12 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Ocean Bayin general
"I found the complex very spacious, next to beach. welfare /cleaners attended to issues immediately. Shower problem, Safety till box threw issues, door locking fob had to be replaced if it got greasy marks, it failed to ignite. Staff were friendly and supportive to any issues of the hotel rooms.
The big problem is Gambian men being over friendly to females, continuous pestering outside the front area of Hotel, and the waiter Restaurant was suggestive in taking females to walk on the beach after work hours (Badembodarboe)
A wonderful sun holiday resort, Hotel food, hospitality, but harrasing outside the hotel in the area, despises one from returning again. If this was Great Britain, and pestering holiday residents, it would be a civil court case."
- Travel date: Wed 25th of January 2017
Lovely hotel, beautiful country
"A lovely hotel, a beautiful country and a lot of friendly people. Nice restaurants in Cape Point are Mr Bass, Surf & Turf and Sunshine at the beach. If you want to do a tour, get a local guide from Gagabonga Tours & Adventures. You'll find them in shop 22 in Cape Point, next to Mr Bass. A suprising wintersun destination. "
- Travel date: Mon 14th of February 2011
** Nice relaxing hoilday, all week amazing weather **
"We booked our holiday via the travel agent, had never been to The Gambia before so really did not know what to expect.
The hotel when we arrived looked lovely, well kept, clean and the staff are all very well presented, a porter opened the door for us, and we were provided with an ice cold flannel to cool our faces along with a lovely fruit juice. The porter then took us to our room and showed us how the A/C worked etc. (This is where the tipping begins) In The Gambia, people will do everything for you, but further on in our trip we realised that even the smallest things that they do for you, we were expected to Tip!
The grounds are lovely, staff are polite and the beach is gorgeous, weather we can not complain about, 1 cloudy day, however this was quite nice as it was still very warm.
We were a little disappointed with the staffs ability to deal with small problems on the front desk, we had a problem with our mini bar, and we mentioned to reception and they shrugged their shoulders and told us to wait in our room the next morning for the mini bar attendent (who can come at anytime) they actually expected us to wait in?? Its things like this that mean this hotel will never achieve their 5* goal!
The first night we ate in the hotel restaurant and spent 1400 dalasi (Â£28) for 2 meals and 2 cocktails, this is extremely expensive if you compare it to the local restaurants. However this was our first night so we did not know any better.
You need to be aware that the hotel add 15% tax onto everything!! The staff could not even explain what this was for ! (I think is due to the fact its a government run hotel)
We ate everynight in the end at the calypso bar, you go out of the hotel (beach exit) turn right and its 100yds to the right. The food is great, good portions (fill you up) and the staff at this place are AMAZING! they are such good fun and really apreciate your business, this is owned by an english lady, cleanliness is high, we never had the "banjul belly" from here. All we ask is PLEASE PLEASE go in to the Calypso and ask for Christopher he is the head waiter, see pics above. And would love for you to pop in, very child friendly place too, they have a live band on most nights. They do amazing chicken sandwiches, and in the evening things like Coconut Chicken and Rice, Chicken Curry, Shrimp dishes, Beef, and Pork, Our most expensive meal here was 1100 dalasi, that was with starters, main and a bottle of wine and several beers!
Now .... bumsters and the tipping....
One thing you will get in the gambia is hassle from "bumsters" we made the mistake of going straight to the beach on arrival at 7pm we were swamped! We would not recommend this for your first visit, wait till the morning.
A polite NO does get rid of most people, however some are very persistent. One things we learned is they will call you all kinds of names hoping to get it right... if they ask if you've been before say YES! As then they can't offer to take you places, as you already know according to them where you're going.
The fruit sellers on the beach will pounce on you, I really would not recommend these, they are nice people, but once you are their "friend" they will look for your everyday. and when you are buying fruit off them they bring their friends over to sell you other stuff.
The beach is pretty much free of bumsters between 7.30am and 6.30pm and in the evening, you eventually get used to them, and once they know you're not interested they do tend to leave you alone.
You have to tip for pretty much everything, Porters, Room Maids, Waiters, Sunbed guys... the list goes on. These people do deserve tips (most of them) and its does not need to be large, we mainly tipped the guys at the calypso, as they put all tips into a pot and share between everyone, they also REALLY appreciate it. We heard the average salary p/m is between 2000-3000 dalasi(Â£40-50 ). A bag of rice for the month is 500 dalasi.
Some tipping does get abit much, when we were leaving at the airport, I went to the ladies and there was a young girl just standing in there, she expected a tip for passing me a bit of toilet paper to clean my hands on, I explained I had no dalasi left and she looked at my engagement ring and asked for it! (yeah right)
Also which we hated was you have paid for your holiday... you watch the evening entertainment in the hotel and they put a basket round for you to tip AGAIN! I don't think the hotel should allow this, as you just want to relax in the evening not worry about tipping for entertainment you've already paid for
I really don't want the above to put anyone off, as we had an amazing time, it can get a little boring on the evenings as the hotel entertainment is borning and pretty much the same and only lasts1.5hrs. We just went to the Calypso and had a few beers, as the beer is only 40 dalasi compared to over 100 dalasi in the hotel including tax. Outside the hotel tax is NOT added.
We are just trying to provide an informative review for anyone looking or that has already booked.
Another great person to mention is OPA the JUICE BAR on the beach, great guy, and we had fresh juice from him everyday, its 50 dalasi for a glass, and we always tipped him, for some reason they are never that busy, but really you should try it as its lovely and really is all fresh, again its a local business and he appreciates it. Tell him Zoe and Aaron sent you, we talked to him alot on the holiday, he told us so much about Gambia, and never expected anything more, or try and sell us anything else. His bar is again, out side the beach just on the right.
Lastly .. we booked an excursion "Lazy Day Cruise" and was told we would see locals oyster catching etc , we saw nothing but mangroves, it really was boring, and the best bit was you get to swim in the river, no real clean toilet facilities (your on the boat for 6 hours) the hygiene was awful, I got the banjul belly on my last day from the food on the boat! Its cost Â£31 each, which when you convert is alot of dalasi, which could have benefited locals alot more, instead this benefited thomson. And again on the boat they try to sell you jewellery and a gambian language book!!!!
- The hotel exchange rate is 47 dalasi to the Â£ and 32 dalasi for Euros (either change in UK or a money exchange down the road from hotel)
- They sell cigarettes in the hotel for 300 - 350 dalasi for those of you that smoke
- Remember the hotel tax 15%
The travel agents really do try to discourage you from going outside the resort, but if you don't you will be bored, don't worry about Banjul Belly from our experience you don't have much to worry about, use your own judgement on that.
Another great guy we met was Baks Security guard at the calypso, he walked us back to our hotel most nights. He LOVES Man Utd. So if you can take anything , he will love you forever. I've never met a bigger fan. You will be surprised about how much they know about what goes on in England, they really do keep upto date with everything.
Well I think I've bored you all enough now, I've attached some pictures to show you how beautiful it was.
Feel very relaxed now we are back. :o)
I have loads of pictures, but it won't let me upload most of them as they are too large! We have 2 cameras and the smaller ones I have been able to upload but we took the best pictures with the other camera. you can mail me on [email protected], if you would like more pictures (I know it can be nice to see "real" pictures)"
- Travel date: Wed 7th of March 2007
Relax in peace
"Hotel is great, stayed on B&B and more economical to eat a la carte at seperate resaurant rather then bufett, especially if you don't want 3 courses. The staff are still learning how to treat customers as expected in Europe, some are making a better job at it than others, but everyone is friendly and polite.
But Please please please take the time to go down the beach to Calypsos next door, for equally good food and drinks, at better prices under the stars at night. Better still when the band is performing, they are better than the hotels entertainment. Tell Christopher you read about them, he will be chuffed.
Take mosquitos seriously, they will spray your hotel room, but only in the evening when they come out to play. Repallant an essential
Hotel is in quiet area, anyone looking for night-life will need to travel by taxi."
- Travel date: Mon 26th of February 2007
"We could not have picked a better hotel in Gambia! The hotel itself is beautifully looked after, from the stunning modern entrance to the well kept Gardens. The bedrooms are of good quality and size with comfortable beds and good size bathrooms, perfect as a base for soaking up the sun and exploring Gambia! The pool is a good size, it is cold but once you have got the guts up to jump in it is pefect in the Gambian heat. As mentioned below yes the sun beds are taken up quickly but then what holiday resort does that not happen at, however on several days we could not find one but within minutes a member of staff had appeared with some from the back so not a major problem, there is also the choice of using the beach which is directly off the hotel and sun beds are supplied here by the hotel too.
I would not rely on the hotel for food every night as it is far more expensive than if you venture outside the hotel, however the food is of a very good quality and you can't really moan about the prices considering the quality, portions and ingredients! There is the main resturant which caters for half board guests, al carte, pool menu, lounge snack menu and the famous Ocean Clipper restaurant. We ate in all and all were equally as good, the Ocean Clipper is excellent, beautiful setting and decor with very good service, we went on Valentines day and I had Sushi and Sashmi to start followed by Tuna Steak with Avacado salsa and root vegetables which was very yummy - warning thought the portions are huge! Men you must remeber your trousers for this restaurant too! There is also 24 hour room service, which we did not use.
The bars are good but also a tad more expensive than outside so we just used them during the day and for a drink before setting out for the evening!
As mentioned on here before, try not to charge too much to your room to pay at the end as bills can be changed, lost, added on to etc and there is also an additional charge to pay by card. We just put a couple of meals on to pay at the end and remebered the amounts to check - if you are settling your bill before you leave by credit card make sure you do so 24 hours before you leave as it takes time to go through, it will also be charged in dollars.
I tried the spa/massage place once for a session of Reki which was about Â£12 for a half hour session, the lady was very good, I would recomend. If you want cheaper you can venture right on the beach from the hotel and a lady called Bob on the fruit stall also does massages.
Moving on from the hotel, venture outside and experience the real Gambia! When we first arrived and went outside it was initally quite daunting as you get many people coming up to you wanting to be your 'friend' however don't let it put you off, amongst all the 'bumsters' and husslers you will find genuine Gambian people who will be more than happy to show you round and look after you, which is excellent as it enables you to see the real Gambia and keeps the bumsters at bay! We were lucky enough to meet many Genuine people in particular a guy names 'Barbados' or Bob Marley to us!! He took us to The Crocodile Pool, (Definitley an experience and worth a visit, if a little scary!), to his Compound to meet his friend and see where he lived (A very humbling experience when you see the one room they live out of), the harbour where they bring in all the fish at the end of the day and many other amazing places.
Resturants to visit outside the hotel are Clay Oven - A great indian, Lama Lama - A traditional Gambian restaurant, normally with live music in the evening, Weezos - A great Mexican, Italian connection - Huge Pizzas, Calypso - A beach shack, with tree house on the beach, turn right on the beach outside the hotel about 2 mins walk, Sun shine - A beach shack past Calypso, they catch fish daily here to cook and finally the best place in the evening for music and food is Happy Corner, turn right on the road just outside the hotel and walk down for a couple of mins, follow the music! We went here every night after dinner, it is open until the last customer leaves and has live music every night with traditional Gambian dancers, bongo players and singing. Mr Bass the owner, 'Dave' - Graham (G-boy) and Johncon who work there are excellent hosts and great company!
Only downside has been I have picked up a tummy problem whilst out there which has continued back home, still yet to find out what it is, I can't narrow it down to anything in particular and doubt very much it was the hotel, I just think it could be anything as hygine is not anything like home at all and many people had upset stomachs, so just be careful, stock up on medicine before you go, wash your hands always after touching dalasis, check if the ice is mineral water, brush your teeth using mineral water and be overally cautious but don't let it put you off! On the mozzies, take your malaria tablets it is very important as there are many, many mozzies out there and they are biggins!! I did not get one bite but I never ever seem to get bitten away, must be one of the lucky ones but many people had huge bites, so remeber your plug ins, repellent and tablets, you can also get the hotel to spray your room!
Overall Gambia and Ocean Bay hotel was an amazing experience, not yet commercialised like Goa, a chance to experience a completley different culture, it is a tad more expensive than expected but a tip is befriend a local and get local prices!
- Travel date: Thu 22nd of February 2007
great hotel, but.....
"I agree with the good reviews of this hotel.
There is only one thing very irritating: tourists making "reservations" for the sunbeds at the pool and te beach. At 8.30 in the morning about all the beds are taken by towel or book. People show up hours later. Rather egoistic and unfair.
So please, don't confirm yourself as a guest to this nasty habit and complain to the management if others keep on doing so. Only de application of one rule would do: "no reservation of sunbeds allowed".
Maybe I'll visit Ocean Bay again. Then I hope I won't see those rows of so called occupied beds."
- Travel date: Wed 14th of February 2007
Don't spend all of your time in the hotel...
"We stayed on a B&B basis with Thomas Cook. Overall, we thought that the hotel was very good and we enjoyed our holiday in The Gambia. Breakfast was good with a large selection of different options. We didn't use the pool area, preferring to go to the beach where you will easily find space to relax. Plenty of sun loungers are reserved before the sun rises, particularly in the pool area. On the beach, to the right of the hotel, you will find some juice bars and a stall selling fruit salads. We had great fun talking to Simon Peter, Rasta and Opa at the juice bars. They are local people who know about the local area and are very friendly. Go and see them and buy a juice for lunch - much better value than the hotel and you are helping the locals (average Gambian income is about Â£1 per day). Simon Peter took us out for a couple of trips - we trusted him more than the 'guides' outside of the hotel.
The fruit ladies will sell you huge plate of fruit salad which is ideal for lunch, very good value and extremely healthy.
Do venture outside of the hotel to see the real country. You will be hassled by the bumsters, but a firm 'No' usually works. If you go out, you are likely to meet several men called Lamin. This is not a con, Lamin is a common name for the first born boy in a family.
Always remember that you are in a Third World country and if you can afford to visit the Gambia (even on a last minute deal), you will appear VERY rich compared to the locals. You are fair game for them to try to get you to help them.
If you do nothing else, think about going to the Crocodile Pool. This is a ten minute walk from the hotel and you will see how the locals live in Bakau.
The area around the hotel has several restaurants and bars in walking distance and which are all significantly cheaper than the hotel. There is an Hungarian next door, an Italian up the road (huge pizzas), a Chinese, Chapmans (which disappointed us - we waited 1 hour 10 mins for our starter. Other people raved about it.) and Happy Corner (all life is there on the nights that they have a band...)
Farther afield, The Clay Oven Indian restaurant is a short taxi drive away (if you order a 'hot' curry, that's what you'll get!)
Senegambai is the busiest area but we actually preferred Cape Point.
A word of advice - wherever you are, check your bills - 'mistakes' seem to be routine and they never seem to undercharge...
Overall, The Gambia is a great place for winter sun, in our opinion but you do get what you pay for. The Ocean Bay is one of the best hotels in The Gambia but it isn't cheap. It is good value though. We would definitely go back."
- Travel date: Sat 3rd of February 2007
Beautiful And Genuine People
"We stayed at this hotel for a week 26/1/07 booking through First Choice. First Choice were excellent all round. The hotel is really nice, and as others have said, the grounds and lovely and well maintained. We were very fortunate to be given room 308 which was on the ground floor, a hop, skip and jump from the pool. We tipped the pool boy 100 dalasi on our first day and he made sure our beds were reserved with towels everyday. The pool was rather cold but not too bad once you were in it. We were also quite unlucky with the weather this week. 5 out of 7 days being good. The other 2, very cloudy 1 day so windy, and little breaks in the clouds for the sun. The rooms are very nice, dark teak wood, although, a little on the dark side without much light. The bathroom could do with a tidy up around the shower as it is showing signs of wear and tear, and perhaps a little re-whitening around the grouting area. Nothing too big though!
As so many others on this site have mentioned, the bumsters, please please do not be put off them. They are genuine people, who are kind and very sincere. OK, yes, there are the odd one or two who want to take the micheal, but you can work out the genuine ones, which are 96%. We were fortunate enough to meet "william" our sweet friend and guide. He wouldn't take any money from us stating he didn't walk with us for money he walked with us for a friend and to talk to us. My husband practically forced him to take the money. It was only 100 dalasi as well! If you visit this hotel, look out for William, he always wears a green bill and ben floppy type of hat and has a goatie beard. He is about 24yrs of age and is the sweetest person you could ever wish to meet. Ask for him, he usually stands outside the hotel. We found being with William very advantageous, as we were never bothered by any of the other bumsters whilst we were with him. He ever told the minority who did try to bother us, to go away, which they did. We were also very fortunate to meet Fatou, and her delightful children. She runs the fruit stall next to the calypso bar, not the big one as you come out of the hotel, the smaller one . We were invited back to her home in the compound for dinner, unfortuately, we could'nt make it but felt a great honour to be invited. We did buy her and the children some groceries, biscuits and juice and some chocolate which were gratefully received. On our last day, William met us at the stall with Fatou and her children, William gave both my husband and I lovely beaded necklaces, and Fatou, who has to scrimp and save every penny, bought my husband a traditional gambian shirt, and a traditional dress for me!!! totally unexpected, but they were so grateful for our friendship and generousity. I also had 2 wonderful massages from the girl on the beach. As the previous post has mentioned, 400 dalasi, more than half the price of the hotel! She is a lovely girl, and very good with her massaging hands!! delightful!
If you do go to this hotel , you will have a lovely time, the restaurants are very good and very reasonable. However, BE WARNED, the BUTCHERS SHOP!! although really nice meal, whow sooooooo expensive!! it cost us Â£55 including taxi for this meal. A small bottle of heiniken Â£3.50 each!!! apparently, this is getting round the villiage now, that it is so expensive so maybe trade will diminish. Mr Bass, Chapmans, The clay oven, ocean clipper (at the hotel), the clypso bar, were all lovely meals and very reasonable.
The cigarette man at the hotel sells cartons of 200 cigs for only 300 dalasi , approx Â£6.70 for you smokers, bargain and the real monty too!
We will definately visit the gambia again, and will definately stay at the Ocean Bay again!!
Photos to be added shortly."
- Travel date: Sat 3rd of February 2007
"Just arrived back from a weekâs holiday at the Ocean Bay in Gambia. Fantastic hotel with really friendly staff. We had read mixed reviews before we went but had no problems at all. If you are looking for a cheap holiday, then this may not be the place for you. The drinks are not cheap with a draft beer being between Â£1.50-Â£2. There are however 2 lots of Happy Hour from 5.30-6.30 in the lobby/pool bar and then 6.30-7.30 at the beach bar, where cocktails cost Â£4 for two. We paid half board at approx. Â£20 each - the food was good with an excellent choice and changed nightly - Chinese, Indian, BBQ, Tex Mex. If you do pay half board, it is definitely worth asking if you can change your eveningâs half board to lunch time, allowing you to eat out elsewhere in the evening. We ate out at the Ocean Clipper restaurant - this was fantastic - for a two course meal each and a 3/4 bottle of wine each it came to approx. Â£40 but was worth every penny - be warned though the portions are huge, my starter would have been more than enough for a main course. We also ate at the Calypso bar, which is just down the beach. I ate Barracuda with side dish of potato rosti, which cost about Â£5, a bottle of wine there is Â£6 and a beer 80p. There are a few other places to eat out within walking distance but this resort is alot quieter than resorts such as Kololi. It is also worth mentioning that there are only 3 ATM's on the Island and 1 was not working, the nearest to the hotel is a Â£10 taxi ride away, I would not therefore rely on this as a method of payment. It is also worth noting that the hotel adds a 15% service charge on everything and this can be confusing when paying the bill at the end of the week as they take the 15% off to add it on again at the bottom of the bill. The hotel only accept credit cards as payment and bills have to be paid 24 hours before departure. We would definitely go back for a weekâs winter sun with lovely people and great weather."
- Travel date: Sat 3rd of February 2007
Great music in Bakau
"Recently back from a wonderful week in The Gambia. Could not fault the hotel with its friendly staff, good breakfasts and comfortable room but we only used it for sleeping and breakfast, buying everything else outside. Apart from one organised trip - Roots, which was enjoyable but take a good book - we spent most of our time enjoying Bakau and its friendly people. Please do not be put off by stories of bumsters and stay by the hotel pool every day as you will miss so much. Yes, there are boys outside the hotels and on the beach and they can be persistent but they do not mean any harm and are genuinely very friendly and, of course, would like a little money. This is a very poor country and they and their enormous extended families live from hand to mouth. The best solution is to allow a boy to befriend you and show you around. This way, for about 50 dalasis an hour, you get to hear all about life in the Gambia, see Bakau and Banjul and anywhere else you care to go and, above all, do not get hassled. If you are lucky you may get invited back to his compound to eat.
We had the great good fortune to meet Aba Suso outside the Ocean Bay. Aba and his brothers are talented musicians from a very musical family and all play the kora, african drums and key board. With Aba we progressed from the live music at Mr Bass's on Happy Corner to Lama Lama (good food too) in Bakau and on to Jokors at Westfield junction. The latter has a fantastic drum band and if you are there on ladies dance competition night you will see dance unlike anything you have seen before. Be warned - this is a late one and you are unlikely to see your bed before 5am. Lama Lama finishes around 12 with excellent live bands. We walked back through Bakau (with torch as it is very dark) and never felt threatened or uncomfortable. Everyone knows Aba in Bakau so if you want to experience some music ask for him. He is an excellent guide too.
One other tip - if you want a really good massage go to Adana under the palm tree on the beach just before you get to Calypso, A complete body massage for 400 dalasis is money well spent and much cheaper than the hotel. Wonderful prawns and chips at Calypso too!
Can't wait to go back, next time taking clothes and trainers we no longer want plus more goodies for the red cross primary school in Bakau."
- Travel date: Tue 30th of January 2007
Great / BUT!
"Ocean bay hotel is a lovely hotel but very expensive. If you are going b&b thats ok but don't eat lunch or dinner there,,,,walk down to the beach and turn right and about 100yds is the calypso bar right on the beach they do wonderful food (try the spag bol) and the drinks and the food are half the price of the hotel. The calypso bar is relaxing with great views and they have live entertainment some nights and its better than the hotel entertainment. If you like to chill and relax in the hot sun then go to the beach not a lot of people on the beach so there is plenty of room to pick your spot where you want to lay all day, you will get a couple of Gambians come to you and ask if you want to buy belts, beads, watches, sun glass's,etc, but they are friendly and a "no thank you " will suffice. There were no flies or other insects on the beach to annoy you.If you decide to stay round the pool then make sure you get up really early tip the pool guy well and he will save you a sun bed all week, but you will get a lot of flies and noise round the pool. if you go to the beach there are about 3 guys who work for the Ocean Bay Hotel who will give you a sunbed on the beach where you want it and also a beach towel but remember to tip them and they will look after you all week, about D100 will do nicely (about Â£2.00 ).
If you havn't been to the Gambia before you may feel a little intimidated when you go outside the hotel,,,,,,but please do not feel this way they will not harm you in any way. When you go out of the hotel you will have at least 1 or 3 bumsters come to you right away asking if you need a taxi, or do you want to see my shop, or can I be your guide, etc, etc, you do not have to go with them or give them anything,,,,,again if you give a firm but friendly "NO" they will just walk off and leave you without taking offence.You will probably even get to know them and have a little banter and a laugh with them as they are very friendly people.
Remember you will be in a third world country so poverty is rife,
and there are one or two who are not as poor as they make out so just tip the genuine one's you will recognise who is and who is not.
Do try the truck safari this is really good to see the real Gambia, it is an all day trip and you will go to the shanty villages where you will see true poverty, but the people again are very friendly and will ask for money, just a small sum or what ever you feel you want to give. We saw a few villages where poverty is not a nice site but again there were one or two in these villages that do put on an act, by that I mean, when we were at these villages there were mothers with new born babies which were very sweet and lovely and we give the young lady a D200 tip (about Â£4.00) she was so pleased with what we give her, that she got out her Â£200 mobile phone to call a friend,,,,,yes this did happen so don't be taken in by some of the poverty,,,,
All in all we had a great week here the weather is beautiful, the beach is great, people are friendly,,,,,,,,,,,,,and yes I would go back and next time with more knowledge.Hope this has been helpful and you have a great time. Just one other thing to remember, the bumsters outside your hotel and also around the area may ask you for your name and room number,,,,,DO NOT GIVE THEM THIS INFO, we were asked at least twice for our names and room number, so we just said " this is Victoria and I'am David or another one was Iam Bono and this is Brittany.
P & J"
- Travel date: Sun 21st of January 2007
"We were not at all impressed with the Ocean Bay Hotel. We thought it was totally overpriced. We paid Â£4500 for a 2 week holiday over xmas and new year for myself, my husband, a 6 year and a 3 year old.
Firstly, no one explains that you must pay for anti-maleria drugs which are horrible for children and gave my husband and I awful insomnia and also Yellow Fever vaccinations which my GP wanted to charge Â£70 each for! I managed to find a cheaper one for Â£35 just up the road from where I live.
We arrived at the Ocean Bay at 1.30am due to a delay at Gatwick airport because of the fog. Both my children were extremely tired as you can imagine after travelling all day and after an extremely cramped Thomas Cook flight. We were so relieved to be shown to our room but horrified when we were shown to a room with only 2 single beds. They tried to get us to split up for the night but I became very upset and explained that I didn't want to be seperated from my husband and one child for the first night in a different country. They also suggested being seperated for the duration of the holiday! We were evenutally moved to a suite but had to move the next day to adjoining twin rooms which was OK but my husband and I would have preferred a double bed.
The bathrooms were OK upon first looking but then when you got in the shower you realised it was very mouldy and the shower was tiny. There were no tea or coffee making facilities which was a nightmare. Most rooms did have this. We were on the ground floor overlooking a massive brick wall with barbed wire and broken glass running along the top. Most rooms overlooked the beautifully managed gardens or the beach. Our telephone was broken for the entire second week which meant we couldn't order room service and so went without tea or coffee unless we trekked back to reception. Normally our order was wrong but we were still charged. We did notify reception that our phone had broken but there was no apology, just that alot of the telephones were broken, We asked twice for it to be fixed but no one came.
When ordering lunch from the pool bar the average time for waiting for about 1 hour. The sandwiches were good. No Diet Coca Cola, only some rank alternative. The Prices were incredibly high. The beach bar Calypso which was to the right of the hotel when walking on the beach was a third of the price but still no Diet Coca Cola - food was better there too.
EVERYONE had problems with their bills. Please, please please please DO NOT sign for anything. The amount that you sign for is less tax and at the end of a week or two weeks you dont get copies of the tickets you actually sign on so everything you sign for has to be remembered to make sure no "extras" have been added by the hotel (by mistake of course!). Without exception everyone we spoke to had extras added on supposedly by mistake. People who had signed for absolutely everything for 2 weeks were spending at least a day going through everything. In some cases, bills were duplictaed or triplicated. We decided after 6 dys to start paying cash for everything and it's a good job we did.
The hotel's currency exchange rates are awful. Please be aware that there are no ATM's and most places dont accept VISA travellers cheques. We wished we had taken all cash in Dalsis. There is a good safe at the hotel and everything is safe in there.
Massive problems with towels by the Pool. There was never enough and friends of ours were even given used towles as there were none left. There is a also not enough beds by the Pool. Although we did realise after the first week we were better off on the beach as there are loads of flies and other insects by the Pool plus it is much hotter with no breeze. There was a rather annoying quiz every day by the pool which got unbearable as the woman's voice just grated through you and was so loud over the microphone it was stupid!
The swimming pool was sometimes dirty and had dead flying things in it but my husband assured me he saw it cleaned at least once a day. The pool is not child friendly as it's quite deep in the shallow end. My tall 6 year old could only just stand up there. There is a small round pool but my 3 year old couldn't stand in there either. It's quite dangerous too as there is a drop into the bigger pool.
The gardens are very well maintained are very beautiful. All the trees are named so you know exactly what they are. The hotel grounds are clean and there are always maintenance men working away.
At night the entertainment is extremely loud and it did keep us awake some nights which was annoying having young children. The entertainment was not good and there was no atmosphere. We preferred to dance with the locals in the street outside the Happy Corner Pub which is a 2 minute walk from the hotel. Just leave the hotel and turn right.
You will be warned against the local bumsters but in actual fact we befriended a couple of them and they were actually very helpful. They did not ask for any money but we gave them a large tip at the end of the holiday. You will find that taxis are cheaper through the "bumsters". Ask for "Akunta". He is well known and we found him helpful, pleasant and very friendly. He didn't ask or suggest for any money from us. Everyone knows him. We gave him lunch a couple of times and brought him his favourite drink "Cocktail" which is a fruit cocktail drink. Of course, they dont drink as they are strict Muslims. A cocktail is only D25 at Happy Corner Pub. They are in fact very interesting and we enjoyed long conversations with Akunta about The Gambia, his life and that of his very large family.
The taxis from opposite the hotel are well overpriced. They will tell you that they are fixed priced but they are not. We managed to go to Senegambia for D150 less that he was telling us. I just said I wouldn't bother going if that was how much he was charging and he soon changed his mind and charged us less. The all green taxis are for toursits only whereas the yellow and green taxis are normally for locals - if you befriend a "bumster" they will always organise a yellow and green taxi which will save you alot of money. However, we were told that some of the yellow and green taxis didn't have the proper insurance? All taxi prices include the driver waiting for you wherever you are going and for however long you are going for!
The beaches are really big and as such it seems there's no one on them apart from you. There is alot of rubbish but the hotel clears their "area" of the beach. We didn't sit in the hotel's area of the beach as we preferred just outside the Calypso bar/restaurant. There are fruit ladies and juice bars there. There is a sole fruit lady and we befriended her. I gave her the mini shampoo and soaps left in our room daily and she really appreciated this as these are luxuries for her. She told me she used them for her children. She had her baby with her every day and carried him around on her back (very African). I also left all my children's soiled or small clothes with her for her children and she was eternally grateful. I also left a couple of pairs of shoes. If you have any old clothes or shoes, please take them for the locals as they desperately need them. In return she gave me free fruit and made me a traditional african outfit that she made me put on, on the beach in front of everyone. So lovely.
The beach at Ocean Bay can be very dangerous and most of the time there is a red flag flying so you cant swim. To be honest, I didn't like the look of the sea anyway so I didn't swim. It's very murkey and if you just watch the sea you will see big Barracuda fish jumping out every now and then. That was enough to put me off!
There is little or no crime but I suppose you should still be aware at night. If you ask anyone, the prisons are full of theives and there is no serious crime like murders or rapes. I only heard of one crime against a tourist which was a bag snatch and the Police came down hard upon the owner of the restaurant where this took place as he had no security. There are guards on every door or every restaurant.
GOOD RESTAURANTS - The Clay Oven, an indian restaurant just past Bakau on road to Senegambia. Just ask taxi driver. Excellent food. Dont go to the chinese in Bakau. We waited 2 hrs for our food and when it didn't come we refused to pay for our drinks and left. Everyone else was in the same boat. Terrible service without a sorry! I didn't think much of Chapmans, also in Bakau but it is alright food and much cheaper and better than the hotel. I pity anyone who is half board.
In Senegambia the Karuiba hotel is 5 star. Their restaurants are supposed to be excellent although we only ate at the beach bar. YOu can use their facilities but do charge but we thought it was worth it. Their beach has much more of an atmosphere with lots more going on. Their swimming pool is much better and also better for kids. Better choice of restaurants and more than one pool bar.
When we left the Ocean Bay we didn't wait for the coach, instead we ordered a taxi as with two children, we didn't want to be in the crowds queing for the check in desk. When we arrived we weren't the first - there were at least 5 other families doing the same thing so we were glad we did this. When the coach did arrive at the airport everyone was pushing and shoving so there's a tip!
You may be surprised to hear that although everying I have said above is quite negative and we wouldn't go back again, we did have a nice time, met loads of people and we are glad to have been. However, we've been there, done it and we definately wouldn't go again. The weather was excellent and it must have been at least 35`c every day. The beach is cooler as there is a slight breeze and no flying things like the pool.
My husband and a friend he made hired canoes as there is some surf and they rode the waves on the canoes. Take your boards if you are keen surfers.
We didn't go on any exursions as none were child friendly but we heard the Roots trip was good. We went to the crocodile pool which was good but it is right smack bang in the middle of a village which is extremely upsetting as they all live in poverty - lots of babies crawling around in dirt with no shoes or socks and they all needed a good bath! Crocodiles are all around you when you go next to the pool and you can walk up to them and touch them and shake their hands. I thought it was bizarre but they assured us that they were well fed and had never bitten anyone! We also went to the monkey park which was OK but a long walk without seeing many monkeys apart from the very beginning. We brought monkey nuts and they come and take them out of your hand which is quite cool.
The staff at the hotel are generally friendly but there are some with attitude. You will normally find that the over friendly ones are looking for sponsors for their children. There was one temporary staff member who was extremely annoying and always interrupted our meals and woke us up to talk to us when we were asleep on our sunbeds. He offered for his brother to take us to Senegambia for D200 less than the taxi rank. We took him up and got in his brother's taxi. When we got around the corner the car stopped and the waiter opened the door and jumped in and we virtually had to tell him that we didn't want him with us for the day.
Quite alot of the waiters do have extremely bad body odour and sometimes it could be a little overpowering but you have to remember that it's probably not their fault as they cant afford "luxuries" like deodorant!
To sum our holiday up, great weather, bad value for money hotel!"
- Travel date: Mon 8th of January 2007