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“First...but probably not the last visit.”

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Kairaba Beach Hotel
Ranked #2 of 8 Hotels in Serekunda
Reviewed 3 November 2013

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.

  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled with family
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7  Thank twadders
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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306 - 312 of 842 reviews

Reviewed 29 October 2013

Originally I had chosen the Senegambia hotel for our first stay in The Gambia, but, at the last minute switched to the Kairaba next door, what an excellent choice. Although we flew with Thomas Cook I booked the hotel independently. Booking the flight separately enabled me to choose our seats and also upgrade our luggage to 20kg - 15kg is not enough for a two week stay. I emailed the hotel to ask them how much a taxi would cost from the airport to the hotel, they replied saying that they would send a car for us. We landed at 2.10pm, passed through passport control effortlessly and as we had paid an extra £5.00 each for priority luggage ours were amongst the first forty cases out. We were met in arrivals by a driver from the hotel who escorted us to an air conditioned 4 x 4 whereupon we were given cold towels, ice cold water and cashew nuts !. We arrived at the hotel at about 3pm, way before the coaches and had a very speedy check in and shown to our room by a very friendly porter. The room was excellent, overlooking the gardens, spacious and very clean, the bathroom was a little tired but we had copious amounts of hot water and clean towels every day. As we wanted to see the 'Real Gambia' we did not want to use the tour companies. We met a Mr Ebraim (Abraham) Jallow in the hotels Havana Bar who took just myself and my husband out on two trips, we most definitely saw the 'Real Gambia' and not just things organised for the tourists, (the memory of being carried on a Gambians shoulders and wading out to a local ferry will stay with me forever), also the lovely lunch cooked by his wife and served in his garden on the one day, on the next trip we were taken to his sisters for lunch - definitely the 'Real Gambia'. If you are planning to visit one of the local schools, please do try and take pens, pencils and exercise books - they are desperate for them, although you can buy them there if you are short on space. We only booked B & B at the hotel as many of the reviews I read before we left had said how cheap it was to eat on 'the strip', they were not wrong, there are many lovely restaurants, the most we paid for a meal for two including wine was £20. The staff at the hotel are wonderful and cannot do enough for you, they are so grateful for everything, we tipped a little each day rather than a large amount at the end of our stay. Do go to the hotel Senegambia to see the vultures being fed, it is an amazing sight, also if the locals are fishing off of the beach go and help them bring the nets in, my husband thoroughly enjoyed himself. We made many friends whilst we were there, Ebraim at the juice bar - onto the beach, turn left and he is the first juice bar you come to, Alasan at the beach hut, every morning our loungers would be ready and waiting for us complete with towels. The Gambians are lovely people, they do not have much but are so happy and very proud of their country and love to show it off to you. Do not worry about being safe outside of the hotel, we had no problems at all, we felt safer here than we did in Tunisia. My one disappointment, we did not get to see the large lizard that lives in the grounds of the hotel, despite going to look for it on more than one occasion, we saw a few of the smaller ones and many, many monkeys that also come to visit - would we return - most definitely, hopefully see the large lizard next time !!!

Room Tip: Rooms in the garden area are the best.
  • Stayed: February 2013, travelled as a couple
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6  Thank diapig
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 October 2013

The Kairaba is an old hotel, with many of the benefits of a bygone era - space, wonderful friendly staff and lovely grounds. True it doesn't have the latest style bathrooms, but it does have everything that you need for a comfortable stay. It is also just close to the Kololi strip - with a variety of restaurants. When we visited, the beach outside had suffered some erosion, but it was still possible to get onto the main beach and walk for miles along firm sand, with very few other people around.

The bird life in the Gambia is brilliant, many of them come into the Kairaba grounds and there is a n excellent walk around the grounds with a very knowledgeable birder.

If you want R&R in a lovely setting with very friendly staff you won't do better than the Kairaba

Room Tip: Upstairs rooms have better views over the grounds. Corner rooms are bigger with wrap around balconi...
  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Pit53_13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 October 2013

Our fourth visit to the Kairaba hotel and we still believe it is the best hotel in the area/in Gambia. The setting, the extensive grounds, the bird life and easy access to the beach and the local "strip" set it apart from the other hotels in the area. The staff (at all levels) are absolutely charming and will do anything in their power to make visitors feel welcome. Always taking time to chat and provide help if any is required.
The building itself could do with some TLC in places but hey, this is Africa not the west end of London and any visitors do need to take that into account when managing their own expectations. The hotel is also a conference venue so it is quite possible for gatherings of the African great and good to be around or a wedding celebration to be taking place. The grounds are quite spacious enough.
The beach has suffered some erosion around the hotel area but this didn't detract from the experience and once down some wooden steps the walk along the rest of the sandy beach can go for miles - as far as you want to go really. If the beach isn't your thing the pool area is fine.
We never book half board as there are so many decent restaurants outside on the local strip or just down the road - see some of my reviews on these - and the variety of food at breakfast is fantastic.
If you have an interest in wildlife, especially birds, this is the place to visit. Whilst the summer period is the cheapest, it is the low season, it rains and many restaurants are closed. November to March is the best time to visit.

Room Tip: Don't stay in a Standard Room. The Deluxe Rooms are the minimum level of comfort to go for and t...
  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank DerrickJS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 October 2013

A great hotel to spend the last few days relaxing. We had been on a bird watching holiday, and there is nowhere better than The Gambia for birds! This hotel was a bit on the large size for us as we're used to much smaller places but it was lovely. Good restaurants and all at reasonable prices which competed well with those outside the hotel. The gardens and grounds are wonderful with a really good bird walk every Wednesday and Saturday evenings at 5.00pm for an hour.We saw 32 different species in that time. All the staff were very friendly and spoke to us every time they saw us. The rooms were lovely, ours had a balcony and was quite near to the restaurants which was great for breakfast. Nice bathrooms but beware of the shower. As I got into the bath for the shower I slipped and really hurt myself. The anti-slip may slipped!!!
There is an excellent swimming pool with a good pool bar too and plenty of places to sit whether in the sun or the shade

Room Tip: Ask for one in the nearest block to the breakfast restaurant and also one with a balcony
  • Stayed: February 2013, travelled with friends
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3  Thank valgardening
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 September 2013

I went to The Kairaba with my girlfriend for a relaxing two week holiday. The reviews here are excellent, the photos even better, so we were excited to arrive for our first Gambia Experience. What we found were amazing people, helpful staff but simply poor standards. At the age of 30 I've never had to complain at a hotel (and I've stayed in some hovels), but found myself in the office of Gerhard (the hotel manager) on two occasions and could have easily visited more.

I can't stress enough that we were not expecting Western 5 star standards. Our disappointment is down to 3 star standards being met at a push. I won't write in depth of every incident, but you can decide from the list below whether our expectations were too high. We met two other couples with similar complaints so this wasn't entirely isolated:

The Good;
1) Exceptionally friendly Gambians
2) Fantastic gardens and tireless gardeners (the busiest people there)
3) Evening restaurant very good
4) Willingness to help outstanding
5) Security superb

The Bad;
Rooms (1222, then 215):
1) Twin Deluxe room poor & bathroom falling apart; i fixed the cistern on 3 occasions as toilet wouldn't flush, sealant hanging off, wood rotting on door frame, shower that 5'2" girlfriend couldn't fit under.
2) Cleanliness shameful; bath mat was disgusting, laminated info and menus that had never been wiped clean (why laminate!?), tv remote covered in years of build up, guest magazine covered in dried food, cup stains etc., balcony seat cushions not brushed off after previous guests, filthy floor.
3) Sheets and towels stained. Clean, but all stained.
4) Sheets not changed for first 6 days. We had to ask at reception.
5) I woke to a cockroach on my pillow - final straw
6) Two more cockroaches
7) Ants in bathroom
8) 30+ spiders hatched from eggs in bathroom which I removed. When asking housekeeping to remove the remaining seven eggs I had to call them back as they only removed the spider.
9) General cleanliness again.

Room Service: Nothing short of appalling. Took an hour minimum even though the hotel was empty. The food was horrible to the point that I took a burger to Gerhard's office showed him the dead salad, a stale bun that a fork couldn't penetrate and inclusive of a fried insect of some sort. Gerhard looked disgusted himself and agreed to wipe our room tab clean.

1) Beauticians a nuisance. General tip, if someone is sleeping by the pool DO NOT kick the sun lounger to wake them and ask if they want a massage (happened twice). They come around daily and then look openly offended when you politely decline.
2) We left do not disturb sign for the cleaner on door when it was raining so we could relax in the room. Tip, when that sign is displayed DO NOT walk around to rear, peer through window (literally, leant face against window with hands cupped around face) and shout "you don't want clean?". This invasion of privacy upset my girlfriend more than anything else above.
3) Inconsistency of bills. No staff seemed to know what Full Board was inclusive of and we were sometimes charged for things, sometimes not. Repeatedly corrected bills.
4) Half of beach rusted with all parasols missing roofs (see photos)

For the management: it's off season, I get that. I don't expect evening entertainment, full availability of facilities and so on. What I do expect is clean sheets, edible food and a site that doesn't feature numerous examples of neglect whilst half of the staff stand around with little to do. Two tips 1) utilise the time of your over staffing to clear the site, remove the litter from the beach, fix your leaks etc. 2) either charge a lot less when the off season has less to offer or at least upgrade people on arrival as a gesture of goodwill when the hotel is empty (around 30 rooms taken with capacity of c.120). Off season guests have still spent a lot of money and you should be doing your utmost to ensure they don't feel like second rate guests.

I can't recommend Gambia enough. The people are some of the friendliest I've ever met and the experience was wonderful in general. However, I'd recommend staying at another hotel such as the Coco Beach Resort (just down the road) which we visited twice and found the experience (despite the off season) exemplary. A bit pricier however.

Room Tip: Don't go in the off season if you want the experience other travellers have had. The pictures sa...
  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
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21  Thank F_and_M_121116
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 September 2013

" A" class beach resort hotel fully loaded with best services, silver sand beach, very good dining, nice ambience, a clean swimming pool, green walk ways..........staying here is a plesant experience wether solo or twin or as a group..............

Room Tip: Rooms on the south side are the best
  • Stayed: October 2012, travelled solo
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5  Thank KRK64IN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Kairaba Beach Hotel

Address: 390 PMB, Serekunda, Gambia
Phone Number:
Region: Gambia > Banjul Division > Serekunda
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 8 Hotels in Serekunda
Price Range: £81 - £268 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Kairaba Beach Hotel 5*
Number of rooms: 160
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

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