Cape Point

Blessed with beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife and a verdant landscape, the Gambia is increasingly attracting tourists looking for off-the-beaten track breaks at prices that compare very favourably with more established tourist destinations. The small West African nation has been experiencing something of a boom in tourism over the last 20 years and today there are numerous smart beach resorts catering to travellers who want to soak up Gambia's colourful culture whilst still enjoying home comforts.

One such spot is Cape Point, a well-heeled area that combines tourist accommodation with residential homes for many of the country's monied elite - the residential area of Cape Point is home to foreign diplomats, politicians and wealthy local families, as well as being home to the UN's headquarters in the country. As such, foreign visitors planning to stay at Cape Point can rest assured that they will be making their base at one of the most secure points in the country - with security guards at every corner.

Leaving such practicalities aside for one moment, there are plenty of more romantic reasons to book a holiday at Cape Point. Just for starters, there is the magnificent location. Cape Point lies at the far northern edge of Bakau, a busy town and popular tourist destination, where the soft sand beaches meet the Atlantic Ocean to stunning effect. Cape Point lies at the very spot where the ocean meets the mouth of the magnificent River Gambia, making it ideal for arranging river safaris and nature spotting excursions as well as beach breaks.

The beaches here have been less affected by tourism than larger resorts such as nearby Kololi and Kotu and whilst local families flock here at weekends, there is plenty of elbow room during the working week. The abundant sands that now make up the beach at Cape Point have in fact had a little helping hand from mankind, with hundreds of cubic metres of sand introduced in 2006 to make up for coastal erosion that had seriously depleted the natural beach over the course of time. Today, it is a popular spot with sports enthusiasts, swimmers and sunbathers. Snorkelling is a popular pastime among holidaymakers looking to get up close and personal with some of the wierd and wonderful marine life found beneath the waves.

The Gambia is in fact an ideal destination for anyone with an interest in wildlife - there are some magnificent animals to be spotted in the wild interior of the country, whilst the River Gambia itself simply teems with exotic creatures. Ornothologists flock here each year in order to catch sight of some of the hundreds of varieties of bright and beautiful birds that are native to the area. Whilst it is possible to spot exotic birds flitting among the treetops of the resort itself, the best bet for birdwatchers is to visit the nearby Cape Creek - an animal sanctuary whose habitat of swamps, mud flats and wetlands is a major attraction for birds such as the Kingfisher, Black Kite and Marsh Harrier.

For an animal attraction with a bit more bite, holidaymakers should be sure to visit the famous Kachikally Crocodile Pool, where these magnificent amphibeans can be seen at close quarters without risk of losing a limb!If all that sounds a little tame, it is possible to see Gambian wildlife at its wildest by taking a river cruise up the River Gambia. The riverside vegetation is alive with monkeys, birds and other African wildlife and it may even be possible to spot a hippopotomus or two as you cruise along. Overland safaris are also hugely popular in the Gambia and can easily be arranged from Cape Point.

Back in the safety and comfort of Cape Point, there are plenty of drinking and dining options for visitors who have built up a hunger (not to mention a thirst) on their animal-spotting adventures. Close to the beach there are numerous simple, straw-roofed bars offering cool beer, refreshing cocktails and delicious local dishes such as grilled fish and shrimp, whilst a number of international restaurants offer more elaborate options. It is also possible to dine out on Chinese, Italian and Arabic food during a stay at Cape Point and it would be a shame to come here without sampling the delicious local cuisine. The year-round hot, steamy climate makes for some wonderfully exotic vegetables and fruits, many of which are unheard of outside the country. Freshly grilled meats and fish, rice and root vegetables, along with potent spices, make up the bulk of local dishes and the result tends to be pleasingly affordable as well as deliciously different.

Visitors arriving in the Gambia by air will doubtless touch down at the country's small capital, Banjul, whose international airport is served by regular charter flights from UK airports including Manchester, Bristol and London Gatwick. From here, hotels wll be able to arrange airport pickup - a far more comfortable alternative to local buses and river boats.

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