The Gambia was only recently visited and instantly became a favourite destination. The reasons are numerous, it is the smallest country on the African mainland with a culture which is very different to our own. It provides a great opportunity to take some candid photographs of Africa.
It is a diverse country. There are long, sandy beaches where fishermen with hand thrown nets struggle through powerful waves to catch dinner for their families or pirogues battle beyond the breakers to bring home a catch suitable for selling at the markets. Thousands of oysters attach themselves to the roots of the many trees which line the mangrove swamps, providing a home to an abundance of birdlife. A variety of egrets, herons, kingfishers, cormorants and dozens of other species including pelicans make it a popular destination for birdwatchers from all over the world.
Mischievious baboons freely roam through the woods and townships like gangs of delinquent teenagers searching for food and the chance to cause a little trouble.
The cities always seem busy, bustling streets where cars, motorcycles, donkey drawn carts, rickshaws and pedestrians come at the unsuspecting from all angles. Street hawkers offer their services as guides often ignoring the fact that there is already an official guide present.
It is often not pretty, barefoot children play in the backstreets, kicking well worn footballs around the uneven surface of the roads. Effluence freely flows down the perimeter like small brooks and garbage is often commonplace.
There are several busy markets, all of which can be manic. Colourfully dressed women browse the stalls searching for the best cuts of meat, freshest fish and ripest fruit and vegetables for their families dinner. There seldom appears to be a single foot of spare space available, women sell fruit from baskets on the floor while men fillet huge six foot long barracuda in front of their customers on trestle style tables.
Cats pick through fish remains and even the contents of nets freshly turned out onto the sand, the fishermen seem remarkably tolerant of the feline scavengers. The curious sight of sheep picking through the garbage of the beachside Tanji market seemed bizarrely natural.
The roads out of the city are lined with ramshackle buildings with men generally sat doing nothing much. The exception are the shops and workshops where a number of men can often be seen doing roadside vehicle repairs or sometimes construction work.
Further afield in the outlying villages, the buildings can appear even more rundown. Solar lighting is provided for the fortunate, water comes from wells, barefoot children play and chase vehicles while hens and other livestock roam freely between the houses.
Tourism is increasing in The Gambia, it is benefitting from the Arab Spring, however it is not the sanitised kind found elsewhere. It is a safe destination, the people are friendly, there are also good restaurants and even luxurious hotels available but ultimately it is the raw culture of the country which appeals most.