Top 3 luxury, boutique and eco-chic hotels in The Gambia

The Gambia in West Africa has been a popular destination for many years for seekers of winter sunshine. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa and is surrounded on three sides by its big brother, Senegal, with a small strip of coastline along which a thriving tourist industry has developed.

Justifiably known as ‘the smiling coast of Africa’, The Gambia enjoys spacious sandy beaches that are never crowded; it is politically stable and the official language is English so there’s no communication problem. Plus if you are travelling from the UK it’s just 6 hours flying time away and in the same time zone so you don’t have to worry about jet lag – perfect!

There are numerous value and mid-range hotels to choose from but there is also now a good choice of excellent luxury and boutique hotels as well. Here are my top three:

1. Coco Ocean Resort and Spa, Bijilo

The most opulent hotel in The Gambia, Coco Ocean has become a firm favourite with the discerning traveller seeking the height of luxury under the heat of the African sun. With acres of tropical gardens, stunning Moroccan inspired architecture, a number of swimming pools and superb restaurants, private beach frontage and a spa featuring a Thalasso pool, Hammam, Finnish sauna and a gym, it is the ideal place to relax and unwind and is perfect for a honeymoon or special anniversary.

2. Ngala Lodge, Bakau

If you prefer a more intimate, boutique style hotel Ngala Lodge, perched on the cliff tops on the outskirts of Bakau, is an excellent choice. With reputedly one of the best restaurants in The Gambia, a small private beach, spacious grounds and a swimming pool, this child-free hotel is popular with repeat guests and offers luxury without being pretentious. While the standard suites are extremely good there are various upgrades available including the stunning Atlantic suites, which feature a private Jacuzzi on the terrace or balcony.

3. Mandina Lodges, Makasutu Forest

Imagine waking up in a four-poster bed with a view across the river from your floating lodge in the heart of the African bush. With just eight lodges (some on the river and some set back in the forest), an ethos of benefitting the local population and protecting the forest, Mandina Lodges offer the perfect base from which to get to know the real Africa and makes a great add-on to a beach holiday. You will not find energy consuming fridges or air-conditioning in your eco-chic accommodation but you may just find a baboon in your open-air bathroom!

Kathryn Burrington is Author of Travel with Kat.

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