Hiking around Up-River Gambia

Hiking and backpacking around upriver Gambia

Your Guides

Tour guide - Che
Meet Che

At just 18 years old, Cherno Jallow is the youngest member of the FairPlay team. He combines his guiding activities with attending school in Janjanbureh. Born and raised just across the river in Lamin Koto, he has a deep understanding of the culture and good knowledge of the traditional uses of the local flora. He is passionate about hiking and is self-training as a bird watcher in the hope of pursuing a career in ecotourism. Che is fluent in English, Fula, Mandinka and Wolof languages.

Female bird guide- Mariama
Meet Mariama

Mariama Sambou lives in Janjanbureh and is one of the very few female guides working in The Gambia. Having graduated from the local Methodist School two years ago, she studied hospitality and tour guiding through the EU-funded Youth Empowerment Project. She also trained with Gernot Henn, a German visitor who first developed the idea of hiking trails around the island. Mariama now works as a manager of Janjanbureh Youth Centre but enjoys taking time out to explore the local area with visiting guests.

A walking holiday with a difference

A Gambia hiking trails adventure with FairPlay Gambia is a unique way to experience the majestic landscapes, ancient culture, remote villages and fascinating wildlife to be found around the Central and Upper River Regions.

We offer a range of day treks from your lodge in Janjanbureh or Lamin Koto, as well as multi-night expeditions deep into the surrounding communities. 

Our multi-night adventures are flexible around your time and interests. Combining days of travelling by kayak, bicycle, walking and by boat. Accommodation is a combination of tents, local homestays and riverside lodges.

Because we specialise in taking small groups and solo travellers to areas unspoiled by commercialisation, your experience will be an entirely authentic one. You will have the chance to chat with the people you meet along the way and to learn about traditional lifestyles and the uses of the local flora and fauna.

Sample Gambia Hiking Trails

We offer a number of different local hikes from Lamin Koto or Janjanbureh. Here are a few of our favourites:

Lamin Koto, West to Penguin Island, via Lamin Koto Stone Circle, Koli Kunda and Sotokoi.

Starting from Lamin Koto, we’ll hope to see the Green Vervet monkeys around the riverside before heading North through the village to the enigmatic Lamin Koto Stone Circle. From there we’ll head West and pass through the communities of Koli Kunda and Sotokoi before reaching Penguin Island. There’s a small dusty road onto the Island where you will hope to see the endangered Temminck’s Red Colobus monkeys and have the chance to swim in the river. Join our small boat to look for hippos around the end of the island, before the short cruise back to Lamin Koto riverside. Alternatively, hike back via local gardens and riverside.

Hiking Distance (Return by boat): 6.8 km

Price 1- 4 guests:   £25 pp plus £30 for small boat

Price 5 – 8 guests: £20pp plus £45 for medium boat

Hiking Distance (Return on foot): 12 km

Price 1- 4 guests:   £25pp

Price 5 – 8 guests: £20pp

Includes packed lunch

Hiking upriver Gambia map

Lamin Koto, East to Koli Bolong ‘Mountain’ and Konko Duma.

We’ll start the trip looking for the Green Vervet monkeys around the riverside, and then head through the bush to Koli Bolong ‘Mountain’. After enjoying the great views over the river we’ll visit the tiny Fula village of Konko Duma. From there, back to Koli Bolong and have the chance to cool down in the river if you wish. Join our small boat to look for hippos around the end of the island, before the short cruise back to Lamin Koto riverside. Alternatively, hike back via the village of Banni.

Hiking Distance (Return by boat): 11.9 km

Price 1- 4 guests:   £30pp plus £30 for small boat

Price 5 – 8 guests: £25pp plus £45 for medium boat

Hiking Distance (Return on foot): 17.3 km

Price 1- 4 guests:   £30pp

Price 5 – 8 guests: £25pp

Includes packed lunch

Backpacking around Gambia map

Janjanbureh, West to the end of the Island via the local market, Armitage School, Colonial Graveyard & Bird Safari Camp.

Starting with a chance to visit the colourful Janjanbureh Market, these Gambia hiking trails take you deep into the history of the Island. First, a visit to the Methodist School and Church, established in 1825, then to the Freedom Tree, where formerly enslaved people were registered as liberated. After that, on to Armitage, The Gambia’s first high school, built for the sons (and later, daughters) of chiefs. From there, you’ll continue West towards Bird Safari Camp, hoping to see Red Colobus and Green Vervet monkeys, where you will be able to take a swim in the river.  Join our small boat to look for hippos around the end of the island, before the short cruise back to Janjanbureh town. Alternatively, hike back via UNESCO’s Kankurang Museum and the ceremonial grounds of Tinyansita.

Hiking Distance (Return by boat): 4.0 km

Price 1- 4 guests:   £20pp plus £30 for small boat

Price 5 – 8 guests: £15pp plus £45 for medium boat

Hiking Distance (Return on foot): 8.3 km

Price 1- 4 guests:   £20pp

Price 5 – 8 guests: £15pp

Includes packed lunch

Walking holidays in Gambia

Overnight Hiking Adventures

If you really want to get off the beaten track, try one of our overnight Gambia hiking trail adventures. Designed around your fitness levels and your schedule, we can offer a range of different experiences. 

Sample Itinerary 1 – Two days, Two nights

Lamin Koto to Bansang via Tankong Kunda.

This is one of our more challenging routes but definitely worth the effort. Experience the naturally warm welcome of the villages, the beautiful landscaping and the excellent wildlife. If 19km sounds ambitious for you, we offer the alternative of starting the day with a boat trip from Lamin Koto to Koli Bolong ‘Mountain’, looking for hippos before picking up the hiking route from there.

Day 1: 19km (13km if using the boat trip option)

We’ll start the trip looking for the Green Vervet monkeys around Lamin Koto riverside, then head East through the bush to Koli Bolong ‘Mountain’. After enjoying a late breakfast with great views over the river you’ll have the chance to cool down with a swim if you wish. From there, we’ll hike through the traditional settlements of Kujew, Yonna, Kunting and Jarra Ji. Along the way, we’ll meet with various members of the community to learn more about local life and visit a women’s community garden. From there, we’ll continue South East to Tankong Kunda, where we will take lunch in a local compound. After lunch, we’ll greet the village chief and head down to the riverside. We’ll set up our tents at a small fisherman camp and head out for an evening walk in the forest. Your evening meal will be cooked on a fire at the riverside. 

Day 2: 11.5km

After breakfast, leave Tankong Kunda and head South West to the village of Dobo. Depart Dobo and head South East to the river. From there, the going is a little tougher as we leave the tracks behind and weave our way through the trees as close to the river as possible, using a cutlass to cut a path at some points.

There are no permanent settlements in this area, so the wildlife is as plentiful as anywhere in the Gambia. We expect to see more than one large troop of baboons, red colobus monkeys, green vervet monkeys, mongoose and possibly even bushpig. This area is also home to a great range of bird life including various species of kingfishers, bee-eaters and ibis. Arrive in Bushtown and cross the river in a small hand-paddled boat to the dusty town of Bansang where you will spend the night in a local riverside lodge.

Day 3:

After breakfast, you can explore the colourful Bansang market before departing to your onward destination.

Price: £135 per person (includes meals from breakfast on day 1 until breakfast on day 3, guiding, one-night tent accommodation, one-night lodge accommodation and community contributions).

Price with boat trip option: £150 per person.

Hiking upriver gambia

Combined Adventure Package. Five Nights. Hiking and Kayaking – Bansang to Kuntaur.

Includes: Janjanbureh, River Gambia National Park and Wassu Stone Circles

This 5-night adventure combines the best of the area’s wildlife with traditional local culture and the chance to explore the history of Janjanbureh Island.

The two days of hiking cover approximately 12km per day over relatively flat ground and the kayaking around 18km (supported by the current) per day. It offers the chance of meeting chimps, baboons, other primates, hippos, crocodiles, turtles, warthog, mongooses and a huge diversity of birds.

Our trips are flexible, so if you’d like a greater challenge or an easier route, we are happy to help. Contact us for more details.

Day 1:

Coming from the coastal resorts of Gambia, with an early start, you will be in the cultural and historic town of Janjanbureh by around 12 – 2 pm. Your guide will meet you there and take you for lunch at Musa’s Garden riverside lodge or a local restaurant in the town. In the afternoon you will take a tour of the Island, visiting the sacred baobab at Tinyansita, UNESCO’s Kankurang Museum, the Methodist Church, the Freedom Tree and Armitage High School. You will have the chance to learn about the critical role that the town played in efforts to abolish the slave trade in Gambia and beyond.

Later, you will take local transport to the town of Bansang, where you can check in to your riverside lodge, freshen up and takie a stroll out to see the town. Bansang is a trading centre for the local villages and has a busy market and shops selling all manner of everyday items. It has one local bar, which can be a fun experience for open-minded, adventurous guests. If you’re looking for peace and tranquillity, you can relax at the lodge and watch the sunset over the river.Hiking and kayaking combo

Day 2:

After taking breakfast at the lodge and buying fruit and snacks from the market, you’ll head to the wharf and take the hand-pulled ferry or one of the small rowing boats across to Bushtown on the North Bank of the river. Most of the morning will be spent hiking through the gallery forest, which is home to more than one baboon troop, different monkeys, warthogs, and reptiles such as monitor lizards and mongooses. The diversity of bird life is also impressive, particularly at the watering holes that we pass on the way. The trekking can be a bit challenging on this route, as there are no villages in this area and so many of the tracks are quite overgrown. We will stay as close to the river as the vegetation allows, cutting a path where necessary, as this gives the best chance of meeting the wildlife.

After around 8km, we leave the forest and the river, heading to the village of Dobo, where we will stop for lunch and to greet the local chief. Then we’ll hike a short distance to the river and an improvised ‘camp’ which is used by the Malian fisherman that work in this area. We’ll pitch our tents and you will be free to relax in this beautiful forest setting and swim in the river while your guide prepares your evening meal. Before the sun sets, we’ll take a short walk to look for the red colobus monkeys that sometimes spend the night nearby.

Day 3:

The day will start with bush tea, brewed on the fire while we strike camp, and then a short walk to Tankong Kunda for breakfast in the compound of a local Fula family. Then we will set off through open farmland to the tiny village of Jarra Ji and stop at the small shop which is located in the Chief’s compound, to buy bread for our lunch and a few snacks for the journey. The rest of the hike takes in more small communities where lifestyles are still very traditional and few travellers pass by. Local people are always interested to meet visitors and to chat, so don’t be surprised if you end up sitting, sharing a glass of green tea or two as the day goes by.

After the village of Kujew, we will climb Koli Bolong ‘Mountain’. At just 30m in height, it is not too strenuous and gives a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape. At the bottom of the ‘mountain’, you can cool off with a dip in the river. Our small boat will collect you from there and take you to look for hippos and then back to Janjanbureh. You will have the choice to eat at the lodge or to visit a local bar/restaurant for your evening meal. Accommodation is at Musa’s Garden, a clean attractive lodge set on the river under some mango trees.

Day 4:

Meet your kayaking guide after breakfast and take some time to familiarise yourself with the kayak and to brush up on your skills, before departing Janjanbureh Island and heading West to Manna Sandbanks where you will stop to stretch your legs and enjoy a packed lunch. From there you will continue on to Six Junctions, a collection of river islands where you might get your first sight of hippos. From Six junctions its a short paddle to Sapu / Barajally where you will camp out for the night. Your guide will cook on a campfire and you will enjoy your evening meal under the stars at the riverside.Kayaking and hiking combo

Day 5: 

After breakfast from the local village, depart Barajally and continue West to the River Gambia National Park (aka Baboon Islands), with the aim of being there around 3 pm, when the chimps often come down to the water’s edge. After seeing the chimps, you’ll take a short nature walk up to Last Elephant Hill, with its great views over the river and the chance of meeting baboons and red colobus monkeys. From there to Kairoh Garden riverside lodge in the wharf town of Kuntaur, where you will take your evening meal and spend the night.

Day 6:

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast by the river and then hike (approx 3.5km) to the enigmatic Wassu Stone Circles before heading on to your next destination.

Price: £385 per person (includes meals from lunch on day 1 until breakfast day 6, guiding, two nights tent accommodation, three nights lodge accommodation, entry fees, boat trip and community contributions).

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