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Our story

 

After careers in senior management in the social care world in the UK, we began to dream of our next step being something and somewhere different. Inspirations came from many sources and we finally decided The Gambia was the place where we could realize our vision of creating a different kind of tourism. After five years changing the fortunes at the Safari Garden hotel in Fajara (now handed over to local management), we settled on the Kartong region as the location for our Eco-Retreat and Learning Centre.

In the traditional manner, we sent a gift of Kola nuts to the village elders, who then invited us to a discussion. Determined to ensure the local community would benefit, we registered the land in the Village’s name (the first village to reclaim indigenous land taken from them by the government for private investment). We now lease the land from the village and it will revert fully to village management at the end of the 25 year lease.

Sandele’s (pronounced San-day-le) name was carefully chosen. 'Sandele' is derived from two Mandinka words (the Mandinka are the majority tribe of The Gambia). 'Sine' means 'now and 'Dehli' means 'be still'. Often when rocking her baby to sleep, a mother will whisper the words 'Sineedehleh', 'Now be still'.

We also very deliberately set out to create an authentic Eco-Retreat. The “E” standing for “Environmental” with the use of sustainable energy sources, reduction of water usage (including the decision to use composting toilets) and sustainable construction methods.

The “Co” stands for “Community” with a commitment to hire at least 70% of staff from the local village, purchase locally where possible and donate part of the proceeds from our room revenue to the Village Development Fund. Explore the Sandele Foundation to find out more about our community involvement and how you can get personally involved. We also invite you to review our Responsible Tourism policy

And, when our 25 year lease is up, we look forward to retiring in our house on the site, under the shade of a Boabab tree, and remaining part of the community.

Geri and Maurice.