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GAMBIA AND CAPE VERDE Something Different

BY ROGER ST PIERRE “Been there, done that,” is a clarion

call that agents regularly hear from their clients. To meet such widening travelling

tastes and ambitions new destinations are popping up all the time – but too often the facilities they can offer lag far behind the marketing hype. However, Cape Verde and The Gambia

have avoided this pitfall. In both cases the tourism infrastructure has benefitted from massive recent investment and facilities, from airports and hotels to attractions, now meet very high standards. And they’re safe places to go, with low crime rates and no major health concerns. There’s a real taste of sub-Saharan

Africa in a tourist friendly environment, while the colonial influence – Portuguese in the case of the islands, British in The Gambia – has left a rich heritage. “For an exotic-style holiday that doesn’t overstretch the budget, The Gambia is hard to beat,” enthused Olympic Holidays’ Photis Lambrianides. “What’s more, it’s just a six-hour flight away.” With a population of just 1.7 million,

The Gambia is one of Africa’s smallest countries. Strung along both banks of the river from which it takes its name, it is almost entirely surrounded by the former French West African nation of Senegal, a fact that offers the opportunity for fascinating excursions and twin-centre packages, with game watching a popular option. Getting back to nature – but with modern amenities – is proving very popular. “Last year we introduced Footsteps Eco Lodge, with

accommodation in traditional thatched roundhouses, and it proved an immediate winner,” commented Cosmos Holiday’s Dave Fraser. For many, the call of pristine, safe,

sandy Atlantic beaches, where the river empties into the ocean, is hard to resist. Great beaches are also a prime selling

point for the 10 islands that make up the Cape Verde archipelago. Set off the West African coast, Cape

“For an exotic holiday that doesn't over-stretch the budget The Gambia is hard to beat”

30 March 2012 •

Verde in many ways mirrors the Canary Islands, which lie 1,000 miles to the north. The climate is similar and the culture is essentially European, with strong African undertones – but there’s one big difference. Despite massive inward investment in recent times, the blight of badly planned mass tourism development has been avoided. A strong selling point is the amazing

diversity. Each island has its own unique character and appeal – they could be thousands of miles apart rather than just over the horizon from each other, The big tourism resorts of Sal – a

barren island that is pan-flat apart from a couple of extinct volcanoes at its eastern tip – contrasts vividly with São Vicente, a mountainous place

dotted with brightly coloured colonial- style villages and with its share of swaying palms. The breathtaking interior of Santo Antão, with rice terraces clinging to precipitously steep hillsides, and the lush greenery of Boa Vista accent the amazing diversity on offer. Six of the islands have airports and internal flights are affordable for clients who like to explore. Said Paul Kenny, of The Cape Verde Experience: “Both these destinations offer flight times of just six hours while being in a compatible time zone obviates any fears of jet lag.”

Where To Book It THE GAMBIA OLYMPIC HOLIDAYS – 0800 093 3322 Seven nights at the five-star Sheraton Gambia Hotel at Brufut Heights in April costs from £729pp, based on two sharing and including return flights from Gatwick, transfers and B&B.

COSMOS HOLIDAYS – 020 8313 8000 The operator has a seven-night, twin-

THE GAMBIA  Top Selling Tips...

• Beach and bush... Combine a beachfront hotel stay with an add-on stay at an African lodge

• Cross the border... Visit neighbouring French- speaking Senegal

• Down to the river... Take a day trip on the majestic Gambia river

• Twitchers' paradise... Bird-spot the country’s 540 species of birds

• Food for thought... Enjoy a course learning to prepare local cuisine

Above: The Gambia offers a fascinating taste of sub-Saharan Africa. Facing page, Cape Verde's Boa Vista Beach and Hotel Morabeza




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