Karantaba Tenda

The beautiful West African country of Gambia is surrounded by neighbouring Senegal and the majority of tourist accommodation is based along the coast. The real Gambia can be found by travelling inland along the River Gambia. Karantaba Tenda is a small town which is located in the north east area. It is situated in the Gami district of the Central River Division and has a population of just under 2,000 people. The location is just 20km east of Janjangbureh which is located on the banks of the River Gambia. In 1795 the famous Scottish explorer, Mungo Parks, set out from Karantaba Tenda to search for the source of the Niger. He failed to do so and returned a few years later with a large entourage of servants, many of whom died on the expedition in Eastern Nigeria. There is a small memorial to Mungo Parks just outside Karantaba and 2km from the town's wharf, in a quiet riverside location. The memorial can be reached via a sandy path leading through wooded bush and is a 30 minute walk. Local children are happy to escort visitors to the memorial. Karantaba is only 16km north east of Bansang and 25km from Lamin Koto and is located along the banks of the River Gambia. The river banks in this area are a mass of Rhun Palms and shrubs and visitors who travel along this part of the river by boat are likely to see bands of Callithrix and Red Colobus Monkeys in the trees as well as large groups of baboons. Karantaba is included in many tourist river cruise excursions between Basse and Janjangbureh. The town of Karantaba itself consists of several hamlets, each one with a different ethnicity and there are many large Baobab trees to be found in the village. Each Wednesday, people congregate at the Karantaba Wolof hamlet close to the highway which is 2km from the wharf for the oldest regular market in the area, known as the Lumo. This is a great opportunity to sample freshly cooked food and local produce. Karantaba is 90km from the Senegal border.

Basse is the most eastern town in Gambia and has a lively centre. It is located 375km from the capital city of Banjul and Banjul Airport. Situated on the south side of Gambia it is connected to the north across the River Gambia by a car ferry and has been a trading point since before colonial days. It welcomes visitors from around West Africa and is a cosmopolitan place with many languages including English, French, Mandinka, Wolof, Serer and Arabic. Basse is a popular destination for river cruise boats arriving from Tendaba via Janjangbureh and the town is positioned along the river bank where the river is affected by tides, despite being so far upstream. It is also a good place to break a long journey to Senegal on a trip to visit the Parc National de Niokolo-Koba. There is some good off the beaten track exploring to be had around the countryside and bird watchers are likely to spot the Egyptian Plover in the area. Basse has a market, banks, post office, bush taxi garage and telecentres locate to the south of the wharf. There are several guest houses available in Basse as well as bush lodges close to the river, where river trips and excursions to Senegal can be arranged.

Many visitors come to the area for the excellent birdwatching opportunities. Tourists may see a Crocodile Bird and Basse is reputed to be the best place in the world to spot it, as well as Carmine Bee-eaters and vultures. Afra grills are a great place to sample local meat dishes which are often wrapped in paper to take away. There are a few bars selling palm wine and beer and a couple of reggae and West African music nightspots which open at the weekends.

The best way to reach Karantaba Tenda and Basse is by boat, travelling along the River Gambia from Banjul and stopping off at various bush lodges along the way. The scenery is spectacular and visitors will enjoy discovering the real Gambia as they travel away from the tourist resorts along the coast. Temperatures inland are more extreme than on the coast and can be quite cool at night depending on the time of year, so visitors need to bring warmer clothing. Car hire is available at the airport and the coastal resorts and it is possible to travel to Karantaba Tenda by mini bus or bush taxi.

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