Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Gambia Days 1, 2 & 3

The girls and our teacher
I've been back from The Gambia nearly two weeks now and I've been trying to settle back into work and university life. I've been so tired the last week or so that I've not even thought about blogging. I'm finally back into the swing of things and I am excited to share my experience with you all. I've split my week holiday into three posts which will go live across the next week.
Riverside between Gambia and Senegal
My trip to The Gambia was a university field trip, I went with two of my university friends and my sustainable tourism lecturer. I had traveled with both of my friends before (Cyprus, Cardiff & Amsterdam) but this was our first adventure. The trip was not a holiday, it was a study trip to learn about sustainability, eco-tourism and how tourism affects The Gambia and other developing countries. 

Day One - Gatwick to The Gambia
Picture from the car ride
Day one was travel travel travel! Tara stayed at my house from the night before as I was driving to Gatwick airport and parking my car there for the week. Around 5:15am we woke up, washed and got ready. I had to deice the car and off we set for our adventure. It took two plus hours to get to Gatwick for some reason, there wasn't much traffic but it took forever. We arrived around the same time as our other university friend and our lecturer. We checked in and headed straight to McDonalds for a breakfast once we were through customs. I wasn't feeling very well so I took two Night Nurse tablets and I was ready for bed. We got on the plane and for some reason we were delayed, but before the flight even left Gatwick I was knocked out from my pills. I woke up after what felt like hours to find out it had been about 45 minutes. I was in and out of sleep the whole 6 hour flight as people kept waking me up walking past me for the toilet as well as dinner, snacks and drinks (all inclusive with our flight). We landed pretty much on time and once we landed I was shocked to have a random Gambia say nothing to me but stick a while object to my forehead and then tell me to keep moving. I later worked out he was checking my temperature, I was lucky to not have that type of illness anymore.
 We got our private car to our hotel (Sandele Eco-Retreat in Kartong), I won't bore you will all the details but we were about 45 minutes to an hour away from the tourist side of The Gambia (Senegambia). The drive wasn't bad, after a talk with two Gambian students who would be joining us for the week we headed to our room to freshen up before an African buffet and drumming. We ended the night around 10:30pm as we were all tired and we had an early start the next day.   
Everyone dancing
Day Two - Senegambia, My Farm, Fishing Village
Presidential Suite
We woke up pretty early and got to breakfast for little after 8am, we then jumped into the car and headed towards Senegambia, first of all we went to CoCo Ocean which is a 5* hotel. As soon as we arrived I spotted mold on the outside walls and it really wasn't up to my standard of "5*" once we walked into the resort it was a lot better, it had this quiet vibe like everyone was a little snobby. We got told to keep quiet as we did our tour. The grounds were beautiful but everyone looked so boring, there were no children around and everyone was clearly there to sit in the sun, they could have been in Spain, Turkey, Thailand, London... They wouldn't know any different as long as there was sun, they had that leathery brown skin you get from sitting in the sun for days on end without sun cream. We headed to the presidential suite, which we were told was £2000 a night. I wouldn't give you £2 a night for this room. It was filthy and I've stayed in a 1* hotel in Ibiza that was cleaner and nicer. Don't get me wrong it was very WOW but once you looked deeper it was so dirty. Just look at the picture above. £2000 a night and they have that. Yes they'd clean it before you arrive but just thinking this was in the pool makes me feel sick. We also spoke to the manager and had a Q&A with her about the hotel, which was enlightening.    After CoCo Ocean we headed to Kombo Beach were we spoke with the manager and had a tour. Kombo Beach was more my style, more chilled out, had children running around and the sound of music and happiness. Again, everyone was a sun worshiper but there was just a move chilled out vibe that I could related too. Marc (the manager) was lovely and told us about their sustainability policies and how they work with the community. 
Fruit from the fruit sellers
After our chat with Marc we went to see the fruit sellers, we had a lovely conversation with Fatou, who told us about her past of selling peanuts to make a living before she was arrested and almost taken to court because she could not afford to bribe the police. Her story was so heartwarming, she told us she only got off because she spotted that one of the police officers was her husbands brother and she no longer needed to try and bribe the police. It was crazy to see such corruption because she was uneducated and didn't know her human rights. She now works along side The Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) who has educated her and stopped tourist harassment on the beach.  
My Farm
We had lunch at ASSET restaurant after eating our fruit and speaking with Fatou, we then headed to "My Farm". My farm was something else, I'll be honest at this point I was extremely tired, full up and ready for my bed in the 34c of heat. I kept zoning out at My Farm as I was getting bored but over all it was a great experience. We learn about how My Farm teaches local Gambians how to be sustainable in agriculture. This included using other products instead of pesticides and teaching them about permaculture.
Smoking the fish
After My Farm we headed to Tanjie fishing village, this was one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. We got to see how they catch the fish as we all how they smoke the fish before selling them at the local markets. We then headed back to Sandele around 6:30pm and had dinner little after 8pm.

Day Three - Be The Change
Sandele class room
I think this was the most informative day of the whole trip. Be the change spoke about global warming and the affects we are having on the world, we watch a few short clips from Pachamama Alliance which really got me thinking. As a 22 year old girl living in London I often find myself not really caring about the environment, I always think " I don't need to think about that, not yet anyway" or "I'm just one person, even if I did do more to stop harming the earth I'd have no impact". Pachamama Alliance and the other videos we watched really made me think we have one earth, we don't get another one, you can renew it, you can't swap earths, once it's broken you can't fix it, if we carry on we won't have an earth left. The clips also made me think every little helps. I may not be able to change the world in one day, on my own but if everyone does their tiny bit it makes a massive difference. So before you go to put that bottle in the bin, see if you can recycle it, before you go to throw that wrapper on the floor hold it until you find a bin and before you leave all the lights on think about all the energy you're wasting. 
Group shot
We then had our free time after such a deep morning. It was nice to have some hours in the sun relaxing, messing around and going in and out of the sea. I took loads of pictures and we had such a laugh. After our free time we headed back for our showers before having dinner.

Days four, five and six will follow within the new few days!  
In the mean time why not take a look at some of my holiday snaps that I uploaded to Facebook? You can view them here
What do you think of days one, two and three?  I learnt so much in such a short amount of time!


  1. Wow! You've been so busy in just three days, I wonder what you got up to for the rest of the trip? It sounds really interesting and you seem to be learning a lot.

  2. Really enjoyed your post - wow it seems like a world away from the lives we live in the UK. It sounds like an unforgettable trip, looking forward to reading your next instalment!

  3. That is such a life changing experience all in a matter of just three days. Sorry to hear that you were not feeling well how are you feeling now?

  4. Wow, you guys didn't waste any time! And your experience is very authentic and spot on since I'm an African myself.

  5. Just wow I am in awe of you - I would love to do something like this and what a fantastic read although some very sad parts too. I don't think we know how lucky we are where we live with laws to protect us until we go to a country that does not have that

  6. Your photos look amazing. Sounds like you fitted so much into your trip. I'm not a fan of 'sun worshiping' either. I love to go off exploring and on adventures when on holiday. The Tanjie fishing village sounds amazing and the fruit from the sellers looks delicious.

    Roxie | The Beautiful Bluebird

  7. I think this is a great thing to experience, to be learning literally in the environment is brilliant.

  8. Looks like you had an awesome trip and packed quite a lot into those few days. I've always wanted to head to somewhere in Africa like this but I've only done southern places like Morocco and Egypt. One day x

  9. Looks like you had an amazing time, and I wouldn't want to get in that pool either!

  10. Looks like you had a fantastic trip! Would love to participate in something like this myself so I could see what things are really like on the other side of globe as I think things are often distorted in the news/documentaries etc.

  11. Not surprised you found the hotel dirty and stupidly expensive. That is always the case in that part of the world.

  12. Your trip just sounds so amazing, dirty hotels aside of course and the photos are just brilliant, so brightly coloured x

  13. Even with the mention of some of the cons you can across it sounds like a wonderful place to explore.

  14. It's so hard to settle back in to a routine after a holiday, isn't it. It looks like you had an amazing time though.

  15. What a fantastic opportunity - it sounds like you certainly learned a lot. I can't believe the state of the hotel for the price though x

  16. Amazing pictures, it must of been amazing to be in the environment as you were learning about it. Sounds like it was a great trip!

  17. Looks like an amazing opportunity. I'm glad it was a good trip!

  18. What an amazing and vibrant post AND Country. It looked like you had the most wonderful experience. I can't wait to see the rest of your posts about it


  19. Oh wow. what an amazing experience. Fantastic photos x

  20. I travelled through Africa 20 years ago, and it literally changed my life. I fell in love with the continent and the people, and learned a lot about how I wanted to live my life in the process. Looking forward to reading more! x

  21. Wow what a fantastic opportunity. Thanks for sharing- I can't wait to see the other days xx

  22. I really love reading travel posts from distant places!! The fruits there must taste so good and full of flavour :))
    Great shots!