The tiny sliver of Africa's smallest country is wedged into surrounding Senegal. and is seen as a splinter in its side, or the tongue that makes it speak, depending on who you talk to. For many, The Gambia is a country with beaches that invite visitors to laze and linger on package tours. But there's more than sun and surf. Small fishing villages, nature reserves and historic slaving stations are all within easy reach of the clamorous Atlantic resorts. Star-studded eco-lodges and small wildlife parks dot the inland like a green belt around the coast and The Gambia is a bird lovers' utopia: on a leisurely river cruise, you'll easily spot more than 100 species while your pirogue charts an unhurried course through mangrove-lined wetlands and lush gallery forests. You won't be able to resist wielding binoculars with the excellent network of guides.
Since its creation in the mid-19th century the Albert Market, an area of frenzied buying, bartering and bargaining, has been Banjul's hub of activity. This cacophany of Banjul life is intoxicating, with its stalls stacked with shimmering fabrics, hair extensions, shoes, household and electrical wares and the myriad colours and flavours of the fruit and vegetable market.
Tucked away inside an ancient Portuguese building, this centre has provided training to disadvantaged women for the last 20 years. Visitors can take a free tour of sewing, crafts and tie-dye classes, and purchase reasonably priced items such as patchwork products, embroidered purses and cute children's clothes at the on-site boutique.
One of Gambia's most popular tourist attractions is a sacred site for locals. As crocodiles represent the power of fertility in Gambia, women who experience difficulties in conceiving often come here to pray and wash (any child called Kachikally tells of a successful prayer at the pool). The pool and its adjacent nature trail are home to 78 fully grown and several smaller Nile crocodiles that you can observe basking on the bank. If you dare, many are tame enough to be touched (your guide will point you in their direction). A small museum containing musical instruments and other cultural artefacts are also in the premises.
This small reserve and community forest is a lovely escape. A 4.5km walk takes you along a well-maintained series of trails that pass through lush vegetation, gallery forest, low bush and grass, towards the dunes. You'll see green vervet, red colobus and patas monkeys, though feeding by visitors has turned them into cheeky little things that might come close and even steal items. Try not to feed them, as this only encourages them further. Monitor lizards will likely come and stare you down, too. Birds are best watched on the coastal side. The more than 100 species that have been counted here include several types of bee-eater, grey hornbill, osprey, Caspian tern, francolin and wood dove.
Abuko is rare among African wildlife reserves: it's tiny, it's easy to reach, you don't need a car to go in, and it's well managed, with an amazing diversity of vegetation and animals-and it is possibly the mightiest of Gambia's national parks. More than 250 bird species have been recorded in its environs, making it one of the region's best bird-watching haunts.
Archaeologists believe the Wassu stone circles are burial sites constructed about 1200 years ago. Each stone weighs several tonnes and is between 1m (3.3ft) and 2.5m (7.5ft) in height. There's a small but well-presented museum with exhibits discussing the possible origins of the circles. Stonehenge this isn't, but nevertheless, it's fascinating evidence of ancient African cultures.
Well-presented, if slightly dusty, displays of historical and cultural artefacts, including musical instruments, agricultural tools and ethnographic items. There's an interesting archaeological section reconstructing some of the earliest periods of human habitation of the region, and a history floor with photographs that lead right up to the present.