Yoga every day in Gambia with Sue

Yoga retreats at Footsteps eco-lodge Gambia | Sue Marshall teaching Vinyasa Flow yoga

“My name is Sue Marshall and I will be teaching yoga each day at Footsteps in this coming season!

 

I first started visiting Gambia three years ago with my partner Keith Wagstaff and we fell in love with this wonderful little West African country so much that we are now building a small house here next to Footsteps. My partner Keith has started a lighting project which helps enable school children do their homework at night called Sunny Night Light which Footsteps is also supporting.

 

I am delighted to have the opportunity to practise Yoga at Footsteps. I have been teaching yoga for over sixteen years in the UK and enjoyed leading several classes last year whilst we were staying at Footsteps.

 

Vinyasa or Pilates ?

I will cater for all levels of expertise so if it’s something you have been wanting to try but never managed it, here is the perfect place to start, amidst the beautiful grounds of Footsteps in their new purpose built yoga shala and also the possibility of sunset sessions on the lovely deserted beach which stretches for miles. If you have been doing yoga for some time and are familiar with the postures, I will be teaching a vinyasa style flow class suitable for all levels of experience.

 

Pilates will also be available for those familiar with this type of bodywork or have a go at both!

 

Any Questions ?

Come and treat your body to some winter sun and enjoy stretching your body in the heat in a very beautiful and peaceful setting.

 

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below and I will happily answer them for you 🙂 You can also email us at yoga@footstepsgambia.com.

 

Help body and  mind through the winter!

Treat yourself to yoga and experience the wonders of Gambia, it will help you through the winter and with the Gambian sun and yoga your body will feel great too! I hope to see you soon!”

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]

Photo Contest: 6 of the Best 2016

Gambia photography | photographers portrait

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Our guests are really good at taking photographs. To this end we have developed a fun competition for our guests. Our 6 of the Best Photo Contest has the added benefit of helping our village community in Gunjur.

 

Outline of the photo contest

The idea is for each competition entrant to put forward the 6 best photos from their holiday. You can see the 2015 ‘6 of the Best’ here.

That is not all though. We are a curious bunch 😉 We want to know the story behind the pictures as well! That is why we ask for a brief personal bio, explaining:

  • who the photographer is,
  • how he or she came to be in The Gambia and at Footsteps and
  • how he or she experienced it.

A short description of each of the photographs is also needed. We would like to receive a total of at least 300 words.

If there is one specific photo the entrant wants to be considered for the competition, we would like to know why that one is considered the best 😉

 

What can you win?

In September of this year we will hold an online voting competition. That will reveal which photograph has been voted overall winner of the final 6. The lucky photographer will win the grand prize of a one week holiday at Footsteps in March 2017.

 

Using our 6 of the best photos we will also commission a collection set of 6 postcards which we give to all visitors at our lodge. All we ask in return is considering a donation, which is then used to help our ongoing  projects in the village.

These are the 2015 ‘6 of the Best’ currently available as postcards:[/vc_column_text][ess_grid alias=”6otb 2015 blog”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]All photographers will be fully credited for their photos and consent to Footsteps using them in social media and on our website.

 

How to enter the photo contest

In order to the photo contest enter you will need:

  • 6 full size photos
  • a short bio of you
  • a brief description of each picture
  • which is your favourite (this will be the photo you wish to be considered for the competition)

Send all this to David. Please do so before the 31st of August 2016, because that’s when we stop taking entries. Shortly after that the voting will begin. You can also contact us if you have any additional questions![/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?