Activities

Different people want different things from their holiday and because of this we do not include any of these extra curricular activities in the price for accommodation and board.  We can help you to tailor your holiday to meet your needs and we can arrange activities for you at local rather than big tour operator prices.  Your experiences in The Gambia are limited only by your imagination!  Below are some of the things which are on offer.


Drumming 
Daily drum lessons can help to give you a better understanding of the drumming you experience out and about in The Gambia and be a lot of fun as well as very therapeutic. We can arrange for teachers from the various ethnic groups in The Gambia (Mandinka, Wollof, Jola tribes) who each have their own types of drum.  Most well known  is the goblet shaped djembe, which whilst played by most groups is traditionally a Mandinka drum. 

Drumming is not for everyone and if you are not into it, it can be very intrusive.  For this reason, drumming lessons are held either down on the beach or at the teacher's compound, so as not to disturb other guests at the guest house.

Perhaps the next most well known drums are the sabar and tama  of the Wollof.  If you are familiar with the music of Youssou Dour, from Senegal, you will have heard both of these drums in his m'ballach (or Mbaalox) sound.  The sabar come as a set of seven drums of different shapes, sizes and tones. The tama have three sizes and are also known in the West as 'Talking Drum'. You may also learn that West Africans have a totally different drum that they call 'Talking Drum'!

Another sort of drum, also played in sets of 2 or 3 like congas, are the bougarabou (or boukarabu) of the Jola.

Many of our guests are experienced drummers who come to The Gambia to  improve their existing drumming skills.  Other guests will not have had the opportunity to try drumming until they came to us. We offer drum tuition with local master drummers, who you may also get to see performing with their bands at local events or 'programmes' such naming ceremonies or gigs at clubs like Lama Lama or some of the nearby big hotels. 
Drum [and or dance] tuition is a great way to really appreciate this aspect of West African culture. 

Gambian girls drum too

There are usually a number of drum and dance 'programmes' you can attend (and some ceremonies you may be invited to) during your stay with us. Any lessons you take will enhance your enjoyment and understanding of what you see.

Whilst we will introduce you to local drum teachers, that we have vetted, you contract with and pay them directly.  These costs are not included in the holiday package price.  Tuition is not usually more than 150 Dalasi (approximately £3) per hour.  We do not take any commission on this.  In addition, many of the teachers can supply you with good quality drums (not the poorer quality 'tourist tat' ones from the markets). Haruna can advise you and help you to negotiate a fair price for both tuition and buying any kind of instruments.

I repeat; drumming is not for everyone and if you are not into it, it can be very intrusive.  For this reason, drumming lessons are held either down on the beach or at the teacher's compound, so as not to disturb other guests at the guest house.

Balafon, Kora
As well as drumming, we have local teachers for other West African instruments such as kora, the 21 string  bridged harp / lute and the balafon, a type of xylophone or marimba.  Balafon and kora lessons are arraged similarly to those for drumming. Bongo lessons are also available, but this is not a drum, it's a local thumb piano.

All of the teachers are happy for you to make recordings of the lessons, to help you practise later, though it is usually polite just to check with them first that this is OK.  Some groups may even ask you to record them playing at gigs and send them a CD when you get back home.

We often have local Gambian musicians call round to the Guest house either as a natural occurrence in this society or because they happen to be our friends. Impromptu jam sessions from griots or jalis playing kora or drums are not uncommon.  Some of these are 'big names' in The Gambia and travel the 'world music circuit' in Europe, the far east, America and Australia.

 

  Balafon Lesson
Lesson at tutor's place  

 

Dance
Dance lessons can also be arranged with local Gambian teachers  from the various tribes, as well as others living in Bakau from other West African countries such as Senegal and Guinea.

Spirit dance: young man in folk cotume

Music Trips and Festivals
In addition to live music events in Bakau, we often travel with guests to programmes and festivals elsewhere in The Gambia.  Brikama is about an hour away by bush taxi or tanka tanka and is the home of many famous Mandinka griot families: the Jobartehs [Diabates], Kouyates, Susso and Contes [Kontes] , who mostly specialise in  kora and balafon.  The annual, week long Kartong festival  each March is about an hour by taxi, with 'big name' artists from The Gambia and Senegal playing at the start and end weekends.  Abene holds another festival in the nearby Cassamance region of Senegal. See our Festivals page.
Nature Reserves
There are nature reserves at Abuko and Makasuto, where you can come into contact with a vast variety of birds and animals,

plants and trees.  Both of these are relatively local - about an hour's taxi ride.  Further afield are nature reserves in Senegal, as well as the island of Jinek (also known as Jinek, Coconut or Paradise island). It's on the north side of the River Gambia and famous for it's cannabis plantations!  The Gambian authorities will not go here as they believe the island has juju placed on it that will kill them.  Visiting Jinek involves a ferry ride across the mouth of the estuary (about 8 miles across) a small canoe crossing and an overnight stay on the island.  Jinek is part of a huge, preserved 'area of outstanding natural beauty'. You can walk up the beach into Senegal. The neighbouring, south western area of Senegal is one of the country's major nature reserves. 
  Scenes from Makasuto (Windows media player only): Drum and Dance, Boat, Baboon
Other Excursions

Land Rover wait at ferry terminal.



We can arrange land rover safaris, along the long southern beaches and/or inland.  There is a lot of nature and wild life in The Gambia, some people come here from the UK especially to do bird-watching.  If you are quiet, at the guest house, you will see many birds on our lawns and in the trees. A short walk away from the guest house is the Botanical Gardens; there are many bird there too.
We also arrange visits to the museum and markets in Banjul, the market in Serekunda, local schools, shamans/marabout, stone circles, farms and forests. You can also spend time with various artists and artisans.

Stone circle at Wassau.


  Tanka Tanka (bush taxi) to Westfield, Serrekunda Market
 Other Activities
There are numerous other things to do, including batik making,  boating both at sea and upriver, horse riding, cycling or just visiting the local markets or lazing on the beach. Haruna our manager is a wonderful wood carver and story teller. You can have a great time just 'staying home' with him.

We are on hand to help you get what you want. 'Our beach' is literally 10 minutes walk from your room and that is not estate agent talk! It has miles of sand bordered by mangrove and nothing else, as in the photos you can see in the gallery. From 'our beach' you can walk around the headland,  exploring the variety of the coastline. You'll come to the other side of town and the 'working beach' where most of the fishing activity takes place.

Near the pier is the 'ice house' [donated by the Japanese] where some of the day's catch is kept fresh, before being transported elsewhere. There is also a smoke house here, where people  buy smoked 'bonga' fish for a few pence. It is here that many of the children go, straight out of school, to relax. Football is very popular, there are hundreds of youth teams in the area, including ladies.