What is the terrain and geography like in Gambia, The?
Situated on the western coast of Africa between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, the Republic of The Gambia forms a narrow strip of land on either side of the Gambia River. Except for the sea coast, the country is surrounded by the Republic of Senegal and extends inland for 200 miles (320 kilometers). The Gambia is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) wide along the coast, narrowing to 15 miles (24 kilometers) at its eastern border. From sea level, interior elevations rise to 112 feet. Its dominant feature, the Gambia River, begins in the Futa Jallon highlands in Guinea and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The river is fringed with mangrove swamps for about 170 miles inland, followed by open savanna and, in places, by red iron-stone cliffs. The river is tidal throughout most of The Gambia, and the intrusion of salt water ranges from 90 miles upriver in the wet season to nearly 160 miles in the dry season. Ships up to 3,000 tons with a maximum draft of 17 feet are able to navigate 150 miles upriver to the trading port of Kaur. Banjul has a well-equipped port with two berths, spacious anchorages, large customs clearing warehouses, and a 25-ton capacity crane. Smaller fishing and pleasure boats are anchored in Oyster Creek, 2 miles from Banjul.
The Gambia is vulnerable to periodic drought because it is part of the arid Sahel Zone between the Sahara Desert and the coastal rain forest. Vegetation ranges from woodlands to savanna with sparse grass and shrubs. Much of the sandy soil is low in plant nutrients. Palm trees are present in coastal areas, and baobab, kapok, acacia, and mahogany trees are found throughout the country.
Geography - note
almost an enclave of Senegal; smallest country on the continent of Africa
Climate is subtropical with a distinct hot and rainy season from June to October, and a cooler dry season from November to May. The beginning and end of the rains are marked by high temperatures and high humidity, whereas the dry season is noted for the dusty and dry trade winds (harmattan) blowing in from the central Sahara. Temperatures range from a low of 48°F (9°C) in January to a high of 110°F (43°C) in October. Because of the cooling effect of the ocean, temperatures are lower along the coast than in the interior. Rainfall varies widely from year to year but ranges from an annual mean of 48 inches in the west to 34 inches upriver.
Because of the humid climate and the salt air along the coast, metal rusts rapidly in The Gambia, and houses near the sea may be affected by the corrosive salt air. Termites abound year round in soils and woodwork. During the dry season, the harmattan winds blow in a fine dust. However, the moderate temperatures during the dry season with mostly sunny days give The Gambia one of West Africa’s more pleasant climates.