Monday, November 17, 2014
Gambia day 3: Petting crocodiles and monkeys
My third day in The Gambia started with a walk through Monkey Park. Normally, this is the place to see green velvet monkeys and red colubus monkeys. In the morning, however, all the monkeys were OUTSIDE of the forest, more precisely in the gardens of the Kokoli Beach Club Hotel where they hoped to snatch some breakfast.
Luckily, Monkey Park is renowned for it accommodation to 153 bird species and 180 types of butterflies.
The forest is also home to pythons, adders, mambas, and cobras, but they are afraid of people and rarely come out, certainly at this time of year when they are hibernating.
Kachikally Crocodile Pool
Our next stop was the Kachikally Crocodile Pool in Bakau where you can walk amongst the crocodiles and even pet them if you like.
When I tell someone that I cuddled a crocodile in The Gambia, no one believes me. But making friends with crocodiles is fairly easy at the Kachikally Crocodile Pool. In fact, the crocodiles are friendly and approachable because their hunger is being stilled with lots of fish (the official argument, though, is that the crocodiles are docile because they live in sacred water). Whatever the reason, they really are tame, and I could even rub my hand over the animal’s flabby belly.
Even locals go to Kachikally, though not with the same objective as tourists. The pool in which the crocodiles bathe is a shrine and soaking yourself in the water is said to offer protection and improve good fortune. Many women go here for fertility reasons and then name their children Kachikally out of gratitude.
Royal Albert Market
We then had a stroll at the famous Albert Market in Banjul. Locals sell fish, vegetables, fruit, and clothes here, but not in the most hygienic of all circumstances. The uncooled fish in particular attracts many flies.
As you may have learned from my blog Traveling Cats, the stallholders didn’t want to have their cats photographed. Most of them were yelling and one woman even through salads at me. I asked a few Gambian people what this was all about, but no one really knew.
Lunch at Laico Atlantic
Lunch happened at Laico Atlantic, a beachfront hotel with a penchant for the eighties. Laico Atlantic reminded me of the Spanish hotels where my grandparents and I used to stay twenty to thirty years ago.
Ministry of Health
After lunch we headed to the Ministry of Health to talk about Ebola and how it has affected the region. I already knew that there was NO ebola in The Gambia and that the government had taken several measures to keep the disease from invading the country (such as closing the airport for infected countries and medical check-ups for everyone who enters The Gambia), but I still learned quite a lot about their measures to educate the local people on Ebola prevention. It’s a pity that tourists are avoiding Africa completely right now whereas Ebola is only present in three countries.
The Coconut Residence
We then left our former resort, The Bamboo Garden Hotel, and checked into the new The Coconut Residence. The place was absolutely adorable and we were happy to have a few hours off before heading for dinner. After being welcomed with a hibiscus juice served in a coconut, I took a seat on the balcony of my bungalow to catch up on some blog-related work. I had the visit of several blue velvet monkeys and a cat.
The day ended with a visit of the chic and elegant Sheraton Hotel and dinner at their excellent outdoors buffet.
Disclaimer: I visited The Gambia as a guest of The Gambia Tourism Board, The Coconut Residence, and SN Brussels Airlines. The opinions are my own.