We went to Gambia for the first time in November 2013 and stayed at the Bakotu hotel, attracted by the idea of staying in a smaller scale hotel with huts next to the lake, and in fact on arrival we were given just that, quiet though under a huge Baobab tree which was alive with many birds. This is a bird paradise so if you are interested there is a bird man at the hotel or you can get a tour from the cheaper (but no less informed) guides down by the bridge. The hotel also has a family of vervet monkeys who come down to visit and will accept food.
This is Gambia so everyone wants to know you to make friends with you, sell you something, introduce you to their family and ask for charity, for instance the fruit lady we met who wanted us to sponsor her twins' education at the local school. Beware of all this although the requests may be genuine unless you can really commit and see it through, and even then perhaps the money you send could not necessarily go to your intended cause as there is a lot of confusion here in society with men fathering children and leaving the women behind to care for them, but perhaps ready to take the money you send them for their own interests. There are organised charities to help use the money you provide constructively if you want to ensure it goes towards your intended purpose.
The economy is rich in food being next to the Gambia river so no one starves here as far as I know, but the economy is weird and still unstable with the current "president" an ardent muslim who does some good things but also has some cranky views and people are struggling to make a living. This country also has a strong association with the slave trade, being arranged around the Gambia river through past capitalisations of this route for the transport of slaves out of Africa. As a result perhaps there is a strong rastafarian trend amongst the young people and quite a lot of ganja smoking and talk of freedom etc.
The Gambian people are mostly very pleasant and only trying to make a living, but you will be overwhelmed with friends and have to learn how to say no and pass people by. The hotel will become your sanctuary as no one from the road is allowed inside.
In the hotel there is supposed to be a giant tortoise, though we never saw it. However they do seem to breed tortoises in a garden to the side of the hotel.
The rooms are basic. Ours had a double bed and bathroom consisting of tiled room with shower and sink all quite basic but fine. The hotel staff were all lovely. The lights are powered by the grid but the hotel generator kicks in if there is a power cut. There is no TV or fridge.
You can also go out on a raised T-shaped jetty that gives you a view of the lake which is a lovely spot to sit at towards the end of the day.
The Captain's Table which is next to the hotel and can be accessed from it without going on to the street is probably the best place to eat here, though if you go directly opposite to the corral there is a really good Indian restaurant.
For taxis if you want to go somewhere like Kololi you must use the official taxis which are regulated by a soft police presence. There are always guys trying to get you go to in their car but you may find the car stopped and then you are redirected to one of the official taxis. The official ones cost no more and there are guys who wait all day respectfully for their turn in the queue to make some money so ignore the freeloaders and go for the guys who are trying to make a fair living and play fair.
There are no banks so take cash and change it across the road at the local official exchange or maybe get a better rate round the corner. No one seems bothered about black market money so just look for the best rate.
There are some other more luxurious hotels apart from Bakotu in Kotu where you can get wide screen TVs and night entertainment, but Bakotu is quiet and pleasant, with a small pool and pleasant staff who are all very obliging. If you want internet you can just go to one of the other hotels to get it, but my choice in Kotu having been there once would be to stay at Bakotu, and in fact I am thinking I might just do that when the winter winds in England kick in again around November time and the warmth of Gambia beckons :)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Renowned and well established, Bakotu is a small, friendly hotel ideally located in Kotu between the beach and the golf course. Facilities include a small swimming pool, sun and shade terraces, reception, laundry, shop, restaurants and bars. Individually decorated rooms, with comfy beds and either terrace or balcony are grouped around mature gardens. The monkeys, squirrels and birds are great attractions. Ideal for those looking for something a little different with good value for money. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bakotu Hotel Kotu
- Bakotu Hotel Gambia/Kotu