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Gambia - Crusiers paradise in West Africa

By Sue Richards last modified Aug 24, 2012 09:59 PM

Published: 2012-08-24 21:59:17
Countries: Gambia

We were some months ago in Gambia and we want to share our experience with other cruisers.
David Sturm - SV Admetus

We spent 2 months in Gambia and were surprised about this country. It offers Africa pure, a lot of wildlife, culture and the adventure of cruising the river.

The Gambians are very friendly and we felt very safe everywhere.

Gambia - pros and cons

Here are the main interesting facts about Gambia for cruisers.

- English speaking country
- Friendly people
- Very safe
- Cost of living is very low when you enjoy African cooking
- Wildlife (Monkeys, Hippos, Crocodiles,....)
- Big supermarkets available on the coast for provisioning for an Atlantic crossing
- Easily navigable River

- Nearly no facilities for yachts, for this Dakar is better.

When you plan to buy solar panels and new Deep Cycle batteries, do it in Gambia. They are much cheaper than in Europe and you will find a lot of known brands, especially from America.

Cruising the River

The main attraction is cruising the river. It´s exciting because you have a lot of pure wildlife around. You will easily see a lot of wild animals. There are many navigable Creeks and you can feel there like the first sailor arriving in Africa.

Yachts can easily get up to Georgetown without big difficulties. I have heard from a yacht with 2.7m draft managing to get there. In Georgetown is a power cable hanging over the River and most boats return here. But it´s easy to head through on a low tide on the north bank, with one man at the masthead to see if you fit underneath. Our Sadler 32 was no problem.

There are even much bigger boats going up to Basse. From Georgetown to Basse you find nearly no yachts, some people there told us, some years no yachts are coming to Basse. The river there has some rocks which are clearly identified and with the guide from Steve Jones you will find your way. Basse is our favorite city in Gambia, the people there are not used to tourists with yachts, and it´s fun there.

Cruising on the River is comfortable, you are always going with the tide, when you want to stop you just anchor close to the side. Always put anchor lights on in the night because there are a lot of fishermen fishing with long drifting nets. We got caught in one and it pulls very hard on your chain. The fishermen tried to get their net out of our chain as quickly as possible and went away.

Real Wildlife on the River

You will see Hippos, a lot of different Monkeys, crocodiles and a lot of colourful birds. Crocodiles are very shy but they are not dangerous. But with the Hippos you should be careful. The Highlight was for us Baboon Island, a National park where you can see Chimpanzees. Be careful when you approach there and use just the left side of the left channel around the Baboon Island. The Rangers take their job very seriously and we got into trouble because we entered the national park accidentally. When you anchor outside the park you might be lucky if the Rangers come to your boat and invite you to join them for the feeding of the chimpanzees.

Services for yachts

In two places it´s possible to get water or Diesel delivered to the boat. In general you can arrange it yourself in the cities. But in Lamin Lodge there is Gibril (002203653765) who offers a brilliant and good service. He runs also the Trans-Ocean Base Banjul.

Up river you can find services close to bird island, when you anchor in front of the Red Hill "Bird Island Yacht Service". They can deliver drinking water from the public tap, Diesel, fish and fresh bread to the boat (our favorite service). Everything is very reasonably priced. You can reach them: Adama 002206345154, Musa 002206101566, Mamadou 002206892171.

For Internet, the best solution is to buy a Sim Card or a Stick. The telephone company QCell was stationed in every big village and most of the time the internet was fast enough for skype. In the coastal area it works very well.