Day 9 |
Sep 24, 2012

Banjul, The Gambia

By Stefan Kredel, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 13º26'31", W 16º34'24"
Weather: sunny
Air Temperature: 35°C
Pressure: 1018 hPa
Wind: calm

Early this morning we came alongside in the port of Banjul, our stop in The Gambia. While I had breakfast, the ship got cleared and so the morning tours could start on time. This morning two different tours were offered. One option was more about birding and nature. I was joining the other option, a tour more through the city and its markets.

We left at 08:30 and after a few hundred meters we were already in a big traffic jam at the harbour exit. Apparently in the last weeks they had quite a lot of rain and most streets were still flooded, some even so much that it was impossible to pass them. So all the traffic, including huge trucks, had to use the few passable streets. Anyhow, our guide Abdula kept us entertained with a lot of knowledge of his country and town. Once we escaped the harbour area, the traffic was still busy, but moving …

Our first stop was the national museum. Here we could learn more about all aspects of Gambia. There were displays of nature, music instruments, clothes, colonial history, recent history … and a lot more. Hard to decide on which area to focus, as the time on those tours always is a bit limited as we want to see more of the city.

Our next stop was a bit of an exercise stop. We visited the “Arc22”. It was built in memory of the revolution, which took place on the 22nd of July. To reach the top of the 37-meter-high building we could use the stairways. 100 steps we were told; I counted 163 steps … but there was also an elevator available. The view from up there was spectacular.

Next we went to a batik factory. The factory is situated in Musu Kebba, a city that is the largest and busiest town of The Gambia. So the drive went partly along very busy local street markets. There was a lot to see! At the factory we were given demonstrations of how batik is made. And of course there was also the chance to buy some batik. But not only batik was for sale. Outside the factory area there were a lot of different souvenirs offered, like carvings, necklaces, paintings and so on.

From here we went back to Banjul to visit the local market there. It is a very busy area. And as our guide told us, the women go on a daily basis to the market here, as most homes have no fridge. So everything has to be bought fresh. Not only food was available there, all kinds of other things were offered. Anything that could be needed in a household …

Once we came back to the ship, the pier in front of the ship became another souvenir shop. A lot of locals came and offered all their souvenir items to our guests and crew. After Lunch there was still time for a small rest, as the next tour started at 15:00.

This afternoon we had a nice and scenic drive through the outer suburbs of Banjul and Musu Kebba. After an hour drive we did a stop at a small handicraft market. Here we could see how all the wooden carvings that we were offered this morning are made. Obviously they were also here for sale.

From here we went half an hour further, mainly on a dirt road, which was mainly a mud road. Our next stop was at the Makasutu Cultural Forest. We were welcomed by a local band. Later a local dinner in buffet style was served. There were all kind of local fish, meat, chicken, vegetables and fruits available. And even the beer was local. Our ethno dinner, if I may call it like that, was delicious. After dinner a local group showed us local dances interspersed with acrobatic displays. The whole location was under roof. This was quite convenient as there were one or the two rain showers.

At 19:30 the last guests went with me back in the last bus back to the Silver Explorer. There was not too much to see, as it was already dark, but it was anyhow already a day full of new impressions in a new country, in The Gambia.