Basse Santa Su

Gambia is a beautiful country situated on the West African coast and is a popular place with visitors, particularly in the winter months. Many holiday-makers visit the country because of the many varieties of birds that inhabit the mangroves, river banks and coastal areas. Even within the holiday resorts there are several nature reserves and forests worth visiting in order to spot unusual birds, reptiles and small mammals. As well as the beautiful coastline, with its stunning and often deserted beaches, there is much to explore inland. With so many fascinating excursions available, visitors have the opportunity to experience the real Gambia by visiting the riverside villages upstream along the banks of the River Gambia. Basse Santa Su, also known as Basse, is a lively town in eastern Gambia and is the final large ferry crossing point before reaching Senegal and its popular Parc National de Niokolo-Koba. It is a favourite spot for visitors to stop off on a trip to the neighbouring country. There are many trading houses remaining in the town, which were built at the turn of the century and there is a busy market and waterfront worth visiting. There are workshops and boutiques located in large warehouses where visitors can purchase calabashes, local clothing and wall hangings decorated with batik - a popular craft in the country. Many birdwatchers head straight for Basse Santa Su in order to spot the rare Egyptian Plover which is fairly common along the river banks. This honey, beige and black coloured bird is often seen along the muddy riverbank between August and February. Carmine Bee-Eaters are also regular visitors to the area. The area is renowned for being the best place in the country for spotting these magnificent birds.

The town is located 375km from the capital city of Banjul. It is the last destination stop for the majority of river cruises and has lush tree canopy that is perfect for many bird species to inhabit. Many people have moved to the town from other West African countries and so there are several languages spoken in Basse, such as Mandinka, Wolof, French, English, Arabic and Serer. There are many things to see and do in Basse Santa Su. An old warehouse has been converted into an interesting museum, book shop and restaurant and visitors can watch artisans producing their crafts. Every Thursday the streets of the town are lined with stalls for market day or 'Lumo'. Basse has a tradition of weaving and dyeing and workshops in these crafts can be arranged with local artisans. Visitors can also watch potters producing pottery such as jibidas or water cooler jars and storage pots in the compound at Mansajang.

There are many organised excursions to Basse Santa Su, which depart form Banjul on a regular basis. Travel along the River Gambia is by far the most comfortable and enjoyable way to get there and visitors can enjoy the picturesque mangroves and look out for crocodiles and primates such as the Vervet Monkey, Colobus Monkey and Bushbabies along the way. An alternative way to reach the town is via shared bush taxi and this journey takes around 8 hours. The town is located on a bend in the River Gambia, which is affected by the tides despite being so far upstream. Basse Santa Su marks the final stretch of tarmac roads. Further east the roads are dust or laterite. There are bush taxis available which travel to Bansang, Soma and Serrekenuda as well as the neighbouring village of Sotuma Sere and Alohungari, which are both traditionally pottery making places. Several guest houses can be found in the area as well as Fulladu Camp, a bush lodge located right next to the river and opposite the town. It has its own small boat to transport guests to the town free of charge and consists of 48 rooms in thatched round houses. Enthusiastic drumming and dancing groups perform most evenings and trips can be arranged to Senegal or along the river from the camp.

Eating and drinking venues focus very much on local cuisine and there are several afra grills which stay open late at night, as well as people along the main street who sell pasta in sauce and rice and fish to visitors. Car hire is available at Banjul Airport as well as via coastal resort hotels and a journey by road to Basse Santa Su takes around 7 - 9 hours. Fatoto is the most eastern village in Gambia and only an hour's drive from Basse and the journey passes some of Gambia's most remote traditional Mandinka villages.


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