Island, and Janjanbureh
Town, are in the Central River Region of The Gambia, in the
Niamina East District, 300km upstream from the Banjul
capital. The former British colonial
settlement was founded in 1823, when king of Lower Niani, Kolli
Camara, ceded the island to Britain. It is the headquarters of
the Central River Region, and one of the eight Local
Government Areas, with an estimated population of 3,600. It
was formerly known as Lemaine, then re-named MacCarthy
Island (after Sir
Charles MacCarthy), with a mud brick Fort George (Georgetown).
room choices in Janjanbureh are mostly eco-tourism orientated
bush lodges or basic guesthouses, most can be found on or
very near to the banks of the River
Gambia. There is the in town Talamanca
Lodge, with a diner, 3 rooms with ensuite shower and WC. The
in town Alakabung Lodge has 10 ensuite rooms plus meals (tel:
5676123). There is the Baobolong Camp (tel: 5676133) and the Janjang
Bureh Camp (tel: 9816944). On the mainland and to the west is
Garden Guesthouse, Kuntaur. There is also the island based
Bird Safari Camp
with 36 rooms of tents or thatched huts, a pool, bar and restaurant.
• Janjanbureh Island
got its new name in 1995, and is sometimes referred to by its
colonial name of McCarthy, it is 20 square kilometres in area,
10 km long, and 1.5 km wide. The north of the island is linked
to the mainland at Lamin Koto village terminal by a vehicle and
passenger ferry service, while the south is linked by a 100m span
vehicle and passenger bridge, opened in July 2010, which connects
the settlement to the South Bank Road via Sankulay Kunda village.
The dominant vegetation type is tropical rain forest in the form
of a gallery forest, which are particularly rich in bird species.
The west of the island has abundant, secluded woodland, as well
as the West Rice Paddies.
• Janjanbureh Town
is a planned port town, formerly known as Georgetown, and lies
on the north side of the isle. It has a ferry terminal crossing,
a post office, a Methodist Church opened in 1835 (claimed to be
the oldest Methodist Church in sub-Saharan Africa), a primary
station, a village produce market, a bush taxi rank, a prison,
a Gamtel office, the Commissioner's
Officers' Residence, the co-ed Armitage High School, and a number
of colonial buildings dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The town is mainly used as a collection point for groundnuts
and rice which has been harvested by the
local farmers and in outlying areas. It is sometimes referred
to as the Gambia's 'second city' and is still an important trading
and administrative centre of the Central River Region.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO:
If you go on an one or two-day excursions
by foot or boat, you can roam much of the vicinity of the island,
as well as interesting sites a little further afield.
• Bird Watching
Baobolong, Janjang Bureh and Bird
Safari Camp all offer birdwatching tours.
Janjanbureh's habitats of woodland, riverine, scrub savanna
and rice fields are particularly rich in bird species. While on
a bird watching trip you might
find Abyssinian Rollers, African Crakes, African Finfoots,
African Green-Pigeons, Bearded Barbets, Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagles,
Black-rumped Waxbills, Blue-eared Glossy Starlings, Broad-billed
Rollers, Bruce’s Green Pigeons, Egyptian Plovers (Crocodile Birds),
Four-banded Sandgrouse, Green Woodhoopoe, Grey-headed Kingfishers,
Hammerkops, Little Egrets, Long-tailed Glossy-Starlings, Northern
Carmine Bee-eaters, Northern White-faced Owls, Oriole Warblers,
Palm-nut Vultures, Pearl Spotted Owl, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Red-billed
Queleas, Red-billed Firefinches, Senegal Coucals, Snowy-crowned
Robins, Stone Partridges, Striated Herons, Swamp Flycatchers,
Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls, Village Indigobirds, Wood Sandpipers, and
• Sports Fishing
tidal waters of the River Gambia, this far upstream, offer plenty
of fish species for anglers. If you come along with the right
rod and tackle, you could catch game fish such as the West African
Tigerfish, or Threadfin Salmon, Tilapia, Freshwater Sole, Elephant
Fish, Captain Fish, Ladyfish, African Pike, and Catfish species
such as Vundu, Silver, Electric, Channel and Hardhead. The best
time of the year to go fishing in these
waters is December to May. To arrange a fishing trip enquire with
one of the fishing tour operators,
or at the Bird Safari
• River Cruises
are several options available for canoe or boating trips. The
first is to book an excursion on one of the boats, such as privately
chartering Jane's Boats, departing
from Denton Bridge in Banjul.
This could involve a few nights stay in one of the local lodges.
The other option is to use one of the boats provided by the local
accommodation such as the Lady Hippo, which is operated by the
Bird Safari Camp.
The last option is to simply ask one of the local pirogue owners,
likely a fisherman, to take you along the river, for a fee of
course. Interesting places to explore are downstream along the
spectacular stretches of the riverside, and the various islands
called Miniang, Kajakat, Sapu and Brikama Island. If you are going
solo then do check if you are allowed to set foot on any of them.
Kai Hai, further to the west, is off limits to visitors.
• Wildlife Spotting
There is plenty of wildlife in the wooded sections of Janjanbureh
Island, as well as along the river and the closest parts of the
mainland. There are mammals and reptiles such as Green Vervet
monkeys, turtles, Callithrix monkeys, Temminck's Western Red Colobus.
About 14 miles downstream at the Central River Circuit, around
the three uninhabited Kai Hai Islands, you have one of the few
remaining populations of hippopotamus in West Africa. Further
downstream are the Baboon Islands and the River
Gambia National Park. West African Manatees have been known
to visit here, but are rarely seen. These last two locations don't
allow visitors, but looking on from a boat you might see crocodiles,
herons, hippos and chimpanzees.
• Wassu Stone Circles
UNESCO World Heritage-listed site is
20km north of Lamin Koto. The megalithic Wassu
Stone Circles, dated between 927 and 1305 AD., are comprised
of 11 circles and their related frontal stones.
• Lamin Koto Stone Circles
This ancient monument is smaller than its more famous counterpart
at Wassu, but is closer to the island and easier to reach at only
1.7km away from the North Bank.
• Janjanbureh Cultural Festival
1983, elders and the educated elite decided to revitalise the
cultural practices and norms of their ancestors, with the purpose
of educating youth. The ideas came together in the form of an
annual festival, first held in that same year and organised by
the Janjanbureh Cultural Association. The festival is comprised
of various cultural activities, and gives a chance for visitors
to meet and talk to elders about various traditions and practices.
The opening of the ceremony is marked by a musical performance
with drums and dance, with a show of various types of Kankurang
One of the most interesting ceremonies to be seen is the initiation
rite of circumcised Gambian boys, where they would gather at the
tinyang sita (a baobab tree),
where they would rest for the day. Other activities that take
place includes naming ceremonies,
weeding ceremonies and Kadeeboo. The Kadeeboo is a ritual game
in which girls try to unveil the Kankurang mask in public.
• Colonial Architecture
are a few historic buildings in the town that tell of the settlement's
colonial past. On the riverbank 19th century warehouses stand
neglected and crumbling, aided by the relentless encroachment
of vegetation. There is the Maurel and Prom Building, a
former French trading house from Bordeaux, on the slipway to the
ferry terminal. To its right are the roofless ruins of the CFAO
Building. These structures are sometimes erroneously called
'slave houses' or 'slave market', they are not, as both were built
long after Britain abolished slavery
in 1807. Furthermore many of the floors are tiled, something a
slaver is highly unlikely to have bothered with. In all likelihood
they were goods stores and warehouses.
opposite the market, on Owen Street, is a small wooden house.
It is one of the few remaining Creole buildings of its kind, built
by a family of liberated slaves who settled here in the early
1830s. Beside the post office is the old government rest house
with its unusually intricate corrugated iron roof design.
• Bars & Restaurants
There are a limited number of dining choices for tourists outside
of the lodges. The
Bendula, located on Owen Street, is open from 11am to 9pm. It
has a dining hall and serves cold soft drinks, Guinness and reasonably
priced meals. There is the Roadside Pub on Findlay Street, opposite
the Alakabung Lodge, serving nice Jollof
Rice with a Fanta, Coke or Sprite. The wharf side has a handful
of simple eateries serving basic food. You can also try the in
Lodge, which actually started out as a restaurant.
• Mungo Park Memorial
20km east of Janjanbureh is Karantaba Tenda Village. Close to
the village on the riverbank is an obelisk on a thick, square
base called the Mungo Park Memorial. This place marks the spot
where the Scottish explorer began his adventure from The Gambia
and into the interior, to follow the course of the Niger River
on the 2nd December, 1795. This tourist attraction can be found
at the following coordinates: latitude: 13.55 / Longitude: -14.57.
• Kunkilling Forest Park
The nature conservation area is located on the south bank of the
river, near the eastern end of Janjanbureh, and just 10 minutes
by vehicle from the village of Sankulay Kunda. Kunkilling
Forest Park is 142 hectares of superb riverine forest, of
rhun palms and hardwood, with numerous monkey species, birds and
reptiles. From the avian viewing platform you might see birds
such as Adamawa turtledove, Beaudouin's Snake Eagles, Finfoots,
White-backed Vultures and Yellow-bellied Hyliota. Along the riverside
you might spot crocodiles taking in the Sun.
• Chameleon Arts
is a combined craft studio and store where you can pick up some
tourist souvenirs such as djembe drums,
African jewelry, tie dye fabrics and the musical African harp
called kora. There are also other places in town selling crafts
such as carved wooden masks and human
• Foroyaa Sooto Freedom Tree Monument
is a tiny, half-block fenced, wedge shaped park with a Bantang
tree, planted to act as a reminder of the 'Freedom Tree'
that used to grow in Fort George, nearby. It is said that after
the British had outlawed slavery in 1807, any runaway slaves who
managed to touch the tree would have their name noted down by
soldiers at the fort, and were immediately emancipated. You can
find a short pillar with a written description of the monument
and a little background.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the island was called Lemaine
by Luso-African and European traders, who kept temporary
trading stations there, and had used the island as an assembly
area for slaves, pending shipment to slave buying markets overseas.
hundreds of years Janjanbureh had been an up-country refuge for
escaped slaves, Muslims fleeing
religious oppression, and merchants looking for somewhere safe,
and well-linked, to trade in groundnuts and other merchandise.
In 1785 Richard Bradley signed the first treaty with the king
of Niani to cede Lemaine Island (MacCarthy) to the British, in
exchange for gifts amounting to £579.80, with the view to establishing
a penal settlement. However, nothing came of the plan, the convicts
being eventually diverted to other locations. In 1810 the first
village settlement of Morokunda was founded by Mandinka
Muslims fleeing religious persecution. On the 14th April, 1823,
the second treaty of cession of the isle was signed by the king
of Niani, Kolli Camara, and Captain Alexander Grant of the Royal
African Corps. This was in return for a box of wine and five cases
The British used the settlement as a base for commercial trading,
missionary work, agriculture
and for protecting its traders, and the upper navigable reaches
of the river, against illegal slave traders. The first British
settlers were a few merchants from Bathurst, a detachment
of soldiers from the West Indian Regiment who were stationed on
the north of Janjanbureh, who built a mud-earth works garrison
and Christened it Fort George, and a number of Wesleyan missionaries
who established the Wesleyan Mission (Methodist Church), begun
as a station in 1824 under John Morgan, and finally built in 1835.
These first settlers proceeded to build Georgetown's warehouses,
stores, quays, and dealt in iron products, fabrics, rifles, and
palm oil. Later Fort Campbell was built on the eastern end of
Discharged solders from the coast and the Kombos helped swell
the small population. In 1832 two hundred Aku
(Creole) freed slaves from Freetown arrived. A good number of
them were skilled craftsmen and unskilled workers, and they assisted
in developing the island's farming potential. They took full advantage
of the first class mission schools in the area. Out of the mission
schools sprung up the Chiefs' School, reserved for the seyfolus'
sons. This was rebuilt, and opened in 1927, and renamed Armitage
High School, which became a prestigious boarding school for the
sons of the Gambian elite.
The 1860s witnessed an influx of more refugees fleeing from the
Soninke-Marabout wars being
waged on the mainland.
the 1920s Cherno Kaddy Baldeh, the king of Fulladu West, recognised
the need for a bridge to link his district to MacCarthy Island,
and benefit from the booming trade in groundnuts.
He used forced labour, local wood and other materials to build
a floating log-bridge, which allowed the movement of groundnuts
from his district, across the Sankulay Kunda River, to groundnut
buying depots in Georgetown from 1925 to 1931.
In the 1930s the freighting and trading of groundnuts between
the upriver regions and Kombo increased, Georgetown was the centre
of this activity, its local economy growing strongly. After Banjul,
it had now become The Gambia's second town, and an administrative
base for the British Protectorate. Since 1965 Georgetown's economic
glory has been on the decline, exacerbated by the construction
of the South Bank Road in the 1970s, and the termination of the
HEALTH & SAFETY:
has many wild areas so there are several things you need to be
wary of. Firstly, not every snake, spider or scorpion is poisonous,
and many aren't venomous enough to cause your real harm. However,
it's a good idea when trekking in the bush to wear boots, at least
covering your ankles, as well as trousers such as denims.
Think about your own safety
and don't swim in the river no matter what people tell you. Certain
parts of the river have crocodiles and hippos, though they are
not often seen around the immediate vicinity of the island.
get to the island of Janjanbureh you take one of the bush taxis
South Bank Road eastwards up to the road junction leading to Sankulay
Kunda village, from there you continue to the bridge crossing
and onto the isle. The alternative route is to take the Banjul
ferry up to Barra.
From there you take the North Bank Road which passes through places
like Kuntaya, Kerewan, Farafenni, Saback Ngaine, Wassu and finally
Kuntaur, then from here directly to the ferry terminal at Lamin
Koto village. Because the ferry operates only until 7pm an early
start is required, otherwise you might have to spend the night
in a nearby lodge on the mainland.
Note: This place name has the alternative spelling of Janjangbureh
& Lodges Map
[Geographical coordinates 13.31 ° N, 14.50
° W / Central River Region / Niamina East District]