We just spent two weeks at the Bakotu Hotel and had a wonderful time. The hotel is relatively small compared to some of the giants down at Senegambia and all the nicer for it. The gardens are shady and attract birds, reptiles, frogs, monkeys and insects (though between us we only got 3 mosquito bites and one of those was on the plane home) and back onto the golf course which is also a good place to see birds in the mornings. There's a gate at the back of the gardens where you can reach a little walk through the mangroves and get down onto the creek bed and walk to Kotu Bridge (where you'll find the bird guides) or onto the golf course.The pool area is nice and the sunbeds now have pads to put on them so are perfectly comfortable. It's cooler on the beach though where there is more of a breeze. The rooms are nicely funished with decent bathrooms (better than I've had in Europe before) and kept very clean. We rented a fan which was nice on the occasions the room got a little stuffy and helps discourage mosquitoes. Airconditioning is available in only some of the rooms but we didn't need it in the slightest (daytime temperatures high thirties) as the evenings and mornings are pleasantly cool. All the hotel staff are very good, friendly and helpful.
The beach at Kotu is probably the nicest and cleanest in the area as it has been restored well with sand. We walked along the coast to Senegambia and the beach up there is on two levels where part of it has been banked up.The sea is fine for swimming and body boarding as there are quite a few waves.
The food at the hotel bar (Baobab) and Captain's Table is very good and not really expensive unless you're planning on drinking a lot of wine. Boss Lady's does good Gambian food at good prices too. Domino's beach bar is great and again does good African food as well as snacks. We also heard good things about the Paradise Beach bar along towards Fajara but never went.
BREAKFAST. It's fine. Calm down everybody! The tea/coffee is sometimes good and sometimes not depending on when it's been made, but the bread rolls are fresh, there's variety of fruit/cheese/ham/eggs etc to choose from and the omlettes are good. The service at breakfast is sometimes a little erratic though this is mainly due to the Basil Fawlty of Breakfast; a guy who would work himself up into a frantic panic each morning to the exasperation of the other staff :) It was never annoying though. You're on holiday, do you have a meeting to get to? Relax.
You can walk to Fajara along a path you'll find in the golf course or up some steps from the beach just past the craft market. We had a nice evening at Fransisco's bar there. We also went to Senegambia a few times in the evenings. Incidentally you'll get a better money exchange rate there. Don't change your money in the UK before you go (or perhaps just a little) but do change some once you arrive in the airport so you can tip people. Having a tipping wallet of small notes is a good idea. People away from the airport don't really want sterling in coins as they can't change it easily.
Senegambia is a lot more touristy than Kotu and especially Fajara. I get the impression some people barely leave the massive hotels there. I would recommend the food at Jojo's and Green Mamba and the mezze at Al Basha is tasty and good value.
If you are birdwatching it's worth going to the gardens of the large hotels in Senegambia, we had some good spots there. It's quite easy to get nice views of a lot of birds as they aren't very shy of people for the most part. Also you can see vulture feeding in the Senegambia Beach Hotel which is worth a look.
Abuko park is a great morning trip and we also saw a lot of birds at Brufut though this is probably a trip for keener birders. George the bird guide who is allowed in the hotel is a nice man but he gets a lot of business from people reading this site and in the hotel. Why not head down to the bridge and meet someone else just as experienced if he's busy? We used Dowda Barry (there are two Dowda Barrys and both are knowledgable) after meeting him at the creek. We also met another nice guide named Cantona. In total we saw 129 species and I am not a particularly experienced bird watcher. The walk around the creek, rice fields, sewage works etc is definitely worth doing. This costs around £10 while a half day trip costs around £30 per head. If you want to go birding at Lamin Lodge it would be better to go on a seperate early morning trip there as later in the day you wont see as much.
We did a trip to Senegal and also a day where we ticked off a lot the "must do" places: Crocodile Pool (and the museum!), Monkeys in Bandia Nature reserve, Paradise Beach, Lamin Lodge and Tanje fish market. We went with "DJ Ratty". He, like George, is allowed into the hotel to sell his services. He is pretty good, cheaper than the tour operators and Arch tours, and I think because he is experienced and does quite well out of his arrangement with the hotel he is good at what he does. You can try and negotiate your own price with him ;) We also met his friend "DJ Mo" who hangs out at Domino's and is hilarious. It's nice to go with a small number of people to these places and the trips were really fun. As someone mentioned before local people will take you to the local Lamin Lodge rather than the German owned restaurant. Worth mentioning you'll be encouraged to donate to the local school here too. If you just want to go to somewhere local like the crocodile pool or to Senegambia it is probably better to just get a taxi.
The green tourist taxis will try to agree a return journey but you can get a single if you argue enough. If you stick with one driver they may give you a discount rate or you can haggle each time. You can get much cheaper yellow taxis if you walk out of the resort (yellow cars are not allowed in to tout for business but they can go into resort areas etc to drop you off despite what green taxi drivers will try and tell you). The yellow taxis are in worse repair, probably wont have seat belts and one we got was driven by a man drunk on palm wine at lunch time. Just saying.
You do get a bit of hassle once you leave the hotel especially on arrival; everyone knows which days people arrive on. It is never threatening and generally good natured though can be a bit tiresome on occasion.I did notice that some "unaccompanied" girls were getting really quite fed up with the constant attention and I think I would have been too had I not been with my partner. You'll probably see some sex tourism. A bit depressing/creepy and Fanta seems to be involved in these relationships somehow. Perhaps a sponsorship deal?
Once you have a taxi driver/fruit lady/guide etc just drop their name and problem solved. All sunbeds are free where ever you go along the beach in the hope you'll buy drinks etc. We often sat at Domino's as you wont get hassled from passers by and they had all the juice/fruit/beer/bodyboards we could want!
We had no trouble with illness at all. The fruit on the beach and the fresh juice there is perfectly fine in case you're worried. I don't think we ate anything bad at all, the Gambian food and seafood is obviously better than the international stuff.
All in all it's a fantastic location in a great country with lots to do in between relaxing on the beach etc. As soon as you leave the resort you'll see a lot of real Africa and meet a lot of people. Enjoy.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Renowned and well established, Bakotu is a small, friendly hotel ideally located in Kotu between the beach and the golf course. Facilities include a small swimming pool, sun and shade terraces, reception, laundry, shop, restaurants and bars. Individually decorated rooms, with comfy beds and either terrace or balcony are grouped around mature gardens. The monkeys, squirrels and birds are great attractions. Ideal for those looking for something a little different with good value for money. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bakotu Hotel Kotu
- Bakotu Hotel Gambia/Kotu