We got back this morning from a week long stay at Safari Garden - our first visit to Africa if you don't count Morocco. We were all blitzed by the country and its people - we think we are pretty good at getting involved with local people wherever we go - but we have never felt as connected as we did here.
The hotel offers a guide service - which you pay for directly to the guide - which transformed our holiday. Modou was perfect for us and our two teenage daughters, offering wise words to us all every day and being available and amenable to any request. I can't describe how kind he was and how considerate - we met amazing people through him and were so overwhelmed by the connection we made with him that all four of us couldn't hold back tears as we headed back home in the airport taxi.
Anyway, Modou apart, the hotel's owners are truly inspirational in what they have achieved at the hotel and with the local people. They make a real effort to give time to all guests as far as we could tell and we had some fascinating chats with Geri and Maurice about the trials and successes they have had over the last eleven years in their quest to provide an honest, sustainable product for visitors and locals alike.
That said the hotel will not suit all sorts by any means. You must be prepared to remember that you are in a third world country and want to experience and learn about the way of life if you want to get the most out of this special place. So to be honest ... the showers do not always work, there are cracks in the walls, towels have seen better days, the rooms are very simple and a little tired - and if those kind of things are the only things that you judge hotels by, you may not be happy here. However if you want to be amongst amazingly friendly people who want to do all they can for you and if you want to know that the management are dedicating their lives to doing the best that they can to support local people in every way they possibly can, and that is important to you, then you are never going to want to stay anywhere else in this country - unless you go to Sandele - an eco lodge with the same management. (See separate review).
The food at Safari is very good - a good variety for a week's stay at least - with special dishes every day. We bought some fish at Bacau fish market one night and the chef cooked it simply but perfectly for us.
So we shall return to The Gambia for certain - and we will return to Safari Garden for certain - although we would definitely ensure that Geri and Maurice are still at the helm. Their vision and support to local people is what was most important to us.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Safari Garden Hotel is located just off the Main Road in Fajara, just 10 minutes walk to the beautiful beach. All of the rooms have ensuite bathrooms and private terrace, many with a view of the gardens and swimming pool. Flavours Bar & Restaurant serves food and drinks from 7.30Am until late and the friendly staff are always around to help. We are a locally run hotel that provides our guests with a genuine and friendly Gambian experience. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Safari Garden Hotel Gambia/Fajara