Tourism and Heritage

Top-rated Tourist Attractions in The Gambia

KuntaKinteh Island

One of the famous islands in The Gambia is Kunta Kinteh Island formerly known as James Island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in The Gambia inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2003 taking into consideration that it has important relics of the West African slave trade. 

It is a small island on the Gambia River where captured slaves were kept before finally being sent to the new world’s plantations in the western world. Despite erosion eroding the island gradually the ruins still tell very sad and emotional stories of the past. 

However, ‘Kunta Kinteh Island is one of the key sites in the history of the British in West Africa. It was the first European foothold in The Gambia. This with Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, they were at the center of British interests in West Africa for 300 years.

Kunta Kinteh Island remains an important part of the package for the celebration of the biennial famous International Roots Homecoming Festival known as Roots Trail Pilgrimage because it is through this island Kunta Kinteh himself was kept and transported through a slave ship to Maryland in America.

Kunta Kinteh Island is unique and very original compared to other slave routes as the visitors to the place can see the ruins of the slave trade infrastructure, such as the caves and prisons where slaves were imprisoned before being shipped off to the American colonies in sub-human conditions. The originality is well confirmed as the novelist, Alex Haley, author of the famous book – Roots traced his Gambian ancestor from America down to this small island where Kunta Kinteh was transported through to America as a slave in the latter part of the 1700s. Thanks to the wonderful novel – Roots which covers the story of the six generations from the capture of Kunta Kinteh in 1767 up to now. This novel adapted into movie series is well known all over the world, especially for Afro-American people, who consider a trip to Albreda and Juffureh as a return to their roots.

Juffureh/Albreda

Juffureh/Albreda is the name of two communities that are inseparable as far as their history goes. Juffureh is the birthplace of the famous Mandinka warrior – Kunta Kinteh while Albreda, a stone throw from his compound, was where he was captured, kidnapped, and sent to James Island (now Kunta Kinteh Island) before finally transported to the plantation farm in America. Juffureh and Albreda villages are very symbolic in the history of The Gambia, especially before the abolition of the slave trade.
In these two villages are a series of sites associated with the early European occupation of the African continent including the remains of a Portuguese Chapel and a colonial warehouse (CFAO Building) in the village of Albreda, the Maurel Freres Building in the village of Juffureh, the remains of the Small Portuguese settlement of San Domingo. Also is the family house of Kunta Kinteh where you will meet his left behind family/generation in The Gambia.

Fort Bullen

This famous Fort located at Barra Point was established in 1826. It was born out of Britain’s war against slave trading in the 19th century as River Gambia was recognized as a British possession. This is By the Treaty of Versailles, 1783. It is across from the town of the then Bathurst, which is now called Banjul, the capital city of The Gambia.

It is one of the most visited places in the Destination, thus, is one of the Kunta Kinteh Island Related Sites. This Fort of attractions is not meant for tourists or school children alone but for everyone interested to know the country’s history. Fort Bullen was the largest Fort built by the Europeans in The Gambia and it remains in good condition today. It is rectangular, with circular bastions at each corner. And at least three of the bastions were traversing gun carriages that supported Bloomfield iron 32 powder cannons.

Fort Bullen was built because the British founders needed guns on the North Bank of The Gambia River to control the river mouth. Furthermore, the Fort was meant to complement the Six-Gun Battery on the opposite bank of the river. The Fort was anti-slavery, not pro-slavery as others thought.
In this Fort, there is a museum which has quite interesting stories of the Kingship in Niumi, Niumi Kings and Queens, ceremonial staffs, type of dressing/costumes worn by chiefs, the cannon balls, and remains of the slave chains.

Katchikally Crocodile Pool

This is a sacred pool that came into being mystical. The pond is sacred because there is more to what meets the eyes. Though, to some, it is a place to see friendly crocodiles. Katchikally is urbanization that holds communal values as a ransom for social norms in many localities and the Bakau community. The co-existence between men and spirits is evident in the Katchikally Sacred Pool. You are safe as you walk around the pool and with the guide, you can as well touch life crocodiles at risk. 
Inside it, there is a museum; it is a community-owned museum. It has a display collection of about 1,000 historical objects housed in African-styled round huts.
Apart from this Katchikally there are other two crocodile sacred pools in The Gambia. These other two pools are Falonko Crocodile Pool in Kartong and Berrending Crocodile Pool in Berrending village. 

In succinct as narrated by the custodian of the pool, Katchikally is a sacred pool that came into being when a woman named Katchikally ran to the Bojang family in a hurry because her child fell into a well and needed their help. The head of the family sent his two sons called Tambaasi and Jaali to help her. After rescuing the child, Katchikally revealed her identity to them. She told them that she come to find out if the family is kind and not troublemakers. Therefore she revealed the importance and secret of the well to them. The water in the well has a potency of child-bearing among other blessings from the pool. Today, one can find about one hundred live crocodiles in the pool.

Wassu Stones Circle and Kerr Batch Stones Circle

Stone Circle

Among the significant places of attractions in The Gambia listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Wassu Stones Circle and Kerr Batch Stones Circle located in Niani and Nianija Districts respectively in the Central River Region (CRR) of The Gambia. 
The two circles are about 8 kilometers away from each other.

According to history, the stone circles were revealed to be a unique concentration of megaliths just like we can find some types in Europe and other parts of Africa. But you cannot find such a large concentration of megaliths like those in The Gambia elsewhere. The stone circles of Senegambia are impressive remains that have for long puzzled visitors. 

Wassu Stones Circle has the tallest stone, 2,59m, and the nearby quarry which is easily accessible to visitors is also very educative and provides added value to site visits. Kerbatch Stones Circle has an impressive V stone which was hitherto broken in three places and had fallen and subsequently underwent restoration during the 1965 Anglo-Gambian stone circles expedition.

Janjanbureh

Janjanbureh is one of the tourist centers where tourists can arguably claim a productive stay in the country. It is an island where every minute spent is a moving and memorable lesson.  You can take everything away from Janjanbureh, but not its characteristic excess in culture, tradition, hospitality, and the cool river. Its culture and tradition that formed the historical value of the island made it a household name in The Gambia and beyond. It is an island evolving from a mere sandbank made out of alluvial river deposits. According to History of Settlement, a structure found in the famous Freedom Tree Monument, a Triangle Park on the island located close to the slave house and slave market. 

The island has different appealing names to people on the island or that visited the island. Previously it was called its colonial names McCarthy or Georgetown but got its latest name Janjangbureh in 1995. The name Janjangbureh “denoted the island was used periodically as a place of refuge for fugitives from the mainland. In 1810 a Marabou called Hamang Touray found a small village called Morokunda where he and his followers settled to escape persecution by their Soninke neighbours.” Other places to visit on the island apart from the Freedom Tree, Slave House and Market include the Methodist Church opened in 1835 the oldest in sub-Saharan Africa, Kunkling Forest Park, River Gambia for cruising and fishing sports, Wooden House, Kankunrang Museum and Center, some old architectural buildings, Nyankusita -a sacred Baobab tree in Janjangbureh among other places.

Banjul

Banjul is the capital city of The Gambia. It accommodates all tribes of The Gambia but the Wollof among other tribes has the highest population in the city. This was because when the British occupied the city in 1816 the first group of people to come was the British Administrator and the soldiers to man the gun batteries in other to apprehend slaves’ ships. While the second group of people to come was the Wollof from Senegal who came on the invitation of the British to help build the infrastructure.


Despite the development across the Gambia, Banjul remains the commercial hub of the country as far as the port is concerned with the administrative occupation. Apart from Banjul being the capital city that housed the Atlantic port, the city, via ferry, also served as a crossing point to other parts of the country. That is from Banjul you can cross to Barra to link the northern part of The Gambia and from Banjul to Serekunda-Banjul Highway. Among other places in Banjul is Albert Market, Arch 22, National Museum, Fort Louvel, Laico Atlantic Hotel one of the oldest hotels in The Gambia; Cholera Epidemic Obelisk; Arch 22; Banjul Beach, and others.

Abuko Nature Reserve

This nature reserve established in 1968 is The Gambia’s first protected area and it provides a good introduction to the country’s plants and animals. The pools in the reserve hold a substantial population of Nile crocodiles and attract a wide variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. The education center overlooks the pool and gives an interpretation of the ecology and natural history of the park.

Abuko is home to more than 270 species of birds, the park contains monitor lizards and several species of snakes. At the reserve, visitors will also encounter colorful butterflies and dragonflies. The animal orphanage hosts spotted hyenas, baboons, parrots, turtles, and three species of monkeys. There are also several photo hides along the trail which provide excellent conditions for spotting wildlife. 

Parks and Wildlife

Some other fascinating among other facilities in The Gambia are parks and wildlife reserves which lovers of nature cannot afford to miss. There are lots to enjoy at any of the parks and wildlife in the destination, especially for those that are interesting in plants and animals. Among the available parks which are highly recommended for nature and outdoor lovers are Niumi National Park; River Gambia National Park; Tanjeh Bird Reserve; Baobolong Wetland Reserve; Chimpanzee Park; Tanbi Wetlands National Park; Kiang West National Park, and Reptiles Village.

Craft Markets

Craft Markets are among the unavoidable places in the destination because it is one of the important components of tourism products, even not only in The Gambia but across all tourism destinations. As tourists, in craft markets, you will enjoy yourself among the local craft vendors that are calling for your attention to patronize them. They always display their available materials from morning till dusk for tourists and others that might want to pick one or two things as a souvenir.

Craft vendors do receive attention from the government through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and Gambia Tourism Board in particular on product development and diversification. As development and sustainable tourism are concerned the Ministry of Tourism and Culture together with the GTBoard attached great importance to the development of the local economy and promotion of local arts and culture. There are different craft markets located across the tourism development area among the locations include Brikama; Bakau; Fajara; Cape Point; Senegambia; BB; and Banjul Craft Markets respectively.

National Museum

The Gambia National Museum was opened in 1985. The museum’s primary goal is the collection and preservation of artifacts documenting the material culture of The Gambia, as well as to educate both visitors to the country and residents who may not be familiar with Gambian history.


Your visit to the museum will allow you to learn about the cultural heritage of The Gambia, like whom the Super Eagles were and what a masquerade is. The National Museum houses three floors of exhibits. The ground floor displays the political and cultural history of the nation’s capital, Banjul. On the second floor, you can learn about the archaeological history of West Africa and The Gambia, the floor also details the nation’s colonial and post-Independence political and economic history. While at the basement level, you can learn about the musical heritage of The Gambia and see what instruments are popular throughout the country and sub-region.
 
Among other Museums in Destination Gambia, are the Museum for Slavery in Juffureh; Arch 22nd Banjul – Museum for Chieftaincy, Katchikally Crocodile Pool Museum displays a collection of historical objects, Tanjeh Community Museum, Tanjeh; Kankurang Museum Center Janjangbureh displays Kankurang and other masking traditions of The Gambia with particular references.

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Yunus S Saliu

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