Solar energy shines for ecotourism in Gambia, could be key to plans to diversify country’s tourism industry

By Vincent Ogo

Solar energy is powering ecotourism in The Gambia, as government tries to diversify the tourism industry and make the country an all-year-round tourism destination.

Solar solutions could be pivotal to the success of the diversification project. Gambia energy transition officially gained momentum in March 2019 with the Gambian government making efforts to promote renewable energy production as it adopts clean energy in its electrification projects.

In recent years the global tourism industry has come under pressure to become more environmental-friendly and has been promoting innovative clean energy solutions, most prominent of which is using solar technologies in accommodation facilities.

The Gambia is West Africa’s leading tourism destination, better known for beach holidays for Westerners. However, the industry is constrained by seasonality, as the tourism season only lasts from October to April, many of those coming at this period to escape the harsh winter in Europe and enjoy the tropical sunshine at Gambia’s beaches.

Eco-tourism is one of the tourism products that is not constrained by seasonality and appeals to quite a lot of people: environmental tourists, those who want to see and explore nature and wildlife, the adventurous and those desiring to get away from the ‘maddening crowd’ of big towns and cities.  Eco-tourism in The Gambia centre around its numerous eco lodges, among them the World Famous Makasutu. Eco lodges, also known as eco hotels or green hotels combine conservation with relaxation while striving to integrate sustainability into the core of their operations.

A Western visitor to The Gambia once wrote that, “Gambia is such a bio-diverse country. There is so much nature and wildlife to see and explore, that it is no wonder eco lodges in Gambia are such a popular place to stay. The Gambian people are keen to preserve the beauty of their homeland. And the fact that it is so well preserved is a major pull for tourists and travelers! Eco lodges in Gambia offer visitors the chance … to be immersed in the wonderful Gambian culture, get involved with community projects and spend time with local people”.

The lodges are scattered throughout the country and are in rural areas. These resorts are often located off the beaten track, on the banks of the River Gambia, wetlands or deep forest. Due to their locations they are not connected to the national grid. But lighting and running water are indispensable amenities every hotel including an eco hotel has to provide for the comfort of guests including those who came in order to be close to nature and wildlife.

Diesel generators cannot suffice because they defeat the very essence of an eco-lodge, as the energy produced by diesel emits carbon-dioxide and diminishes the air quality of the area. Placing generators a distance away from the lodges to ensure that the noise and pollution don’t disturb the guests means disturbing and scaring away the local wildlife.

In this scenario renewable energy sources becomes the ideal solution. Because The Gambia, like the rest of Africa has plenty of sunshine, eco-lodges here are utilizing solar-plus-storage energy systems.

Now thanks to solar energy, these green hotels scattered all over afford guests and wildlife, the quietude they crave for while saving tons of carbon-dioxide emissions.

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