunda. Kunkilling Forest
Park is 142 hectares of superb riverine forest,
of rhun palms and hardwood, with numerous monkey species,
birds and reptiles. From the avian viewing platform
you might see birds such as Adamawa turtledove,
Beaudouin's Snake Eagles, Finfoots, White-backed Vultures
and Yellow-bellied Hyliota. Along the riverside you
might spot crocodiles taking in the Sun.
is a combined craft studio and store where you can pick
up some tourist souvenirs such as djembe drums, African
jewelry, tie dye fabrics and the musical African harp
called kora. There are also other places in town selling
crafts such as carved wooden masks and human figurines.
• Foroyaa Sooto
Freedom Tree Monument
is a tiny, half-block fenced, wedge shaped park with
a Bantang tree, planted to act as a reminder of the
'Freedom Tree' that used to grow in Fort George,
nearby. It is said that after the British had outlawed
slavery in 1807, any runaway slaves who managed to touch
the tree would have their name noted down by soldiers
at the fort, and were immediately emancipated. You can
find a short pillar with a written description of the
monument and a little background.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the island was called
Lemaine by Luso-African and European traders,
who kept temporary trading stations there, and had used
the island as an assembly area for slaves, pending shipment
to slave buying markets overseas.
hundreds of years Janjanbureh had been an up-country
refuge for escaped slaves, Muslims
fleeing religious oppression, and merchants looking
for somewhere safe, and well-linked, to trade in groundnuts
and other merchandise. In 1785 Richard Bradley signed
the first treaty with the king of Niani to cede Lemaine
Island (MacCarthy) to the British, in exchange for gifts
amounting to £579.80, with the view to establishing
a penal settlement. However, nothing came of the plan,
the convicts being eventually diverted to other locations.
In 1810 the first village settlement of Morokunda was
founded by Mandinka
Muslims fleeing religious persecution. On the 14th April,
1823, the second treaty of cession of the isle was signed
by the king of Niani, Kolli Camara, and Captain Alexander
Grant of the Royal African Corps. This was in return
for a box of wine and five cases of coins.
The British used the settlement as a base for commercial
trading, missionary work, agriculture and for protecting
its traders, and the upper navigable reaches of the
river, against illegal slave traders. The first British
settlers were a few merchants from Bathurst, a
detachment of soldiers from the West Indian Regiment
who were stationed on the north of Janjanbureh, who
built a mud-earth works garrison and Christened it Fort
George, and a number of Wesleyan missionaries who established
the Wesleyan Mission (Methodist Church), begun as a
station in 1824 under John Morgan, and finally built
in 1835. These first settlers proceeded to build Georgetown's
warehouses, stores, quays, and dealt in iron products,
fabrics, rifles, and palm oil. Later Fort Campbell was
built on the eastern end of the territory.
Discharged solders from the coast and the Kombos helped
swell the small population. In 1832 two hundred Aku
(Creole) freed slaves from Freetown arrived. A good
number of them were skilled craftsmen and unskilled
workers, and they assisted in developing the island's
farming potential. They took full advantage of the first
class mission schools in the area. Out of the mission
schools sprung up the Chiefs' School, reserved for the
seyfolus' sons. This was rebuilt, and opened in 1927,
and renamed Armitage High School, which became a prestigious
boarding school for the sons of the Gambian elite.
The 1860s witnessed an influx of more refugees fleeing
from the Soninke-Marabout wars being waged on the mainland.
the 1920s Cherno Kaddy Baldeh, the king of Fulladu West,
recognised the need for a bridge to link his district
to MacCarthy Island, and benefit from the booming trade
in groundnuts. He used forced labour, local wood and
other materials to build a floating log-bridge, which
allowed the movement of groundnuts from his district,
across the Sankulay Kunda River, to groundnut
buying depots in Georgetown from 1925 to 1931.
In the 1930s the freighting and trading of groundnuts
between the upriver regions and Kombo increased, Georgetown
was the centre of this activity, its local economy growing
strongly. After Banjul,
it had now become The Gambia's second town, and an administrative
base for the British Protectorate. Since 1965 Georgetown's
economic glory has been on the decline, exacerbated
by the construction of the South Bank Road in the 1970s,
and the termination of the riverboat service.
Health & Safety:
has many wild areas so there are several things you
need to be wary of. Firstly, not every snake, spider
or scorpion is poisonous, and many aren't venomous enough
to cause your real harm. However, it's a good idea when
trekking in the bush to wear boots, at least covering
your ankles, as well as trousers such as denims.
Think about your own safety
and don't swim in the river no matter what people tell
you. Certain parts of the river have crocodiles and
hippos, though they are not often seen around the immediate
vicinity of the island.
get to the island of Janjanbureh you take one of the
bush taxis South Bank Road eastwards up to the road
junction leading to Sankulay Kunda village, from there
you continue to the bridge crossing and onto the isle.
The alternative route is to take the Banjul ferry
up to Barra. From there
you take the North Bank Road which passes through places
like Kuntaya, Kerewan, Farafenni, Saback Ngaine, Wassu
and finally Kuntaur, then from here directly to the
ferry terminal at Lamin Koto village. Because the ferry
operates only until 7pm an early start is required,
otherwise you might have to spend the night in a nearby
lodge on the mainland.
Note: This place name has the alternative spelling of
Janjangbureh or Jangjangbureh.
[Geographical coordinates 13.31 ° N, 14.50 ° W
/ Central River Region / Niamina East District]