The Gambia Map
The early history of the Gambia is shared with other parts of West Africa, as a part of the Mali Empire from around 1230, which was a stable and wealthy state, and was involved in trade across the Sahara. The Songhai Empire rose to power in the 16th century until trade with Portugal and Morocco turned to raids and soon the Portuguese took control of the empire. During Portuguese rule, the English established trade relations with the Gambia. The region became a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth colony in 1651, serving as a base for trade, but the British won control of the region.
The Gambia and surrounding regions were a major part of the transatlantic slave trade, but when Britain abolished slavery in 1807, the Gambia resisted, resulting in a British military presence to stop the practice. The Gambia was established as a British Crown Colony in 1889, and finally ended slavery in 1906. After fighting with Britain in World War II and serving as a military base, the Gambia became an independent Commonwealth country in 1965. The Gambia was first ruled by a king, but in 1970 it became a republic led by a prime minister. After several years, the Gambia faced some instability, with a coup in 1981. Senegal’s military assisted in suppressing the violence and subduing the rebellion, and the Gambia entered into the Senegambia Confederation with Senegal, though they ended the union in 1989. The Gambia faced another coup in 1994, but has since gained stability. In 2013, the Gambia exited the Commonwealth.
The Gambia is surrounded on three sides by Senegal, with coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.
- Banjul (capital)
The smallest country on Africa’s mainland, the Gambia’s territory follows the Gambia River on both sides of its banks. The Gambia River flows west across the country, pouring out into the Atlantic Ocean at Banjul. The Gambia is a narrow country, just 48 kilometers (30 miles) wide at its largest, and is fully surrounded by Senegal except for its coastline along the ocean. Most of the Gambia’s terrain consists of grasslands and flood plains, as well as mangroves near the coast. Up river, the country enters the West Sudanian savanna. The country is mostly flat, with some low hills, and its highest point just 53 meters (174 feet) above sea level at Red Rock. The Gambia has a hot subtropical climate.
Points of Interest
The coastal region of the Gambia is the most frequently visited part, with the capital, Banjul, and its other large cities, including Serekunda, Bakau, and Brikama. The beaches of the Gambia are one of its best attractions, along with other scenic destinations. One of the Gambia’s most popular beaches is the beautiful Sanyang Beach, while the capital features great beaches. The wildlife in the Gambia can be observed at the Abuko Nature Reserve outside of Banjul, home to monkeys and crocodiles, or for more crocodile viewing, the Kachikally Crocodile Pool offers opportunities for petting them. Another site for outdoor adventures is Gambia River National Park, where visitors can take tours and view baboons and chimpanzees while floating down the nation’s main river.
The cities of the Gambia are mostly along the coast, and are home to vibrant markets with local crafts and food, nightlife and accommodation.
The Gambia’s main airport is Banjul International Airport in the capital, which offers service from many African cities and some in Europe, primarily in Spain and Britain. Driving into the Gambia by car or taking a bus are good options, but roads can be rough and mostly unpaved, so 4WD vehicles are preferred. There are plenty of taxis in the Gambia, including yellow taxis and green taxis – the latter are mainly for tourists, while yellow taxis are used primarily by locals. Taxi is one of the most common ways to get around.
Boat is a unique way of exploring the Gambia, as the Gambia river is navigable along its length through the country, but it is not a fast way to get around and can be dangerous. Around the cities, bikes are a great way to get from place to place, and these can be rented at many locations.