18 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
"We arrived at Palm Beach on 21st November for a 2 week stay. It was my 1st trip into Africa and The Gambia and was extremely excited about going. It was booked as it's a landmark year for both of us - a holiday with a difference to the usual Greece or Spain. The 1st 5 days were absolute paradise - hotel located on the beach, sea view room (paid extra for) very friendly staff, good hot sunny weather - we couldn't have asked for more. We loved sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee 1st thing in the morning watching the beach come to life. Unfortunately on day 6 we awoke around 7 a.m to find we'd been robbed overnight from our room while we slept.They took a mobile phone, digital camera, tablet and 2,400 dalassi and loaded it all into 1 of our rucksacks to carry it away!! Fortunately the bulk of our money and our passports were in a safety deposit box (also paid for) I should mention at this point neither of us heard anything, probably because we have to take medicine at night and were really tired going to bed anyway from the daytime experiences and laughing so much. It was reported immediately to hotel staff and someone from reception along with head of security came and asked us what items had been stolen and then checked out our room. We didn't have a problem with them searching drawers, suitcases and under beds looking for the missing things - we had absolutely nothing to hide. None of us could understand how it could have happened when both doors were locked the night before and were still locked in the morning! It was decided then the only way was for someone to have used a key. From that point on we were called liars basically which really upset me. We asked for the Police and asked the staff to phone our Thomas Cook rep Lamin. They wanted us to have breakfast and "let breakfast get finished" before taking any action. We quite rightly objected to this and they left the room. We followed them shortly afterwards going to reception to await Lamin - we didn't go into breakfast!! At around 9.30 after waiting over an hour and a half we asked was Lamin on his way and were told he would be there at 10 - his usual time of attending the hotel anyway. When he arrived it transpired they hadn't even phoned him!! He was superb, telling us what needed to happen, what we needed to do. It transpired the Police don't come out like the UK but we had to get a taxi to the Station in Senagambia, not only that but we had to pay for it!! We said we didn't think that was right - if anybody should pay it should be the hotel. In the end Lamin said he'd sort it with Thomas Cook. He also told us the hotel were really worried about the effect of this on their reputation, having had a bad year last year due to the perceived Ebola threat in The Gambia. Then the hotel head of security, ourselves and 1 of the Tourist Police piled into a taxi. Quite why the Tourist Police guy tagged along was a mystery - don't think we ever heard him speak!! When we arrived at the Station we were introduced to the on duty Policeman but the hotel head of security was talking to him all of the time and laughing with him. He took a statement of sorts, asking what was taken, when we arrived and how long we intended staying! Half an A4 page was the sum total! It was then decided he wanted to come and have a look at the room and we were asked to pay his transport there and back!! When I questioned it I was told it's because he's on duty! Again the hotel should have met this expense but once again it was down to Thomas Cook rep. We all piled back in the same taxi, only this time there was an extra bod! There was a lovely line of us trooping across the pool area to the room - bet the hotel wished the floor would open up and make them disappear! Checked the room, decided no break in had occurred and he then left saying he would carry out an investigation. We sat most of the day in reception wondering what to do next as we couldn't face being in that room for any length of time. Eventually the head of reception told us they would be carrying out an investigation. When Lamin returned in the afternoon we told him we wanted to go home - we've never been robbed in our lives before and certainly didn't expect it happen whilst on holiday in a hotel which promoted excellent security and guest safety and whilst we were asleep in our beds!! There wasn't any room on the flight the next day and we asked for another room which the hotel gave us at tea time. This was a much nicer room than the 1st and with more people around us. They also told us they were increasing security, which did in fact happen that night as we were both awake a lot during the night and saw them several times patrolling the blocks. We had difficulty sleeping for the next few nights, not unsurprisingly and were awake every couple of hours listening for any kind of noise. We had to lock the remaining camera and tablet in a suitcase every night and make sure they were with us at all times during the day. We then heard about another guest who'd had an iPad taken from their room during the day and somebody else told us our robbery was the 4th in 3 weeks, all from rooms using a key. After that we left the keys in the door and set traps of a line of empty bottles at both doors to try and get at least a bit of peace of mind. That's no way to have to spend 9 days remaining of what was to be a lovely special holiday!! Apart from some rhetoric we got no support whatsoever from Palm Beach Hotel, in fact we were ridiculed and made to feel that we were going to be responsible for a drop in their bookings!! Right up to our departure day they were still "promising co-operation with our insurance company" yet 2 days ago I messaged them on Facebook asking for their email address for the insurance company and although the message was read, I am still awaiting a reply 48 hours later!! We are in dialogue with Thomas Cook about this - they are absolutely horrified at our treatment and the attitude of Palm Beach Hotel. Thomas Cook have been amazing and extremely supportive - shame Palm Beach haven't been! During the 2nd week we booked a couple of day trips with Abdou Aziz to get us away from the hotel for a while. He is a superb guide, very very knowledgeable about local history, the animals and of course birds. We had 2 lovely days out with him 1 to Fathala Nature Reserve in Senegal and the 2nd was to Baku and the Crocodile Pool, Serrekunda Market and the Monkey Park. You can find him near the hotels, somebody will point him out to you. He is well recommended by us and other reviewers on here. In conclusion this robbery and our treatment by Palm Beach ruined our holiday!! It's a real shame they adopted that attitude - some of the staff are lovely and will genuinely do anything for you. The hotel itself is in a great location - just such a shame management are refusing to take responsibility for the thefts and that a thieving member of staff has ruined all they are trying to achieve. I am well qualified in marketing and customer service but it was non existent at Palm Beach. Other points worth mentioning are - rooms basic but comfortable with constant hot water available, the beach area attached to the hotel was dirty with broken sunbeds left lying around. Each morning we watched the beach boys at the bar next door, Kuntah Kinteh, sweep and rake the beach - didn't happen at Palm Beach. No ashtrays provided on the beach, again unlike next door who had old plant pots full of sand under each sunshade. We didn't use the pool at all because the beach was there and much more interesting watching the beach sellers etc. We had a couple of meals at the hotel and the food was nice and freshly cooked . The breakfast left a lot to be desired - choice of eggs any way you wanted, toast, pancakes, fruit, beans, porridge (actually rice pudding) On alternate days there was frankfurter sausages - cut up into small pieces served with soggy, slimy onions, mushrooms, again served with soggy, slimy onions or sweetcorn, again complete with soggy, slimy onions. The last thing we wanted to face 1st thing in a morning was soggy, slimy onions! There was a full English breakfast available, after 10 a.m and for a charge from the pool bar area, although this was nicer next door at Kunta Kinteh! If we hadn't had this horrible experience we would have returned to Palm Beach again but not now. Our treatment by Palm Beach was horrendous. Incidentally we have asked them to refund us the Â£100 excess on our insurance policy as under the circumstances we don't see why we should lose that money. We have already lost the cash stolen as the hotel don't issue receipts when exchanging money and we can't prove we had it! Given their behaviour throughout, we doubt very much we will hear from them. We happen to be very honest people and will always tell the truth!! We took more than adequate precautions against pickpockets etc when out and about and never expected this to happen in our room! Please be aware of this risk at this hotel."
- Travel date: Sun 13th of December 2015
The best holiday we have ever had.
"We booked this holiday last minute and have never been to The Gambia before. We were slightly apprehensive as some reviews are very harsh.
We enjoyed every second!
-Cleanliness- The hotel is kept absolutely spotless at all times- which in Africa isn't the easiest!
-The room- Basic but so clean and functional. We stayed in block A which is close to the entertainment and often includes African drumming so if you want a peaceful night try to stay in block C were it is very quiet. However for us this was great as we wanted to be involved or were often out in the evenings.The room has a little balcony which we sat on every evening before the nights activities.
-The Food- Excellent, butter chicken wrap on the beach..you cant go wrong!It is more expensive than restaurants outside the hotel but the service is always with a smile!
-The Pool- is small but never to busy however the music during the daytime has something to be desired its very Poppy and not at all our thing we would have much preferred reggae which we believed to be more appropriate! However we spent our sunbathing time at..
-The beach!-a very short walk from the hotel with excellent waiter service and again excellent food. There is a restaurant called Kunte Kinteh, the PillPill Prawns are an absolute must! they are delicious. Unfortunately the rest of there menu does not follow the same standard but the Prawns are a great lunch dish as they are small portion for just 100 Dalasi.The sea is lovely for a cool off swim and a walk up the beach brings you to the lively Senna Gambia which is the main tourist spot, for us this wasnt as interesting as the rest of the country however there are many restaurants and bars to choose from along the strip we visited Ali Babas (Not the big one the smaller one with live music) The music was excellent, food was delicious and again cheap prices. If you walk a bit further up the beach you come to the Monkey park this is lovely and very cheap- don't forget to take peanuts though!The saying 'greedy little monkey' doesn't come from nowhere!There are ladies on the beach selling fruit, take our advice and if you like fruit commit to one lady for the entirety of your stay otherwise they all end up fighting over you as the did us!
-Transport-Please be aware that not all cabs are particularly safe or comfortable. The green cabs are best but most expensive. Our guide, the hotels plumber sorted our transport out for us and it was relatively cheap and extremely comfortable compared with others!
-The staff are wonderful, they cannot do enough to help you. Gambians generally are very friendly and the country is beautiful. We have become friends with Ebrima the hotels plumber, he went way beyond and above to share his beautiful country with us, he welcomed us and expected nothing in return. We are thrilled to have met such a genuine person.
The only bad point of the holiday for us was caused by British guests! there was a group of people using foul language who were highly inebriated at breakfast time- we managed to stay well clear of them though as we liked different things and had a different routine!They were rude to the staff and we felt let our country down especially as the English are supposedly renowned for their good manners!
We have fallen in love with Gambia as a holiday destination but also as a country. The people are inspiring. There is so little crime because everyone is so peaceful towards one another. Please do not think though that this means bumsters wont hassle you! they will but they will also leave you alone once you are firm, don't say maybe later they will remember!Never pay the first price as its usually tripple what they expect if not more! Gambians have a great sense of humour they respond better if you smile even when your saying no thank you!
Finally, if you are interested in The Gambias culture this is a wonderful holiday we would definitely recommend seeking out Ebriham the plumber as you can trust him maybe you'll meet his family in their village as we did and be blown away by their hospitality and friendliness. If so take a bag of sweets for the kids they love them but they also have excellent manners and take one each saying thank you with a shy smile.
But if you're after a quiet one on the beach this is also an excellent hotel to stay at the waiters will make sure you have your favourite sun-bed and provide a friendly service too!
- Travel date: Fri 30th of March 2012
"Palm Beach Hotel, Kotu Stream, The Gambia
16th-30th August 2011
The hotel is set in a beautiful beachfront location next to Kotu stream and wetlands. Most of the staff a very kind and helpful, but that's about the only good thing we have to say about this hotel.
After spending two weeks here, we would not recommend it to anyone. I'm pretty certain that if this hotel was in Europe it would have been condemned and closed years ago.
On our first evening, the shower controller fell off, promptly followed by the both of the shower screens, the florescent light had bare wires hanging out of it and this was topped off by there being no hot water. When we tried to leave the room we found that the door lock was jammed and we ended up having to climb out of the window to alert reception to our problems.
This was just the start... The facilities here are outdated, inadequate and extremely unsafe in some cases. The management (a rasta called Bax and a moody Dutch woman) have no customer service skills and have no interest in maintaining any standards. Lighting around the grounds is limited and unreliable and the are live electric cables all over the place. The A/C is also unreliable even though you pay extra for it, as you do if you want a fridge or any other basic facility.
Whilst we were there another English lady ended up having 32 stitches in her ankle! Her apartment door shattered when she closed it (not made of safety glass). The management complained about her because she made a mess and got blood on the floor. The first aid box was locked in a safe and the person with the key was out. Eventually a taxi was organised to take her to hospital and she was expected to pay for this herself. The management showed no interest in her well-being, but presented her with a bill for some water they had given her.
The people who own and run this place should be ashamed of themselves. NEVER again!"
- Travel date: Mon 29th of August 2011
"This proved to be the best holiday experience of my life. Having read the reviews prior to committing to booking at this hotel, I was in essence, relieved that the hotel was not as bad as some of the comments I read. The room I initially stayed in had water leaking from one of the pipes in the bedroom so I requested to change my room which was granted the following day to a much pleasanter room.
The Indian management were more preoccupied with efficiency and economic savings by compromising in providing insufficient breakfast. The food often ran out and whatever remaining food was left was served either luke warm or cold.
The overall hygiene of the hotel was fairly good although lacking in repair and painting. Most of my seven days stay I only had the luxury of two clean towels. I quickly learn not to complain once I realise that the female staff often laboured over a tub by washing linen by hand.
The staff as a whole were so warm and friendly and this credited my holiday experience tremendously. Both staff around the hotel complex and at the beach restaurant Kunte Kinteh aimed to please without necessarily wanting or expecting anything in return. I learned so much about Gambian culture and custom through engaging with staff and local people outside the complex.
If you have an open mind and realise that this is a two star hotel in a developing country and determine to make your holiday a success then its worth considering. If not, then there are greater choices elsewhere in the Gambia.
My holiday was absolutely fantastic that no five star hotel can guarantee. Its what you make of your holiday that really counts!!!!!
This holiday most definitely exceeded my expectations"
- Travel date: Fri 3rd of June 2011
"my partner and I have not long returned from the palm beach, and let's just say I can't wait to go again, we're thinking november. All we wanted was a holiday to get away from the terrible weather we were having, we wanted to sit by a beach all day and go and find a nice restarurant in the evening, so this hotel was perfect. There was no racing to get a sunbed, everyone was so helpful and very very friendly. We went bed and breakfast, there's no point going half board as there's a few restaurants on the beach. Breakfast is pretty basic and the rooms are basic also, but you only need a room to change, shower and sleep in! so for what it was it was perfect. I've recommended Gambia to so many people. My partner and I plan on visiting twice a year from now on. It was less than a 6 hour flight to get there. You don't feel like a cow in a cattle mart like in spain or turkey as the hotel is small, it was so relaxing. I met a few people who were complaning about the whole holiday to me whilst we were there but my partner told me to ignore them, as they were all comparing their previous holidays which were 4 and 5 star holidays to this 2 star. If your open minded (and not a snob) then you'll thouroughly enjoy this holiday, i really really loved it and can't wait to go again. Also I hardly saw a mosquito, I mean not 1, but still use insect repellant, better safe than sorry."
- Travel date: Mon 19th of April 2010
Good hols but for hotel
"Hotel leaves a lot to be desired,but it it was clean, the food was very limited,and badly prepared,payed for half board but only ate there once.The staff were very friendly and helpful.
Just outside the hotel is a couple of beach bars,kunta kintas , and raymonds both very good but you have to go to the BBQ at Raymonds on wednesdays fantastic."
- Travel date: Mon 22nd of February 2010
My husband and i have just returned from...
"My husband and i have just returned from this hotel in Gambia. Once you have got over the shock of how basic everything is over there ( could only flush loo by lifting lid on cistern and pulling ! ) then it is fine ! The staff are very friendly and are not all after tips as you may think at first they just want to chat , find out about your life back home and make sure you enjoy your time there. The food here was ok but we are never ones to stay and eat at the hotel so we went to other resturants nearby. I would recommend Saliors, the food here was brilliant and although a 15 min walk on the dark roads is not the best way to get there the local taxis will take you there, wait for you for a couple of hours ,then take you home again for the princely sum of about 200 dalasis which is approx Â£7 ! We had one meal at one of the bigger ' posh ' hotels nearby and it was the worst meal and service we experienced of the whole holiday! I would love to go again and would still rather go back to the ' basics ' of palm beach than any of the other places i saw."
- Travel date: Sat 8th of March 2008
we went as a family party of 7 the hotel...
"we went as a family party of 7 the hotel was fab the pool area was lovely but only a certain area had sun all day staff were very friendly and accomododating polite helpful and pleasent i would class this as a 2 star plus but the food was of excellant quality always freshly cooked and fabulously tasting dont rely on entertainment but there is plenty going on outside the hotel. try and get a reliable local guide from the hotel if you want excursions rather than with tour operator as it is chaeper and you are not tied to a timetable. the animation team were fab and would accompany you out in the evenings so you wouldnt get hassled, found you the cheapest taxis and did not expect any payment. the towels were not sufficient so you need to take extra and the only bad point was the toilets were not clean, purchase cleaning things and do it yourself. the food was very limited but of high standard. we are definately going back but on a bed and breakfast basis so we can eat out more. "
- Travel date: Thu 6th of March 2008
What an (awful) Gambian Experience
"My husband and I stayed at this hotel from 23rd February until 9th March. The hygiene and general cleanliness of the hotel was appalling. We realised that we were going to a poor country but this was far worse than we imagined. We were lucky enough to be given a seaview superior room but only after flatly refusing to stay in the inland superior room they gave us on our arrival. Even so, when we settled in we found a broken toilet seat, the bathroom door handle broken (impossible to shut the door for the 14 days duration), the full length mirror was cracked from top to bottom and secured with masking tape and the pillows stunk so much we had to request new ones. The faults were eventually fixed but only after lots of nagging. The laundry consisted of numerous women sitting around a large tub of water in a filthy area adjoining the hotel. This explained why the sheets and towels never look ed crisp and clean.We could see this clearly from our staircase. Dustbins around the complex were left unemptied and on most mornings as we went to breakfast these could be seen with all the contents flowing over the ground. On the subject of breakfast-this was more like a battle and if you happened to be in the dining room at peak time between 8.15am-9.30pm, you were lucky to be able to find a plate, cup and saucer or glass to eat and drink off. It was a question of waiting for the staff to wash up used/dirty ones. This was done in the corner of the dining room and they were wiped on a dirty towel.The dining room did not appear clean and the outside patio area was disgusting. On one morning the coffee that had been spilt the previous morning was still there. The area was full of cats which wandered in and out of the dining room and at several times into the kitchen. In one corner, underneath a plant display, there was dried up cat poo which was there the day we arrived and still there when we left 14 days later. For 3 consequetive evenings we had no water for a shower and on the first occasion I had a head full of shampoo when the water stopped. There was often low pressure or no supply at all in our block although others didn't seem to experience this problem in the rest of the hotel. Towels were taken away whilst we were at breakfast so hard luck if you wanted a shower or needed to wipe your hands when coming back. There obviously were not enough towels and they had to be washed every day and re-distributed. We could go on and on. Suffice to say we spent most of our holiday trying to get what we had paid for. So many people standing around but not doing anything. The 1 evening meal we had was awful, overpriced and we waited an hour for it. However, the Gambian boss drives an expensive Mercedes! What a shame this 5 year old hotel (whioch looks 30 years old) was such a dump. We booked it as a 3*plus. Misleading. It could have such a lot going for it as it is in a beautiful setting on Kotu beach. At least the weather was good and we found some nice restaurants to eat at. We are both agreed that this is the worst hotel we have ever stayed at in the whole of our lives. We are widely travelled people and we have owned a property in Greece for the last 25 years. Therefore we know what "basic" means! This experience has put us off ever going back to The Gambia again!"
- Travel date: Sat 17th of March 2007
avoid this hotel like the plague
"this hotel is really bad where do i start we arrived and were given a room with big holes in the skirting and when i looked at the bed there were massive rat droppings it it !!! i complained to the manager and were given one of there best rooms??? which the toilet leeked into the main room every day we had to use the towels supplied (that were grubby and had holes in)to stop the flow of the water
then that night i saw a rat in the pool room it was bigger than a cat i was told they were gerbals who eat seeds but another person told me thay had opened a bin and one was eating the rubbish in the bin
beware of the staff they will rip you off the people who change the money will short change you she did it with me and i was Â£15 short when i counted it and another trick is for the waiters to run after you after you have ordered a few drinks and paid your bill when you leave and tell you they didnt put 2 drinks on the bill so you hand over about Â£3 and they pocket it
the gardening staff were constantly trying to sell us drugs and by the second week we had given up trying to stay clean
i ended up cleaning the pool with the net myself every day as there were loads of bugs in it
i was in the room when our cleaner came in to clean and i could not believe it she used the same cloth to clean the toilet (which was yellow and brown in the bowl)and the sink i could not believe a hotel could be so dirty
if you are going to cambia the only hotels i would recomend is the sengambia beach (which we went to and looked in the rooms and nearly cried cause it was a proper room not a dirty one) or the bay hotel
the couple staying next to us were in the 'honetmoon suite' and when the took the cover off the bed there was so much dried in blood on the mattress it look like someone had bled to death!!!!!
this is a horrible hotel and the staff are rude and unfriendly and try to get money out of you at every opertunity
AVOID THIS HOTEL AT ALL COSTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
- Travel date: Mon 12th of March 2007
lots of nice things
"ok the hotel was only 2star. you do have to ask for towels and the rooms are basic. there are bumsters and you have to wait a while for food.
you are in gambia !!!
it was lovely. enjoyed being totally out of the uk traffic and rain and wind for a perfect winter destination.
only went for a week and was great. weather fantastic,people friendly,good value and reasonable priced food and drink.
beach fantastic and transfer times from airport to resort brilliant.
just need to chill when you get there and enjoy the surroundings.
the hotel is basic and there are nicer ones but for a cheap week away in a developing country it was great! :)
- Travel date: Sun 11th of March 2007
The More You Smile The More You Go Brown!
"We were quite surprised at some of the negative reviews for this hotel as we had a very pleasant stay here. We chose the 'Superior' room option which may account for some of this. Our room was clean (we saw no live cockroaches-just one very dead one in the wardrobe!) and apart from having to ask for towels a couple of times, we didn't encounter any problems. We always had hot water and the air conditioning worked fine once we had changed the batteries in the remote control. Beds were a little uncomfortable but nothing that affected our holiday. Our room had a balcony with a partial view of the beach/countryside and it was nice to wake up and see birdies, lizards and palm trees.
Staff were friendly and helpful. Beach was beautiful with sun-beds and sunshades and a beach-bar with service to your sun-bed. Beach was also relatively un-hassly and although people would come to your sun-bed to try and sell you things, it was well policed so you had the choice of whether to enjoy the bartering or just say no. Hotel pool was also good and although quite busy it was always possible to get a sun-bed. Pool service was friendly although they could do with making more regular poolside visits as it was not always easy to get anyone's attention.
Food at the hotel was poor. Breakfast buffet was not too bad with cheese, ham, French stick, tomatoes, mushrooms, âSpamâ (ew!), weird looking sausage, luke-warm beans and porridge being the daily fare. However, the snacks and evening meal menus were very basic with only two choices for evening meal, and no vegetarian option. A right turn along the beach will take you to the main part of Kotu (come off the beach through one of the hotels about three buildings down) which only has 3 or 4 restaurants and a couple of very small supermarkets. Recommended here is the âCaptainâs Tableâ that does a wide range of relatively âauthentic Gambianâ food in a nice setting with two unusual but lovely veggie options. Also try the yummy Tempura Vegetables starter!
A left turn along the beach will eventually take you to Senegambia/Kololi (30 minute walk) with bars/hotels along the way. You may find the beach walk a bit hassly depending on what time of day you do the walk, also not sure about the safety of a walk back along the beach at night. A good tip if you are approached as you walk along the beach and a simple âno thanksâ is not enough, is to walk into the sea- the locals hate to get their trainers wet! If you walk out of the front of the hotel along a dirt road and turn right at the main road there are 3 or 4 restaurants. This included our holiday favourite, Ali Baba, with a wide range of options, including curries and the best veggie pizza Rachael âhad ever hadâ and Richard enjoyed his mushroom Tagliatelli and said it was possibly âthe best pasta he had ever hadâ! Although the walk to this strip of restaurants is quite dark and you may be subjected to some minor hassle, we were assured by our rep that it was safe and we encountered no problems coming back at 11pm.
Other options for eating out are to get a taxi which seems to cost 400Dâs (8 English Pounds) return with a couple of hours waiting for pretty much anywhere you go locally. If you donât fancy the beach walk to Senegambia/Kololi the taxi is an alternative option and Kololi has many more restaurants as well as supermarkets, money exchange and internet/phoning home options. Best restaurant we found at Kololi was the African Queen with an extensive and varied menu catering for all tastes. Kololi is also home to the Monkey Park and you could combine a late afternoon trip there with a meal in the resort afterwards. You can also get a cab to Fajara which has many restaurants including the highly recommended âClay Ovenâ. Although we liked it and the staff were desperate to attend to our every need, the prices were much more expensive than elsewhere. Our meal cost 1700dâs plus 400dâs taxi which made it an expensive night out even by UK standards (generally a meal in Gambia was around 400dâs each).
As for trips- on my last visit to Gambia I was very disappointed by the price and content of the organised trips which involved big coaches, lots of picking up time and very often added on stops at markets where it felt like they were on a commission. This time we did the obvious local attractions by cab. We did a 7 hour trip for 1000dâs plus tip which came out at half the price of an organised excursion. Our trip took us to the SOS Orphanage where staff will show you around for just a donation. Contrary to expectations, this is a reassuringly positive experience where it is clear that many of the orphans actually have a much better lot in life than the local âstreet kidsâ. The little tots will want you to cuddle them and see the houses in which they live) Our tour moved onto the Crocodile Park (where you can stroke the crocodiles and get mobbed by local kids when you get your school pens out for them!) and then the Monkey Park (where you can take a lovely walk around the jungle and feed the baby monkeys). We still had time to stop off for an evening meal and wander around the nice market at Kololi- be prepared to barter-go in at quarter to a third of anything they suggest and work up to no more than half. We much preferred the freedom and options of a taxi and it was far more enjoyable to sit in the back of an open 4 x 4 taking in the sun and the sights than on a crowded tour bus. Birdwatching tours by foot are also available from the local guides situated on the bridge at Kotu (which is a left turn out of the main hotel entrance). We did one organised excursion which was optimistically and romantically entitled-âBirds and Breakfastâ in order to see the âdawn chorusâ. This was nice but unless you are a bird-watching fanatic, it was not worth getting up at the unsociable hour of 5.30 in the morning for! There were few birds, and certainly no âdawn-chorusingâ going on down in the mangroves. We felt that a more sensible starting time just to enjoy the mangrove river (minus the lazy birds) would have been a better option for us.
For anyone new to Gambia and potentially put off by hassle, our top tip is not to get phased by it. Itâs always worse on your first day when you are a new, âmilk-bottle white cash cowâ. Once you get a bit of a tan and get into a chilled holiday mode, you become less of a target, it is easier to deal with and you will soon find your own âevasion strategyâ to cope. Just donât be put off on the first day and miss the benefits of getting out of your hotel.
All in all we had a lovely time and the hotel suited our needs for a relaxing, sunny holiday. Oh and Gambia Airport must be the best in the world- within 5 minutes of getting off our transfer bus we were sitting outside sunning ourselves in departures with food and drink service to our table :-)"
- Travel date: Sat 24th of February 2007