Mangos in May

Footsteps eco-lodge Gambia | Mango in May | Mango smoothy

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I love mangos! They are one of those special fruits that you crave but seldom have. Probably because when we see them in the supermarkets, they are not ripe and are a bit more than you want to spend on a piece of fruit.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner content_placement=”middle”][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Gambian Mango

The mango is known as the ‘king of fruit‘ throughout the world and in Gambia we have many varieties. The orange ones are called Tanduk and are great made into pickle, while my favourite are called Hadon and are satsuma sized, sweet and juicy. We have both at our lodge![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2690″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateright”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]

They grow in abundance and become available in May, remaining till end of August. In July and August they cover the floor with their sheer numbers and the animals can’t eat them quickly enough. We like to use them in curries and spicy dishes, as well as in our home made ice creams, smoothies and desserts.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner content_placement=”middle”][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2691″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateleft”][vc_column_text el_class=”beached” css=”.vc_custom_1468775008668{padding-top: 6px !important;padding-right: 12px !important;padding-bottom: 12px !important;padding-left: 12px !important;background-color: rgba(214,192,165,0.5) !important;*background-color: rgb(214,192,165) !important;}”]

Interesting factoid:

More fresh mangoes are eaten around the world every day than any other fruit![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Mango marvels

Mangos have many qualities. Mangos can be used to tenderise meat for example due to the enzymes contained within.

An average sized mango can contain up to 40% of your daily fibre requirement. When a mango is green and still growing there is a high  vitamin C content. As the fruit ripens and matures the amount of beta carotene (vitamin A) increases. Beware of their oily skin though. It can cause a rash similar to poison ivy and indeed is related to poison ivy and poison oak. Also the leaves are considered toxic and can kill cattle or other grazing livestock.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner content_placement=”middle”][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Mango Season

Did you know that the weather in May and June is amongst the best Gambia has to offer? With daytime temperatures of 30 degrees and nighttime a very comfortable 22 degrees it is a fabulous time of the year. Because the season is generally regarded as being over at the end of April, there are also far less tourists. This means much more to go around. Not all airlines are flying over this time of year, which we hope will change. However, airlines such as Vuelling have very good prices for their flights to Banjul. Flying out of LGW via Barcelona still has a total journey time of only 7 ½ hours.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2692″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateright”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]

Mad for Mango?

If you love Mangos like me and also love travelling to interesting cultural destinations, then have a look at our Mad4Mango season specials.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Phoenix rising

Footsteps eco-lodge Gambia | Phoenix rising from the ashes painting

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]We have had some significant events good and bad along our timeline of 15 years. One of the more memorable came in February 2007, the 24th to be exact. This was the day everything very literally went up in smoke.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

Can you smell smoke?

I can hardly believe it is nearly ten years ago since we suffered an horrendous bushfire at our lodge. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. There had been many bushfires across Gambia that year. I had just returned from Bird safari Camp up river and had seen three separate fires on my journey there.

 

I remember asking the staff if they could smell smoke. Karamo, our pool man, went up onto the roof of our main restaurant building. That was the best vantage point to see if there was anything to worry about. Karamo said he could see a very big fire several kilometres away. It should not pose any threat to us.

 

Later that evening, around our big table where all the guests gather for evening drinks and food, the topic was predictably the fire. Was there any cause for concern? Since the fire was still too far away to be a threat I did not want to worry our guests. I said “There is nothing to worry about tonight. However, if we can all be at breakfast by 8 am, we will be able to assess the situation better and decide if evacuation is something we should think about”.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

We were going to need more than luck!

During the night the fire had been fuelled by not only the strong Hamatan winds blowing from the Sahara, but also the extreme dry condition of the forest and bushland due to the poor rains that year.

 

It meant that I had to make the decision to evacuate all 22 guests immediately after breakfast. We would have to move them 17 km along the coast to The Boiboi Beach Lodge. The fire at this time was about 5 hours away. We were still hopeful it would not reach us. It might still burn itself out or a change of wind direction could cut its fuel source.

 

We finished a successful evacuation of all our guests and left them at Boiboi. They were all so supportive and wished us the best of luck. Unfortunately, as it turned out that day, we were going to need much more than just luck![/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner content_placement=”middle”][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″ offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_single_image image=”2571″ alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateright”][vc_single_image image=”2573″ alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateleft”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Facing the fire

The fire moved ever closer and by early afternoon you could hear it. When a fire is big it has a sound and presence all its own. It’s powerful. Whole trees ignite bottom to top in just seconds. The heat is overwhelming and the feeling of just how small and insignificant we are suddenly becomes very real.

 

Our staff fought the fire voraciously, as did many of the local villagers who came to help. No one left during the blaze and incredibly no one was hurt, bar a few small abrasions, scratches and minor burns. The fire took a brief 1 hour and 45 minutes to destroy everything: the huts, the pool, the restaurant and our spirits.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner content_placement=”middle”][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Dealing with the debris

By 6 pm we all sat around looking at the smoking wreckage of what was once Gambia’s newest eco lodge. How could we ever recover from a catastrophe such as this? I honestly didn’t know. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to try.

 

One thing I did know was that the staff wanted to try. In fact, they were so determined to not be defeated that the very next day they all started clearing away the debris. Not just the staff, but their families and their friends too. Several hundreds of local villagers turned out every day, with nothing in return for them but food and of course my gratitude.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/8PLO7MtKUEU” align=”center” el_class=”rotatenone”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″ offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_single_image image=”2580″ alignment=”center” el_class=”rotatenone”][vc_single_image image=”2579″ alignment=”center” el_class=”rotatenone”][vc_single_image image=”2582″ alignment=”center” el_class=”rotatenone”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner content_placement=”middle”][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″ offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_single_image image=”2583″ alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateleft”][vc_single_image image=”2584″ alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateright”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Other angels

Since that day we have not only rebuilt but have built it better. The new hut design was created by a Dutchman called Gijs De Groot. He was waiting for me at the lodge one day shortly after the fire and said “I heard of your fire on the local tv GRTS and would like to help”. I remember saying “Unless you know how to build a tension dome, there is probably nothing to help with” and he smiled broadly. He said “Yes I can do that”! I’m not a religious man, but he was an angel sent from above.

 

Some days later we had a couple arrive who were camping and travelling across West Africa. Their names were Lander and Freya. They asked if they could pitch their tent and stay for some days. I told them “If you can find a spot that isn’t still smoking, you are welcome”. They ended up staying some weeks. Long enough for Lander to help with some tiling and for Freya to paint an 8 foot tall adaptation of ‘The Phoenix Rising From The Flames’ at our reception entrance.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner content_placement=”middle”][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

10 years later

In February 2017 we mark 10 years since that fateful fire and we now see those 10 years as something to celebrate. We celebrate our strength of character, our community and most of all our spirit of love for everyone. We have received many awards since then and have continued to go from strength to strength. We still have the same wonderful staff though, a few years older and a lot wiser.

 

We’ve tried to offer something special for all and every month. We are commemorating these offers by calling them ‘Footsteps Phoenix Promo’s’. If you would like to meet our amazing team and celebrate with us this next season, then take a look:[/vc_column_text][ult_buttons btn_title=”To Footsteps Phoenix Promo’s” btn_link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Ffootstepsinthegambia.com%2Fspecial-offers-2%2F|title:Footsteps%20Special%20Offers|” btn_align=”ubtn-center” btn_size=”ubtn-large” btn_title_color=”#593800″ btn_bg_color=”#fff2dd” btn_hover=”ubtn-top-bg” btn_bg_color_hover=”#593800″ btn_title_color_hover=”#fff9ef” icon=”none” icon_size=”16″ btn_icon_pos=”ubtn-sep-icon-at-right” btn_border_style=”solid” btn_color_border=”#593800″ btn_color_border_hover=”#875500″ btn_border_size=”3″ btn_radius=”20″ btn_font_style=”font-weight:700;” btn_font_size=”desktop:18px;” btn_font_family=”font_family:Life Savers|font_call:Life+Savers|variant:700″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″ offset=”vc_hidden-xs”][vc_single_image image=”2563″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” el_class=”rotatenone”][vc_column_text]

Painting by Freya Meredith

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Recycling: Cash for trash

Recycling at Footsteps | Cash for Trash project | Plastics

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We have always been mindful of our waste produced at the lodge and what happens to it. This year we have enlisted the help of Ethical Travel Portal and Daouda Niang (a great sustainability consultant) to help us. After a rigorous and detailed examination of our current practices we found opportunities for big improvements. These will help us reach our goal of having a minimum footprint.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/zzB9FUKLpDg” align=”center” el_class=”rotatenone”][vc_column_text]By separating and washing our bottles, tins, plastics and organic waste we have created a resource. Others are prepared to pay a little bit of money for it. With this in mind we came up with an idea to get support from all staff members. The proceeds from our recycling are passed back to the staff via a cash for trash collection bin.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2288″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateright”][vc_column_text]

Bottletops are collected too.

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Kunjang at the recycling area.

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Recycling by a green team

To monitor this process we have formed a GREEN TEAM. Six members of staff, one from each section, responsible for their people. They will meet once a week and discuss what areas need attention and which are working well.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Our goal is to be able to reward our staff for helping us keep our environment cleaner. This in turn will be delivered into the village. Who knows, hopefully one day the locals of Gunjur will be receiving cash for trash too, keeping their village clean and safe for everyone!

We also hope to offer recycled goods and original art for sale very soon![/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2295″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” el_class=”rotateleft”][vc_column_text]

Charcoal in the making.

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Resulting charcoal.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]We will keep you posted on our progress![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

6 reasons to visit us (again) this season!

Gambia photography | Gambian life

2015 is the year for all things new and to quote The Pointer Sisters back in 1982 “I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it” so let me tell you all about them straight away.

In March we announced that Footsteps would be offering 25% of the company as being available for purchase as shares to upgrade the lodge and I’m delighted that several investors have joined the Footsteps family already, each bringing with them additional skills and goodies for us all to enjoy.

 

The shape of things to come this season

This is how we’re improving our services for you:

 

1st

My personal favourite is the launch of this brand new website, beautifully designed by Kristel Flikweert from Holland who was responsible for the design of our gorgeous logo for Christmas 2013. The site is fully responsive and retina ready. It incorporates an inspiring graphic feel with a great customer experience and has been designed with love, just for us! As with all new things, there might be some glitches. Let us know if you find one? Since we have some more surprises and features coming up over here, don’t forget to check the site in a while, sign up for our newsletter and/or follow us on social media.

 

2nd

We have been listening to our guests. You said that “during December, January and February our showers were too cold. Was there a way to heat the water and keep it hot 24/7 using the sun?” and also that “during November, March and April our rooms can be a little warm. Was there a way we could power air cooling fans?“ We say “there is nothing more important than the happiness and comfort of our guests“ and as a result are installing a state of the art solar hot water system and are increasing our solar array to generate more power to run floor standing air cooling fans.

 

3rd

Footsteps is aiming for a food award in 2015/16. Our food has always been locally sourced from the highest quality ingredients and prepared for you by top class chefs in our open view kitchen. This year we are investing further to ensure you receive the very best in local and european food. We are redesigning our kitchen incorporating new solar refrigeration units and a centre of kitchen cooking station. Add to this piping hot water and you will be smiling just like our very happy chefs.

 

4th

Our unique eco pool is getting a makeover! It has long been the envy of other hotels and lodges in Gambia and this year it gets even better, with the help of another of our investors Paul and Jo Heath. During October Paul and Jo will be joining me in this years biggest project when we will be building a purpose built sundeck above the pool. From there you can pick coconuts from the trees, get up close and personal with the bird life or simply soak up the sun. This makeover comes complete with hammocks and comfy seating, beautifully designed for outdoor comfort.

 

5th

New activities for a new season. Another new addition for the Footsteps family is Ben Clapham. Ben brings a wealth of experience from the responsible tourism sector along with his passion for yoga and together we bring you Footsteps Yoga. Packages will become available shortly through our website so stay tuned.

 

6th

Last but not least, it has been with sadness that we have said goodbye to Moxy1, our faithful Land Rover Defender which has served us well for the past 8 years, but it is with great joy and delight that we say hello to our gorgeous new shiny and cuddly Toyota Hiace Pick Up, complete with air conditioning, 4 WD and double cab. Her name is aptly Footsteps1.

 

 

We hope you all agree these are 6 great reasons to visit Footsteps very soon and there is even more to come! Since we don’t want to spoil all the surprises, visit this site to stay up to date via our blogposts and remember to sign up for our quarterly newsletter if don’t want to miss out on great offers this year in The Gambia.

We look forward to seeing you all soon in the smiling coast of West Africa and until then, why not explore our new website and let us know what you think in our new comment sections?

Footsteps Story

Footsteps eco-lodge | roundhouse exterior

I have been asked one question more than any other in the past 12 years and that is ‘what made you start a holiday lodge in The Gambia’, so here goes, The Footsteps Story.

 

In 1999 I was working as a Finance Consultant with BarclaysWealth. It was October and, as usual in England for that time of year, cold and wet so it was not too unusual that I was looking for warm and cheap holiday destination.

Searching the web I found The Gambia, great beaches, cold beer and hot sunshine, everything I wanted (oh, and cheap). On arriving we (my wife Amanda, her father Len, his wife Marie and myself) were taken to the Tafbel Hotel (now known as Sarges). After checking in and having a cool welcome drink we settled in very quickly into holiday mode which roughly translated means plenty of beer. We were staying for 2 weeks and the cost of the holiday was £350 B&B including transfers and flights. Bargain, or so I thought when I booked the holiday. I felt very different by the end of our stay.

 

At some point during that 2 weeks I began to question how I could fly 3,000 miles each way, get transferred to my hotel then stay there with breakfast provided for 2 weeks on £350??? It seemed too good to be true (and we all know when something seems too good to be true it usually is, right?). The staff at the hotel explained to me their wage structure and how they were paid. It turned out that basically most of them were working for £1,00 per day and honestly that was just not enough to feed the family, let alone pay for schooling, clothes and medical care if anyone was sick. This made me feel terrible. A light went on in my head and I knew straight away how I had bought my holiday in the sun so cheaply. Honestly it spoiled my vacation but I said to my family before leaving that I would do something about it.

 

As I’m sure you can imagine, each of them thought I was just talking as you do when in a foreign land but I wasn’t. After returning to England I made plans, I rang the Gambian Consulate in London, spoke with organisations that could advise about business in The Gambia and before a year had passed I had a business plan and a mission statement setting out the initiatives I intended to implement. It was around this time two important events took place. Number one: my father in law Len asked if he could join and help with the project (which he did); and two: I was given some advice from a friend who had experience working in Africa. He said to me ‘ make your business good, honest & true and you will always be ok ‘. It was exactly what I needed to hear because it summed up everything I wanted to achieve.

 

The name ‘Footsteps’ came about because I wanted people to experience the culture of The Gambia and it’s people on their journey but leave behind only their Footsteps. When making decisions regarding how the lodge would be built, how it would be powered, how it would be staffed and so on, I applied my friend’s advice and asked ‘would that be a good, honest & true thing to do?’. By doing this I started down a path that would at the completion of its build have created an eco-lodge.

 

The building was completed in 2002 and at that time I started to look for employees such as waiters, maintenance, gardeners and such, so I asked the builders I had been working side by side with if they knew suitable people to fill the vacancies. All hands shot in the air saying ‘I used to work as a waiter or cleaner or gardener’. This was easy, I knew these men and women very well and didn’t hesitate in employing them.

 

A lot of years have passed since then and I’m happy to say that most are still working with me at Footsteps. I’m still hands on at the lodge although these days the staff look after everything under the guidance of the general manager Dodou Touray. When you visit us, however, you will find me there, usually fishing at the local beach and if you would like to join me… you’re very welcome.