Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

17 Responses

  1. Shelley Seale
    Shelley Seale at | | Reply

    Thank you for thisstory.

  2. David Levine, D.O.
    David Levine, D.O. at | | Reply

    An excellent and thoughtful post, Jo! I have lived in The Gambia most of the time since 2006, where I run a small charity supporting rural health clinics and sending kids to school.
    I also spend a fair amount of time in Casamance, the southern part of Senegal, and the contrast between the two countries is remarkable.
    I don’t see the same level of dependency in Casamance that I do in the more urban areas of The Gambia. Juffureh is a village, but a unique village; one where a culture of dependency has been created by the influx of tourists. If you were to visit more remote villages you would not find the same conditions. You would likely find people poorer, but more independent, friendlier in a genuine fashion, and more proud and self-reliant.
    Sadly, few Europeans interact with those villages. Having been “adopted” by a Mandinka family long ago, I have had the privilege of a window into the lives of ordinary villagers that few toubabs experience. There has also been the advantage of having personal translators, of course!!
    There are some excellent small charities that are doing good, selfless work in The Gambia. I would be happy to share with you.

  3. phil
    phil at | | Reply

    We’ve just visited over christmas 2016 and it’s exactly the same. I wondered why, after nearly 50 years of focus on this village after Roots, the place and the people seem to be in a very bad way. All the points you raised we felt exactly the same about and left on the boat feeling quite emotional and hoping they find a better more sustainable way for the future of the children and the village.

  4. Hamish Healys
    Hamish Healys at | | Reply

    What a sad commentary on the poor village of Juffureh on the North Bank of the Gambia River. Sometimes it gets to be so you can’t help but feel guilty for enjoying the luxury of travel.

  5. Kara
    Kara at | | Reply

    I have encountered some of the same kinds of problems on my travels although I can’t think of a time that I went to a place quite like Juffureh. Thank you for sharing this – I hope many people read these words of wisdom.

  6. Nic Green
    Nic Green at | | Reply

    Worthwhile post, Jo. It is a sad but good example of the difficulty of finding “authentic” travel experiences. I had a similar but not as bad experience in Santa Clara, Cuba, in 2012. It’s the main place to go for Che Guevara history, including his mausoleum, but it’s also the place that was the worst of 2 weeks in Cuba for people trying to sell tacky memorabilia, especially linked to Che’s life, and trying to overcharge for taxis etc. Che Guevara would surely have turned in his grave.

    It’s unfortunate that your experience in the Gambia made it harder to properly reflect on the slavery issue. As a UK citizen with a colonial past I appreciate that my country’s current wealth derives in part from that past. Whilst current citizens don’t need to be ashamed for things they didn’t do themselves, if they are still getting the benefit then it’s right that they should pay decent overseas aid. Just as well that the UK doesn’t really have a cost of living crisis (compare with the 42% unemployment of Cadiz in Spain!). Just try telling most people that. Maybe they should take their second annual holiday in somewhere more enlightening?

  7. rosa
    rosa at | | Reply

    HI Jo, another great article. I don’t have any answers to offer, but I like that you raise these issues. Maybe WorldVision or the like could set up some type of presence there….get the tourists to contribute toward child sponsorship or something….

    Keep up the great work!

  8. Katrina
    Katrina at | | Reply

    Very informative post. I could not agree more with your fourth tip to never hand out money because it “encourages more begging at the expense of developing more sustainable skills.” Unfortunately, government-funded welfare programs do this in our developed countries. Why work for a living if you can live off the taxpayer’s dime through a welfare program? This is a very thought-provoking post, and I’m glad you shared it.

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

Leave a Reply