Ngala Lodge Hotel, The Gambia
Ngala Lodge is a cliff top hotel offering an idyllic luxury accommodation and cuisine in western Gambia.
It is easy to spot when a hotel is a creation of passion and Ngala Lodge Hotel in Gambia is an outstanding example. It was created in 1995 by Peter Engels, an entrepreneur from Amsterdam who fell in love with Gambia and made it home. He found himself a house on top of a cliff with a blazing orange edge that meets with a private beach below. It had a few extra rooms for when the family came to visit.
Everyone who came loved the place so much that Peter was pressed to rent out two rooms on a bed-and-breakfast basis. It soon became clear that Peter’s home was destined for more and eventually grew into the exquisite Ngala Lodge Hotel.
Strewn around are humourous sculptures such as plumptious women enjoying the resort, hidden within the lush landscape that surprise and delight at every turn. Twisty red brick lanes and pathways made from seashells are hemmed with lush bushes and lead to the al fresco lounges, bedrooms and pools.
I was there in December and saw hundreds of white butterflies flitting around the lawns, greenery and tropical gardens, while tall palm trees swayed in the zephyr as tiny birds enjoyed the ride on palm fronds. Beyond that, the blue sea ebbed and flowed below the seating deck on Ngala’s small private beach in a secluded cove. The aesthetic is as artful as it gets.
The experience all starts with a relaxing check-in, casually yet professionally done in a pretty, circular open-sided lounge where the greeting includes a cold towel and a hibiscus juice to enjoy while your bags are removed and taken to the rooms.
This is a good value luxury adult-only hotel, perfect for couples, honeymooners or families with older children.
Ngala has 24 unique suites, all of them with thoughtful decor, design and artwork, with spacious en-suites that come with a walk-in shower, often a bath, high-end toiletries and dressing gowns. Most rooms have great views and all have air-conditioning, a mini fan and a fridge where a bottle of water is placed every day,
My room was number 18 called Agnes, named after Peter Engels’ eldest daughter. This is a gorgeous, extremely spacious room with a large terrace with sunbeds and a jacuzzi with views over palms, tropical gardens and the sea. It has spectacular floor-to-ceiling artwork that was originally too high for the room and so the ceiling was raised to accommodate it.
Some of the Macondo Suites come with a plunge pool and the Femmy suite has its own private decking area and an impressive 7.5m pool.
Incidentally, the rooms do not have a television, but there is one in the reception if you miss it.
Food & Drink
Ngala has an attractive open-sided restaurant perched on the cliff top and many tables that look out to the sea – be sure to book one early. The menu offers high-end cuisine, beautifully presented and totally delicious. The theme is Continental with some Gambian dishes in the mix and dinner always started with an amuse bouche.
Breakfast is served in the same restaurant and, from the buffet, I particularly liked the Gambian peanut ice pudding served with plain yoghurt. Cooked dishes are available too.
To the side of the restaurant is a small bar area with plenty of wines and cocktails to sip while enjoying the views and sounds of the sea.
Several nights a week there is live music, nothing too hard-core but toe-tapping nonetheless.
The resort has two swimming pools, both outdoors and one an elegant infinity pool that looks out to the ocean. Further down – reached by steep steps – is a deck on the beach with sunbeds, parasols and cabanas. The hotel has fishing rods and you can go fishing too. One guest was out there every day returning with barracudas which he donated to the staff.
Wi-fi is freely available and each room comes with a mobile phone to use around the resort so you can order any of the hotel services wherever you are located on the grounds – came in handy when ordering another Julbrew (a local brew produced in the capital Banjul).
A 7 night package starts from £1,269 pp
Ngala Lodge is located between Bakau and Fajara. You will find a few shops within walking distance, and taxis are easy to get to go further afield. Ask reception for information about tours to Albert Street and Serekunda markets.
Please read Travel Guide: The Gambia, western region.
Ngala has a fine restaurant but when you fancy a change of scene and funky live music check Solomelo’s music venue which is a few minutes walk away. Great music and delicious Gambian food are on the menu.
Verdict: It’s easy to feel romantic at Ngala Lodge – an idyllic resort in a bubble of otherworldliness set high on a beautiful clifftop with beautiful views of tropical gardens and the sea.