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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Kayak Training adds to the skills of the Tour Guides and experiences for the visitor

Updated: May 9, 2022

Dave Adams of Fair Play Gambia has long been associated with Just Act Gambia/JUST ACT and now lives locally on the north bank from Janjanbureh and always supports in every way possible to develop the potential of the area.

A few years ago I saw kayaks in Dave's UK garage and then saw them later in Janjanbureh after he had managed to transport them.

In 2016 he organised the very first kayak training which was introduced by qualified volunteers. This had introduced some of the youths to their first experience of kayaking and several developed a keen interest and offered kayak experiences on the river.

A few years later, Fair Play Gambia and JUST ACT submitted a successful application , gaining funding for Youth Empowerment Project to equip kayaks and all safety materials to a very high standard and training for Kayak Tour Guides.

'The International Trade Centre through the Youth Empowerment Project is offering a bespoke training delivered by two expert British Canoeing trainers for upskilling and qualifying women and youth (15-35) interested in acquiring paddle sports technical skills to become kayak tour guides and/or coaches to train others to become guides.......

The programme will also provide further development in soft skills such self-confidence, leadership, communication and problem-solving abilities.

-Personal Skills Development

-Safety and Rescue Training

-Leadership and Guiding Training.....'

And so the training began

I was fortunate to be in Janjanbureh in January 2020 as the training was introduced and watched it unfold on the river most days and indeed be used as a test potential visitor. It was a joy to watch as the youths, some of whom had lived in Janjanbureh all their lives, actually go on the river for the first time.

The training occurred over two weeks and three members from that first week went on to become Trainers of Trainers, leaning those skills as they conveyed their knowledge to the second cohort.

Here you can see the standard of equipment supplied.

The trainers were Darren Sherwood and Chris Brain and they were envious of it.

Here is my report as trainees undergo their first session

The change from the start of the kayaking group first thing this morning to conclusion today is mind blowing. Reserved, quiet and perhaps a little tentative about what they were about to do, most were mumbling into their chests as they introduced themselves. At the end of each of the two group's practical sessions the beaming smiles, the sheer exuberance, and enthusiasm for the next four days told how much they are determined to complete this course. Some have travelled to do this so will remain for the next four days. Others have commitments next week so continue this week. Others were able to volunteer for the first WORLD EXCLUSIVE TRAINING.....


Chris Brain and Darren Sherwood have trained in some amazing places around the world but they are so impressed by the river area and what it has to offer.

Well done everyone involved.

And another report

I have had a brilliant morning watching the next group of people start their Kayak training as Kayak Guides, funded by YEP. Three of those who completed their training in last week's group were heavily involved in training, as Trainers of Trainers, 19 new people from Janjanbureh.

If those participants were expecting that they were going to get into the water straight away and just learn how to control a kayak they were so wrong! It is about being a guide first and foremost and considering all aspects of having a professional approach.

Learning to introduce themselves clearly and confidently, looking at your clients as you spoke clearly was the first hurdle to overcome. Each time they had an opportunity later in the morning to demonstrate, they were expected to introduce themselves and many gained in confidence.

Introduction covered

Time keeping

Equipment ready, safety checks made before arrival of clients

Consider possible needs of client. Extra water, bags of nuts, fruit

They were asked for their thoughts..

Opportunity to speak about facts of the River Gambia, it's source, route, length

That is tidal even here so far from the coast

Able to see birds, monkeys....and hippos...and build up knowledge..

The history of the island which makes JJB unique...

The need for sun protection, creams blocks hats....

Negotiating a tidal river, the regular large ferry and small local boats

Emergency situations

Rescue skills

The Trainer's of Trainers from last week were the responsible for demonstrating the bouyancy aids, the paddle and the kayak itself.

Splitting into two groups, each trainee then had to explain one of these to the rest. It is very hard to pick up a bouyancy aid for the first time and remember how to fit it to yourself and explain all aspects looking out to your clients.

Picking up an oar and seeing where the 'lid' is and therefore in your right hand is hard to see at first.

The hardest is to explain aspects of the kayak, which is on the ground below you. It is so natural to look down and talk to the kayak, rather than the client! These guides could have quite a large group of kayakers and manhandling them needs to be shared so how to lift and protect your back is a big safety aspect.

They now have a break and this afternoon will finally be on the water.

With such a large group they will be split into two groups again. But all must be there at 3pm. Any late comers will be out.

They have to commit to five days of training, all day.

After this afternoon the numbers will have to be reduced simply because of equipment available but those who are not there tomorrow can be trained very shortly by the newly qualified Trainer's of Trainers.

As Chris and Darren the UK trainers explained..... They would love to continue the training here.....but it is the Gambians who will be providing it so it is an ongoing project within the country itself.

The guys being trained by Darren Sherwood and Chris Brain as Kayak Tour Guides through Yep Gambia funding, from a proposal put forward by @Fair Play Gambia and JUST ACT Tour Guide Team are nearing the end of their training. Today they have to prove they can present themselves as guiders. I am to be a client at 15.00hrs. I am not experienced in any way so a good test. I might be glad to be on the river at that time, hopefully with a cooling breeze as it is currently 36C.

To give me confidence I went in a double with Basiru Gomez behind me but I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was so peaceful on the river and recognising many places I knew so well looking from the shore was quite challenging at times. The guides all provided information about what we were seeing as we crossed from one bank to the other. A truly magical experience.

The next day I had another go on my own but being of much the older generation and not physically strong I found it a challenge......but that was overcome....

Another go at kayaking today but this time in a single. Eventually sorted turning but weak left wrist meant my forward move was a bit crab like! Much easier with a gentle tow to keep me on the straight and narrow!

Every guide justifiably passed. The difference five days training made was amazing. Darren Sherwood and Chris Brain were such motivating instructors clearly defining the qualities and skills required but the camaraderie of the group just spurred everyone on. It has been a privilege to watch it develop and thank you Yep Gambia for enabling it.

Presentations took place on the final day by Amelia of YEP

followed by much jollity, drumming and dancing!!!

Run by the Janjanbureh Tour Guide Association
book a kayak experience via the
Tourist Visitor Centre
TELL: (220)7837857/ 3239165
Should you travel through FairPlay Gambia
they rent the kayaks from the Association
thus still supporting the local community

Chris Brain has given permission for a link to his report

and a gallery of images from the training

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