It’s no surprise that The Gambia’s high season falls at the same time as its dry season. Most tourists choose to visit at this time of year, between October and May. If you’re keen to avoid the crowds, your best bet is to check when the UK's school holidays fall and – if you can – book your break outside of those times.
The Gambia’s hottest months of the year are July and September, when the average temperature hovers around the 30-degree mark. However, these months both fall within the wet season, so if it’s sunbathing weather you’re after, it’s best to visit at another time of the year. During dry season, March and April are the hottest months. Jet off then, and you’re all set to top up your tan. In terms of sun, you’ll see the most from February through to May – these months offer an average of 10 hours of sunshine per day.
If your main reason for travelling to The Gambia is to get the measure of its wildlife, you won’t be disappointed. The birdwatching scene here is especially impressive – there’s a huge variety of species to spot, almost 600 in total, from raptors and pelicans to paradise flycatchers and herons. The best time to birdwatch here is in the early dry season – October, November and December. At this time, lots of birds migrate to The Gambia to escape the European winter. Plus, it’s breeding season for lots of native species, so you can expect them to be decked out in full breeding colours.
When it comes to other wildlife, any time during the dry season is a good time to visit. Make sure you tick off some of The Gambia’s nature reserves – the River Gambia National Park is a highlight. This protected area’s teeming with animals and birds. Take a river cruise along the Gambia and keep your eyes peeled for the likes of monkeys, crocodiles and hippos. May and June offer the least amount of wildlife-spotting opportunities. Although there’s also lots of wildlife to be seen toward the end of the rainy season, the vegetation gets so dense that it’s really tricky to spot anything – it’s no surprise that the rainy season is also known as the ‘green season’.
Looking to plan your trip to tick off one of The Gambia’s best events? Here are our top picks…
Banjul Demba Cultural Festival
Every year, this festival celebrates The Gambia’s culture through art exhibitions, plus music and dance performances.
Food and Beverage Festival
This event’s put on by The Gambia tourism board, and celebrates the country’s cuisine – expect dishes like domoda – a spicy peanut-based curry – and okra stew.
Second weekend of February
This annual festival takes place near The Gambia’s southern border, in the village of Kartong. The village is known for being traditional and unspoilt, and the festival is run by locals to celebrate The Gambia’s cultural credentials. If you’re looking to get to know the authentic side of The Gambia, this one’s for you.
National Independence Day of The Gambia
This celebration marks the anniversary of The Gambia’s independence from Great Britain in 1965. The main event takes place in the country’s capital, Banjul, in the form of a parade.
This annual rally kicks off in Plymouth in the UK, passing through Amsterdam and a number of African countries, before reaching its final destination in The Gambia.
Bureng Cultural Festival
This festival aims to preserve the traditional cultural practices of the Mandinka group in The Gambia.
International Roots Homecoming Festival
Every second May
This festival’s all about celebrating The Gambia’s culture and heritage – with its origins in reconnecting the country with its roots following the impact of slavery. It’s packed with culture-rich activities, music performances, and historical tours.
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