It's hard to imagine a more unlikely or consistently ignored capital city than the tiny seaport of Banjul. It sits on an island and sulks, crossed by sand-blown streets and dotted with fading colonial structures. And yet, it tempts with a sense of history that the plush seaside resorts lack, and is home to a busy harbour and market that show urban Africa at its best.
Jufureh & James Island
When Alex Haley, the American author of Roots, traced his origins to Jufureh, the tiny village quickly turned into a favourite tourist destination. There's little to see, though the small slavery museum, which traces slavery in The Gambia and includes a replica slave ship, is worth a visit. One of Gambia's most significant historical sights is James Island.
Ten kilometres south of Sanyang lies the tranquil fishing village of Gunjur, one of The Gambia's largest fishing centres. This place is all about fish, guts and nets, though the Gunjur Environmental Protection and Development Group can introduce you to the ecological side of town, notably its community reserve and lagoon.
Makasutu Culture Forest
Like a snapshot of The Gambia, Makasutu Culture Forest bundles the country's array of landscapes into a dazzling 1000-hectare package. The setting is stunning, comprising palm groves, wetlands, mangroves and savannah plains, all inhabited by plenty of animals, including baboons, monitor lizards and hundreds of bird species.
Located just to the south of the Atlantic Coast resorts, Brufut has rapidly changed from a tranquil fishing village to a built-up tourist centre. Small and attractive Hibiscus House is tucked away at the end of a bougainvillea-lined road. A short drive southward takes you to Tanji.
Basse Santa Su
Basse Santa Su, commonly called Basse, is The Gambia’s most easterly town of any size. Though haunted by neglect, Basse Santa Su is the liveliest upcountry settlement. Trust Bank and Standard Chartered Bank have branches in Basse, and there’s an internet café. The Basse Guesthouse (5668283; r US$5.30), above a tailor shop, has dingy rooms with shared toilets.
Baobolong Wetland Reserve & Kiang West National Park
The mangrove creeks and mud flats, dry woodland and grassland of Kiang West (admission US$1.10, payable at the parkheadquarters in Dumbuntu), The Gambia’s largest national park, are home to an extraordinary variety of species, including bushbabies, baboons, colobus monkeys, warthogs, marsh mongooses and bushbucks. Rarely sighted species include hyenas, dolphins and crocodiles.