We live on the edge of town, in a quiet part of Bakau; a town large by Gambian standards, small compared to Europe/USA. It is safe, secure and the crime rate is very low compared to USA/Europe. Personally I feel safer walking around Bakau alone at night than in UK towns. We've had many women on their own as guests and none have ever had a problem here.
We've built on land reclaimed from a disused rubbish tip, now removed, so we have good black soil for growing our flowers and fruit trees. We can walk to anything we may want, from bank to bazaar, sea to supermarket. There are small corner shops within a minute or two from our place. They carry many of the things people may need on a day to day basis. Goods here are very cheap: cold soft drinks at 20 pence, local lager 50p a bottle, cigarettes 50p for 20. Also nearby are places to buy convenience food, African-style. Like bread and soup, bread and beans or sweets & sandwiches etc.. About 15 minutes walk away there is a supermarket, post office and craft shops. Nearby bikes can be hired for about £1 an hour or £8 daily. There are internet cafes and fax / phone centres around. You can get your photos developed in town.
There are clubs and bars within walking distance; they often host some interesting events like Jaliba Kouyate! The national stadium is also walking distance. Here you may see big sporting, cultural or musical events.You may see Baba Maal, Cheik Lo, Ismael Lo, Musa N'Gom or Yousou N'Dour, if you're lucky.
The women's vegetable garden cooperative is close by, as are the botanical gardens. We have a very safe beach near us. You'll enjoy your holiday in Gambia. There's much more to it than the beach, but the beach is good, even if the quality of this video of it is not! You can see how calm the sea is even if it looks overcast and dull. Really it was a bright and sunny day; hot enough for even the locals to go swimming!
WHY WE ARE WHERE WE ARE;
When considering Africa for a holiday, many people have this fantasy in their heads about what Africa is like. Most African people do not live in a jungle, in mud huts with grass roofs!
They live much as we do, in a town that has lots of useful amenities, like running water and electricity, even if there are periodic power cuts. We do know people who have places out in the bush and we can arrange for people to visit the few, that we could recommend, for the 'bush experience'.
Also we have plans to develope a place across the river in partnership with some local Mandinka* people. We may keep this as a very 'country' place, mud brick walls and grass roof and all. Then we can offer people the choice of Bakau town or the bush.
Bakau is great, it has everything most holiday makers want. Bars, places of entertainment, supermarket, practical places e.g.chemists, doctors, dentists, and many things to see and do all within walking distance. Nor is Bakau a big impersonal city. It is a vibrant yet friendly small town. Yet our place with it's small garden and quiet location can seem like the bush, when everyone is out. We are here, in Bakau, because everything any one may want is available here, including being able to walk out of town into the bush!
There are places to stay, run by Africans, in the bush. I have experienced some of them and heard about others from European visitors. I understand that many people coming to Africa want to do it the 'African way' and not be out and out tourists. 'Real Africa' tries to provide for just that really. However, we realise that Europeans and Americans are not Africans and there are cultural and attitudinal differences. We try to accommodate those differences, value them, giving everyone from everywhere the best possible experience of this exchange of cultures. Viva la difference!
The local approach to hygene, business dealings, delivering on promises, promtness and sanitation, for examples, can be very different to what non-Africans are used to. It may seem very attractive to think of living in mud huts, in the bush, while learning drum and dance. However, there can be a not readily apparent downside to that. Are anti mosquito precautions adequate; is there decent sanitation? What is there to do when not drumming and dancing out in the bush?
More importantly, what impact are you having on the local population and ecology by being part of a group of foreigners in an African village? Do all in the group sufficiently understand and accept the local culture, so as not to disturb it with foreign ideas and ways?
Real Africa tries to be a bridge between these cultures. With the help of two special Africans [Modou and Haruna], the trips are organised by an Englishman [Paul], who has lived in The Gambia, off and on since 1994. He has organised things from a twin perspective, valuing both European and African cultures. We try to create common ground for the meeting of people from different traditions, so there are no clashes, only friendly exchanges.
We try to provide the minimal basics that any European / American would expect, without compromising the reality of this experience of Africa, as lived by Africans.
* For more info about the Mandinka people you could visit this website. The site has a Christian evangelical bent, but good information, if you can forgive them their proselytising.
If any one thinks I may have made any racist comments here, please be assured of my intention only to celebrate any natural differences, not in race, but in culture and methodology.