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Review: Kombo Beach

Accommodation - Hotel

Kotu , Gambia

Slightly tired, but great for guaranteed winter sun

  • By SilverTraveller HMJ

    815 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • February 2020
  • Partner
  • Relaxation

177 people found this review helpful

After a week of sailing with Variety Cruises on their Rivers of West Africa cruise, we wanted to spend a week chilling on the beach. We’d booked our cruise with Seafarer Cruising and Sailing Holidays, who recommended Silver Travel Advisor Partner – Serenity Holidays – The Gambia Experience. Having been to The Gambia, albeit 26 years ago, we decided to return to the same hotel, Kombo Beach, as it was 3 star and one of the cheaper options. We were also intrigued to see what changes had been made.

Having disembarked the Harmony V at 9am, we were aware that, as it was only a short drive to the hotel, we’d be too early for check in. So, we packed swimwear and sun cream, ready to hit the beach. However, we weren’t quite prepared for the rather fierce reception ladies who told us that as we didn’t have a room number and were not in the system (which appears to be key), we couldn’t sign for drinks or have a towel as we didn’t have the all-important towel card. Eventually, the manager got things sorted for us. It’s worth noting that if you want your beach towel changed, it’s 30 Dalasi (50p) which at first seemed a little petty, but presumably helps save the planet. On returning to reception at 1.55pm, we were told to sit and wait as it wasn’t 2pm. We did as we were told and a minute later, were summoned to the desk: the room was ready!

The 258 virtually identical rooms are set in four blocks over three stories, although the ‘superior’ and ‘premium’ rooms are said to have been modernised. There’s no lift and the ground floor rooms might appeal to older people or families. However, we deliberately chose a standard room, as they were on the high floors which we prefer.

Our room, 245, was in block two, Bougainvillea, which was well positioned: I’d try to avoid block 1 which is nearest the evening entertainment and so could be noisy.

The room was exceptionally large with a king size and third single bed which we used for sitting. Shelving and hanging space were plentiful and the tiled floor practical bearing in mind, however carefully we washed our feet, there was always sand. There was a TV and empty fridge which was helpful as there is a mini market within the hotel and lots of nearby small shops to buy water, drinks and snacks. The use of the safe was an extra at 1015 Dalasi/£16 for the week. There’s no tea and coffee making facilities, but plenty of plug points although some were rather low. The excellent AC was easy to operate, essential as in Mid Feb it was 38 to 40 degrees during the day, only getting down to 21 at night. WiFi was included and although slightly intermittent sometimes, it could even be reached on the beach.

The bathroom was spacious, and although the shower over the bath had lots of powerful hot water, it spurted everywhere. Hairdryers were available on request if you were lucky.

Nata, our room boy, looked after us excellently, cleaning our room early, only replacing towels when we wanted and not moving things around.

Each room has a balcony with two plastic chairs and a coffee table.

We booked half board as we were unsure about restaurants nearby. Although there were a few, which were probably cheaper than eating in the hotel, the choice was relatively limited, and we were happy with our decision. Dinners (6.30pm to 9.30pm) were themed buffets, e.g. Mediterranean, Asian, traditional, carvery etc. and were excellent and, although I tend to stick to vegetarian dishes when away, I became an avid carnivore as the meat was so good. The restaurant was quiet and there was never the scrum down that can come with a buffet.

At lunch time we ate in the brasserie and wine bar, which was right on the beach, with the shade providing respite from the heat. There was a good choice of light snacks, sandwiches and salads at reasonable prices.

Breakfast, 6.30am to 10am, had all the usual offerings with chefs for eggs, waffles and pancakes. Juices included baobab and wonjo, both of which are said to have medicinal properties.

The hotel is set on a long expanse of beach, ideal for walking during low tide. Although the beach is not private, the hotel keep it clean. The water didn’t appeal to us, as it was a rather grim colour with the dark sand, and the waves were pretty high. We quickly became immune to the ‘bumsters’ selling carved wooden elephants, clothing, nuts, sand paintings, baskets, leather wares and simply ignored them. However, any that hassled too vehemently, were quickly moved on by the efficient hotel security. There was also a plethora of ‘fruit ladies’ selling juice and chopped fruit.

The pool was slightly disappointing in terms of size and the fact that it hosted aqua aerobics in the morning and water volleyball in the afternoon. However, both the beach and pool area had lots of beds, and because of this, there was a lack of ‘5am bed bagging’.

The hotel has a spa which I didn’t use, library with an excellent stock of English books, TV room mainly for the sports fans, table tennis and two tennis courts we remember playing on 26 years ago. They don’t appear to have seen much maintenance since.

There is also a full entertainments programme from early-morning yoga, music and cookery lessons, darts and skittles whilst on the evening, there were various musicians with traditional and more modern music and local dancing.

Whilst we could sign for meals and drinks, once we reached 5,000 Dalasi (every couple of days), we had to settle the bill either in cash or by credit card.

Just outside the hotel, are two craft markets, small supermarkets, money changers (but no ATM), an endless supply of taxis and many tourist agencies offering trips to most of the places we visited from our cruise. Kotu Creek is a 5-minute walk which is fun for bird watching, canoe trips and there is a daily feeding of the vultures at 10.30am.

Although the hotel is not luxurious and needs a little TLC, we found it ideal for a week of relaxing in the sun.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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