Official name: Republic of The Gambia
Area: 11,300 square kilometers (4,363 square miles)
Highest point on mainland : Unnamed location (53 meters/173 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres : Northern and Western
Time zone: Noon = noon GMT
Longest distances: 338 kilometers (210 miles) from east to west; 47 kilometers (29 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries : Senegal 740 kilometers (460 miles)
Coastline: 71 kilometers (44 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Except for its Atlantic coastline, Anglophone (English-speaking) The Gambia is surrounded entirely by its only neighbor, Francophone (French-speaking) Senegal. Its twisting land boundary surrounds the Gambia River. In area, The Gambia is roughly twice the size of the state of Delaware, making it the African continent's smallest country. The Gambia River, the country's major waterway, is its most prominent geographic feature.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
The Gambia has no territories or dependencies.
The Gambia has a subtropical climate with distinct cool and hot seasons. From November to mid-May there is uninterrupted dry weather, with temperatures as low as 16°C (61°F) in Banjul and surrounding areas. Hot, humid weather predominates the rest of the year, with a rainy season from June to October.
During this period, temperatures may rise as high as 43°C (109°F) but are usually lower near the sea. Mean temperatures range from 23°C (73°F) in January to 27°C (81°F) in June along the coast, and from 24°C (75°F) in January to 32°C (90°F) in May inland. The average annual rainfall ranges from 92 centimeters (36 inches) in the interior of the country to 145 centimeters (57 inches) along the coast. Rainfall has decreased by 30 percent in the last thirty years, leading to problems with agricultural yield. Most of the rain falls from June to October.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
To the west lies the Atlantic coastline, which is fringed with sandy beaches. The interior is generally low-lying on both sides of the Gambia River, although elevations are higher in the east. Throughout the country, low, flat-topped hills alternate with valleys or depressions. Fertile alluvial soil is found in the areas to the east, while sandy soil predominates in the west. Mangrove swamps are found along the coast and riverbanks.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
At its western end, The Gambia borders the Atlantic Ocean.
Seacoast and Undersea Features
In addition to the lower reaches of the Gambia River, the coast is marked with capes and lagoons.
Islands and Archipelagos
Though The Gambia has no islands in the ocean, it has several on the Gambia River, including James Island and McCarthy Island, where Georgetown is located.
Most of The Gambia's Atlantic border is composed of the peninsula on which the cities of Banjul and Serekunda sit. Sandy white beaches cover most of The Gambia's 71-kilometer-long (44-mile-long) coast (also called the "smile coast"). Sand dunes line the coast at The Gambia's southern border with Senegal.
6 INLAND LAKES
There are no sizable lakes in The Gambia; however, brown mangrove swamps line the lower reaches on both banks of the Gambia River for the first 145 kilometers (90 miles) inland from the sea. Behind these mangroves are the "flats," which are submerged completely during the wet season.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The Gambia River rises in Guinea and follows a twisting path for about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the sea. For its last 470 kilometers (292 miles), the river flows through The Gambia, narrowing to a width of 5 kilometers (3 miles) at Banjul. During the dry season, tidal saltwater intrudes as far as 250 kilometers (155 miles) upstream. The Gambia River is navigable by seagoing vessels as far as Kuntaur, 240 kilometers (150 miles) upstream, and as far as Koina by vessels of shallow draft.
There are no deserts in The Gambia.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Past the riverbanks, the land on either side of the Gambia River is generally open savannah with wooded areas along the drainage channels.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
There are no mountains or other significant elevated areas in The Gambia. The country's terrain, which closely surrounds and parallels the Gambia River, rises only to a few steep hills of insignificant height. The highest elevation is 53 meters (173 feet) above sea level.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are no significant caves or canyons in The Gambia.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
The Gambia occupies a fairly flat fluvial (produced by the action of a stream) plateau dissected by streams, broad valleys, and a few low hills.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
Fort Bullen, located on Barra Point at the mouth of the Senegal River, is a two-hundred-year-old structure that was built by the British, who colonized the country.
14 FURTHER READING
Park, Mungo. Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa . London: n.p. 1899.
Vollmer, Jurgen. Black Genesis, African Roots: A Voyage from Juffure, The Gambia, to Mandingo Country to the Slave Port of Dakar, Senegal . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980.