The African nation of the Gambia is surrounded by Senegal except on its western side, where the Atlantic Ocean lies. This often overlooked country is nicknamed the “Smiling Coast of Africa” because the Gambia River that passes through it looks like a smile. Or maybe the moniker is because when tourists visit this coastal nation, they’ll have endless smiles.

The tourism infrastructure of the Gambia is still lacking in some areas, but those curious enough to explore its attractions are afforded unique experiences. It has 50 miles of Atlantic coastline and charming riverine spots that will satisfy beachcombers and nature lovers. The Gambian hospitality will not disappoint.

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10 Explore The Capital

The Gambia is tourist-friendly, and add that it’s an English-speaking nation, so travelers won’t have a hard time exploring its gems. They should start in the capital Banjul as a way to feel the Gambian hospitality. For a truly local vibe, tourists should head to Albert Market, where they might score unique products or make new friends. For Instagram moments, tourists should check out Old Town, Arch 22, and July 22 Square. The National Museum, meanwhile, awaits history buffs. The best Gambian introduction starts in Banjul.

9 Visit A Crocodile Pool

Kachikally Crocodile Pool is a top attraction in the Gambia as it lets guests not just observe but touch the roaming reptiles. Residents associate the often misunderstood animal with fertility, so the place is considered sacred. The park has a nature trail and a small museum. Along the trail, guests can watch busy Nile crocodiles, while the museum is home to cultural artifacts, costumes, amulets, and drums. Kachikally Crocodile Pool is one humble destination where being with reptiles means having an inspiring time.

8 Be Inspired By Stone Circles

On the island of Janjanbureh, tourists should not miss checking out the Wassu Stone Circles. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has 11 megalithic circles that are believed to be burial places of ancient monarchs. These ancient stones stood the test of time and now serve as a grand reminder of a once thriving past. The landscape makes for a perfect place to pause from the hustle and bustle of the city and appreciate the simple things in life.

7 Conquer The Trails Of Makasutu Culture Forest

For a total package of the Gambia experience, families and friends must head to Makasutu Culture Forest. This 1,000-acre destination is a place where relaxation is business. Located by the river Mandina Bolong, this ecotourism site is teeming with palm groves that fit perfectly with the pristine views of mangroves, wetlands, and savannahs. Thanks to its lush ecosystem, monitor lizards, baboons, and birds consider the woodlands their home. From guided walks to boat tours, a stay in Makasutu Culture Forest is enriching and enlivening.

6 Enjoy A Beach Day

A trip to the Gambia is incomplete without having a fun day under the sun. Once in this African nation, tourists will be called by the Atlantic breeze, tempting them to enjoy the sun and the sand. One of the popular beach destinations is Cape Point, with its wide golden sand perfect for sunbathers and even football. Tourists who want to see fishers in action should place their mats on the shores of Bakau, while kids will love creating sand castles on Kotu Beach. Wherever tourists plan to sun-worship, the Gambia is the place to be.

Related: Top 10 Most Flawless Beaches To Visit In Africa

5 Water Adventures

Since the Gambia is big on beaches, tourists can expect thrilling watersports in its Atlantic waters. Jet-Skiing can be enjoyed in many resorts, so beach-goers who want to clash with the waves should not miss this ride. Those who want to be with the breeze must try windsurfing, the perfect way to appreciate the seascape. However, those who want to simply enjoy the calming shore can opt for a refreshing swimming session. The Gambia means business when it comes to water fun.

4 Cast A Line

Anglers are in for a treat because the Gambia’s waterways can be their perfect playgrounds. Those who want a casual fishing day can try beach-casting, while those who want to test their angling skills should join a deep sea charter that will take them to where the Atlantic beasts reside. The Gambia River and its tributaries are also good fishing spots. For an all-around experience, tourists should try creek fishing, which they will enjoy alongside sightseeing, sunbathing, and birdwatching. The Gambian waters are fine, more so the fish.

3 Birdwatching

Birdwatchers should get excited exploring the various habitats of the Gambia, where feathered friends await to be photographed, recorded, and appreciated. The coast, wetlands, forest, mangroves, savannahs, and bush are home to more than 500 species, an enticing prospect for birders. With an expert guide, tourists will be taken to reserves, farms, and lesser-known areas where birds abound. From waders, birds of prey, and migratory ones, the Gambia is an ideal place to be patient and enjoy Mother Nature’s winged wonders.

2 Abuko Nature Reserve

Another popular Gambian attraction is Abuko Nature Reserve, the country’s first reserve. It might be small, but its lush forest is big on wonders. Its savannah is home to many trees, where over 290 bird species are headquartered. Wildlife watchers will enjoy spotting red colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, bush babies, and patas monkeys, among other mammals. The reserve has nature trails that will lead tourists to lush ecosystems, all scenic, inspiring, and welcoming. The Gambia is where the wild things are.

1 Wide Open Walls

Creative souls should drop by Kubuneh, where they will be awe-inspired by the original Wide Open Walls. Located near the Makasutu Culture Forest, this street art is an effort by international artists to inspire communities and tourists. There are now numerous murals in many parts of the country, even in remote villages. When tourists see these unique artworks, they should pause, take a photo, and relax, knowing that life is good – in the Gambia and beyond. The best things in life are really free.