My wife and I have just returned from our first Gambian holiday and have to thank Arch Tours for making it the most wonderful experience that we will never forget. We also have to thank all the reviewers on this site who helped us decide that we would book our trips with Arch Tours as opposed to Thomas Cook. We spent many months reviewing Gambia and decided that with Arch Tours office right next door to our hotel the Kombo Beach we would book our trips with them and it was absolutely the right decision.
We booked 3 trips - the Lazy Day boat trip through the creeks and mangroves, the 4 in 1 and the Senegal trip to the National Park to do a mini safari and to see the lions close up. All 3 trips were brilliantly run, our enjoyment, well being and safety were very much the priority for the drivers and guides who took us out. We were well fed, had limitless drinks and had such a laugh with these people that you hardly wanted the trips to end. The 4 in 1 is a great trip to see so much of Gambian life with Serrkunda Market, the trip in to the villages and Tanji Fish Market being real eye openers! I fully agree with other reviewers that this is far, far more than 4 in 1 and is more like 8 in 1. Having said that you are never rushed in any location which shows how well thought out this tour is. Lazy Day is what is says - just a wonderfully relaxing cruise on a small two tier boat through the creeks and if you like birds then don't put your camera down for long. This was the only trip we paid for drinks but they were cheap and the inclusive buffet lunch delicious and plentiful.
The Senegal trip was brilliant including the madness of the Banjul - Barra ferry, What an experience that was with the most bizarre range of people, belongings and cargo I've ever seen on a boat. Once in Barra the onward jeep journey to Senegal and the park took around 40 mins. Once there we set about driving through the dirt tracks in search of the animals and eventually saw them all - rhino, giraffes, zebras, some huge antelopes, buffalo and warthogs to name a few. I have read criticism that this is a glorified Longleat but let's be clear here there are no sign posts saying where the animals are - this is bush country and there is no guarantee that the animals will be near the tracks so at times we ploughed off in to the undergrowth in our jeep to look for them and that is how we found a rhino lurking under a larger tree. We stopped just some 15 yards from it which was amazing for photos. Yes I agree that the park does need some more animals in there and speaking to the rangers that is what they are planning to do but they are expensive to bring in.
We had lunch then walked down a dusty track to a clearing to wait for the lions. The sight of 2 lions appearing in the distance alongside their keepers walking towards us completely untethered was just magical. They are 2 year old "cubs" but let me tell you the male was big! The keeper got him to lie down in front of us where in turn we could kneel next to him stroke his back and get our partners to take some pics - unforgettable
Huge thanks to the Arch Tours people - Kitabou in the office for taking our bookings and explaining everything so well (nice to see him out on a tour as well) to our drivers Bob and Armstrong, to Mary our guide on Lazy Day, Ali on the 4 in 1 and Denbo for Senegal. All amazing people who made our holiday one we will treasure forever
Love to them all from Angie and Les