Mansea Beach Hotel

The Republic of Gambia, West Africa, is an increasingly popular holiday destination for tourists from the UK. The weather is perfect for holidaying almost year-round, with just a few weeks in August and September being somewhat stifling. There are miles of undeveloped white or golden sandy beaches, lots to do and fantastically friendly locals. Gambia even operates on GMT, so jet-lag won't spoil your holiday.

The Banjul International Airport is just a 5 and a half hour direct flight from Gatwick. The Mansea Beach Hotel in Kololi is only a half an hour taxi ride from the airport and has a lot to offer. Tourism is constantly increasing in Gambia and the Mansea Beach Hotel can already boast many returning visitors. With 126 rooms, each with individual air conditioning, shower facilities and views over beautiful tropical gardens or the Atlantic Ocean, this resort hotel provides an excellent base for exploring Kololi and the surrounding area. The hotel also has luxury suites available. The Mansea Beach Hotel is a child-friendly place, with games and play areas and staff trained in child-care. The hotel restaurant is open throughout the day, beginning with a buffet-style breakfast, through to sumptuous barbecue evenings featuring live entertainment in the form of original Gambian music, drumming and dancing.

If you fancy going further afield to eat out, the Senegambia Strip where you can find a variety of restaurants and bars close to the resort. For real, local cuisine, go to the nearest village and be prepared to sit back and listen to some reggae, or chat with the friendly locals, while you wait for your meal to be prepared fresh to order. Fresh prawns and oven-baked fish are a Gambian speciality in restaurants, but a wide variety of food is available.

Kololi and the surrounding area has a vibrant, hectic nightlife. The Senegambia Strip, named after the first major tourist hotel in Kololi, is home to many nightclubs and bars, featuring an eclectic mix of African, European and South American influences. You can jump in a taxi to venture further afield and try a different nightclub each night. The clubs tend to get going around midnight and be sure to pack your party gear!

Kololi also offers the considerably quieter activity of bird watching. Gambia is known around the world as a bird-watcher's paradise, with over 560 species of dazzlingly plumed birds. The poolside tropical garden of the Mansea Beach Hotel boasts feathered visitors year round and specialist tour operators offer guided informational group tours. Or you can seek out a local professional ornithologist to take you to the preferred locations of certain species.

The Bijilo Forest Park is a small rainforest nature reserve next to the Senegambia Strip and home to more than 130 species of birds and 4 species of primate; the patas monkey, green vervet monkeys, red colobus monkeys and the nocturnal galagos monkeys, or 'bushbabies'. Wander through the meandering paths of this luscious paradise, surrounded by the beautiful wild flowers and exotic trees that make up this 126 acre nature park.

Another feature of the local area around the Mansea Beach Hotel is the Kololi Village Art Gallery, displaying the work of local artists. The gallery is open from 9:30am until 9pm and features sculptures, paintings, photography and crafts, some of which are for sale. Haggling is expected in the Gambia and you can expect to pay around 60-70% of the advertised price. The exceptions to this are restaurants, bars, supermarkets and hotels, which have fixed prices. The prices of taxi fares are some way between the two, with fixed prices you may be able to negotiate.

To explore the local area, you can hire a quad bike, which will allow you access to the sometimes-steep dirt roads. There is a quad bike safari offered in Kololi, supplying anything from a one-hour tour to a 2-day adventure. Cars are also available for hire and the increase in tourism has seen a rise in the number of companies offering these transport options. However, with the Mansea Beach Hotel offering a variety of sports and leisure facilities, massage and beauty treatments, an internet cafe and small shopping mall, you may find you don't need to hire anything more than an eco-friendly bicycle.

If you have a British passport, you do not need a visa to enter Gambia. Health insurance is a must and if you plan on travelling within Gambia, it's recommended you are vaccinated for hepatitis A, meningitis, polio, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever. Make sure all cooked food is served piping hot and tap water needs to be sterilised before you drink it.

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