The smallest independent country in Africa, extending 180 mi inland along the Gambia River, and constituting an enclave in Senegal. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, it was part of the Mali Empire. Portuguese explorers reached the region in 1455, and the English won trading rights from the Portuguese in 1588. The English maintained a weak hold until the 17th century, when they founded settlements for trade. British claims to the region were recognized in the Treaty of Versailles of 1783, and in 1816 Great Britain established Bathurst as a base against the slave trade. Gambia remained under British protection until it achieved self-government in 1963 and independence in 1965. It became a republic in 1970, with its capital city at Bathurst, now Banjul. Gambia became well known as the ancestral home of author Alex Haley in his book Roots. In 1981, a coup was put down with assistance from Senegal. In 1982, Gambia and Senegal formed a confederation of Senegambia that lasted until its dissolution in 1989. In 1994, the military took over the government in a coup led by Yahya Jammeh, who was elected in 1996 and 2002 in elections without the participation of opposing parties.
This small country in West Africa in recent years has become extremely popular among European beach lovers. The flight lasts for a short time, there is no difference in time zones, and the housing is quite moderate. River Island National Park in Banjul offers a fantastic opportunity to observe the wildlife (especially for the local baboons).