The Gambia is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it West African country dominated by the wildlife-rich River Gambia and edged by miles of beautiful, near-deserted beaches. It’s a perfect winter sun hotspot entwined with African culture.
Bakau is one of a series of laid-back, Atlantic resorts with a number of bargain beachfront hotels. If you get bored sunbathing, you can explore national parks like Abuko which has birds galore, as well as porcupine, monkeys and some snappy crocs. Active types can enjoy river boat trips, explore mangrove swamps, go jungle hiking or play water sports.
Getting there/around Bakau
It’s such a small country there’s only one airport which is served by numerous charter and scheduled flights. If you’ve booked a package, your airport transfer should be included and the journey will take about 25 minutes.
Beaches in Bakau
Bakau’s beaches consist of a number of small coves backed by dramatic red rock cliffs. They’re not fantastic for swimming due to an occasional undertow. However, a 10-minute walk brings you to the spectacular Cape Point beaches.
The nearby resorts of Fajara, Kotu and Kololi have more typical wide, pale sands fringed by swaying palms.
Sightseeing in Bakau
Both the Bijilo Forest Park and the Abuko National Park are within easy reach of Bakau and have plenty of wildlife. Abuko is a twitchers paradise containing over 270 species of birds, as well as crocodile and monkeys.
There is also a small orphanage in the 180-acre park with a lion, hyena and monkey enclosure. The crocodile pool of Bakau Kachikally is an eye-opener too.
Bakau started life as a popular colonial retreat and its old town dates back to the 19th century. Thanks to these Victorians, there are also beautiful Botanical Gardens which make for a pleasant excursion.
Family attractions in Bakau
Africa isn’t really geared up for specific entertainment for kids so you won’t find any water parks or theme parks on tap. But most of the hotels have some kind of kids entertainment or facilities plus most kids’ll be quite happy with a bucket and spade on the beach.
Hair braiding and beading is popular, while jungle walking and wildlife spotting is sure to keep everyone entertained.
Day trips in Bakau
The country is dominated by its river so it would be a shame not to explore it on one of your day trips – especially as you are likely to spot both crocodiles and hippos cooling down in the waters or lounging on the river banks.
Get in touch with your cultural side by visiting Jufureh on the banks of the River Gambia, the town made famous by Pulitzer prize winning author Alex Haley’s novel Roots.
Eating in Bakau
Many hotels offer an all-inclusive package and have huge buffets with a range of international foods, but it’s worth venturing into town one night to discover the local cuisine.
Specialities include grilled chicken marinated in onions and lemon (yassa chicken), rice cooked with meat or fish, veg and tomatoes (benachin), and meat stewed in peanut puree (domoda). Fishing is a major industry in Bakau so fresh fish is on the menu everywhere.
Nightlife in Bakau
The Gambia is not the place to come if you want to stay up all night clubbing. The main hotels in Bakau do offer some form of evening entertainment such as traditional singing and dancing but it’s not exactly Ayia Napa.
There are a few nightclubs and bars, mostly in nearby Kololi. There are a couple of places to try outside the Palma Rima Hotel in Kotu and Fajara
Shopping in Bakau
Craft markets selling all sorts of stuff including tie-dye materials, batik, wood carvings, leather goods, jewellery, sand paintings and baskets. You can also buy beautifully made clothes from one of the skilled local tailors.
Bartering for goods is the norm here so don’t even consider paying full price for anything. Discounts of 20% TO 50% are expected. It’s illegal to export anything made from wild animal skins, ivory or feathers of any protected creature so don’t be tempted to buy anything.