Jinack Island: A Getaway in Gambia

Gambia

Jinack Island in Gambia

It would be impossible to find Jinack for almost anyone except for the native people who have grown up paddling their hand-carved pirogues through the passageways of sandbars, mangroves, and still stretches of water. Luckily for us, a long-time friend of Peace Corps volunteers Yankuba Mane greeted us warmly as we climbed unsteadily into his rocking wooden boat.

“Ladies first,” said Yankuba in his chipper Gambian English. He motioned for me to sit at the front of the pirogue. I took my seat and tried to not to scrabble at the sides as the giant canoe tipped to one side and then the other as my friend and Yankuba also climbed in.

Gambia

Sailing Toward Jinack Island, Gambia

Yankuba paddled us into the channel of calm water lined by mangroves, their spidery roots plunging into the sandy depths of the brackish water, their seeds hanging off branches like spongy-headed sea creatures. I watched pelicans bob like bath toys near our boat and a white stork picked his leggy way across a sandbar. Every now and then a flash of silver would break the mirrored surface of the water as another small fish leapt to catch an insect. My heart caught at every ripple in the water, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive dolphins and manatees known to live among mangrove habitats.

The first sight of civilization after the unbroken expanse of mangroves was a mountain of oyster shells that would be used to make the mortar integral to the building of the islanders’ houses. I laughed as another pirogue rocked by, sporting the name “Barack Obama” in bright yellow, green, and red block letters. Palm trees lined the beach and other fishing boats littered the shore.

We thanked Yankuba and promised to meet him here the next day. While there was a hostel on this side of the island, my friend assured me that the one on the other side of the island, about a 20 minute walk, would not only give us a small tour of the island but the pleasure of miles of white sandy beaches completely to ourselves.

Gambia

Jinack Lodge in Gambia

True to his word, we soon came upon the Jinack Lodge, built right beside the crashing waves on the far shore. Small bungalows speckled the otherwise completely deserted landscape and a high-lofted room completely open to the beach and decorated with tortoise shells and blue Christmas lights draped among the whistling pines served as the office, bar, and dining hall.

We were the only guests, and so we spent the day building sand castles on the beach, swimming in the ocean, playing Frisbee, and lounging in the hammocks unfettered by the social niceties that come with sharing a communal space with other guests. We were the kings in our own kingdom and we made the most of it.

Finally, we ended the day with a fire under the stars. After being so hot for so many days in my village in the south of the country, I was more comfortable than I had been in a long time huddled in a quilt next to the fire, warmed against the fierce ocean wind. It was in this state that I drifted to sleep, dreaming of the dolphins I might see tomorrow on our way back through the mangroves.

Whitney’s Helpful Information:
• Although we went from the Senegalese side, planning your trip out of Banjul, the capital of the Gambia, would be a much easier option. It takes about 30 minutes to get from Banjul to Jinack.
• Useful languages for the trip: English, French, Mandinka, Wolof
• Money Sitch! The Jinack Lodge will accept Senegalese cfa, but that side of the island mostly takes the Gambian dollasi. $1=500 cfa= 25 Dollasi

Getting there from the Senegal side
– Take sept place from Dakar to Kaolack, then from Kaolack to Karang (the Banjul car)
– In Karang, take either bikes, motorcycles, or a charet to the village of Bakindik.
– Call Yankuba (+2203579285) to take you to Jinack in his pirogue. He charges the fairest prices. Other boats will try and rip you off. Expect to pay between 2-3 mil one way.

Getting there from the Gambian side
– Take Jinack Lodge tour boat from Banjul to the island. Make travel arrangements through Jinack Lodge.

Helpful Contact Information:
jinacklodge.com
Yankuba Mane (pirogue): +2203579285
Amadou (Manager of the Jinack lodge): +2207778935

Written By Whitney Jenkins

Whitney JenkinsWhitney Jenkins, raised a country girl on her family’s cattle ranch in Nebraska, has always had a taste for adventure. After graduating from Creighton University with a degree in creative writing, she joined the Peace Corps. Now she lives in Senegal and works with local farmers propagating fruit tree orchards as a way to make her local community more sustainable. Whitney’s talents include singing with her mouth closed, disturbingly accurate impersonations of Jay Leno, and finding the magic in every place she goes, including Cape Verde.