Last night, on the flight back from the Gambia to Sweden, I spent a couple of hours looking at the starry sky that was so tenderly watching over the artificial lights of Europe. One German town followed the other, our home continent was bathing in light, and it was a beautiful night indeed. During that flight, one thought kept coming into my head – how to grasp all the lessons gained from traveling and how to ensure that they will remain in order to create a lasting impact instead of vanishing once the trip is over. We are now back in Sweden (hello, y’all!) after an unforgettable week in the Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa. In this post, we will share some basic information about the country and how to get there, as well as talk about our first impressions of this delightful little country on the African west coast.
Basic Information About The Gambia
The Gambia, located in West Africa, is mostly surrounded by Senegal. The country also has a short coastline bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It is also one of the smallest on the African continent, and it is the smallest on mainland Africa. The country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965 and it has been one of the more stable countries in Africa. The capital of the Gambia is Banjul, which is located on St Mary’s Island, where the Gambia River meets the Atlantic Ocean. The Gambia River runs across the country. The largest city in this small African state is Serekunda.
The official language of the Gambia is English. There are several ethnic groups, each with their own language and traditions. The largest groups are Mandinka, Fula, and Wolof. According to the 2013 census, the population is 1,882,450.
How To Get There
The most convenient way to get to the Gambia from Sweden is by using the services of a tour operator. This option included flights and accommodation. We booked our trip through ving.se. The flight from Stockholm-Arlanda to Banjul, with a 1-hour stop at the Canary Islands, took approximately 9 hours.
Not interested in tour operators? It’s not impossible to go to this small West African country by regular airlines. However, this option is more complicated, not to mention more expensive. In general, it means flying to Morocco and continuing from there to Banjul. A quick search on momondo.com suggested that the cheapest alternative would take almost 36 hours with 2 stops; one in Doha and one in Casablanca.
Our First Impressions of The Gambia
Before embarking on our first trip to Africa, we really did not know what to expect. The first view from the airport was promising; the blue sea was glimmering in the sun, the trees were green, and there were houses evenly spread out like little boxes. The airport was slightly chaotic and we were met by a smiling sun and a lot of heat. We saw cows crossing the road, a lot of taxis, goats, donkeys, and red dust. There was a lot of noise and smiling faces. The motto of the Gambia is “the smiling coast of Africa” and as it would turn out, the people are very friendly and smiling indeed.
Want to read more?
In upcoming posts, we plan to write about day trips, food, things to see, and places to go. In the meantime, check out the following links for more information about the Gambia: