Best time to visit Gambia

The best weather is in October to December, when birding is at its best and the beaches are crowned with cloudless blue skies.
Gambia is typically tropical and has two seasons: hot, rainy and short, and hot, dry and long. Since it’s close to the equator, temperatures remain pretty steady all year round. During the day, it’s usually between 24°C and 35°C, although sea breezes in the south mean it can be a little cooler, particularly at night. The best time to visit Gambia for birding is in Oct-Dec, after the wet season but before the dusts of the harmattan blow in, making things hazy and uncomfortably dry.

Gambia Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
16
32
1
FEB
17
34
1
MAR
18
35
0
APR
18
35
0
MAY
19
34
5
JUN
23
33
71
JUL
23
32
232
AUG
23
31
380
SEP
23
31
276
OCT
22
32
88
NOV
19
33
5
DEC
16
32
1

Gambia, month by month

October to June is the dry season, and the best time to travel to Gambia, as it’s usually cooler at night, there are fewer mosquitoes around, and dirt roads upcountry are less likely to be blocked. October to April is also the high season for Western tourists, with cheap, all inclusive coastal resorts filling up. For birders, the early dry season of October, November and December is the best time to visit, as following the rainy season most wetland habitats will be at their most lush, attracting large numbers of migrant birds from Europe. The harmattan wind blows down from the Sahara in January, February, March and April, bringing dusty haze and uncomfortable dryness, as well as reduced visibility for both photography and sightseeing. Visit in May and June and you’ll escape both the rains and the high tourist season, and the coastal resorts will be much quieter. In July, August and September, heavy rains hit Gambia and access to more remote rural areas becomes almost impossible, as dirt roads are turned into muddy bogs by gushing waters. It’s also peak mosquito season so there’s a higher risk of contracting malaria, while the hot and humid nights can make sleeping very difficult.

Our top Gambia activities

Things to do in Gambia…


Wildlife is king in Gambia, especially of the feathered variety so don’t forget your binoculars. With almost 600 species, Gambia has one of the highest densities of birds in Africa. Even non-birders will be impressed by the variety – from majestic raptors taking to the skies to pelicans, herons and egrets in the mangroves to vividly coloured paradise flycatchers in the forests, your checklist will be ticked off fast. There are many ways to explore the country’s wildlife and towns and villages but a particularly exciting way to do so is by taking to the river. The Gambia River flows along the entire length of the country, and cruising downstream past tropical forest, rice paddies and mangrove swamps, spotting monkeys, hippos, crocodiles and other wildlife, as well as visiting riverside villages, could be the highlight of your trip. Gambia has a rich food culture which is not to be missed. Dishes include delicious domoda (a chilli spiked peanut butter stew), superkanja (okra stew) and the iconic benachin (roughly translated as ‘one pot’) which is a spicy tomato based rice dish made with fish, chicken or meat – a Gambian version of pilaf, paella or jambalaya, if you will. As you’d expect, you can get your hands on some pretty fine fresh fish and seafood here, too.

Things not to do in Gambia…


Tourism is slowly growing outside of Gambia’s main beach resort areas, but it’s not an easy place for independent travel thanks to poor infrastructure and limited public transport. For this reason, we recommend joining a small group or tailor made tour, or staying in a lodge that will arrange all your activities for you, rather than going under your own steam. This way you’ll enjoy the services of expert local guides, private vehicles, and if anything goes wrong, you’ll get all the help you need. Gambia is best known as a winter sun destination but don’t spend all of your time at a beach resort. Sure, you’ll get sunshine, sea, relaxation and maybe a nice pool by which to sink a few cocktails, but you’ll return home without any idea of what the country’s really like. Make sure you explore the wildlife reserves, try the local food and, of course, take time to get to know the Gambian people. Yes, Gambia is jam packed with natural beauty, but that doesn’t mean that’s all it has to offer, so don’t ignore the country’s history and culture. You could try to unravel the mysteries of Gambia’s ancient past at the Wassu Stone Circles, or learn about the country’s history, traditions and artistry at Banjul’s Gambia National Museum, the Tanji Village Museum or the Gunjur Cutural Museum.

Our top Gambia Holiday

Senegal and Gambia river cruise holiday

Senegal and Gambia river cruise holiday

Discover west Africa's wildlife & Senegal's colonial heritage

From £1939 to £2549 13 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2019: 24 Feb, 7 Apr, 19 May, 6 Oct, 3 Nov, 22 Dec
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Gambia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Gambia travel advice

Explore
David White, from our supplier Footsteps in the Gambia shares his Gambia travel tips:

Getting away from the beaten track

“Go local and explore upriver. The good news about Gambia at the moment is that a massive amount of funding is going into highlighting the beauty of the Gambia River rather than the beach areas, which sometimes have a poor reputation. With local guides it’s easy to explore the rest of the country.”
Best Beaches

Gambia's best beaches

“We have a beautiful one right on our doorstep, just 25 minutes away from Footsteps Eco Lodge, where you often don’t see anyone else on the beach at all. In general, you don’t have to go far from the tourist areas to find an empty beach. From Cape Point to Senegambia the beaches are quite busy, but once you get to Brufut, down to Tanji and on to Gunjur, all of those beaches will be pretty much empty.”
Culture

Cultural highlights

“Gunjur Village Museum is excellent; it’s a cultural and historical museum full of all kinds of artefacts and it’s made all the more interesting by the fact that it was developed by a local man, Lamin M Bojang. Otherwise, Tanji Museum is also good, as is the main museum in Banjul.”
Birdwatching Tips

Birdwatching tips

“The birding all around Footsteps is superb and we have own dedicated birding trips. Abuko Nature Reserve is one place I’d recommend and then there’s the Tanji Bird Reserve and Marakissa River Camp. The majority of the birding guides are local. I think there are 20 to 30 really excellent local guides in Gambia, although if you ask around many people will claim to be experts so make sure you get sound advice before choosing a guide.”
Local Food

Local food

“My favourite dish is domoda, which is a peanut chilli dish. It’s not very hot, it’s just a little bit spicy, and you can have it with vegetables, chicken, fish or meat. My other favourite is benechin, which is like a bit like a risotto. Yassa is a favourite with the local people in country, which is usually chicken or fish with a mustard onion sauce. The food in Gambia is generally very good, the standard is certainly a lot better than when I arrived 18 years ago.”
Safety

Safety

“Many people would be wary of getting away from the main tourist areas, but Gambia is a very safe place indeed. The people are generally kind, trustworthy, happy to get to know you and will usually do anything for you.”

Tips from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful Gambia holiday tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
“For a relaxed holiday with a short (half hour) walk to a beautiful deserted beach, with a very local village nearby and very welcoming owners, you could not beat it. Very good food, glass of wine or two, early bed and we came back feeling rejuvenated! Don’t go for ‘action’, do go for an authenticate experience of Gambia.” – Nicola Curl, in our Gambia Holiday Accommodation

“This is a fairly basic holiday – don't bother with hairdryers, electronic gadgets, etc. One major tip – DO NOT under any circumstances ignore your GP's advice with regard to anti-malaria tablets and anti-mozzy sprays etc. No matter what anyone says – take them as prescribed! Make sure you use a mosquito net over the bed at night.” – Amanda Cooper

“Don't forget repellent, binoculars and a torch light. Take with you some clothes to give away, they can be left for community projects.”
– Laura Palmucci
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: stuart Burns] [Kololi Beach: tjabeljan] [Crocodile: Roel van Deursen ] [Gambia River: Isaac Turay] [Beach: Mishimoto] [Gunjur Village Museum: Atamari] [Blue Breasted Kingfisher: Stuart Burns] [Yassa: Angeles Jurado Quintana] [Gambian women: hnijssen] [Travellers: Robson Hatsukami Morgan] [Binoculars: Forest Simon]
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