A Tale Of Two African Cities

We just visited The Gambia for a holiday break and boy, did we need the time-out! I thought I will share a bit of of our travelling as well as general experiences on either side.
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For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Freetown, Sierra Leone, due to the mountainous topography, the main airport is located NOT in Freetown but at another town called Lungi. To get to Lungi, the one needs to cross the ocean which is the quickest way or take an inland detour which can be long and sometimes impossible due to bad roads.

With neither the hovercraft nor helicopters working we were left with the ferry crossing as the only option – Of course the road to Lungi Airport is so bad (recently, I read it was going to be re-tarred. Hope it’s true) it wasn’t an option.

When we arrived at around 10.00am for 11.00 am crossing, we were promptly told that had been re-sceduled to 1.00pm. With 3 children 6 and under, that was foreboding.Β  😈 I’ve never used the ferry before, so my first time impression was a negative one.

To cut the long story short, we finally left (after boarding, un-boarding and re-boarding due to technical failure) at around 3.05pm. ❓ Bear in mind that our flight was at 3.20pm. We phoned the airline and discovered the Manager was stranded on the ferry as well and promised to get the plane to wait for us.

We left for The Gambia and arrived at our hotel within 2 hours. Given the long delays in Freetown, what made it worth it was the excitement in the childrens eyes! πŸ˜‰

So for a journey that took less than 2 hours, it took 6 hours just to get to the Lungi Airport ❗

So what are some of the differences we came across between Freetown and Banjul/Gambia?

Here are 10 comparisons:

Decent and respectable airport ambiance The airport as the first port of call for a visitor/tourist leaves a lot to be desired!
Tarred roads with street lights right from the airport to hotel and in most parts of Gambia Too dark, Road unusable and other means of transport like ferry, hovercraft, helicopters are unreliable. Most Roads need mending seriously…
Land topography – as flat as a pancake, nothing spectacular. In fact many parts are swampy and under sea level . Land Topography – mountainous and breath-taking. Simply beautiful ❗
People very friendly People very friendly
Constant electricity and water Hardly any electricity(for now) – water is hit and miss
Clean and they are making extra effort to keep it even cleaner. Didn’t see an rubbish dump anywhere! Rubbish in street corners is commonplace. For the tourist and residents alike, this is an eyesaw and dangerous health hazard.
Many 5 star hotels and resorts – in fact they have the Gambian Hotel Association which moniters them. They’ve also got the Gambian Hotel School training hotel staff. No 5-star hotel let alone resort!!!!! This has to be addressed ASAP. The shocking truth is, most of these drab hotels still charge 5-star rates!!:?:
Compared to Freetown, they haven’t got much but they are making a lot of noise about the little natural beauty they’ve got. Has got all the natural beauty but no infracstructure for tourism hence no marketing.
Sense of repression – no freedom of speech. Felt far freer on return – Salone not bad after all! πŸ˜†

CONCLUSION: Bravo Gambia! keep up the good work in terms of develoment not bad. On the other hand if Sierra Leone is serious about tourism, the first thing that needs to be sorted is the travel to and from the airport and the airport itself! In terms of development Gambia wins, freedom of speech and general wellbeing, Sierra Leone wins! πŸ™‚



2 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two African Cities

  1. A really shocking tale. Sierra Leone is such a beautiful country. We need to do more about transportation from Lungi to Freetwn. It is a shame that such a beautiful country has not got a desent transport system to bring or take people from the airport to Freetown. I am proud to be a Sierra Leonean.

  2. You mention these points of The Gambia:
    – Tarred roads with street lights right from the airport to hotel and in most parts of Gambia
    – Constant electricity and water
    – Many 5 star hotels and resorts

    In Gambia, if you go away from the developed coastal area, there is very little – often only dirt roads and no electricty. The Gambia’s illuminated airport road is an illusion; it’s the only road in the country that has so many street lights (there are a few more on the coastal highway, all the rest is pitch black at night, except for the glowing charcoal on the ubiquituous attaya stoves).

    Furthermore, for actual five star hotels, i don’t think there are more than maybe three that *claim* to be five star – and they are clearly not five star by international standards. I staid in one of them and while it was pleasant enough, i had many problematic moments and it was much less value than hotels in Asia or Europe at the same price point.

    I will soon make up my mind about the Salone side of the equation πŸ™‚ Sad to read about rubbish dumps, though.

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