Replies: 9 - Last Post: May 6, 2013 7:01 AM Last Post By: timberlambo
Dec 20, 2012 12:41 PM
I got to the gare routiere in Dakar just before dawn to make sure that I would catch one of the earliest sept-places to Karang, the Senegalese border post closest to Barra, where you can get a boat to Banjul. The sept-place costs 6000CFA plus 1000CFA for baggage though I got the feeling that this was a tubaab (white person) tax as all I had was a small backpack; I have paid 500CFA for baggage on other rides which was a bit more reasonable. I only waited for about 40 min. for the transport to fill up and then it was about 5.5 hours to the border. When you get out at Karang a horde of money changers will offer to change CFA to Dalasi; ignore them as they will use slight of hand to double count bills and rip you off. Walk to the Senegalese police post on the right side of the road to get your exit stamp. The walk across the border and into the immigration office on the Gambian side. Tourist visas at the Gambian embassy in Dakar cost 35,000CFA but I paid 20,000CFA at the border. It would have been even cheaper if I had paid in Dalasi as the visa costs 1000D (~16,000CFA). You can change CFA to Dalasi next door (to the left) of the immigration post at 325D to 5,000CFA. After waiting for maybe 20 min. I had my Gambian visa. A shared taxi to Barra costs 25D; once you are on your way its a short (maybe 20 min) ride. In Barra you can wait for the one ferry OR, take a big pirogue across to Banjul as I did. If you are facing the ferry station walk around to the right and down to the water to find the pirogues. To get into the large boat there are a bunch of guys who scramble over one another to pick you up on their shoulders (it is a little alarming to have a head between your legs and get hoisted up with your bag on your back so quickly) and wade into the water up to their waists before pushing you up and over the gunwales. The normal tip is 5D. I had to wait for a little while for the boat to fill up and for "life jackets" to be handed out under the semi-watchful eye of the Gambian Navy. The boat ticket is 15D but if you don't have exact change you might have to pay 25D as I did; it takes about 20 min to cross the river/bay. On the Banjul side there are more guys that will carry you on their shoulders to the beach (another 5D). From the ferry I walked through what one could term (downtown), stopped at a Standard Trust Bank to pull out some more Dalasi (there is a 3000D, about $100, limit per day on most cash machines) and asked around to find the minibuses to Bakau.
In Bakau I stayed at the Kachikally "Holiday Inn" where there are very clean, basic rooms for 425D a night. The proprietor is very friendly (a former policeman) and there is an internet cafe attached to the hostel. It is a bit off the beaten path and poorly marked but the locals should be able to point the way. While in Bakau I suggest renting a bike to explore the surrounding areas.
After two nights stay in Bakau I headed down the coast to Kartong for a night. I caught a minibus from Bakau to Serekunda where I walked through the market to the garage. I asked for a transport to Gunjur but it didn't seem that there was one leaving any time soon so I got on one to Brikama where I switched to one headed for Gunjur and there made the final change for transport to Kartong. Each of these rides costs around 10-15D each. I stayed the night at the Equator Lodge / Tamab Kuruba (http://www.equatorfoundation.com/en/structure/pages/lodge-home/index.htm) which was great. Ebrima, the cook and manager is very friendly and can make a mean "fish and chips" that is less fried than the British version but just as delicious. There was only one other couple staying there and Ebrima took us all to a drumming/dancing bonfire down at the Sandele Resort at night followed by a stop at the reggae bar in town (the only spot to grab a cold Julbrew, the local beer).
In the morning I was off up country to Bintang Bolong by way of Brikama (again I took transport from Kartong-Gunjur and from Gunjur-Brikama). There is a bush taxi from Brikama to Bintang a couple times a day and I caught the morning one which leaves between 10 and 11AM. Get there closer to 10 if you want a (good) seat. I had read that the south bank road was terrible but was pleased to find out that it was newly paved and a smooth ride the entire way. It took about an hour with all of the stopping (lots of police checkpoints - make sure to have your passport/visa handy) and passengers getting on and off. The Bintang-Bolong Lodge (http://www.bintang-bolong.com/home-english.html) is excellent and was my favorite part of The Gambia. It was 460D a night for a single room and I had an entire riverside, stilted bungalow to myself. The staff are all very friendly and the food tasty. Again there was only one other couple staying there (an older British man and Russian woman) who were good company for meals. While there isn't much to do on land, a walk through the village will make you many friends who are actually interested in getting to know you, as opposed to taking your money like most of the "bumsters" on the tourist-packed coast.
From Bintang I headed up to Janjangbureh (Georgetown) by way of Sibanor and Soma. I caught a moto-taxi from Bintang to Sibanor (just down the main road towards Soma) where I waited at a police station for transport. Luckily, a large bus that was heading all the way to Basse passed so I got on. The road to Janjangbureh is only quite poor between Kalagi and Soma (dirt, lots of holes) but otherwise was fine. From Sibanor to Janjangbureh took me 5 hours all told, and the bus dropped me off right in the middle of Janjang. The dated West Africa Lonely Planet guide from 2009 mentions a ferry to get to Mcarthy Island but there is now a nice new bridge from the south bank. In Janjangbureh I stayed at the Baobolong Camp but probably wouldn't again next time. The bedding was a bit suspect and I was worried about bed bugs which made for a poor nights sleep. It was fine for a single nights stay which is all I needed as I was off to Tambacounda, Senegal the next morning.
From Janjangbureh I caught a gelli-gelli to Bansang, where I switched for one headed to Basse. In Basse I found a "sept-place" headed for Manda, Senegal. The guidebook mentioned going to Velingara but that is apparently old news as there are Gambian and Senegalese border posts to make the crossing at Manda. In what had up until this point had been a generally easy time with public transport, I was left waiting for the car to fill for 5.5 hours in Basse. The driver insisted that in Gambia "sept-places" (literally 7 places, for the 7 passengers they usually carry) actually take TEN passengers. I wanted to challenge him to show me 10 Gambian women in his car but was more interested in getting back into Senegal before nightfall so I ended up paying for three places, giving myself the front seat all to myself; usually one poor soul has to straddle to gear shift... The price for one ticket was 125D. I had no problems getting my exit/entry stamps and from Manda I caught a bush taxi to Tambacounda which took about 40 minutes or so.
After meeting friends in Tamba we stayed at Bloc Gadec which was basic and clean at 3500CFA per person. In the morning we headed to the gare routiere to find transport to Kedougou. Sept-places are 6000CFA and a minibus is 4500CFA. We were tempted by the cheaper price... and in the end we paid in time for it. Our bus was WAY overloaded, packed with 20 people inside and lot of baggage/a cart/a transmission on top which weighed down the bus so much that we scraped the rear wheel wells every time we went over the slightest bump. Needless to say, we suffered two burst tires and the voyage took 6 hours, landing us in Kedougou after nightfall with no accommodation. We stayed at the Niokolo lodge who had two huts/rooms which were clean and nice despite their hobbit doors.
The next morning the manager of the campement villageois in Dindefelo called us to let us know that he was sending transport to bring us there from Kedougou which was a God send. It is a bumpy ride out to the village and we got to ride in the comfort of a Range Rover (for free!). The Campement was a bit scruffy but the manager and all the staff were very friendly and the cook made a mean yassa poulet with fogno (a grain that is smaller, and better, than rice). It was 2500CFA per person per night but the meals were also 2500CFA, a bit of a rip. If you don't want to pay that much you can survive off of the delicious omelet sandwiches made by the women in the village. From Dindefelo you can bath in the waterfall that is close by and take a hike up to Dande, a village up on the plateau, not far from Guinea-Conakry. if you are there on Sunday you can visit the Lumo (market) where vendors come from all around, some making the 5 hour hike from Guinea, to sell their wares.
After two nights in Dindefelo, we walked the 3 miles to Segou where there is a fantastic Campement Villageois and another hike to another, more remote waterfall that is more frequently visited by chimpanzees than middle aged Spanish women (as Dindefelo is). Though we only saw the chimp nest, we did see other smaller monkeys and did enjoy a cool dip in the waterfall pool.
After two nights in Segou (it was too nice to only stay one!) we jumped in the back of a large dump truck for a hot, bumpy trip back to Kedougou (1500CFA, ~1.5 hours). After learning our lesson the first time, we opted for a sept-place back to Tambacounda which took nearly half the time as the minibus (just over 3 hours). From Tamba we changed to another sept-place to Dakar (9500CFA) which took a (speedy) 7 hours. The road outside Kaolack (towards Dakar) is the worst/slowest part of the trip.
Ok that was long but hopefully helpful for someone.
Edited by: timberlambo
Dec 20, 2012 1:52 PM
Dec 21, 2012 1:38 AM
Feb 14, 2013 1:14 PM
Feb 20, 2013 6:56 AM
4Thanks so much for this...I am having a hard time trying to plan my trip, as every choice seems to have pros and cons.
I am also from the US, female, and will be traveling alone, first time to Africa.
I have been thinking of various strategies to visit Senegal/Gambia/Morocco.
Do you think it is easier/more practical to base in Senegal, and then to Gambia and back, or vice versa?
I'd be going via Banjul either way.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Feb 21, 2013 5:45 AM
5If you are bringing a backpack (and not heavy bags), then you don't have to 'base' yourself anywhere in Senegal or Gambia--your base is wherever you happen to be at the moment. Do a circuit starting in Banjul and work your way either to northern Senegal (Dakar, St. Louis, etc), or through southern Senegal (Casamance, Kedougou).
Feb 21, 2013 2:32 PM
Feb 21, 2013 11:45 PM
Mar 1, 2013 9:58 PM
May 6, 2013 6:54 AM
9Sorry "bay" just seeing this now. At first I didn't realize you were starting in Banjul regardless but I would still say Dakar is a lot more interesting and exciting than Banjul and in general I like Senegal a lot more than Gambia. After a visit to Gambia you could head north Dakar and then onto Morocco (via Mauritania - you need to get the visa in Dakar).
Hope this isn't too late.
Edited by: timberlambo
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