We went with a company called the "Gambian experience" and it was booked through a local agent.
We had to have yellow fever, Typhoid and hepatitis injections before going and took Malaria tablets too, (we forgot our yellow fever certificates but they are not compulsory to enter the Gambia)
The tickets came with nice luggage tags and a very informative Gambian guide book.
we flew with Monarch airlines....the seats are tight, try to upgrade for extra legroom.
the flight takes about 5-6 hours depending on the headwind and we got to the Gambia at around 11pm.
When you get your luggage, this is where the experience starts, there are porters there that are trying to put food on their tables and make a living, they will try and help you for the grand sum of £1 (50 Delasi) to get your bags to the coach, it's up to you but a firm "No thankyou" will suffice.
On the subject of money, change your currency when you get there, you get a better rate and do it out of the hotel (there are plenty of exchange booths) more on that later.
The company we booked through gave us complimentary water and a hand fan before taking us on the 25 minute transfer to the hotel. Jatta, our rep was very good and informative too.
On arriving at the hotel, again porters put all the luggage on one big trolley and wheel it away while you check in, they later bring it to your room.
The room we had was 310, this was for my wife and I and a 17year old daughter, the sofa was set up as a double bed. the rooms were large and had 2 tv's, two sinks in the bathroom with a bath and shower and each room had its own balcony or sitting area overlooking the grounds.
it also had a safe and a fridge.
The rooms were clean ad tidy, but could possible do with some TLC.
We booked B&B, ate breakfast at the hotel which was very good with plenty of choice including local dishes, We ate out most nights at local restaurants who all want your business. the cost for a meal out for the 3 of us never exceeded 1200 delasi (£24 ish)
You can eat at the hotel, by the pool or in one of the restaurants on site, but it is slightly more expensive. we ate at the pool on several occasions.
The grounds are very tidy, the pool area nice and only 50 yards from a private entrance onto the beach. The beach has been hit by erosion but it is still fairly clean and very few "Bumsters" trying to sell you something.
They are not allowed up on the seating area so just hold up their wares trying to make a living, again a firm "no thankyou" does the trick.
We did a 4X4 trip with the company (£50 each) and it was good to get out and see it for real, they took us to a school, a museum, through the real areas of Serekunda and a families compound....when you see how they live you realise why you get hassled by some of them!The trip also provided a good lunch on a beach and took us to a palm wine maker, (acquired taste) and fire water (strong stuff)
When changing money, do it at one of the exchanges out of the hotel...and count it there and then! (we were short on 2 occasions, but spotted it and they just gave us the shortage no arguments)
Don't be afraid to use the local taxis outside the hotel entrance, I do something called "geocaching" and used one to go caching, they are very friendly ( i used "happy Brother")
There are a couple of supermarkets just outside the hotel on the left, we used them to buy bottled water and cheap cigarettes and tobacco. Buy lots of water and keep it in your fridge.
At the top of the road on the right, there is a small market selling jewelery, wooden carvings and fabrics, a bit daunting as you are in their den so to speak, expect them to try and get you to buy something, be firm but nice and if you see something nice...haggle and have fun with them, it's what they do!!
Next door in the Senegambia hotel every morning at 11.30am they have loads of Vultures come down to be fed.....worth seeing.
In the Kairabas grounds you will see large lizards, lots of birds and the monkeys most mornings and afternoons. The monkeys will take food from your hands if offered, but you are not advised to do this.
Complimentary tea and cakes are served late in the afternoon 4-5ish i think outside the breakfast hall.
We went in the last week of the low season, so it was quieter, with very little in the way of entertainment, except a couple of bands in the afternoon and evening. However not all the hotels bars or restaurants were open, but then we like it quieter. High season starts in November.
We tried several restaurants up the strip,
Laromantica (top left) was good.
The Lebanese restaurant (just out the hotel along to the left) very good.
Olivias (2nd one on the right) Just opened, food was ok, but it felt like the staff did not know what to do, we had to ask for the bill 5 times!!!
Scala, run by a Danish lady, (halfway up turn right and along about 75 yards) Looks nice and it is!! Best food we had, I had the seafood pancake and the prawn curry, both were fantastic and very well priced too. Awsome, highly recommended.
We also went to the top of the road and turned left, walked 250 meters and there is another little complex of shops and eateries where we tried "Bites"...had to send the spring rolls back as they were cold inside.
Overall, a fantastic holiday, the people are soooo friendly the weather was great and the hotel is very good.
Yes their constant "please sir" "come see" can wear you down, but when you see how they live you start to understand the WHY!
We made sure we tipped the unsung people as well as the obvious ones, so made a point of tipping the gardeners and the security guards too.
Highly recommended, hotel, location and winter holiday.................enjoy.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This premier 5-star hotel in The Gambia is not one to sit on its laurels but has continued to build on its reputation over the years. Located on the idyllic, sprawling golden sandy coastline of the magnificent Atlantic Ocean. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Kairaba Beach
- Kairaba Beach Serekunda
- Kairaba Beach Hotel Gambia