Updated: Mar 20
I spent ten days on the beautiful island of Banjul, Gambia over one Christmas period. I was in awe of the amazing beaches, crystal clear water and white sands. We chose a cute and comfy 4* (star) hotel to stay in where the staff were amazing. Planning and preparation were not done to the best of my ability like I always do, as I was more focused on saving for this trip. I knew I wanted to visit an orphanage - that was one of my many goals, and I'm glad I could say I have finally ticked this off my bucket list!
I packed 32 books, numerous amounts of colouring pens and pencils, notepads and all the toys my son no longer wanted or needed. We found ourselves at SOS children's villages and although I didn't merely have enough books and toys for all the children, I had never felt more proud of myself. We met the gorgeous children and played with them for the rest of the afternoon. There were 70 children at the time, but we were lucky enough to interact with just a few small groups. We managed to take lots of pictures of these beauties and our day went well. We sat in the office and gave the books to the orphanage library.
I was proud to see my son give away some of his favourite toys that he no longer needed, and the children were so happy.
Visits to the markets were always on the agenda as I love buying gifts, but more or so, it felt great to support the local businesses - especially when they asked! The market stalls have great bits -and -bobs you can purchase as gifts, and one gentleman even gave me a gift just for buying from his stall. It felt wonderful.
We visited the local public beach and left our footprints in the sand. New energy, ideas and feelings of love and hope ran through my body. I didn't want to return home! Although I had a wonderful time in Gambia, there were many times I honestly felt borderline harassed.
I had read reviews on the country before I booked my holiday, but everyone has and is entitled to their own opinion. As we stepped out of our hotel, we were harassed over and over again about where we were going, where we were from, and if we needed help. We were followed around and asked questions throughout our 'on-road' journeys, even when we politely rejected any help. We wanted to wander, to get lost, to explore, but most of all, we wanted peace and to do things at our own pace. We felt like we were only allowed to do so our voices changed from polite to authoritative.
Yay!! We had finally made a few friends, or so we had thought. They spent the day with us, showing us around and then demanded £40, for a drink they bought us. That was the final straw. I decided to ignore the locals when they used the same lines to get the attention of my family and me. I politely said "No thanks" to everything they had asked, and kept it moving. Freedom was finally upon us!
Breakfast at the hotel was everything I could ask for and more. I was in heaven. I would recommend the hotel based on the breakfast alone, but as evening and dinner time came, once again, things took a turn for the worse. My stomach did to be exact! Dinner at the hotel completely disagreed with me, and every night I would spend ages on the toilet with the SCOOP-ADY-POOP-POOOP-POOPS! Diarrhoea affected me so badly, I was afraid to go out some evenings. I managed to get hold of a bottle of pink Pepto-Bismol, and it settled my stomach as much as it could, but still - my bowels were in overdrive! I decided to eat out at one of the local restaurants to avoid this feeling, which was the best thing I could have done.
Gambia is a beautiful country, and it is somewhere I would recommend visiting. I would have preferred to visit a quieter and more reserved area, where we could understand a bit more about the country's history.
Reflecting on this holiday, I have a lot of mixed feelings. I'm in two minds about going back. I've never met someone that had a bad thing to say about Gambia, but for the price of my trip- I felt like I could have had a luxurious, experience of a lifetime elsewhere. I can't say I'll be back, but I'm sure it will be a thought for the far future.