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The Gambia

Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

18th January, 2018

Two days of increasing warmth and sunshine at sea saw us approach the small capital city of The Gambia, Banjul, in the early hours of the 18th of January. A dusty Saharan sunrise marked our berthing on the city’s only commercial pier, located very close to the city centre, and on the nearby beach hundreds of fishermen were landing their overnight catches to go to the market.

Steeped in history, this little country also has some fascinating spots to visit, and is blessed by warm dry weather most of the year round. There is a large crocodile pool (no swimming there!), the enormous Makasutu Forest situated on the meandering tributary of the river Gambia, and the bustling city itself, all within easy reach of our dock.

Tours today embarked upon everything from river cruises, city sightseeing, forest adventures, 4WD adventures and traditional shows. One trip went off to explore ‘Roots’ and the legend of Kunta Kinteh, the unfortunate chap who was sold into slavery and taken to Maryland in the USA. His incredible story has since captivated readers and TV viewers alike.

I decided to meander into town at lunch time to see what Banjul had to offer me. I headed to the market, whereupon everybody immediately seemed to be personally offering me a ‘very good price.’

Upon enquiring as to the proposed value of a small cup of peanuts, and being told that it would be 5 Euros, it was confirmed to me that a certain amount of haggling would be required to reach a realistic, very good price. They didn’t have any salt on them, so I bought some sea salt from the next stall.

Keen to continue to ‘build my own lunch’ I strolled deeper into the market and stumbled across masses of what seemed to be the favourite local vegetable, chillies. So there we had it, my starter - spicy salted peanuts.

An hour or so later, my hands full of tat and whilst haggling for some rather unnecessary wooden hippos, I elected that it was time for my main course. There could only be one thing on the menu having seen all those fishing boats arrive that morning, so I headed in the direction of the fish market to see what might be lying in wait.

Dozens of street stalls lined the market so I tucked in. My favourite was a sort of fried pancake of local fish with chillies, I couldn’t quite catch the name though but it sounded similar to ‘Um-bongo,’ which I thought was a fruity drink?

Back to the ship after feasting on fish, that evening we put on a spectacular BBQ feast on the aft deck, full of locally themed meat & fresh fish amongst plenty of other trimmings too.

After we had all stuffed ourselves rotten a local show, headed by a very lively chap called Mr Mboob, took to the open-air aft deck stage and entertained with acrobatics, dancing, drum-beating and fire-eating.

Finally, at 23:00 it was time to wave cheerio to this little African nation which had warmly welcomed us, and head north to its neighbour, Senegal.

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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