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Settling in

Gambia day two

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The beach at Ngala Lodge

We spent our first day in The Gambia settling into our accommodation at the beautiful Ngala Lodge, enjoying the pretty gardens, refreshing pool and the small but attractive beach.

The grounds were very nicely planted and decorated with lots of art pieces. Paths wound between the bushes leading to the restaurant, pool and down to the beach.




We wandered around for a while, with me taking photos of, and trying to identify, the birds, many of which were new to us. Everywhere we went in the grounds we were greeted with a smile. The staff here are well trained, and we got the impression they genuinely enjoy their work and meeting the visitors who stay here.

Laughing Dove

Laughing Dove

Senegal Coucal

The pool wasn’t large, but I found it more than adequate and it was well supplied with loungers, shade umbrellas, towels etc, and surrounded by pretty bougainvillea. Since our visit they have added a cliff-top infinity pool, as well as a few more rooms, but it remains very much a boutique hotel.

More bougainvillea

By the pool


After our initial explorations we spent much of the morning by the pool, so I could swim, but after a light lunch on the hotel’s restaurant terrace, we headed down to the beach.

Tempura prawns for lunch

Art work in the grounds

On the beach

The beach here is fairly small and is almost completely covered at high tide, but the hotel has thoughtfully built a substantial decking area at the foot of the cliffs that allows guests to sunbathe, or rest in the shade of a day bed, close to the sea at all times.

View of the beach from the decking

Chris relaxing on the decking
~ you can see the wooden steps that lead down here on the left

Colourful pots on the decking


At low tide a pretty cove is revealed, scattered with some rocks and a few little rock pools and surrounded by low red cliffs. We found this very pretty and photogenic, and spent some time today, and on later days too, trying to capture its charms on camera.

The red cliffs

The beach


Reflections on the beach




Rocks and shells

I also chased a Whimbrel around for a while, trying to get a good shot!




Whimbrel on the beach

If you time your walk here carefully you can apparently go round the headland to the south and on to the much larger beach at Kotu, but you will probably have to return by road or on the footpath through the golf course as the beach route is only open for a short while each day. This does mean though that for most of the time the beach is private, accessible only to guests at the lodge and only occasionally visited by hassling bumsters. The latter are a Gambian hazard which we were to encounter several times on our explorations outside the hotel, but thankfully not really on the beach, although we saw a couple today.

Bumster on the beach
~ you can also see a couple in my photo of the beach from the decking area above

The beach isn’t the best of places for swimming, as the waves can be large and unpredictable, and there’s a strong undertow. Some other guests at the hotel, who come here regularly, told us that a young lad died here a year or so back – a local who you might have thought would know the waters too well to be caught out. So I restricted myself to waist-deep splashing in the waves and used the hotel pool when I wanted to swim.

While relaxing on the decking area we could watch the fishermen from Bakau, the village to the north of the lodge, coming and going in their colourful boats, known as pirogues. The use of the French word reflects that country’s former colonialisation of the region although The Gambia itself is of course a former British colony and currently (2020) also a member of the British Commonwealth. Interestingly at the time of the visit I’m describing here it had left the Commonwealth, in October 2013, and only rejoined in February 2018.

Fishermen seen from the beach

The Butcher's Shop

In the evening we took advantage of our decision not to book half board and rather than eat in Ngala Lodge’s restaurant, excellent though it was, we went to this recommended local one in nearby Fajara. It was a bit far to walk so the hotel kindly booked us a taxi there and back. Our driver was Habib and as we had already booked him for some tours later in the week this was a good opportunity to have a chat to him about the plans and settle on the sights we most wanted to see.

The Butcher's Shop

Chris in the Butcher's Shop

This is a somewhat unusual restaurant which started life as (as the name suggests) a butcher, branched out via deli meats into serving lunches, and today is a fully fledged restaurant with a very good reputation - the chef even has his own TV series! We ate at an outside table from where we could watch all the passing activity on the street – but also unfortunately suffer a little from the traffic fumes. Despite this, we really enjoyed our evening and I’m pleased to see the restaurant is still going strong, offering a take-away only service during the current pandemic of course.

I ate the fried Brie as a starter and the Moroccan chicken for my main course, both of which were very good. I was less impressed by my dessert of grilled fruits as there was a large proportion of watermelon which didn't really suit this way of serving, in my opinion. Chris liked his duck spring rolls, simple grilled chicken and the home-made ‘Italian’ ice cream he had for dessert.

Fried Brie

Grilled chicken

Habib arrived to pick us up not long after we had finished and paid for our meal, so we were soon back at Ngala Lodge for another comfortable night in our beautiful room.

Posted by ToonSarah 07:48 Archived in Gambia Tagged people birds food flowers restaurant beach hotel garden africa gambia

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loved the pictures, it seems like a nice place to spend some time ... the bumsters however are another thing ... but I guess you find them in many places or countries wherever you go!

by Ils1976

very relaxing. Does Chris not swim? Bob will come with me to watch that I don't drown but he doesn't usually swim.

by greatgrandmaR

You're right about the bumsters Ils, but they seem to be a particular problem in The Gambia, unfortunately - to the extent that I got a bit wary of walking around as they were such a pain!

Rosalie, Chris swims occasionally, usually when we are somewhere very hot, but he's not as keen on it as I am. He prefers sports on dry land!

by ToonSarah

An interesting selection of photos - as usual!

by CliffClaven

I'm trying to imagine grilled watermelon. It doesn't seem possible. I like my watermelon naked and raw. My grandmother used to pickle the rinds which was good. She never wasted a thing. The little bay looks lovely.

by Beausoleil

Thanks Michael and Sally - my point exactly about the watermelon, it doesn't work! I don't think you can grill something so full of water

by ToonSarah

Somehow I never knew that The Gambia had left the Commonwealth in 2013 and rejoined in 2018. Is that something that happens often, countries leaving or rejoining the Commonwealth?

by Nemorino

I don't think so Don. In this case it was linked to changes of ruling party. In 2013 the then leader, Jammeh, said that, 'The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism', but after the 2016 elections Jammeh was defeated by a more moderate leader called Barrow who had been in exile in the UK (and worked in an Argos store in London!) and it was he who triggered the process of applying to rejoin. Maybe having lived here gave him a different view of Britain, based on how it is now (or was then, I should perhaps say) rather than its colonial past?

by ToonSarah

Sarah, Sounds and looks like you had a very relaxing day as your lovely photos show. So nice to be near the ocean, catch a glimpse of some local fauna and flora, and end the day with a nice dinner!

by starship VT

Hi Sylvia, and thanks for visiting. Yes, a lovely relaxing day - unlike the following one ;) I don't want to be relaxing all the time on holiday but it's great to do it now and then, especially when you know that back in the UK it is cold and miserable!

by ToonSarah

I do like the look of it here, but if there's one thing I hate, it's being hassled. On the other hand, I love to see Bougainvillea in the sunshine. Lovely set of pics again Sarah.

by Easymalc

Thank you Malcolm :) Yes, the bumsters are a pain and are the only thing that might deter me from returning to The Gambia but on balance they're worth tolerating in order to enjoy the other aspects of the country!

by ToonSarah

I couldn't find a translate to a bumster, are they one form of beach sellers or..?
Either way, it is annoying to be harassed when you are trying to relax!
The beach looks nice! :)

by hennaonthetrek

The bumsters are everywhere Henna, not just on the beach! The word seems to be used specifically in The Gambia as I'd not come across it elsewhere. More about them in my next entry :)

by ToonSarah

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