ALBREDA AND JUFFUREH
These two villages lie so close to each other that it’s difficult for a visitor to tell where one ends and the other begins. Albreda is famous for its old trading post and slave factory, which is another name for a fortified trading post. Juffureh is famous because of Alex Haley’s 1970’s book Roots in which he, an African-American, investigated his ancestry. Juffureh is the place from where Kunta Kinteh, one of Haley’s forebears, was taken as a slave around 200 years ago. Both of these villages have benefited immensely from this story and have been visited by tens of thousands of tourists since Roots was published. The only trouble is that the vast majority of tourists come on a day trip organized by tour operators and stop for only a couple of hours before going back to their hotels. The villagers would dearly love for more tourists to stop for longer.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
Most people come on the “Roots” excursion organized by tour operators. It is quite easy to get to the villages on your own with a local guide. There are several options of transport. You can have a total local experience and use all the local means of transportation; bus or shared taxi to Banjul, cross with local boat or ferry to Barra and then use a bush taxi from Barra to Albreda/Juffureh. You can also hire a taxi to Banjul, cross with a ferry and hire another taxi to the villages. You can also hire a boat to take you across the river in case you are staying on the south bank. If you join “Roots” excursion, you will depart from Banjul port on a large boat which takes you on a pleasant trip up and across the River Gambia.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
There is a small but thought-provoking museum on the slave trade located in Albreda.
Excursion by boat to Kunta Kinteh island can be set up with local villagers.
The countryside around the villages contains some good areas, especially close to the river. There are lots of birds and butterflies and it’s well worth taking some time out to explore. The jetty and shoreline at Albreda often hold good numbers of waders, gulls and terns. Sometimes you will find a large flock of yellow-billed storks feeding on the riverbank.
Staying overnight in the village will take you deeper inside the local life. Villagers will be happy to share their stories and culture with you. Traditional performance can be organized by women. Dancing and singing in the middle of the village with friendly people of The Gambia will sure be a evening to remember.
ABOUT KUNTA KINTEH ISLAND
Kunta Kinteh island is a small rocky outcrop in the River Gambia which holds the extensive ruins of Fort James, among a small grove of Baobab trees. The island is well worth a visit to get a glimpse of The Gambia’s past.
The island was originally named St. Andrew Island after a Portuguese sailor from the entourage of Luiz de Cadamosto, who was buried on the island in 1456.
In 1651, the first fort was built on the island by servants of the Duke of Courland, but this was seized by a group with the wonderful name of “Royal Adventures of England” ten years later, who renamed the island ‘James Island’ after James, Duke of York. The fort was ideally placed to provide strategic defence for English interests along the river and as a staging post for the shipment of slaves. In the following years the fort had a very busy time and was attacked and seized by the French then recaptured by the English, several times. Often the fort was also destroyed only to be rebuilt. Other highlights in the garrison’s history include the time when it was attacked by pirates in 1719, who carried off all the goods and slaves in it, and an unsuccessful attack on the fort by 500 ‘Niumi’ men in 1768. In 1779, the French, who had seized the island once again, this time without firing a shot, finally destroyed the fort. The island was eventually abandoned altogether in 1829.
The island was so small that it only allowed room for the construction of the fort and had to be extended to provide space for the other buildings that were needed. This was done by creating earth and rock embankments, which were supported by piled stakes. Over the years the stakes have naturally decayed, and the embankments have been eroded by the action of the waves. This has been a long process and is still continuing today, though extremely slowly.
On the 6th of February 2011 historical site of James Island was officially renamed to Kunta Kinteh Island. The renaming came during a pilgrimage to the village , the birth place of Kunta Kinteh, as part of series of activities marking the 10th edition of the International Roots Homecoming Festival.
From The Gambia, The Bradt travel guide