As tourism goes, Gambia is a very unusual destination. It doesn’t boast of beautiful landscapes or incredible nature like its neighbourhood countries, but still there are a couple of things that you have to try in the country which will give you a unique experience. Besides Barra-Banjul ferry crossing, the yellow taxi ride, marijuana plantations, Kubuneh street art, sailing along the river Gambia, visiting Serrekunda market, walking on the non-overcrowded beaches, Tanji (pronounced Tanje or Tanjeh) fish market is one of the tourist attractions which is advised to be experienced in the country.
Where is Tanji Fish Market?
Named after its village, Tanji fish market is close to the Atlantic Ocean beach, in the northern section of the Kombo South District, West Coast Region of The Gambia. It is 30 km by road from the capital of Banjul, and approximately 12km southwest of Senegambia resort area, and adjacent to the Kombo Coastal Road. The centre of Tanji village is located about 1km from the main fishing bay.
What is Tanji Fish Market?
Now, do you have an idea of what the fishing industry means in Africa?
It is colorful, it is stinky, it is noisy, it is chaotic, but at the same time everything proceeds with a certain order. Tanji Fish market indeed represents one of the major coastal fishing communities from where fish and seafood are caught, dried or sold and exported to neighboring West African countries. So nothing is left to chance as it may seem to the visitor at first sight.
There is a real chain of work at the fish market in Tanji: from the boats in the sea, the freshly caught fish is taken ashore with baskets on the heads. Once on the shore it is loaded in wheelbarrows pushed by men. It is then sorted by ladies, and then taken off to stalls to fuel the demands of local hotels, restaurants, and market sellers.
On the other hand, you can find the retail sales. Once the customers buy the fish, they can ask for it to be cleaned. There is a separate section for this. I mean there are then the “cleaners,” ladies who clean the fish from morning to evening. Not only big customers but also the ones who buy fish for their daily use could ask the ladies to clean the fish for them for 10 or less Dalasi. The price depends on how big the fish is.
How to get to Tanji Fish Market.
Because of its very active fishing harbor Tanji fish market is certainly one of the most visited places in the Gambia. In my case, I was staying in the Senegambia area and I reached the Tanji fish market with the Gambian yellow taxi caught on the main street, right by the Senegambia tourist area.
First I consulted the Senegambia tourist green taxi (only for tourists) price board and according to it the round trip to Tanji fish market cost 900 Dalasi for small vehicles and 1100 Dalasi for big cars. Having that price reference and knowing that the yellow taxi (for locals) was cheaper than the green ones, I was able to travel for 750 Dalasi. The driver left me in front of the Tanji fish market and gave me a couple of hours to go freely around the market.
Read Also: Green taxi and Yellow taxi in the Gambia
Even if I didn’t try this route personally, I know that there is a bus with frequent departures from the Senegambia main street. No one will guide you through this option because tourism in the Gambia is organized to create a perfectly separate life for tourists. However, in case you want to travel to Tanji fish market by bus what you have to do is go tothe bus stop and ask the locals who are not involved in the tourism industry. Since the National language in the Gambia is English you can easily make yourself understood in order to receive help.
Things to know about the fish market in Tanji.
- Fish is very cheap here; as I was staying in an apartment, I bought some and asked one of those ladies to clean it for me. I spent 60 Dalasi in total, including the cleaning service. Certainly I spent more than what a Gambian would have spent. I’m pretty sure about that, but nonetheless I decided to buy it because the price was just fine for my pocket. I heard that locals from any part of the Gambia regularly visit Tanji fish market as the seafood is cheaper than those in the inland markets.
- They use old broken freezers to store the fish before it is moved on to other parts of Africa. Instead of electricity they use ice cubes to keep it cold. I mean they fill the freezers with ice cubes and add in the fish.
- Tanji fish market is a perfect spot for photography lovers. Every corner grants beautiful candid photos. Locals told me that it is even more fascinating in the late afternoon. However, I need to remind you that for “unknown reasons,” Gambians normally don’t like being photographed, so you need to be careful because you can receive insults. The market tends to be much busier in the morning when the locals come to do their shopping. I was taken there just before lunch, and it seemed perfect.
- Locals of any age are involved at the fish market in Tanji. You can also see children selling and playing, ladies cooking, men repairing fishing nets, people salting and drying huge piles of fish, and so on.
- It’s a fish market so you will smell fish. In my case I started to smell it while I was still in my taxi. If that’s not for you, then don’t go.
- Hygiene is far from European standards. It is easy to see insects everywhere and countless worms on the ground (especially in the rainy season), but I still consider Tanji fish market a fascinating place to wander around!
- There is a small market incorporated into the seaside where they sell all kinds of things.
- Kids will constantly ask you for items such as slippers, shoes, phones, headsets, basically anything they can think of but that they can never afford.
- At the fish market you can walk around easily by yourselves, but if you want less hassle, you could pay and take a guide. Ask at your hotel for this service.
- Tanji village is inhabited by several ethnic groups such as Mandinka, Wolof, Jola, and Serer. The last group are traditionally the fishermen, while the others are generally engaged in farming, crafts, and petty trading.
How much time you need at Tanji Fish Market.
In my case I was given 2 hours to wander around and that was not enough for me. I love taking photos so two hours flew by. I had to rush and when I returned back to my taxi 15 minutes later than the agreed time the driver asked me for 100 Dalasi more, so I ended up spending 850 Dalasi.
It would have been nice to have had more time available.
Certainly you will have a busy time if you want to take photos and videos. But if you don’t care too much for photography, then 2 hours at the Tanji fish market will be enough.
Final Thoughts on Tanji Fish Market.
Tanji fish market is a living museum in The Gambia which willingly or not will open up all your senses. Working procedures here are quite primitive but at the same time highly effective! It is a fantastic experience if you want to see and feel a real Gambian lifestyle.
I recommend Tanji fish market not only because seeing local’s life has become for me one of the best parts of my travelings, but also because it is something that you just can’t experience anywhere else. Give yourself a couple of hours here and you will realize that even crowded, it has a charismatic side. You can see how hard children, women, and men make living from the fish.