CULTURE RICH DESTINATIONS - GAMBIA & SENEGAL

Heritage & Culture Travel Themes

Heritage and culture plays an important role in Africa. Each country have a unique culture that is rich and diverse and varies not only from one country to another, but within each country itself. The culture of each ethnic group centers on family and can be found in each group’s art, music and oral literature. From storytelling through oral literature to traditions, dialects, arts and music, indigenous culture persist. And we couldn't agree more when Victoria falls guide describe the unification of communities. "In African culture, the “self” is not separate from the world, it is united and intermingled with the natural and social environment. It is through relations with one’s community and surroundings that an individual becomes a person of volition, whose actions and decisions affect the entire group rather than just oneself. There is a Xhosa proverb that is common to all African cultures and languages, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” (“A person is a person through persons”)." Or as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. We hope to take you on this journey to understand and appreciate African culture by highlighting cultural nuances, heritage and traditions of  each country that seem to have tremendous influence in the world.

Stone Circles of Senegambia (Senegal and Gambia)

The Senegambian stone circles lie in The Gambia north of Janjanbureh and in central Senegal. Approximate area: 30,000 km². They are sometimes divided into the Wassu and Sine-Saloum circles, but this is purely a national division. The four groups, Sine Ngayène, Wanar, Wassu and Kerbatch, cover 93 stone circles and numerous tumuli, burial mounds, some of which have been excavated to reveal material that suggest dates between 3rd century BC and 16th century AD. Together the stone circles of laterite pillars and their associated burial mounds present a vast sacred landscape created over more than 1,500 years. It reflects a prosperous, highly organized and lasting society.

TRADITIONAL LANDSCAPES - Saloum Delta (Senegal)

It is an extensive area of mudflats, mangrove swamp and channels, with about 200 small islands, some of which are forested.  It has been settled by fishermen for centuries, and a rich cultural history is being pieced together from archaeological evidence in the delta.  In particular, 218 man-made mounds, some several hundred meters long and made of shells have been discovered.  Some 28 of these mounds have been found to include burial tumuli containing some remarkable artifacts. They are important for our understanding of cultures from the various periods of the delta's occupation and testify to the history of human settlement along the coast of West Africa.

TRADITIONAL LANDSCAPES - Janjanbureh Island or McCarthy Island (Gambia)

 Colonial Architecture
There are a few historic buildings in the town that tell of the settlement's colonial past. On the riverbank 19th century warehouses stand neglected and crumbling, aided by the relentless encroachment of vegetation. There is the Maurel and Prom Building, a former French trading house from Bordeaux, on the slipway to the ferry terminal. To its right are the roofless ruins of the CFAO Building. These structures are sometimes erroneously called 'slave houses' or 'slave market', they are not, as both were built long after Britain abolished slavery in 1807.

Jinack Island (Gambia)

Jinack Island (also spelt Jinak or Ginak) is in the North Bank Region of the Lower Niumi District of The Gambia, in West Africa. It is located on the north western edge of the River Gambia estuary, and is separated from the mainland delta of the Niumi National Park by the Niji Bolon creek. The isle, often referred to by tour operators as 'Paradise Island' or 'Treasure Island', is a slightly curved and tapering strip of low-lying land about 10km long; with an interior of dry woodland and grassland, with vegetation such as Tamarisk scrub, baobab trees and acacia. It is fringed with mangrove creeks,  tidal sand flats, saltwater marsh, low coastal dunes and a coastal lagoon, at Buniadu Point, in the northern section. In the winter season the isle is often visited by dolphins.

Cape Point (Gambia)

The Cape Point beach resort makes up the north-eastern part of the town of Bakau, in the Kombo St Mary District, in the West Coast Region of The Gambia, and is 12km to the west of Banjul capital. The district is a promontory and its beach area is where the River Gambia and the Atlantic Ocean merge at the estuary. To Cape Point's eastern coastline is a wide seafront of fine, golden sand, while much of its north-western coastline starts at sea level, then, as you head south west it rises up to over 15 metres, and is mostly characterised by laterite cliffs dotted with palms along a narrow strand. Further to its southeast are the brackish mangrove swamps of Cape Creek, frequented by wetland birds.

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EUROPEAN COLONIAL INFLUENCES - Island of Goree (Senegal)

The Island of Goree is located about 3 km off-shore, close to Senegal’s capital city, Dakar. It is a small island, approximately 600 m x 250 m, that was possibly Africa’s biggest slave trading center from the 15th to 19th centuries. It was first colonized by the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, British and French.  Gorée Island’s Maison des esclaves (House of Slaves), with its famous Door of No Return. Over a period of several hundred years, an estimated 500,000 Africans are thought to have been traded through the island, en route to the New World.  The island has now come to symbolize the slave trade, and has become something of a pilgrimage site for the African diaspora.

EUROPEAN COLONIAL INFLUENCES - Island of Saint-Louis or Ndar (Senegal)

The island of Saint-Louis is located in the mouth of the Senegal River, a little north of the continent’s westernmost point. After more than three centuries, Ndar enjoys a history and cultural background, visible through its architecture and other characteristics. the island was developed as a French colonial town in the 17th century, and became the capital of French West Africa from 1895 to 1902. The city serves as a bridge between savanna and desertocean and river, tradition and modernity, Islam and Christianity, Europe and Africa. Its distinctive colonial architecture is among the features that put the island on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000. Tourism makes up an important and integral part of Ndar's economy.

EUROPEAN COLONIAL INFLUENCES - Juffrey Village/Kunta Kinteh Island (Gambia)

 Kunta Kinteh Island is located in the middle of the Gambia River estuary, about 30 km from its mouth, in the heart of Gambia, West Africa.  It has the ruins of a fort, slave house, governor’s kitchen and other buildings associated with the development of the Gambia River as the first European trade route into the African interior.  There are six other components of the world heritage site, five of them located in the villages of Albreda, Juffureh and San Domingo on the north bank of the river opposite the island.  The other component, Fort Bullen and the Six Gun Battery, is located near the mouth of the river.  Together, these seven components demonstrate different aspects of the European experience in West Africa from the time of the first arrival of Portuguese sailors around 1446.  In particular, the site bears testimony to the various stages of the slave trade from its early beginnings to abolition.

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Arts and Culture - SENEGAL

Dakar has some traditional shops, the large markets provide the best adventures, variety and bargains. Among the major ones are the Kermel and the Sandaga, both in downtown Dakar, and the Soumbedioune Village, a short taxi ride away.

ART`

Senegal is famous across Africa for the quality of its jewelry. Local artisans sell their exquisitely crafted gold and silver jewelry in regional markets all over the country, and the large amber necklaces traditionally worn by Fulani women are a common sight. Beautiful gold, silver, and bronze jewelry are exquisitely crafted. Antique beads and large amber necklaces, traditionally worn by the Fulani women, can be found in the markets and antique shops. 


The Blacksmiths constitute the socio-professional group that made the tools, the jewelries, and other materials, using steel, iron, gold, and other metals. 

Baskets, pottery, hand-woven fabrics with incredibly intricate patterns are renowned great buys. Leather, iguana, crocodile and snake skins are used to create handbags, shoes, belts and other accessories. The Cobblers have been busy with transforming animal skins. They made shoes, harnesses and other materials from animal skins.

MUSIC

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Music and dance play an integral role, and distinctive traditional music such as Yela, the rhythms of which mimic the sound of grain being pounded by female villagers, is still practiced by many people in Senegal. Musical instruments such as the kora and hoddu are still played during celebrations in many parts of the country. The famous Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour was appointed the minister of culture in April 2012.

Dynamic and rhythmic dances in Senegal, the most popular of which is called Sabar or Mballax, are performed at any of the celebrations. Additionally, there are other special dances performed during the "Bore" (wrestling matches) on national holidays, and other special occasions.

Arts and Culture - GAMBIA

The Gambian musical scene within Africa has always been extremely vibrant with an intoxicating mix of the Kora(African Harp) with its twisting, winding melodies to the Balafon a kind of glockenspiel which often accompanies the Kora. There are also a few bands playing Ndaga music as well as many up-and-coming local rap, hip hop and reggae   musicians

ART

Arts & Crafts
Within the vicinity of most of the major  tourist hotels you will find a small craft market(called bengdulas) made up of a number of small stalls offering a selection of wood carvings featuring tribal masks, elephants, hunters etc., batiks, tie dye fabric prints, trade beads, gold and silver jewellery and locally made hand woven baskets. Despite the influence of tourism in creating mass production of such art (particularly in Brikama Craft Market) you can still see authentic local handicrafts and cultural dancing  in the villages along the coast and the River Gambia.  Artworks can be found being peddled on the beaches as well as in craft shops.

 

MUSIC

Traditionally music-making is open to anyone with a voice and an instrument in the West, in the Gambia it falls to a select strata of society: the Griots (the word has a confused etymology but a general translation might be bard or praise singer). The role the griots fill is a vital one to the community as they are at once repositories of cultural and historical knowledge, genealogists, and frequent social commentators; and they are called upon to remember ancient songs and narratives and even invent songs around recent social events.

Traditional Drumming

Djembe drums are the basic and most familiar instruments among all the ethnic groups and are featured at most events whether ceremonial, ritual or social, and serve as a device for announcing, warning or calling together.  They are shaped like a goblet and are carved from a single, hollowed hardwood tree and usually covered in goat skin or other raw hide. They are decoratively carved and varnished and tensioned by leather or string along the sides. It is played with the hands.

Each group has its own type of drums: the Mandinka use three conical drums together, varying in length, and played by 3 musicians. The Serer have a large "kings" drum made of a hollow log covered with skins at both ends, and a slit cut in the lengthwise side. It is played horizontally with a stick. 

 

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Batiks, Tie-Dye, Waxes & Damask Cloths

SORREL/BISSAP/WONJO

Lcally made drinks includes: BissapWonjo (Sorrel drink), Baobab drink made from Baobab tree, Gbeer. In Gambia Coke, Fanta, and Sprite are locally bottled by Gambega Ltd. and are very popular. If you want to take the bottle away you must leave a non-refundable deposit. This is because the bottles are sent back to the bottling factory by local retail vendors for recycling. In Senegal Société des Brasseries de l'Ouest Africain - SOBOA is the soda brewery

If there is a resource The Gambia has an abundance of, it has to be fish.

Since the early 1990s, the growing popularity for recreational fishing has now made The Gambia one of the most sought after fishing holiday destinations in the world. 

The Gambian beaches play host to the Masterline International Beach Fishing Festival every year and for good reason, the surf casting is excellent during the period from October through to May and beach fishermen can expect to take Large Guitarfish, Stingrays, Captain fish, Jack Crevalle, Cassava, Groupers and many more.

Senegal Fishing – Dakar 

Senegal Blue water fishing: –  During the summer June – Dec, huge numbers of Migratory Marlin up to 1200lb and Sailfish up to 120lb run down the Senegalese coast, along with Dorado, Tuna ,Wahoo and Sharks. This adds up to an excellent sport fishery. 

PALM BEACH is located on the edge of a large sandy beach, on the Petite Côte, in the heart of Saly Portudal, a seaside resort located 80 km south of Dakar.

Kombo Beach Hotel 

Set on a stretch of Kotu Beach, this casual hotel is 4 km from the Fajara Golf Club, and 6 km from the Kachikally Museum and Crocodile Pool. 

The relaxed rooms offer balconies or patios, plus TVs, Wi-Fi (fee) and minifridges; some add sitting areas with sofabeds, and tea and coffeemaking facilities. Studios have kitchenettes. Suites feature ocean views, DVD players and living rooms.

Dining options include a buffet restaurant, an upscale brasserie, a casual sports lounge and a wine bar, plus a beach bar and an ice cream shop. There’s an outdoor pool, a children’s playground and a beauty salon, as well as 2 tennis courts and outdoor games.

TRAVEL INSPIRATIONS!

Allow us to tempt you with some travel inspiration. Ride camels in Kenya, soar high above the Namib Desert in a hot air balloon, witness the drama of the Great Migration, tuck into a champagne picnic on a private island in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, East Africa’s legendary game parks, safari highlights the best of the "big five" the elephant, buffalo, lion, black rhinoceros, and mountain gorillas. And, of course, the famed Maasai Mara, the northern half of the Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem, without question the greatest wildlife spectacle on the planet.  South Africa lives up to its unofficial motto, A World in One Country. Travel to the beautiful beaches of west Africa … we have endless ideas to share and always more to follow.

Let us fuel your imagination of that never-ending wanderlust and help you fall in love all over again.

IS IT SAFE TO DRINK GAMBIAN WATER?

In general, the water is not safe to drink in Gambia. All local water should be considered contaminated. Bring all tap water to a good rolling boil if you want to drink, brush your teeth or make ice cubes. Otherwise, buy capped bottled water from reputable brands.

WHAT IS THE VISA REQUIREMENT TO TRAVEL TO THE GAMBIA?

Yes. A visa is required for travel to Gambia, as are a valid passport and proof of the Yellow fever vaccine. A visa for travel to Gambia for US citizens is currently good for five years. It is highly recommended that all travelers to Gambia obtain their visas before they depart.

 

CAN I GET INTERNET ACCESS IN THE GAMBIA?

All hotels and resorts provide free WIFI and few restaurants. ISPs in Gambia. InsistNet is an internet service provider serving companies, organisations, schools & residential homes with fast internet access. The company provides internet access when using its 3G connections over your mobile smartphone.

DO I NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE BEFORE TRAVELING TO THE GAMBIA?

Absolutely. All passengers traveling with Trailblazer Travelz are highly recommended to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

ARE CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED IN THE GAMBIA?

MasterCard prepaid, credit and debit cards can be used at GTBank Gambia ATMs and Point of Sale (POS) terminals including hotels, retailers and restaurants located in the Greater Banjul area. Discover card has only a few establishments that accept them. Solo and Switch cards are not accepted.

WHICH INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN IN THE GAMBIA?

English is the main language used for official purposes and in education. In the Gambia, Mandingo is spoken as a first language by 38% of the population, Fula is spoken by 21.2%, Wolof / Serer by 18%, Jola by 4.5%. Several other languages are also spoken. Gambian Sign Language is used by the deaf. French is also spoken in few establishments.

CAN I USE MY MOBILE/CELL PHONE IN THE GAMBIA?

Purchase a new cell phone and SIM card for Gambia and take advantage of the low rates that the local cellular phone users are paying, regardless of the length of your trip. These rates are extremely advantageous and will earn you big savings while you travel abroad!