Footsteps Ecolodge, The Gambia - Rating Rating: 3.8 out of 5 Rating Explained: The first 5 sections of this application each correspond to the 5 Criteria for Ecological & Socially Just Tourism

The maximum rating score we can award in each section is 5, and the minimum 1. When a criterion is fully met in our view we award 5 suns, when it is nearly met 4 suns, when it is partly met 3 suns, when it is not at all met but effort is being made to meet it 2 suns and when we feel that it is not at all met and no effort is being made to meet the specific criterion, 1 sun and when we feel that the the specific criterion is being directly violated by the operation 0 suns. You may add a comment with improvement suggestions to the Lodge at the bottom of the page.

For detailed information on the free Rating System please see here.

Name of Property (Country): "Footsteps Eco-Lodge" (The Gambia)


Lodge Address: Footsteps Eco Lodge, South Kombo Region, Gunjur, The Gambia, West Africa.

Number of Rooms:

9  (Nine).

Minimum & Maximum Double Room Rates:

GBP 35 (minimum) to 60 (maximum) per night based on 2 sharing b&b.

Name of Applicant (Occupation & Role in relation to property):

David Charles White, Proprietor. I am now a hotelier and consultant, my role now at Footsteps is to constantly upgrade our services and features and over time develop a profitable business, at this present time the business pays its staff 12 months a year and has done since day one, however, we have yet to see profit as the season in Gambia is 6 months at best.
Year of Construction  2001-2002 
Date of first operation: Operating since January 2003

Rated on:

19 March 2012
1. POLITICAL CRITERIA:  Rating: 3 out of 5

1a. Who is/are the legal owner(s) of the Lodge? (please state official name if owned by a company)

David Charles White

1a. David Charles White, proprietor.

1b. Who is/are the legal manager(s) of the Lodge?

Dodou Touray. Dodou, along with the majority of staff at Footsteps Eco Lodge has worked with me since the 1st day of building in 2001.He started as a builder and upon opening the lodge applied for the position of Barman. He quickly became Bar Manager and after some management training became General Manager of Footsteps in 2008. Dodou, as all of the staff, comes from and lives in Gunjur.

1b. Dodou Touray, General Manager.

1c. Since when has the facility been under the current ownership & management?

Current ownership 2003, current management 2008.

1d. If owned by a family, since when has the family been residing in the area, and for how many months each year?

The lodge is owned by me and I have been a permanent resident in The Gambia since 2003.

1e. How are decisions taken and by whom? (Please provide details)

Decisions are taken by me as owner and Dodou as manager, also the heads of staff are invited to input their views and feelings at regular meetings.

1f. Who has access to the Lodge's facilities and its land and for what uses?

Everyone is welcome at the lodge to use its facilities, it has a free bird hide and free freshwater pool, and very soon it will have its own Mosque for the staff and others to take prayer.

1g. Who took the initiative to build this Lodge?

Myself David White

1h. Which is the nearest local community (village or town) and how far is it from the lodge (in Km)?

Gunjur is the nearest and is under 2km from the lodge

1i. Did the (nearest) local community participate in the decision-making process concerning the founding and creation of this Lodge and how?

Yes the local community was involved from the start, The Chief, The Alkali and many village elders gave their support for this initiative.

1k. Does the (nearest) local community participate in the running of the lodge and how?

All the staff at footsteps come from the village of Gunjur, in fact the same people who built the lodge with me still work in it now in very key positions.

1l. Anything else you would like to mention in this section?

Recently due my charity works in the village of Gunjur, I have been asked to sit on The Abubacar Sidique Foundation for Orphaned & needy Children.

1l. Charity works in the village of Gunjur

2. ECONOMIC CRITERIA -  Rating: 3 out of 5

2a. Number of rooms:

9 (Nine)

2a1. View from the lodges Bantaba, built using Malaina woods from Brikama'a sustainable forest, it shows 2 of our 9 huts

2a2. The picture shows how integrated we are into the natural vegetation.

2b. Number of beds:

6 double beds and 6 single beds. Extra beds can be added at no extra charge.

2c. What is the total area of the land of the property?

3,200 sq. mt.

2d. What is the total covered area of the Lodge including rooms and common areas (in sq. metres)?

630 sq. mt. Below we see an aerial view of the lodge including the covered freshwater reed bed filtered pool.

2d. Aerial view of the Lodge

2e. What is the total building footprint (in sq. metres) – i.e. part of the land covered by buildings

300 sq. mt.

2f. How many employees are there (excluding yourself and members of the family)?

total: 15

of which:

full-time: 15
part-time: 0
interns: 0
volunteers: 0

2g. How many employees are from the (nearest) local village?


2h. If applicable, do employees or the community own any shares or share part of the revenue?

Yes , 10% of our net profit is gifted to various projects in the village, please see our pledge found on our website.

2i. What was the total turnover (total sales) in 2011? (please state in your local currency)

GMD 309,060 (Gambian Dalasi) - approx. Euros 7,800 / GBP 6,500

Also see our Accounts document.

2j. What were the total profits in 2011?

There were no profits made in 2011, since our bushfire in 2007 we have not shown a profit and have only shown a loss. We are however closing the gap each year and are confident of our sustained growth in 2012 and 2013

2k. How are profits distributed, and who decides about it?

When profits are realized they will be distributed after 10% has been deducted and donated between the local organizations in the village( As per our Mission Statement). These are decided by myself, Dodou Touray ( manager) and representatives from the village community.
There are 4 shareholders ( David White, Amanda White, Marie Rosa and Omar Jatta)

2l. Are there any national and local taxes to be paid or are you exempt?

Yes there are national and local taxes and we are not exempt from any.

2m. What was the total amount of taxes paid in 2011?

Total taxes where no profit is realized is 2% of turnover after depreciation has been deducted, in 2011 this was calculated to be 7726 dalasi.

2n. What percentage of consumables are locally sourced, how many are nationally sourced, and how many are imported?

We grow some of our own consumable foods ( 30%, ) all other goods are sourced locally ( through our staff, e.g., our night security supplies the lodge with cucumber and lettuce whilst our waiter Buba supplies tomatoes) our only imported goods are things like coffee.

2o. Do you cultivate food for the guests?

Yes we grow, Banana, Grapefruit, Orange, Lemon , Lime, Papaya, Guava, Avocado, Peppers, Carrots garlic, Herbs and much more

2o1. We grow lime.

2o2. We also grow herbs.

2p. Do you have any agreements with local producers?

We purchase all other ingredients direct from our staff whom all have their own gardens or from the local growers in Gunjur.

2p. Local growers in Gunjur

2q. Have ever you received any funding, state, national, private or international and for what purposes?

No funding has ever been awarded to us.

2r. What is the minimum (low season) double room rate (including breakfast) per room per night?

£35 per night based on 2 sharing b&b

2s. What is the maximum (high season) double room rate (including breakfast) per room per night?

£60 per night based on 2 sharing b&b

2t. Anything else you would like to mention in this section?

We outsource as much as we can to the village, for example, local guides, birding guides, boat trips, taxis, batik workshops, silver workshops, and art workshops.

Also see our Sample contract of Employment

3. ENVIRONMENTAL CRITERIA -  Rating: 5 out of 5

3a. Lodge Siting (how was the lodge location chosen):

The lodge was deliberately situated over 1km back from the beach line, we advertise as 'In the bush and by the beach'. It was chosen to be an hour's drive from the mass tourist area of Senegambia.

3a. Here I am pictured at the 80m x 40m plot of land soon to become Footsteps Eco Lodge before any work had started and indeed before the planting of over 2,000 plants, trees and bushes.

3b. Policy followed during construction:

Only local materials and labour force were utilised in the building and subsequent rebuilding of Footsteps in Feb. 2007

3b. This kind of construction is very typically African and is known as a tension dome. It is fire proof, water proof and sound proof using all local materials and again my current staff.

3c. Policy followed during renovation and/or maintenance:

Only local materials and labour are used in the maintenance of Footsteps, all departments have received relevant training with regard the maintenance of their area.

3d. Lighting:

All lighting is solar powered using energy efficient 7 watt DC bulbs.

3d. This is a small example of how we store the energy which is gathered during the day to be used in the evening for lighting, refrigeration, laptop and electrical appliance charging by the guests such as camera and video equipment.

3e. Heating:

Heating is not an issue in West Africa

3f. Cooling:

Houses are all constructed to be intelligently cool having rooftop ventilation being circular in shape and by having vegetation and Permaculture landscaping to offer cool pockets of air that surround each hut

3g. Cleaning:

Cleaning is undertaken daily in all areas, only environmentally safe products are used .

3h. Water Management:

Footsteps is fitted throughout with en suite composting toilets and all its water from shower and sinks is passed through a grey water filtration system and fed to the eagerly awaiting bananas etc.

3h1. Here are our public toilets, they have urinals for men and 2 Vietnamese twin chamber Composting Toilets which use no water but instead use leaves from the ground or sawdust from the local sawmill.

3h2. The sinks are connected to the urine drains which mixes the water with urine and then it’s fed through a grey water system before being fed directly to our plants.

3h3. This is Babacar our room cleaner, the job of emptying the toilet chambers falls to him every 6 months, as you can see, he is quite proud that he gets to deliver the base for excellent compost direct to an eagerly waiting gardener.

Also see our guide on how to build a composting toilet, related to our work with the NIAFORANG Project in Senegal.

3h4. Our fresh water pool.

Our pool is an example only of how to filtrate water and a wonderful attraction for the indigenous wildlife and birds, it also happens to be the only working pool of its kind in The Gambia.

For more information see the video below:



3i. Cooking:

Footsteps has 2 fully qualified Chefs who wear full chef's whites and operate from an OPEN VIEW kitchen, transparency at all times, each member of staff is screened monthly for communicable disease.

3i1. Our Open-View Kitchen.

3i2. Our two fully-qualified Chefs.

3j. Waste management (in detail please):

At Footsteps we prefer to call this RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. First our toilet resource is operated using a system known as 'The Twin chamber Vietnamese Composting method', it has two chambers which are very simple to use, simply place approx one cup of organic material such as sawdust, or leaves over your toilets surface each time you use the toilet. It takes approx 6 months to fill one chamber and it is at this point that you change chambers meaning that each chamber is emptied once each 6 month period. The resource is then taken to another composting area used to compost the fruit and vegetable peelings and is layered there for a further 6 months, the gardener takes care of this process and maintains the moisture balance needed to create truly valuable fertilizer. As Below:

3j1. Composting vegetable and fruit peelings

3j2. The composting area.

3k. Insect, pest control:

We keep our area clean and rubbish free and as such do not have a problem with insects or pests per say, however we are in the Gambian bush and various biting insects live here, by wearing long trousers and shirt sleeves this is not a problem.

3l. Energy Sources, Use & Saving Measures:

All our energy is produced by wind turbine and solar power, we use energy saving lighting everywhere and even our freezers are 12v solar ( steca pf166 ) keeping our freezer food at -020 degree's

3l. This is part of our solar array, we separate all our systems into individual units so as to reduce the possibility of losing power across all areas.

3m. Noise Protection:

We don't create any noise to speak of, our guests are mostly birders and nature lovers and require peace and quiet.

3n. Name, population and distance of nearest settlement (in km or miles)?

Gunjur is the nearest settlement approx 2 kms away, it has a population of 12,000 people

3o. Is the Lodge accessible by public transport (such as bus, train, boat)? If yes, please provide instructions from nearest settlement:

The lodge is accessible by car, pushbike, donkey, or on foot from the main road bus stop at Gunjur

3p. Is the nearest settlement accessible by public transport (such as bus, train, boat)? If yes, please provide instructions from nearest International airport, or nearest major city.

The nearest settlement is Gunjur and can be reached from the airport via taxi, approximately 40 minutes drive along the coastal road

3q. Distance from nearby village / city:

2 km

3r. Architectural Features:

Tension domed roofs resemble the local mosques, African style round houses.

3s. Construction Materials:

Fired mud block.

3t. Landscape Management:

Is managed by 2 full time gardeners who, water each morning and evening ensuring the water we save using our toilets and showers is put to good use.

3u: Do you organise or promote tours involving hunting or sport-fishing?

No, we do offer fishing with a rod and reel from our local beach , the chefs cook their catch for the guests upon their return.

3v: Do you measure consumption per guest at your lodge? If yes, please explain how, and provide data

No we do not measure consumption per guest

3w. Anything else you would like to mention in this section?

Here at Footsteps we have a saying which goes, ' There is no waste in nature '

Also see our Coconut Palm Planting Project flyer.

4. SOCIAL CRITERIA -  Rating: 4 out of 5

4a. Do you provide health insurance and pension to your employees?

Yes Footsteps pays each month into funds to provide health and pension insurance, please see attached documents of accounts and contract of employment.

4b. Are your employees entitled to paid leave? If so, how many days each year?

Yes , after a 3 month probation period, all staff are entitled to 18days paid leave per annum, please see attached contract of employment.

4c. Are your employees entitled to maternity leave? How many months? Is it paid?

Yes, if the employee wants to return to work after the baby is born then we pay 3 months before and 3 months after.

4d. Do you pay your employees above the minimum wage? (Please state minimum wage, and explain)

There does not seem to be a minimum wage in The Gambia as I'm constantly hearing of poor workers who are being paid very little and with no benefits however, each year my manager and myself research what pay grades different professions are being paid in the nearby tourist region of Senegambia and I'm always shocked at how low they are, all this and usually for only 6 months per year and with no benefits. YES we pay significantly more than the minimum wage. Please see attached accounts

4e. What is the total you paid for wages last year? (excluding wages paid to yourself and members of your family)

660,000 Dalasi or @ 42dal/£15,714 per annum

4f. What is the average wage (per annum), the highest wage, and the lowest wage?

Average wage per annum is 30,000 dalasi, the lowest is 24,000 dalasi and the highest wage per annum is 60,000 dalasi, plus tips and benefits

4g. Average and maximum working day, and work hours per week: 

Average and maximum working day is 8 hours, average working week 40 hrs, max working week 48hrs

4h. Do you employ your staff all year round? (If not, please explain arrangement)

ALL my staff are salaried and paid all year round

4i. Do you employ immigrants? Are they offered the same remuneration & benefits?

No, all my staff are from the local village of Gunjur

4j. Do you employ trainees? Please explain what type of tasks they perform, how much they are paid, how many hours do they work and how do you source them?

My staff are classed as trainees until they complete their probation period, they work closely with their colleagues for 8 hrs a day, and some trainees complete their probation within a week if they have good aptitude. I t needs to be said my staff have been with me since 2002 at the original build and I don't have many trainees ever.

4k. Do you use volunteers? Please explain what tasks they are given?

No, we don't use volunteers generally, we had some help when we were destroyed in 2007 by a bush fire but that is the only time we had volunteers.

4l. Do you offer concessions to elderly visitors, students, young visitors, or nationals?

Yes , we offer concessions to universities and groups.

4m. Is there infrastructure for people with special needs at your Lodge?

Yes, the lodge is all on one level with access doors wide enough for wheelchair access, also safety features in the bathrooms such as special hand rails and some staff even assign to certain guests if they require extra help.etc.

4n. What measures are in place to protect the local (or the indigenous) population from some adverse impacts of tourism?

We advise our guests with regard local customs, greetings and dress codes whilst in the village.

4o. Do you undertake any poverty reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to poverty reduction?

We work closely with many aid organisations such as The Abubacar Sidique Foundation for Orphaned or Needy Children, we encourage our guests to support such initiatives to help rebuild school roofs and supply learning materials, recently due the high profile of our contributions , the foundation have asked me to sit on their committee.

4o1. Here I am presenting a cheque for over £800 raised by Dr Bayerle from Germany, this money was used to pay tuition and exam fee’s for orphaned children who were unable to raise the small amount needed of approx £10 per annum.

4o2. Letter of thanks from the school thanking the fundraising efforts of one of our guests (Reverend Rosemary Pullen ) and thanking the carpenters of Footsteps for roofing 3 classrooms at The Gunjur Upper Basic School.

4o3. New roofs for 3 classrooms at the Gunjur Upper Basic school.

4p. Do you undertake any inequality reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to inequality reduction?

Our policy is to employ across an entire spectrum regardless of age colour or sex.

4q. Do you undertake any injustice reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to injustice reduction?

Yes we are vigilant where the rights of an individual are concerned.

4q. Our commitment to the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism

4r. What is the minimum, maximum and average age of your current employees (excluding yourself and members of the family)?

Minimum age 22, average age 36 maximum ages 61.

4s. How many employees do you have (excluding yourself and members of the family)?

We have 15 employees.

4t. Is everyone accepted as guests or are there any restrictions?

There are no restrictions other than someone asking to hire a room by the hour.

4u. Anything else you would like to mention in this section?

Monthly prize awards and incentives for my team form an integral part of their working life, a happy team is a good team: (see the video below)




5. CULTURAL CRITERIA-  Rating: 4 out of 5

5a. Are you located within a village or city, or is there a village or city nearby? (please state name and distance in km or miles)

Within 2 km from Gunjur village

5b. Do guests interact with the local community and how:

Yes, our guests are encouraged to meet with the local people, even going to naming ceremonies, weddings and visiting staff members families for the day, also our guests are encouraged to participate in local sports through the schools etc

5c. What type of information is available to guests at the property:

Info on all local trips run by local guides, birding activities, trips to initiatives such as The Paper Recycling Project.

5c1. The Paper Recycling Project

The video below shows the cultural and religious significance of Tobaski and explains why the Ram is sacrificed:



5d. What type of activities are available to guests at the property:

Seeing a local silversmith, exploring with donkey and cart, batik and tie dye making, our new bird hide for viewing the nature undisturbed, art painting or pottery.

5d. Exploring with donkey cart

The coconut planting project, see video below,  is to raise awareness not only to our guests but to the local community of beach erosion and brings together everyone in an effort to offset the effects of that erosion.



5d1. Coconut planting by guests.

5d3. Biking

5d4. Drum performance

5e. Local guided tours for guests organised by you:

Trips to see the local market, also the fishing boats and fish smoking huts, local art gallery, nearby apiary, visits to the capital city of Banjul

5f. Events / presentations held at the facility so far:


5g. Specific programme for children:


5h. Academic Research and Academic Publications produced or assisted by the property so far:

The Leeds Metropolitan University and Bangor University both use Footsteps as a template for sustainable tourism. Footsteps has also been used as an example at the Norwegian School of Business Management.

5i. Is the local community at all involved in the operation of the Lodge and how?

The local community is very involved at every level, each member of staff belongs to a different tribe each having a connection in the village so for example we only grow a % of the fruit and veg we use , the rest comes from the village, if anyone in the village has an initiative to do something themselves such Amadou's boat trips we support and encourage.

5j. Anything else you would like to mention in this section?

Footsteps was presented with ' The Travelife award for Sustainable Tourism'.

5j. Award

5j2. Our company logo.

More videos from Footsteps Eco Lodge can be found at


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I hereby declare that all my answers are true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and understand that I and/or my company will not have the right to veto or 'hide' our Rating, which will be decided in the manner specified at if we find it unfavourable. I also understand that this rating application is valid for a maximum of 3 Years and a minimum of 1 Year. I may request a new rating application only after 1 Year from the day that my previous rating application was published online. By submitting this questionnaire I indicate acceptance of all Rating terms, conditions and procedures as stated at, and understand that these may be modified at any time without notice.

(Please enter (paste) your signature below or type your initials to indicate acceptance )

Your Name: David White
Date:  8 March 2012 Rating:  3.8 out of 5 / Rating Date: 19 March 2012 sun08-sun