In early October 2010 it was decided within my family that 8 of us would enjoy an 11 day Christmas holiday in the Gambia. As my son offered to pay for this who could refuse!
This is a ‘Diary of Events’ that the family experienced over the 11 days
At least 2 weeks before leaving we all had to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio and Yellow Fever. Anti Malaria tablets also had to be taken daily 2 days before leaving the U.K. and EACH DAY whilst in the Gambia and for a further 7 days when returning to the U.K.
With the Yellow Fever vaccination costing £50 and together with £55 for the Malaria tablets we each had spent nearly £100 before the holiday had started. Add to this the cost of suntan creams, anti mosquito products and Holiday Insurance, the pre-holiday cost was probably well over £250 – oh well better safe than sorry!
As the weather in the U.K. was the coldest conditions experienced in decades we were all looking forwards to 17th December when we would be leaving the damp, cold and miserable U.K. climate to spend a holiday in hot and sunny Gambia – Yippee!!! (It is obvious that immigrants do not come to the U.K. for our weather!)
Having personally carefully packed all my ‘essentials’ including two pairs of ‘SPEEDOS’ (I am a young 70 year old Grandfather and the rest of my family especially my three Granddaughters who were on this holiday find this very embarrassing) I was ready for an exciting GAMBIA EXPERIENCE
It was an early morning flight from Gatwick on 17th December and as we lived in Bristol we booked an overnight stay for the night before at a Gatwick hotel.
Arriving at the Hotel we were all excited at the prospect of some sun and warm weather especially as the temperature that evening was a bitter -8!!!
Next morning after the usual airport checks we all boarded a Monarch flight which departed on time at around 9.15, however we heard later that within 4 hours of us leaving Gatwick Airport
, the airport was closed due to bad weather and heavy snow – so we were very fortunate.
The flight was fairly uneventful and although I personally found the seating very ‘cramped’ I still found the space to enjoy an excellent lunch and some 6 hours later at about 16.45 we arrived safely at Banjul Airport. (there is no time difference between the U.K. and Gambia)
My past experiences with mosquitoes is not good as they seem especially attracted to my body, face, hands and legs etc. so in foreign climes I cover myself liberally with anti mozzie spray which I applied immediately on leaving the aircraft.
ARRIVAL AT THE GAMBIA SHERATON HOTEL
Joining the usual queue at Customs and after retrieving our luggage we eventually stepped out of the airport. Refusing the constant but friendly approach from numerous would be ‘porters’ offering to assist us with the suitcases (for a small charge of course) we were directed to the coach which was to take us to the hotel. As the coach luggage handler stowed our suitcases he held his hand out suggesting that a tip would be appreciated for all his hard work.
We had been warned to drink only bottled water and when showering not to swallow any water. It was also confirmed that as ice cubes are made from tap water it would be advisable to refuse ice in our drinks – not a problem as the bar drinks at the hotel are chilled, so clutching our bottles of water we boarded the coach.
Due to rapid hotel and tourist development the area of Brufut which is in Serekunda has rapidly expanded to include an area called Brufut Heights which is where our 5* Sheraton Gambia Hotel Resort and Spa is situated and we were on our way!
A 25 minute journey took us to the Sheraton Hotel and after retrieving our luggage we all approached the very impressive hotel entrance. As we walked into the large reception area we were greeted by a hotel representative who directed us to a desk manned by 2 Gambian gentlemen. After giving them our booking details we were advised that a porter would direct us to the TWO ROOMS that had been booked (WHAT 2 ROOMS?) As we were a family of 8 a total of 4 DOUBLE ROOMS had been booked and paid for some months earlier, but the guy insisted that only 2 rooms had been actually reserved. Now as the hotel was full and no other accommodation was available panic and dark thoughts crossed my mind, then I looked around the reception area and spotted a lady beautifully dressed in a traditional Gambian outfit who looked as if she was probably a senior member of the staff – I approached her and explained the predicament.
She came over to the desk and after studying the hotel booking details she was immediately able to solve the problem – the guy had misread them and the booking was indeed for 4 DOUBLE ROOMS – what a relief! so we were shown to our rooms which were large with excellent facilities and overlooking the beach.
The Sheraton Gambia Hotel which is built into a hillside nestling between giant Baobab trees, is situated on its own large private beach.
It boasts a full service Health Spa, a super large swimming pool and two good restaurants. The hotel also offers various recreational facilities including aerobics, pilates classes, fishing, table tennis, pool, water polo and volleyball to name but a few.
We were booked in an ‘all inclusive package’ which included breakfast, lunch and dinner, all day ice cream, waffles and pancakes, local spirits such as gin, vodka, whisky, local beers, house wines etc. and bottled water – excellent value (no problem putting on weight here then !)
The Hotel Sheraton Gambia
The Swimming Pool