In search of winter sun.
My experience in Gambia was as a tourist with no firm plans apart from relaxation and recharging my batteries (which seem to be solar-powered).
I was simply in search of some winter sun, but I found a paradise that was so far removed from the usual winter holiday destinations that it was like visiting another world.
The airport transfer is a great start to the holiday!
I’m sure that many international travellers share my dread of the painful coach transfer from the airport to the hotel. Then waiting for the last couple of missing passengers to board. And enduring an hour or two of motorway driving and finding, once again, you are the last drop-off.
Well, my experience in Gambia is a totally different experience. The transfer is the beginning of the holiday. A personal guided tour in a small mini-bus. And passing through small villages or pausing for wildlife to cross the road, before taking you directly to Footsteps.
Time for yourself
I visited in February and the contrast between the UK winter and the warmth and vibrant colours of The Gambia was quite an assault on the senses.
There were flowering shrubs and wild birds all around Footsteps and the group of circular eco-lodges was surrounded by dense forest with a rough track leading down to an empty beach.
If my description brings to mind, splendid isolation in a tropical forest, having some quiet time to lose yourself in your thoughts or to read a novel in peace, then this is exactly what you have.
However, it doesn’t only have to be like this.
David can organise friendly guided trips for small groups, to visit alternative beaches, see local events, take river trips, go bird-watching and visit historical buildings or the see capital city.
I particularly enjoyed our river trip in a wooden canoe and the beach trips – one of which included a local wrestling competition.
The Gambia is a small country. so the trips will not see you being forced out of bed in the early hours to endure hours of coach travel or an itinerary full of tourist shops.
You decide when to leave, where to go, and (within reason) when to return.
Back at Footsteps, the accommodation is simple but private, clean, and spacious. The en-suite bathrooms are a little unusual as the solar-heated showers were designed around water conservation, as were the toilets.
The food is excellent and has a distinctive Gambian twist. I particularly enjoyed the large, circular communal dining table. There are separate smaller tables if required. But everyone I holidayed with, chose to eat together and to share their adventures with the other visitors.
One of the delightful features of Footsteps is that it is an excellent holiday for families as well as couples or people travelling alone. I have remained in touch with David and many of the people that I holidayed with. And look forward to making new friends on my next visit to Gambia.
Written by Ian Wilding.