A long weekend in The Smiling Coast of Africa

It was a last-minute decision of mine to go to The Gambia. It was a country I knew very little about in a part of the world which I had never visited. But when I saw The Gambia within a list of potential flight options I felt intrigued. What is the smallest country on the African continent, often dubbed the Smiling Coast of Africa, really like?

My excitement only grew when we came to land at Banjul airport. The country was shrouded in a dream-like mist, the great Gambia river tinted orange by the setting sun.

Brikama at night

At the airport I was met by representatives from Footsteps Eco-Lodge, the lodge I had chosen to be my home for the next 3 nights. We drove into the night, passing through lively towns which were filled with electric energy. The smell of enticing street food wafted through our slightly open windows and the sound of laughter and conversation filled our ears, just audible above the sizzle of fresh fish cooking on a barbeque.

Then we arrived at Footsteps, a pocket of quiet paradise only a short walk away from a swathe of golden sand. Being located on the edge of the Koofung Forrest Park, Footsteps is a haven for birdlife. When I wasn’t out exploring the Smiling Coast of Africa, I was sitting in the lodge’s bird hide, listening to the gorgeous song of countless species, before being gifted with a sighting. The Village weaver was a particular favourite of mine due to the wonderful colour of its plumage.

A warm welcome

One of my favourite aspects of my visit to The Gambia was the welcoming culture I was greeted with. Everyone, I encountered made me feel as though I was a friend. I felt almost at home in their presence. I had only just set foot in The Gambia and already I had discovered why it was called the Smiling Coast of Africa.

When the time came for me to go home, I felt a tug in my chest. I really didn’t feel ready to leave. I had only seen a handful of the country’s gorgeous beaches, seen the very tip of Gambian culture. As I boarded the plane back home I just knew that I would have to return soon to satisfy the intense yearning that had ignited within me.

Written by Ella McKendrick

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