Brufut, Gambia

Photo: Leo’s Beach Hotel & Restaurant

Let the planning resume. You were supposed to visit the Gambia last year. But, like so many other countries, its 2016 presidential election didn’t go as expected. When President Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled for 22 years, lost to Adama Barrow, he declared the election void, called for a new vote, and sparked a crisis in the African country. Nearly two months later, Jammeh finally agreed to relinquish power. But the damage was already done. Most flights from Europe ended. The construction of hotels and second homes halted. Plus trips, including your own, were canceled. The Gambia is now peaceful and safe again.

You’d go now, but the green season just started. From June to November, oppressive heat and heavy rain make travel difficult, if not impossible. Though the country is lush and, as the name suggests, green at this time, the Gambia River floods the low hills around it and dirt roads are washed out. So you’ll wait. By November, the air will be dry. The sun will be shining. There will be a cool breeze off of the Atlantic Ocean. While you’ll be looking to escape the quickly dropping temperatures back home.

The Gambia is the smallest country on the mainland of Africa. Except for a 50-mile strip along the Atlantic Ocean, the West African country is surrounded by Senegal. During your first trip to the “Smiling Coast,” you traveled up the Gambia River, which runs through the center of the country. This time, you’ll explore the actual coast. After landing in Banjul, you’ll head south to Brufut. The fishing village is one of the fastest developing areas in the country. It’s known for its gorgeous beaches, expat developments, and animal-filled parks. It’s also where you’ll find a chic boutique hotel.

Leo’s Beach Hotel & Restaurant sits on Brufut Heights, the cliffs above the beach just south of most of the larger resorts. An Austrian couple first visited the Gambia in 2009. After falling in love with the country and its people, they returned the following year to buy the beachfront property. Their small, adults-only hotel finally opened in 2013. It’s been on your wish list ever since.

Though you have months before your trip, you already feel welcomed at Leo’s. You’ve received warm greetings, quickly answered questions, and suggestions for your entire trip through emails. An airport transfer and a local mobile phone are awaiting your arrival. Your double room, one of only six rooms, will have a view of the pool, the gardens, and the ocean in the distance. Freshly caught seafood will be mixed with Mediterranean flavors at the restaurant. Plus a monkey park, a bird reserve, and, of course, that gorgeous beach will be nearby. November can’t come soon enough.

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