Lovely property in a really great location. The bungalow is on a corner so you can sit on the shady verandah (or lie in a hammock) and watch the leisurely world of Gunjur go by. The front garden is absolutely charming with gorgeous trees, shrubs and shell paths. The bungalow is shady and very spacious inside, basic but tasteful in decor with comfortable beds and good facilities to rustle up basic meals. The back garden is being developed into a more private garden which will be a welcome addition for sun worshippers.
The lodge opposite is brilliantly useful for meals, drinks, a dip in the pool and information/access to all manner of trips and activities. From here we were able to arrange trips to Gunjur fishing village (well worth a visit), early morning bird watching (again a wonderful experience). There are a great number of things to do in the area, we couldn't have fitted them all into a week so we'll definitely be going back.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to visit the Kontanna farm that was set up by the owner of the villa. It's an amazing project run by the friendliest people who were more than willing to tell us all about the farm and even gave us a juicy paw paw to take home with us - yum!
Couldn't have been happier with our time in the property and in Gunjur. The owners were really helpful and easy to communicate with - answering all our questions promptly. We will most certainly be returning.
I had never been to The Gambia before this trip, and I was unsure about what to expect. What I found was an environment, a people, and a greater understanding of life. My base for this trip was the wonderful Kontanno Villa. The Villa is classic African Bush Villa, and the amenities are good. This is a bush villa, not a villa on the South of France; but you would never want to go back to France after experiencing all that The Gambia, has to offer.
The drive to the Villa was an eye-opener for me. I was met at the airport, by my drivers, who took me into Banjul for supplies, before driving me through the Gambian countryside to the Gunjar District and the Kontanno Villa. Pulling off the main road onto the dirt track, it finally felt as if I was in Africa. We bumped along the well-worn path, with the occasional compound-dwelling brightly coloured, with children playing, dogs, and adults sitting in the shade. We passed other Bush Villas, and signs for “eco-lodges”, before finally arriving at our destination.
Kontanno Villa is located at the start of a row of villas, and close to an Eco-Lodge. The staff at the lodge are very welcoming, and the facilities at the lodge, are open to non-residents. The bar well stocked, and the restaurant offers a good choice, for the days you do not want to cater for yourself at the Villa.
The first thing you notice is the well-kept garden. When I arrived beautiful Bird of Paradise flowers were abundant. Then you enter the veranda with its hammock and a selection of chairs and tables: a place to spend many an hour just enjoying being in this beautiful location, and the conversation of those people around you. Walking into the Villa itself, the simple African design hits you: you find yourself in a large open-plan communal area with a large kitchen to the rear; the bedrooms leading off on both sides; the en-suite shower and toilet reached through the bedrooms. The bedroom on the right enjoys its own shower and toilet area: whereas the two on the left share the other shower and toilet, a simple room entered by separate door from each bedroom. The beds, like most of the permanent furniture are solid, (anything else would be eaten); but the mattress itself is comfortable, and these rooms became a great place for deep sleep, as you listen to the night-time noises from the forest around you. (There are mosquito nets; but I never used them.)
The location of Kontanno Villa is quite remote, yet the closeness of the eco-lodge does give you a place to escape into a more western world should you decide. If you want to get a real feel of life in The Gambia, or if you just want to witness the challenges of African living, then a visit to the Kontanno Farm is a must. The rent from my stay at the Villa is passed directly to a UK Charity, African Agri-Aid. Founded by the owners of the Villa, Alan and Hillary, AAA was established to bring work to the locals in the area. The Kontanno Farm is the result of this venture.
Located a fifteen to twenty minute walk away, the Farm is simply amazing. It was cleared from the forest/bush that surrounds it, and a well draws up water to irrigate the farm. The workers at the farm also installed a “community tap”, this allows the passing locals to refill water carriers, and to find a drink. When I was there the farm was rich with tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, and an array of fruits I was not familiar with. It is hard work on the farm, the plants have to be watered every day, and the earth is as hard as stone. Fertilizers and feeds are used to help to develop the crops and beautiful Gambian weather does the rest. Many of the workers on the Farm are women, and this is a goal of AAA to bring sustainable employment to the area. Indeed, when I was there the Farm Managers were telling me that in the 2018 wet season, they planned to double the planting area of the farm, by clearing the neighbouring forest. And yes, they only use manual labour, (no plant machinery), to clear the forest and to dig out the enormous trees. One thing Gambia has is labour, very little else.
When you are not at the Farm, the environment around the Villa is hard to explain. I went bird-watching one morning with a local guide, and his knowledge of the plant life, and the local birds was exceptional. On one morning I saw so many things: owls; three different types of Kingfisher; Osprey; weaver birds; the list goes on and on. A Twitcher’s paradise for sure.
And if you like your beaches big and golden then you won’t be disappointed. The beaches are enormous, and the Atlantic was as warm as any seas I have ever swum in. Yet there was only me and a few locals on the beach. They were building and beach bar for the season, and would happily go-off to buy me cold drinks from the nearest shop. It was the most beautiful of beaches, and life is slow. No cars. No roads. No music blaring from bars. No bars: just the shade offered by the beach-bars built from the flotsam and jetsam found on the beach, and palm leaves. There are boats: fishing boats going backwards and forwards form the local villages.
If you want to venture further afield, then The Gambia has much to offer, and the owners of the Villa can arrange for you to be taken to fishing villages, tourist “attractions” around the slave trade, trips to the mighty Gambia river…
If you want to sample Africa and the Smiling Coast of Africa, then book to stay at the Kontanno Villa. It offers you so much; but most of all the chance to engage with the real Gambia, and the beautiful, warm, kind, friendly, and above all happy people of The Gambia: they may not have material wealth and goods; they may have to struggle to simply survive from day to day; but they have smiles on their faces that warm your heart, and an open, honest greeting to match. Don’t book a western style hotel, book Kontanno Lodge, have a Gambian Experience, and give a little back from your visit.
Thank you Kontanno!! (and as I shook the worng hand of the locals as I left, I need to return to put right that mistake... I will and soon!)