Kololi - A view from our expert author

Lined with a cosmopolitan selection of bars and eateries, the central Senegambia Strip through Kololi is the heart of the country’s dining-out scene.

There’s nowhere else in West Africa quite like Kololi. Situated on the Atlantic coastline 15km west of Banjul, this once unremarkable small Gambian village, having first been exposed to tourism in the 1970s, today forms the hub of the country’s booming package resort industry. Here, within an area of about 2km², you’ll find a couple-of-dozen hotels, including such venerable landmarks as the Kairaba and Senegambia, along with a cosmopolitan and seemingly inexhaustible selection of restaurants and bars, and other tourist facilities such as nightclubs, supermarkets, banks and craft markets. Kololi is also, you’ll quickly notice, a major stomping ground for bumsters, whose attentions might be daunting on initial exposure, though mostly they’re quite innocuous and quickly lose interest in familiar faces.

Rhun palms, Bijilo Forest Park, Kololi, The Gambia by Ariadne Van Zandbergen,

Rhun palms (Borassus aethiopum), Bijilo Forest Park, Kololi © Ariadne Van Zandbergen,

The main touristic focal point in Kololi is the tight cluster of hotels and restaurants that runs west from Senegambia Junction (on Bertil Harding Highway) to the Senegambia Hotel and Kololi Beach Club. This area is most often referred to simply as ‘Senegambia’, or ‘The Strip’, and almost every visitor to The Gambia ends up here at some point, for a meal, or a drink, or a night out. Other important tourist centres are Seaview Boulevard, a few hundred metres north of Senegambia Junction, and a more dispersed group of hotels dotted around Bijilo to the south. The main attraction of this area is emphatically the beach, followed by the busy and wonderfully varied restaurant scene. However, it also boasts one genuinely worthwhile attraction for wildlife enthusiasts in the form of Bijilo Forest Reserve, a patch of bird- and monkey-rich coastal woodland running along the beach between Kololi and Bijilo.

Northern Kololi

Although tourism in Kololi traditionally centres on the bunched cluster of restaurants and other facilities immediately west of Senegambia Junction, recent years have witnessed the blossoming of two new important focal points a short distance further north. The first of these, situated on the east side of Bertil Harding Highway about 600m north of Senegambia Junction, is The Village, a modern shopping mall housing a supermarket, several boutique shops and a handful of restaurants. The second, and more important, is an 800m-long road, sometimes referred to as Seaview Boulevard, which runs west from Bertil Harding Highway to the beachfront Sunswing Hotel and Poco Loco Bar.

The ‘Senegambia’ Strip

Ubiquitously referred to as Senegambia after the iconic 350-room hotel that dominates its beachfront, the touristic heart of Kololi consists of a J-shaped kilometre of road lined with dozens of restaurants, bars and other tourist facilities. Ironically, however, while this part of Kololi is easily the busiest resort along the Gambian coast, the main beach leaves much to be desired by comparison with most of its counterparts. This is due to tidal erosion, which was temporarily remedied in 2004, when a Dutch dredging company restored a 1.5km length of beach using 1,000,000m³ of sand, but has once again rendered the beach in front of the Senegambia and Kairaba hotels close to sandless. Fortunately, you need only follow the curve of the J for a few hundred metres west to reach the more pristine beach that runs south from Kololi Beach Club to Bijilo.

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