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“A lovely relaxing week's holiday in Sandele Eco-Retreat”

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Sandele Eco-Retreat
Reviewed 26 April 2014

This was our 5th hotel in 3 visits to The Gambia.
The description of Sandele as an eco retreat is completely accurate. The environment is beautiful and relaxing. The pace of life is appropriately slow.
The owners, Geri and Maurice, were welcoming, friendly and attentive. They always had time to talk and to offer suggestions about things to do. We greatly admired what they were doing there in conjunction with the local community.
Their staff were always pleasant and friendly. Nothing was too much trouble for them.They organised bird watching trips on 3 mornings, and arranged the transport for us.
We stayed in one of the lodges/suites. It was comfortable and spacious. It doesn't have the luxury of some of the touristy hotels, but it was what we wanted. We are not looking for luxury in The Gambia. The beach is beautiful, sandy, deserted, and the swimming is safe.
There is really good bird watching in the grounds and nearby. We recommend a trip out with Colin Croft at the local bird observatory.
Sandele is a place that we will return to.
Thank you Geri, Maurice and all the staff for a lovey week.

  • Stayed: March 2014, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Ann R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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26 - 32 of 110 reviews

Reviewed 24 April 2014

A very welcoming eco resort in a beautiful rural beach setting.

It's near a small village called Kartong. Sandele is part of the local community. The staff are from the village and add a huge amount to the experience with their kindness and heart.

The married couple that run Sandele have great vision and drive and are living out their dream in creating this special place. That dream involves a lot of hard work on their part and I admire their energy. It's a good story of how it all come to be, worth hearing from Geri on her tour or as a chat over lunch. It's all very informal but really quite inspiring.

I visited as part of a privately operated yoga retreat organised by a good friend. Stayed with my wife in an architecturally stunning domed-roof lodge. The waves crashing on the beach are audible in the room, coming from the sea behind the treeline. The beach stretched for miles and was quiet - we pretty much had the run of it. We were completely spoiled.

It is a slow and super relaxed pace of life for visitors. You can choose to get involved with whatever is going on at the time - the locals love to celebrate and throw a good party. Drums and reggae and dancing are the norm. Alternatively, if that's not your scene, you can sit in a hammock, reading a book and be just as happy.

It's not super slick - like an international hotel brand - but it is a unique place, and I was relaxed and very happy there. Will return - ideally on an another retreat.

Thank you all at Sandele for taking care of us so well and providing the perfect background to our retreat.

  • Stayed: April 2014
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3  Thank Travelbag_Bond
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 April 2014 via mobile

I have just come back from a yoga retreat at Sandele, and can honestly say it was one of the most special weeks away I've ever had. The reviews on here so far are fairly mixed and I can imagine they must be confusing to read - I think the people who left with a negative impression missed the heart of what Sandele is about.

The weather, the beach, the spacious rooms, relaxing hammocks, amazing yoga spaces and delicious, nutritious food are all there for you. It's true it's not a pristine, modern hotel and there isn't a waiter service to your sun lounger - but none of that matters when you experience the warmth of the local staff, the incredibly relaxed and homely atmosphere and the inspirational welcome from the owners Geri & Maurice. I could have spoken to them all day. What they're creating and the difference it's making is truly amazing, I feel privileged to have been able to experience and be part of it.

Geri's welcome to The Gambia included a part about how it's not one of Africa's flagship destinations, but it's a mosaic of small, special moments that, when you pay attention to them, come together to make an amazing whole - Sandele mirrors that for me. The thought put into the sustainable construction, the location by an incredible beach, the layout - perfectly designed to make you feel relaxed and at home, the inspirational projects taking place all around you from the education centre to the craft workshop - and the partnership with the local people and environment - I really find it hard to believe anyone could go to Sandele and not be touched by it. I would go back in a heartbeat!

  • Stayed: April 2014
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2  Thank mysteriousblond
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 April 2014

If you want to escape the stresses, strains and speed of modern life then Sandele is probably one of the best places to go. Whether you're hanging around in a hammock, frolicking on the miles of untouched beach, or finding peace in one of the yoga circles, Sandele has everything to enable you to unwind at a profound level and slow the pace down.

The ethos of Sandele is about sustainability and giving back to the local community; it isn't about trying to deliver five-star commercial hospitality and all the sterility that suggests. If you want to embrace a genuine Gambian experience and to feel part of something greater than simply being a guest at a hotel then Sandele can deliver it.

Personally, I thought the food was wonderful every night and the staff were incredibly flexible about when meals were served. There are no meal times to be missed, enabling you to tailor your days to being as active or as lazy as you liked.

The rooms are comfortable and spacious - I slept so well, lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean. Don't expect a London-standard plumbing - but showering at lunchtime or in the early evening will give you a lovely warm shower. As the water is solar heated it can be a little hot in the middle of the afternoon!

I have a great amount of respect for what Geri and Maurice are trying to achieve, and it was a privilege to be part of it for a week. My week on retreat at Sandele taught be a lot about getting back to basics - the important things in life - both physically and mentally. I can't wait to go back.

Room Tip: If you want a sea view - choose a room. For extra comfort with a partner, a lodge.
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  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled with friends
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2  Thank Vee B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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
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3  Thank Shona W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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
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2  Thank Laetitiayogini
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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
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6  Thank Don D
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

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: £60 - £66 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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 
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Also Known As:
Sandele Eco-Retreat Hotel Kartong
Sandele Eco-Retreat Gambia/Kartong

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