Kombo Beach

3 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


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Date of travel

Feb, 2012

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Mostly attracting Dutch and Brits and right on a long sandy beach, this hotel has been steadily refurbished to a decent standard for the area. As ever in the 3rd world maintenance standards are not up to ours, but they do OK here. Rooms are a good size with sofa and lots of storage space (even good wooden hangers). Hairdriers are available free on request. Kettles cost £14 for 7days! – take your own. Note: I only saw UK 3pin sockets. Wi Fi is available (payable?); broadband use a fair price. There is a beauty salon. I don't usually care for hotel evening entertainment, but thoroughly enjoyed it here. The local music and dance groups were good.

A word of advice: if you like a quiet room ask for one away from the pool (ie: not Block 1) which has the eateries, main bars and entertainment stage around it. We were in Block 3 which was fine. All you hear are occasional voices as people go upstairs or along the corridor.

The pool is big enough to swim in and wasn't busy, with a separate children's pool adjacent. Everything is kept clean and tidy. There are plenty of loungers around it and on the beach (mattresses and towels provided), with no 4am towels!

The main weakness is in the cost of most extras. The room safe is expensive. Currency exchange is a very poor rate. Credit card payments incur a 5% charge. Even paying by debit card the system is set up so that you are billed in Dalasi but they convert to £ (at an unfavourable rate) before you pay and can't bypass that system even if you protest. I suggest you take £ and/or travellers' cheques and change them at one of the many proper bureaux outside the hotel so you can stick to cash. The rate will be higher than the hotel (especially if you haggle!) and much higher than UK.

We were on B&B but did eat in the hotel a few times. Service was more efficient in the bars than in the restaurants (especially the large buffet one). Breakfast is the same buffet (quite extensive) each day. It starts early enough to breakfast before the earliest trips, finishes at 10. It gets busy 8.30 to 9.30 and queues can form for freshly cooked items. Patience may be needed if table service, laying and clearing tables, serving hot drinks, gets slow. 1/2 board evening meals are 3 course buffets with a different theme each night. There's a brasserie and a snack restaurant. The food is OK but not great. I found the fish much superior to the meat. Generally I agree with reviewers who say that you can eat better for less outside the hotel. Try Domino's Beach Bar (simple grills etc and great African dishes) and The Sailor for fish. You can safely walk outside the hotel at night or get a taxi to further afield.

The greatest strength of the country and the hotel is the people. The welcome is as warm as the tropical sun and you can expect to make real friends. The staff will go the extra mile whenever it is in their power.

Don't feel you have to play safe and use the tour operators' overpriced trips out. It's a safe country. Green 'tourist taxi' fares are regulated, posted up in writing and include waiting time. There are proper tourist guides. It's easy to to go with the locals and keep your desperately needed money in the local community, not going abroad. Our best trips were with Morro Sanyang, an official Birdwatching Society Guide. Their base is just up the road at Kotu Bridge. A lovely guy, he was so knowledgeable about the birds and told us about other wildlife and the way of life for people too. Bird life is unusually rich and varied in Gambia, attracting serious study as well as interested tourists.

'Bumsters' selling goods and services are everywhere trying to make a living above subsistence farming, through tourists. I couldn't blame them, but appreciated the hotel's success in controlling their efforts on the beach (seemed better than at some of the other hotels). There's an invisible line near the loungers that they don't generally cross unless beckoned.

Gambia is good for winter sun without jet lag, beaches, experiencing Africa (yes, including it's poverty), lovely people, birdwatching, river trips Visit stuffyourrucksack.com before setting out and take donations to schools. They will be much appreciated and you will have a fascinating and heart warming insight into another aspect of the country. The down-side: Bumsters; the culture of tipping (much needed, but it really can mount up). Flat, so not much variety of scenery and lacks civic architecture for cultural sightseeing. Yellow fever and anti-malaria medication needed (although we saw only 3 mosquitoes in 2 weeks).

People love the country or loath it; it has won my heart and I would happily stay at the Kombo Beach again.


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