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Senegal Travel & Holiday Tips


Senegal is the place to head in West Africa. Long sandy-white beaches, a hip music scene, a crumbling colonial heritage, wildlife and incredibly friendly people make it a superb place for those who want to explore African culture, or just kick back and get into the vibe of the real Africa.

Senegalese music, particularly the Mbalax, has become well known internationally over the last couple of decades thanks to artists like Youssou N’dour and Baba Maal – you’ll hear it blaring out of well-worn stereos all over urban places like Dakar.


A bustling modern city and major port situated at the tip of the Cap Vert peninsula. Dakar’s markets include the Kermel and the Sandaga, the former selling mainly fruit, fabrics, clothing and souvenirs, the latter being the city’s main fruit and fabrics market. The main museum is the Institut Fondemental d’Afrique Noir (IFAN), which has a collection of masks, statues and musical instruments from West Africa. Senegal’s Galérie Nationale is also worth a visit. The Palais Présidentiel (presidential palace) is a white building surrounded by luscious gardens. A recent addition to the city is the monument, La Porte du 3ème Millénaire (The Third Millennium Gate), which was assembled in order to symbolise Senegal's entry into the third millennium, completed in 2001. The Grande Mosquée, the city’s most famous mosque (noted for its minaret, which is lit at night), is closed to the public and located in Médina, which is off the tourist map. Dakar’s main beaches include the Plage Bel-Air and the cleaner and safer N’Gor and Yoff. Other good beaches within reach are Toubab Dialao and Yenn, which are well known for their spectacular red cliffs.

About 3 km (1.8 miles) from the city lies the UNESCO World-Heritage-listed Île de Gorée (Gorée Island), which used to be a slaving station and was one of the first French settlements on the continent. The island has many colonial-style houses, and a small beach, as well as two museums – the Maison des Esclaves (Slaves’ House) and the Historical Museum in the Fort d’Estrées. The Retba Lake (also called the Lac Rose or Pink Lake due to its pink colouring) is a popular spot for picnics and weekend excursions. It is also the terminal for the Paris-Dakar motor rally.

St Louis

A former slave settlement and once Senegal’s capital, St Louis is partly located on the mainland, partly on an island and partly on the Langue de Barbarie peninsula at the mouth of the River Senegal. The city reached its zenith in 1854, when Faidherbe undertook the unification of the country, which was still divided into small kingdoms at that time. Due to the expansion of Dakar, St Louis inevitably lost some of its importance, but it retains a nostalgic and provincial atmosphere reflected in its narrow streets flanked by beautiful colonial houses, balconies and verandas. The island can be reached via the Pont Faidherbe. There are some good beaches and a cruise lasting several days can be made up the River Senegal.

The Petite Côte

South of Dakar, the Petite Côte (Little Coast), which stretches for some 150 km (94 miles), is one of Senegal’s best beach areas. The main tourist resorts in the area are Mbour and, slightly further north, Saly Portudal, which is set in a green park and has the highest concentration of luxury hotels, as well as its own golf course.

Siné-Saloum Delta

Further south is the delta formed where the Saloum and Siné rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean. This wild region of mangrove swamps, dunes and lagoons is also Senegal’s main groundnut-growing basin. Located largely within the Parc National du Delta du Saloum, the delta’s myriad small islands are scattered between so-called bolongs (channels). The most popular mode of transport in this beautiful region is the pirogue (traditional African boat), which can take visitors to a number of nearby islands: some of the most beautiful include Betani, Guior, Guissanor, the Île de Mars, Palmarin and Saloum. The palm-fringed sandy beaches along the coast give way to dense vegetation populated by small villages of fishermen and groundnut farmers.

Basse Casamance

This fertile, swampy region borders The Gambia in the north and Guinea-Bissau in the south. However, travelers are advised to avoid this region while political instability continues. The resorts of Cap Skiring and Ziguindor are considered safe at present but check the political situation before visiting. Cap Skiring, the region’s main tourist hub, has countless hotels along what are generally considered the country’s best beaches. The region is well known for its traditional mud houses (also called impluvium), the most striking examples of which can be found in Affinam (on the north bank of the Casamance River) and Enampor. On the island of Karaban, the ruins of a Breton church and a colonial settlement are worth visiting.

National Parks

There are six national parks and four reserves in Senegal. The best time for visiting is usually between October and April. The Senegalese Ministry of Tourism advocates a strict nature preservation policy which invites tourists to respect the natural habitat. Accommodation is available, mostly in the form of encampments or lodges.

In addition to the national parks, there are also the following natural reserves: Bandia (900 hectares; 2224 acres); Ferlo Nord (a huge 487,000 hectares; 1,203,403 acres); Guembuel (special fauna extending over 720 hectares; 1779 acres); Kalissaye (an ornithological reserve created in 1987 and 16 hectares in size; 40 acres); Ndiael (a fauna reserve); and Popenguine (extending over 1009 hectares; 2493 acres).

Parc National de Niokolo Koba

Occupying a total of 903,150 hectares (2,230,000 acres) and situated in the southeast, this is one of West Africa’s greatest reserves for large mammals. The park stretches over two geographical areas: the Sudanese savannah and the Guinea forest. Over 84 species live here, including Africa’s largest lions, elephants, panthers, crocodiles, a variety of antelopes and over 300 species of birds. Niokolo Koba can be reached by air (with a flight to Simenti and, from there, a two-hour drive); by road (from Dakar to Tambacounda on the RN1 and from there to the park on the RN7); or by train (two weekly trains from Dakar to Tambacounda). Visitors are not allowed to explore the park on foot. The park headquarters are in Tambacounda.

Parc National des Oiseaux de Djoudj

Situated in the northeast, 60 km (37 miles) from St Louis, at the southern edge of the Sahara, this beautiful park has 40,000 acres of water stretches and is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world. Its position makes it a favoured gathering place for migrating birds and a number of previously unknown bird species have recently been observed. Numerous organised tours are available from St Louis. It is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Parc National de Basse Casamance

This park is 60 km (38 miles) from Ziguinchor in the extreme south of the country, and extends over some 4,920 hectares (12,300) acres of forest and mangroves. Situated in a very rainy region, the park benefits from the luxuriance of the Guinea forest with its kapok trees, oil palms and imposing parinarias. Basse Casamance is famous for its tropical vegetation and variety of wildlife, including the Derry Eland and Buffoon Cob antelope, as well as many species of monkeys. It can be reached by plane or car from Dakar. The park headquarters are in Oussouye.

Parc National Langue de Barbarie

A narrow strip of sandy lands between the Atlantic and the River Senegal, this park is a refuge for birds and sea tortoises who come here to breed. Boat trips from St Louis are available.

Parc National du Delta du Saloum

Situated in the Saloum delta, 80 km (50 miles) east of Kaolack, and extending over 72,000 hectares (180,000 acres). The landscape is characterised by small islands, sand dunes and swamps, providing a perfect habitat for hundreds of bird species, including pelicans, storks and pink flamingos.

Parc National de l’Île de la Madeleine

Situated west of Dakar, 3 km (1.7 miles) from the coast, this small archipelago is a protected marine park of approximately 480 hectares (1200 acres). The rocky nature of the archipelago, thought to be of volcanic origins, has favoured the establishment of numerous colonies of sea birds.





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