Janjangbureh

Janjangbureh Island is situated 300km from the capital city of Gambia, Banjul. Only 20 square km in area, the island is also known by the name of MacCarthy Island, its former colonial name. It is one of Gambia's favourite bird watching spots and the only bird rich island that is easy to access. Janjangbureh Island is a wonderful retreat for those visitors wishing to escape the more typically tourist focused areas along the coast and is one of the country's most popular ecotourism destinations. Here the visitor has great opportunities to explore the River Gambia and do a bit of wildlife watching. There is an excellent selection of accommodation in the area including bush lodges and riverside camps, positioned in woodland next to the river. Organised boat and walking trips are available or alternatively visitors can be shown around the beauty spots by a personal guide. Trips and excursions to Janjangbureh typically stop off at places of interest along the way. Half day river trips are often included and a river excursion of half a day cruising upstream in a double decker pirogue is highly recommended.

Janjangbureh town was once a safe haven for runaway slaves and a place for traders to purchase and sell groundnuts and other fresh produce. Groundnuts and rice are still cultivated in moderation in the area, but producers understand the importance of maintaining a natural environment to ensure a good habitat for the large bird and mammal population. Janjangbureh Island is reached by car ferries, the crossing only taking a few minutes. The northern bound ferry which leaves Sankulay Kunda is pulled by cable. The town of Janjangbureh has some architecture dating back to the late 19th Century, including the last remaining timber clad house which is typical of the style of the 1830s and the houses built by the Aku settlers. Craft shops and workshops can be found in the town, where visitors can purchase tie- dyed and painted clothing as well as jewellery, drums and leather work.

The river is the main attraction in the town of Janjangbureh and despite the presence of a few crocodiles, it is possible to enjoy a swim. Fishing fans can enjoy catching large catfish and fierce toothed tigerfish. Balls of monkey dung are often used as fishing bait. The River Gambia is tidal and so a fishing trip is recommended. There are some well known beauty spots along the river such as Sapu, the islands of Kai Hai, the River Gambia National Park, Bansang and Kudang. Long distance river trips to Tendaba and Basse can be taken from Janjangbureh. Visitors staying in bush lodges will be able to enjoy the dawn chorus, produced by hornbills, yellow crowned gonolek and pearl spotted owls. Along the rice fields there are many African crake to be seen. Most visitors to the bush lodges enjoy the food and drink that is laid on for them, but there are some local cafes serving local food such as benechin, rice with domodah, as well as coffee and sandwiches. The majority of basic cafes are located around the wharf area where the ferries dock.

The town closest to Janjangbureh and to the east of the town is Bansang, which is popular with bird watchers. Basse is Gambia's most eastern town and the place where many visitors break their journey with an overnight stay before heading on to neighbouring Senegal. There is plenty of 'off the beaten track' exploring to be had along the river bank, where birdwatchers can spot the Egyptian Plover. Temperatures in this region are higher and far more humid than along the coast during the summer and can get cool at night in the winter so it is recommended that visitors choose accommodation where fans or extra blankets are available. Basse has a strong dyeing and weaving tradition and there are opportunities to enjoy workshops with local crafts people. There is also a pottery workshop where visitors can watch pots being produced. Night life in both Janjangbureh and Basse is definitely low key with cafes and bars catering for local people while offering a warm welcome to the few tourists who venture this far inland.

Visitors can reach Janjangbureh Island by water along the River Gambia, enjoying a relaxed trip and taking in the mangroves and wildlife while travelling at a relaxed pace. Alternatively it is possible to reach the region via taxi or a series of bush taxis. Car hire is available at Banjul Airport and the main coastal resorts for the more independent traveller and accommodation can be pre-booked with bush lodges and ecotourism riverside camps.


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