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“Special Sandele” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Sandele Eco-Retreat

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Sandele Eco-Retreat
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Special Sandele”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 21 April 2014

Sandele is a wonderful place - for all sorts of reasons...peace, tranquillity and a 'real' slice of West African life being chief among them. The beach is beautiful and unspoiled, and lying in one of the hammocks is surely one of life's pleasures. Sandele's remoteness is one of its wonders - you can't help but relax. I have just returned from a week's yoga retreat and it was one of the most fantastic weeks of my life.

I read the negative reviews with interest: if you're looking for a pristine, marble front desked hotel with manicured lawns and a white linen suited man fetching you cocktails each time you click your fingers, then Sandele isn't for you - but understand it isn't supposed to be those things...

What Maurice and Geri are doing is different and special. Their commitment to the local area, and to Gambia more generally is at the heart of what they do, and it extends beyond Sandele itself. In terms of the property itself, it's probably only a quarter of what Maurice and Geri want to achieve, and I've no doubt they will get there - but get there without exploiting either the environment or the local people.

The food is fresh, local and plentiful - I don't know how much the people complaining about the portions normally eat because there was more than enough for me. The breakfasts in particular are delicious, especially the local doughnuts and the omelettes are fabulous! Tea, coffee, fresh juices and smoothies - what's not to like?!

Also, and I am a fairly squeamish person, but please believe me: the composting toilets DO NOT SMELL...again, I don't know what people have been doing, but I certainly never experienced any smells in my bathroom (& the person who said the shower made the toilet smell, how could it, they aren't connected??) Of course, where water is heated by the sun, it isn't going to be warm first thing in the morning, but it's plenty hot enough after about 11am - in fact, in the afternoon, it's almost too hot!

The staff are warm, friendly and helpful - reflected by Maurice and Geri's commitment to having at least 80% of their staff drawn from the local community - and can't do enough to help. Again, this isn't five-star, silver service, but it's not supposed to be like that. Giving local people jobs and skills is part of what Sandele is about; the staff are more than competent and their friendly personalities and desire to help more than make up for having to wait more than a minute for some juice or your dinner.

Sure, pristine isn't a word one could use to describe Sandele, and there are things that could do with a bit of sprucing up, but in many ways, that's part of its charm.

I'll return to Sandele, no doubt - and not least to see how Maurice and Geri are getting on with a brilliant project which is centred around giving something back and not simply making money. It's easy to be cynical, but even half an hour with them will make you change your mind. I'm not saying it's a panacea for all the things that are wrong with tourism in Africa (and beyond), but it's certainly a start.

If you're looking for something that would be at home in Vogue or Tatler, you won't find it at Sandele, but if you want a slice of Gambia which allows you to relax, calm down and learn a little along the way, you certainly will.

And you'll do that without taking more out of Africa than you brought in - I'm not sure many places can say the same.

Room Tip: The lodges are just gorgeous, but if you don't want to spend the extra money, then the standard...
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  • Stayed April 2014, travelled with friends
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Shona W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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104 reviews from our community

Traveller rating
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    6
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (16)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Any
English first
London, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 20 April 2014

I just spent a whole week in Sandele enjoying a yoga retreat and I must say that is one of the most amazing and uplifting experience of my life.
First, Jerry, the owner is the most inspiring and welcoming person I have ever met and she and her husband made this place a magical place with a real soul.
The staff is remarkably welcoming and professional - I just loved the rooms, clean, comfortable, spacious, ecological with the compost toilet.
The food is Amazing and the ginger beer is to die for !!!!
Away from the touristic area, you are surrounded by calm, beauty and peace....the time does not really exist here !
If you want the real Gambia experience this is the place to be !
Laetitia

Room Tip: Guest rooms are amazing but try to get a lodge if you re travelling with your other half ;-)
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  • Stayed April 2014, travelled with friends
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Laetitiayogini
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Boston, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
21 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 April 2014

I think there was a misunderstanding on my part in that I, from reading the brochure, expected far more from Sandele than there was. The suites although airy and spacious as described are also slightly the worse for wear.
The bathroom left much to be desired with a shower that had seen better days, the shower head and fittings were rusty, the light over the mirror had a dangling cable the whole room was dim. A table and chairs was reduced to just chairs when the cleaners found a corner broken on the glass top, the table was removed to outside the room where it stayed for the remainder of our stay.
The food was invariably luke-warm with little choice and small portions. We frequently found the breakfasts to be very long in coming.
The beach is superb but the beach hut and sunbeds were all in a state of collapse, even the sun shade next to our room was a perilous affair that was broken and always in danger of collapsing.
The hosts Geri and Maurice seem pleasant people but have a lot of projects on the go that seem to leave little time for the guests.

  • Stayed March 2014, travelled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
6 Thank Don D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Christchurch, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
8 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 26 March 2014

We wanted to have an early holiday which was relaxing and warm. Gambia had not initially been somewhere we had considered because we believed it was very touristy. We booked through an independent tour operator on line (Trip Africa ), they suggested Sandele because of its remoteness.

On arrival we were met by some of the staff offered a drink and then shown to our room. We stayed in one of the lodges. The room was large,clean and nicely furnished. The compost toilet was no problem with little smell if any. The shower did offer hot water morning and night, it was 'rusty' but I guess that's in part due to the humidity during the rainy season. In any event it wasn't a problem.

The plunge pool was great. The beach is idyllic with more cows than people! The sun beds are a little 'wonky' but they serve their purpose and didn't collapse. The food was good the proportions were enough not large but you can ask for larger portions if you wish. Meal times are not really set so it's nice to think you can wander to the dinning area at you leisure. Service was good we didn't have to wait to be served.

Gerry and Morris who run the echo project are great very friendly and enthusiastic about what they are doing. The staff are also friendly we didn't have any issues at all.

The bird observatory is worth a visit I am not a bird watcher but enjoyed the 1.5 days we spent there. The river trip is also worth doing this can be arranged via the lodge or with Collin who runs the Observatory. We had lunch by the river before the boat ride, the food was good and very tasty.

We did go through the local village of Kartong it was interesting and worth seeing. I am not sure about the crocodile pool I couldn't believe it was big enough and not a thing of beauty. However it is sacred and the locals pray there regularly so you do need to respect this.

It is easy and safe to walk freely around the area without getting to much hassle from locals. The area is beautiful and worth exploring.

This was a brilliant holiday enhanced by the people we met at the lodge and the lodge itself which is set in a beautiful surroundings. We would recommend this and would return.

  • Stayed March 2014, travelled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Jane C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 14 March 2014

Sandele failed us on three counts and can’t be recommended.

On arrival in Banjul, the promised taxi did not appear, and we had to make our own way to Sandele. Once we’d arrived, we were told that the Lodge we had booked and paid for was not available, and we had to stay at another resort. We were promised the difference between the cost of the other resort, and the money we had already paid Sandele. However, we have received none of our money back, and no compensation, despite repeated emails.

This is no way to treat one’s guests or run a business. Best avoided.

  • Stayed February 2014, travelled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank Lawrence W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Maurice P, Owner at Sandele Eco-Retreat, responded to this review, 22 March 2014
What Lawrence has written is quite right. There was an unfortunate day when a mix-up over the arrangements led to the taxi not appearing and to the booked accommodation not being available. Arrangements were made for Lawrence and his partner to stay at a nearby resort overnight with the promise that Sandele would pay for the first night and would provide wine with their first meal.
The following day Lawrence and his partner were visited and accommodation at Sandele was offered to them as it was then available. This offer was declined and they elected to stay where they were. It was agreed that Sandele would recompense them in full for their holiday. Unfortunately great problems were experienced in achieving this aim due to internet access and telephone transmission problems. To add to the difficulties the bank details that were given were mislaid leading to a further delay. Lawrence has been written to explaining the present situation and full repayment will be made. An offer of compensation has been made which, if accepted, would lead to Lawrence and his partner having a fully paid for holiday in the future.
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
12 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 February 2014

I stayed here for a week in February on a yoga holiday and had an amazing stay. I arrived after spending a few days in the tourist area of Kololi and immediately appreciated the relaxed atmosphere of Sandele. I was happy with everything; the delicious food, the perfect beach, the spacious room and the fantastic staff - Matta the manager is especially helpful. Geri & Maurice are doing amazing work in the area and should be commended. Sandele is a friendly place to stay; at meal-times there is one large communal table where anyone can sit if you feel like socialising, or if not you can sit at small separate tables.
I would recommend visiting the local village of Kartong and visiting the sacred crocodile pool and permaculture garden - there's loads to see and do in the area. Join in the daily yoga classes, swim in the sea, drink the juices from the beach juice-sellers and generally relax and enjoy!

  • Stayed February 2014, travelled solo
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank NLondon6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 February 2014

We were staying here for two nights 10 days ago for the Kartong Festival
The lodge is very nice and clean, we stayed there 1 night and had to remove to a room of the staff, very dark, with a balcony without chairs
Food was little and just average.
Ordered white wine was out of stock, ordered a lunch packet did,nt get it
Service unattended and slow, forgot knifes and forks got a napkin after dinner.
Sunbeds at the beach fall apart, no drinks at the beachbar.

I know this is Africa, but for 320 BP for two nights, I think you may aspect some more.
I would not recommened this Lodge

I think Geri an Maurice are nice people, but I think they are to busy with the volunteers and not with the paying guest an their business

  • Stayed February 2014, travelled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank diny_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Sandele Eco-Retreat

Property: Sandele Eco-Retreat
Address: Kartong Village, Kartong, Gambia
Region: Gambia > West Coast Division > Kartong
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 Speciality Lodging in Kartong
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £
Hotel Class:3 star — Sandele Eco-Retreat 3*
Number of rooms: 14
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Sandele is an award winning ecolodge located on a stunning deserted beach in Southern Gambia. We offer accommodation in luxury lodges, nestled in the bush a hundred metres from the beach. The Retreat is operated in conjunction with the local community of Kartong, who benefit from the development and running of the resort and who will assume complete responsibility in twenty-five years time. ... more   less 
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Sandele Eco-Retreat Hotel Kartong
Sandele Eco-Retreat Gambia/Kartong

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