A TRAVEL NEWS ARTICLE ABOUT SENEGAL
The former French colony of Senegal got its independence in 1960. In the local language, Senegal is called the country of ‘teranga’ which means hospitality. A traveller’s first impressions when arriving into Senegal are its friendly people.
Senegal’s landmass covers around 200,000 square kilometres. It is bordered in the north by Mauritania, in the east by Mali and in the south by Guinea and Guinea Bissau. It also surrounds, on three sides, The Gambia. The country’s Atlantic Ocean coastline covers approximately 700 kilometres. Jutting out into this vast ocean, at the end of a peninsula, is the country’s capital city, Dakar. If you include its surrounding suburbs and satellite towns, Dakar is one of the largest cities in West Africa.
The Presidential Palace, Dakar
Senegal’s countryside is largely flat with a natural vegetation of dry savannah woodland. It lies at a latitude between 12 and 17 degrees north of the equator. It has two seasons – a dry season from October to June and a rainy season from June to September. For detailed information about the weather conditions visit www.worldweather.org.
Senegal has three major rivers, all of which flow from east to west. In the north is the River Senegal which forms the border with Mauritania. The former capital, Saint Louis is situated at the river’s mouth. In south-eastern Senegal, the River Gambia flows through the national park of Niokolokoba before entering Gambia itself. In the far south is the River Casamance, which gives its name to the surrounding Casamance area, known for its fertile forests and farmland. Here you will find Senegal’s most beautiful beaches. The other major river is the Saloum, which enters the Atlantic via a large delta to the south of the ‘petite côte’.
To the north of Dakar the coast is known as the ‘grande côte’ (the great coast) stretching almost uninterrupted to Senegal’s borders with Mauritania. South of Dakar’s peninsula is the ‘petite côte’ (small coast), which faces southwest. Here the weather conditions are more agreeable for tourism and so this is the most popular holiday area.
Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport is the main international gateway to Senegal. It is 16 kilometres north west of the capital, Dakar. For up-to-date visa requirements visit www.projectvisa.com . Senegal is in the same time zone as Greenwich Mean Time.
While there are no obligatory vaccination requirements, vaccination against yellow fever and malaria prophylactic are definitely recommended. Please check with your own health clinic or doctor for the very latest information.
Senegal is one of the best West African countries for tourism. Due to its privileged position, Senegal is considered as a gateway to explore West Africa. It boasts wonderful, wide beaches, seaside resorts and deluxe hotels. Combined with these attributes, Senegal has five national parks.
Places to visit in Senegal
The City of Dakar was founded around 1857 by a French commandant named Protet. Due to its strategic position and its safe harbour, facilitating trade between France and its West African colonies, Dakar became the headquarters for French Colonial West Africa. The headquarters building is now the Presidential palace.
Dakar is a modern city with more than two million people. The city features beautiful contemporary buildings, combined with historical colonial houses. It is alive with busy open-air markets, café terraces, and delicious food. Dakar is also a shopper's paradise, where local handicraft products can be found in the markets, on the streets or in stores throughout the city.
City sightseeing will include Independence Square, the old cathedral, colourful markets, arts and craft markets and galleries, and the IFAN Museum, which is an institute dedicated to the conservation of West African arts and cultures.
Dakar nightlife is vibrant with its cafés, bars and nightclubs.
Goree Island, which can be reached by a regular ferry service from Dakar Docks – the crossing takes about 25 minutes – is deeply rooted in the history of the slave trade. From the beginning of the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, men, women, and children were gathered on this small piece of land and locked up in cells, before being shipped away to the New World. The island was seized by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British, all of whom participated in the trade. Forts and cannons attest to the island's violent past. Most of the buildings were used as warehouses or slaves' houses, and today many have been turned into museums. The most famous is "La Maison des Esclaves," which used to hold up to two hundred captives. Their cells can be visited, as can be the apartment of the slave dealers upstairs. From the "Door of no Return" countless Senegalese and other Africans caught a last glimpse of their homeland before boarding the slave ships.
It is a good place to walk around and explore, surrounded by the remnants of French Colonial architecture, the streets, cafés, handicraft markets and artists’ studios.
The Pink Lake
Lac Retba, known as the Pink Lake, was originally a lagoon, but due to the movement of sand dunes in the fifteenth century, it was closed off into a salt lake. Just a few hundred yards from the ocean, set amidst a landscape of dunes and small trees, the lake appears to be pink in colour. This is due to the presence of algae in the water. As well as its colour, the lake’s salinity at 380 grammes per litre places it second only to the Dead Sea. Everything floats.
A salt collector at work
This salt concentration allows peole from surrounding villages to extract the salt that settles on the bottom of the lake. This is done by hand, with the women, some with babies on their backs, spending hours up to their knees in this salt lake. Temporary shelters are set up along the shoreline so that the workers can rest from their labours.
Lompoul Desert is the beautiful desert of Senegal. It is in northern Senegal, in the Thies Region and about 15 kilometres west of Kebemer City. Mint tea in Senegal's only desert? Impossible you might say, but it is possible at hotel Lodge de Lompoul. This lodge, made up of nomadic tents, is just a few miles from the sea. This magical place offers you the opportunity to take a break, in comfort, in the desert, facing the sand dunes with the heavenly skies above. An ideal, gentle first encounter with the desert. Experience candlelit dinners under clear night skies followed by entertainment with “Djembes” percussions and dancing around the fire.
The Lompoul Desert
The City of Saint Louis is located in the north west of Senegal, near the mouth of the Senegal River, and 320 kilometres north of Dakar. In 2005, St. Louis had an estimated population of 176,000. Saint Louis was the capital of the French colony of Senegal before the capital transferred to Dakar. From 1920 to 1957 it also served as capital of the neighboring colony of Mauritania.
Saint Louis was established in 1659 by French traders on an uninhabited island called “Ndar”. It was baptized Saint-Louis-du-Fort in homage to the French king Louis XIV. It was the first permanent French settlement in Senegal. The fortified factory commanded trade along the Senegal River: slaves, hides, beeswax, ambergris and, later, Arabic gum were exported. During the Seven Years War it was captured by British forces in 1758, but was later returned to France.
The Faidherbe Bridge
The city is built on the sandy banks at the mouth of the Senegal River. The omnipresence of water is an essential feature of the site and gives St. Louis its amphibious character. The Faidherbe Bridge (Le Pont Faidherbe) is a road bridge over the Senegal River that links the island on which the city is built to the African mainland. The metal bridge is approximately 508 metres long and has eight spans. St. Louis is a city of art and history and today occupies a prominent place in Senegalese tourism.
Once you have crossed the Pont Faidherbe, a large complex, locally known as The Gouvernance, that contains the region's administrative offices, dominates your view. To the west, The Gouvernance opens on to a shady square, named after Governor Faidherbe, whose statue towers over the gardens. This communal space, used for the city's festivities, is bordered to the north and the south by two identical buildings. They are the old barracks which used to hold the military garrisons. On each side of this central square are the island's two districts, the South or Sindone and the North, or Lodo.
There are many examples of 19th century French colonial archetecture on view in this former capital. Walking or horse & carriage tours are readily available.
Djouj National Park, 60 kilometres from St. Louis, is considered one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries. Situated on a major migratory route, this park is a paradise for bird enthusiasts and was awarded World Heritage status and a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Some of the world's greatest concentrations of white pelicans and other migratory birds can be seen here. There are boating tours along the waterways to observe the immensely rich birdlife. Various ethnic groups live along the Senegal River, notably Fulas, Tuculors and Moors.
The Langue de Barbarie is a thin, sandy peninsula, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, in the neighbourhood of the city of St. Louis. The peninsula separates the ocean from the final section of the River Senegal. This is the location of the Langue de Barbarie National Park, which is home to an abundant variety of migrant bird species including pelicans, gulls, cormorants, Royal and Caspian terns, egrets, teals, lapwings, spurred sandpipers, flamingos, herons and ibis.
Extending south of Dakar, tall baobab trees line the road towards Mbour City, a majestic gateway to Senegal’s favourite seaside escape of La Petite Côte. The sunny beaches and gentle current are hard to resist and since the 1980s an active tourist industry has grown here, between the palm trees and tiny fishing villages.
The pulsating heart of this area is Saly-Portudal, a thriving holiday centre with its sunny beach resorts, leisure activities such as boating, horseback riding, water sports, quad-biking and golf. Around Saly-Portugal there are some small coastal villages like Somone, Popenguine, Toubab Dialao, Pointe Sarene, and Mbodiene that offer wonderful lodges with less tourism activity but which allow you to get fully immersed into the local culture.
Senegal beach scene
Past the twin villages Joal and Fadiouth, where seashells crunch under your feet and the Gods live in harmony with Serere’s people, the Saloum river cuts into the coast, opening up a vast maze of mangroves and marshes. Leopold Sedar Senghor, Senegal’s first president, grew up here and it’s said that the beauty of the place and its people inspired much of his renowned poetry. This magical spot is best explored with plenty of time. In Palmarin, lone baobabs stretch out from endless salt plains. Further south, narrow creeks and slim sand banks are perfect for boat tours, presenting you with rich bird life as you cruise through the narrow waterways. It’s also an ideal place for fishing. Meeting with local tribes such as Serere, Fula, and Wolof ethnic groups is also possible.
Senegal offers summer holidays all year round and, even in the hot season, the coast always remains cool thanks to the alizes (coastal breezes).
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