Did you know Gambia has a palm tree lined island?! I didn’t know either until I went there.
I heard about it by reading some Gambia travel blogs, and I decided it would be a cool place to spend a few days, so I made my way there using public transport. It’s a little stressful but definitely doable, and hopefully this post will help you if you plan to make the trip too. This is what you have to do…
- GET TO BANJUL. Wherever you’re coming from, the first place you’ll need to get to is the capital city, Banjul. Personally I was coming from Brikama, so the gellygelly cost 17 dalasi (£0.26) and it dropped me at the regular ‘garage’ (minibus/gellygelly station) in the city.
2. GET TO THE BANJUL FERRY TERMINAL. Regardless of where you’re coming from , you probably won’t be dropped at the right place in Banjul to catch the ferry, so you need to get in some kind of transport there. I took a shared taxi for 8 dalasi. Just say “ferry” and people will know where you want to go.
3. GET A TICKET FOR THE FERRY. The shared taxis stop outside a market on a very hectic street, and as soon as you get out of the taxi, you’ll be surrounded by boys with wheelbarrows who want to carry your luggage to the ferry in their wheelbarrows for a bit of money. I decided to just carry my bag myself. I had no idea where to go, but there were lots of people with bags/suitcases so I just followed them because I assumed they must be going towards the ferry. I recommend you do the same.
You basically have to walk through the market for a few minutes and then you arrive at a building with people queuing (kind of queuing, kind of all trying to shove their money through the window at the same time to get their tickets as soon as possible). You basically need to stand your ground and copy everyone else (shove your money through the window even though there are already 10 arms in the window gap) and you should get a ticket in a few minutes. As you can see, it costs 25 dalasi (£0.40) per person one-way to Barra.
4) GET ON THE FERRY. Once you have your ticket, you’ll walk through to the waiting area which is made up of wooden benches. When I was there, it was pretty busy (apparently this is normal) so there was nowhere free to sit. There were vendors walking round selling the usual stuff aka everything from bananas to phone chargers, and overall it was just quite hectic.
There’s no official thing that tells you when the next ferry is, but they run regularly all day. I’d already been told to run onto the ferry once the gates open, as there isn’t always enough space for everyone. What I would recommend is that you sit/stand near the gate, so when people start getting up, you’ll already be in a good position. Once the gates open, it’s basically a stampede (make sure you hold on tightly to your phone etc.) and there aren’t enough seats on the ferry for everyone, so just try and find somewhere to stand that isn’t in everyone’s way basically.
5) GET OFF THE FERRY AND FIND TRANSPORT TO JINACK. The ferry journey takes about half an hour, and once it stops, everyone gets off at once so it’s quite busy, but you can always wait until most people have got off. You have to hand in your ticket as you leave, so make sure you don’t throw it away.
Taxi drivers will come up to you once you step onto the land in Barra, and they’ll ask you if you’re going to Jinack, as that’s where most tourists go from there. The route to Jinack requires a 4×4, so the prices are quite high (at least 1000 dalasi – £15). If you want, you could take this option, or one of the following two other options:
- Shared car (public 4×4) – 50 dalasi (£0.80) and then canoe across to the island itself
- Cross the water on a raft and then motorbike taxi along the beach (this is only possible if the tide is out) – approximately 200 dalasi per person (£3)
To take the shared car, you have to join a big queue of people, as there aren’t many cars doing the route so it takes a while for one to turn up. Just ask anyone for the car to Jinack and they can show you where the queue is. It’s a few minutes away from the ferry terminal. It will drop you by the river (shown below) and then you just get in a canoe (there are loads) and you’ll be at the island in a few minutes.
To take the motorbike taxi, you have to walk about 10 minutes to the beach and then cross on something like this:
The ride along the beach takes about 15 minutes and it’s pretty fun and a bit bumpy…
The beach comes to an end by a place called Feel Free Lodge, and this leads onto the next point…
6) CHOOSE YOUR ACCOMMODATION. The two easiest options are Feel Free Lodge and Camara Sambou Beach Bar. Feel Free lodge is about 2000 dalasi (£31.15) for a roundhouse with ensuite, and it’s right by the beach. There’s also a decent food and drinks menu there.
I chose the cheapest option on the island – Camara Sambou Beach Bar. You can watch my YouTube video about it here by copying and pasting this link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF3YTe5DovY&t=12s but basically it’s a little bar by a lake, with a few small roundhouses for rent beside it for 750 dalasi (£11.70) per night including breakfast.
The facilities at Camara Sambou’s place are very basic, but it’s cool to be next to the river, and it’s only a few minutes walk to the village. I’d say Camara Sambou’s is better for adventure and experiencing the village life, whereas Feel Free Lodge is better for relaxation and ‘getting away from it all’.
There isn’t really anything specific to do on the island, so two nights is probably enough (I stayed three). It’s a beautiful place to just wander around, and it has one of the funkiest looking mosques I saw in Gambia (shown below).
Jinack Island is known for weed farming, so if you’re interested in this, you can ask around and someone will show you their plants…
One annoying thing about the island (which makes sense, because it’s an island) is the lack of fresh fruit etc. Most things they sell there have to be transported from the mainland, so there isn’t anything like a market, as people just go to the mainland once in a while to get the supplies they need. I’d suggest you buy fruit in Banjul before traveling to Jinack if you’re someone like me who feels a bit incomplete without eating fruit every day.