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Students of Leeds Beckett University Experience Endless Exploration of Destination Gambia

By Yunus S Saliu

The Gambia known as The Smiling Coast of Africa truly remains the melting pot as the destination offers visitors and tourists a wide range of tourism activities which include adventure, entertainment, culture, nature, festivals, and abundant investment opportunities in tourism, culture, and hospitality sectors.

In an in-depth look into responsible tourism in The Gambia, Mr. Ken Obat from Nairobi, Kenya, and one of the awarded Commonwealth Scholarship students from Leeds Beckett University, UK who recently visited The Gambia during their annual field trips in January 2024 confirmed that in the Gambia as far as responsible tourism is concerned the cohort students learned quite a lot while describing the country’s tourism products as unique and “they are Gambia in all sense.”

Mr. Obat who was very keen on one of the products called Ninki Nanka detailed his experience as he was very eager not only to know but to see the Ninki Nanka which the folk tale is fascinating and peculiar to many visitors that partake in the trail.

He iterated that the cohort students were in the country, as part of their university training course, responsible tourism management, to see the opportunities for responsible tourism in The Gambia and alongside the challenges.

The students saw and learned a lot about what the destination Gambia, The Smiling Coast of Africa, is doing as far as ensuring that sustainable tourism is achieved in the country, and “we have also had our own experience in terms of the places we have visited since we arrived in the country,” he noted.

Giving an account of their experience, he said the story of the Ninki Nanka Trail, one of the highlights of their activities on the River Gambia, is a great package folk tale and very interesting activity, “and I am very happy that I was able to partake in it.”

Narrating the interesting story of the Ninki Nanka Trail (NNT), Mr. Obat said “It is very unique and it is Gambia in all sense that you would not say maybe it exists elsewhere but you might only be having similar experiences folk tales but the NNT as a story and as a product is exclusively Gambia that it can be told everywhere.”

“When you board a canoe for river cruising you will not know whether to look for Ninki Nanka or not and whether you are going to see it or not but it all goes with anticipation while there will be an urge within you that could you be the first to see it or it is going to see you first,” he explained.

He continued “The story is beautiful because we were also told what will happen when you see the Ninki Nanka. The real story behind it is that you might die while you will also be told that if you have a mirror you should place it before it and when it sees itself it is also likely to die.”

However, he highlighted some of the challenges affecting inter-Africa travel saying there are lots of barriers which include air access. As a stakeholder in tourism, he wishes to discuss with relevant stakeholders especially one or two of the biggest airlines from East Africa – Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways if they can at least have one of their flights to Senegal extended to The Gambia “even if it is once in a week.”

“This will expose Gambia because there are a lot of opportunities for tourism and a lot of trade opportunities. Also, there are a lot of opportunities for cultural exchanges here, which I know my country’s people, Kenyans, and even people from wider East Africa, would be very interested in coming to explore, visit, and even find whatever opportunities we can build together,” he added.

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Yunus S Saliu

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