Advantages Good budget hotel, surrounded by good restaurants and a gorgeous beach
Disadvantages Management are strict and overbearing, expensive food/drink within the complex
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We were looking for a cheap holiday in the sun during January last year, and came across a 2 week stay in Gamibia for £800 for two people. We jumped at the chance and this is the hotel we ended up in. The hotel itself is about 10 minutes walk from a beautiful beach, trying the fresh fruit juice's here is a must. Its located in a very touristy area, and as a result expect to be hassled by the locals as soon as you step outside the gates.I heard about this from a review before I went and it did worry me, but once we were there it wasn't as bad as people had made out. The locals are so friendly, like nothing I've ever experienced before, you can expect to be treated like local celebreties when visiting Gambia!
The people that hassle you form two groups, and its important to be able to recognise them early on. There are the Green Taxi drivers who will attempt to befriend you at every opportunity and will then offer their cab services for the length of your stay, these guys really are your friends and allies! They will accompany you where ever you go, and the others all know that when you are with one of them to leave you alone. We had a guy called Lofty who was kind, considerate and knew when we would like some time alone, he would sit in eyeshot and be ready to chase away anyone who would come near us. My advice would be to pick one early on that you get on well with and stick with him, if you swap between drivers you are likely to cause trouble amoungst them as they all have agreements not to steal each others custromers, just saying "we drive with Lofty" is enough to get rid of any other drivers touting for business.The other group are a minority, and are usually chased away by the taxi drivers, but the further you are from the hotel the more likely you will run into them, they will try to give you braclets and then insist you buy them or just keep following you until you give them money. Or they will ask for your address so they can hassle you once you are home!
The hotel itself has three main areas, The reception building and bar, the bungalows and the apartment block. I would recommend paying extra for one of the bungalows as thay are spacious and well looked after. Some friends who weren't staying in one of these nicknamed the apartment building "Prisoner Cell Block H". Air conditioning is extra, but during January you really didn't need it.The pool itself is one of the biggest you will find in Gambia, but accidently drink the pool water and you are likely to be as sick as a dog for a day! The breakfast you get is perfectly adequate, fresh fruit, bread, porrage, toast, scrambled egg and beans. Always ask for the hot breakfast though, and keep asking until it arrives! We were often passed over unless we made ourselves heard.
The hotel restaurant does provide good meals, but expect to pay more than double what you would pay outside of the complex. I would recommend the local bars and restaurants, some of the food I've had there was the best I have ever eaten. There is nothing like fresh Butter fish cooked to perfection and brought to you with excellent customer service. I would ask your driver for good places to eat, as there are many places not more than 5 minutes from the hotel gate that you really shouldn't miss!The staff are all very friendly, as you would expect in such a happy and well meaning country. But they do get paid a pittance, and the management doesn't care much for them. Careful how long you chat to staff as if management sees them they are likely to be disaplined or even loose their job.
There are many wonderful places to go and see around the Hotel, the monkey park (although expect to see monkeys in the complex itself), the croc park (you are even able to get up close and stroke them if you are brave enough), and there are many places to go on boat trips and excursions. There is also a beautiful distillary about half an hour's drive away that does nights out with local acts and excellent food called Kim Kombo, run by two British Brothers. The liquers are made from fresh locally grown fruit and shouldn't be missed. Arranging tours with your tour company will cost you up to ten times more than it would to arrange the same thing through the locals. But doing it on your own has its own risks, the country is so laid back, its not unusual for a Taxi driver to run out of fuel because he's forgotten to fill up. I recommend always offering to pay a bit up front so the driver can sort this out beforehand.All in all, an ok place to stay in the middle of an amazing country!
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