Cruisin' The River Gambia

As a few people may be aware, my mother just visited so I took the opportunity to do something I have never done here in The Gambia – take a river cruise. This cruise was from Tendaba Camp to Janjanbureh Camp and took about 2 days.

Life on Board is VERY Taxing...


My mother and I took a bush taxi from Serrekunda to Kwinella where we met some Tendaba employees waiting for a vehicle to take them to the camp so we waited with them – for about an hour and a half. Though the cruise started on Thursday, we left on Wednesday so we would have the day before to spend a bit of time enjoying Tendaba Camp prior the cruise.

Day 1 - Thursday

The first day we wandered over to where the boat was moored on the Tendaba village pier at about noon and were told that we could leave immediately (even though it was supposed to leave at 2:00 pm) since we were going to be the only two passengers (they say that they can take up to 16 people on the boat we were on)!

Leaving Tendaba

We explored what little there is to see of the boat: It is a small boat with a deck below and a deck above. The above deck is covered with mattresses and you are free to make yourself comfortable wherever you wish (ie, “lounging about”). At night they put out an extra mattress and a mosquito net for you to sleep under on the deck. Below deck there is a small place to eat, as well as a small bar where you can get drinks (when no one was around we helped ourselves to what was in the coolers and just marked what we took on the paper provided). Here there is also a sink area with an attached toilet area that is simply a normal toilet that you “flush” by dumping water down it with the bucket and (river) water provided.

They gave us a meal very shortly after leaving Tendaba that was excellent – Chicken Yassa (fried chicken covered with a spicy onion sauce) with coleslaw, rice, salad and fresh fruit for dessert. We stopped briefly for one of the crew to take a small kayak ashore at the Monsa Konko/Farafenni ferry area to do some shopping.

We cruised into the evening stopping at about 8:30 just a few miles before reaching Kaur. We spent a lot of the evening just enjoying the quiet and the tremendous view of the stars.

Day 2 - Friday

We woke up with the sun and were very shortly invited down to eat where we were given “pancakes” (what they call the round deep-fried fritters here) with fresh honey as well as fresh fruit and bread.

The day started with a brief stop in Kaur where we disembarked with a crewmember that needed to go shopping in the village. He was very helpful and told us a lot about the area though I do not know if they would go to this trouble if there were more people on the cruise. He took us to the market then let us make our own way back to the boat which was moored alongside a number of barges that we had to cross to get back.

We continued along the river passing by “Bird Island” where we were lucky enough to spot a few hippos swimming in the middle of the river. We could not get very close but were able to see them wiggle their ears as they watched us very closely.

Eventually we arrived at our next stop at Kuntaur. It was here that there was a bit of difficulty as we wanted to see the stone circles (at Wassu, only a short distance away – about 2 km) but there were no donkey carts. We ended up having to pay a LARGE amount of money (something like 300 dalasis) to hire a COMPLETE bush taxi to take us there (we invited local people on board for free lifts since we were paying for it!) – if it was not so hot and we knew were the circles were we could have walked from the village. The stone circles were quite interesting and we also paid a little bit as a donation to the gentleman taking care of them and the museum.

Wassu Stone Circles near Kuntaur

We returned back to the boat were we moved just a short distance from the pier and docked for the night. We were given the option of having a swim off the side of the boat which we took advantage of after the very hot day! Note: You should probably be a good swimmer as the water is quite deep though the current is not as strong as we thought it might be.

Swimming in the River Gambia off the Side of the Boat
  * (Kuntaur is just in the distance)

Day 3 - Saturday

We began the day by immediately passing by the Baboon Islands (River Gambia National Park) where we were surprised to see on Baboon Island itself a baboon (a BIG black one) jumping up and down on a branch leaning out over the water attempting to scare us away (as if we needed an incentive!). A man in a boat purporting to be the warden of the island approached our boat and offered us a guided tour around the island in his boat but we declined believing that the baboons just want to be left in peace besides, we could see enough from our boat as we passed by.

We spent the rest of the morning relaxing as we approached Janjanbureh where we arrived just after lunch.

Arrival at Janjanbureh Camp

At the camp, we were given their best rooms and we basically did nothing for the rest of the day, enjoyed the buffet at night and the light breakfast the next morning.

Note: If you are not familiar with it, Janjanbureh Camp is much more basic than Tendaba in that it has no electricity and no pool (if that is what you are looking for).

Return - Sunday

Getting back from Janjanbureh can be a bit of an exercise and we were fortunate enough to have a colleague of mine in Janjanbureh with a work vehicle who gave us a lift back to the Kombos but I am told that if you talk to Gambia River Excursions when you book your cruise they will help you out with arranging transportation (if you wish) otherwise it is relatively easy to catch the ferry back to the south bank then catch a bush taxi to Serekunda (if that is where you are headed).


If you are looking for some time away, this is an ideal choice as you do not have a lot to do between sleeping and eating and simply looking at the shore go by. I was able to read a good part of the novel I brought with me and was more relaxed than I have been in quite some time. It is also a great way to see areas of the country you would not normally see from the roads or even many of the villages. The accommodation is fairly basic but more than adequate and the food is very good as well.

If you are looking for an organized sightseeing holiday, this is NOT the trip for you. The side trips are quite basic (but very interesting) and not “touristy” at all. It would help to also know a bit about the area which makes the trip even more interesting (you also appreciate it much more if you know how bad the roads are as you cruise in relative luxury up the river).

I would recommend this trip to anyone.

Practical Details

The trip was arranged by contacting Monika Kili-Cole (e-mail: at Gambia River Excursions (495 526 or 497 603 or The trip normally costs 2,500D/person but we got a volunteer discount and paid 2,000D/person – payable at the end of the trip to the people at Janjanbureh Camp. This price includes all meals on the boat as well as a final night in Janjanbureh Camp (as well as all food there as well). Note: Drinks are separate. The boat is big enough (we were told) for 16 people though I would think that it would be VERY crowded if they ever had that many.

It should also be pointed out that Gambia River Excursions does other river trips as well (such as Lamin to Janjanbureh) so you may wish to enquire.