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Banjul, Gambia

The Gambia takes its name from the river that runs through it. In fact the nation consists largely of the river and a narrow band of riparian land on either side of it. The smallest nation on the African mainland, it is only 30 miles wide at its broadest point, and surrounded on three sides by Senegal. The capital of Banjul, formerly known as Bathurst, slumbers on small St. Mary’s Island near the river’s mouth. The town’s life centers around the bustling Albert Market, where nearly everything is traded in any (or several) of the country’s five official languages, plus French and English. The National Museum is a good place to get a look at the historic and ethnographic makeup. South of the town is Abuko Nature Reserve, a 180-acre section of savannah forest preserved in 1968 through the efforts of the country’s first forest officer, Eddie Brewer. The reserve is a good place to see examples of the native fauna including several species of monkeys, hyenas, antelope, and reptiles including crocodiles and monitor lizards. It also attracts more than 270 species of birds.