Senegal has become independent in 1960s. There are two official languages: Volof and French. 96% of people are muslims. Dakar is a safe city, there’s no single reason to be afraid. Just try to follow certain rules like avoiding walking after dark. You’re definitely going to meet people who will try to be your guide but do not interact with them, as asking for money is all they are looking for. Do not become agresive, refuse politely but confidently. Saturdays are market days!
Internet and mobile network in Dakar.
There are 3 mobile networks in Senegal. SIM cards are available – best to find Orange spot but avoid small booths! The card might last shorter that you think. Orange in Les Alamdies was a very good spot to buy a SIM card, ladies were helpful and did everything for you to set up a connection. Wifi is available in most hotels.
Transport in Dakar: TAXIS in Dakar are the main transport and most convenient. It will take less than 3 seconds to catch one. Always agree the price!! Some tranfers: Yafo – Almadies 1500-1800F.
ATM’s: There are lots of ATM’s and no problem with banks. Small shops are everywhere where you can buy snacks and water – olny bottled! May festivals might be very interesting experience, check on: www.festivalsalam.com.
What to see in Dakar?
- African Renaissance Monument – controversial 49 meter tall bronze statue located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles. The monumnet intended to celebrate the achievements of the African people and symbolize Senegal’s 50 years of independence from France but will more be a symbol of a corruption and unpopular alliances. The view from the top is breathtaking.
- Grand Mosque
- City market
- Western point
- Yoff district – this is where I stayed. Nice and quiet disctrict with sea access and an empty beach.
- Fish market in Yoff.
- Saturdays are market days!
One-day splendid trips from Dakar!
The trouble with Senegal is that public transport is very poor and if there is one, it takes hours to reach destination. This country is full of magnificent places, national parks and wildlife but it takes plenty of time to get travel around. But there is pretty cheap solution for one-day trips – hire a taxi to take you around. This transport is uncomparable with any other, it takes you directly to a place and you don’t waste time wondering around. Just to be clear, walking and wondering around is my way of traveling, but in Senegal you need to be aware of few other things: incredible heat! long distances where there’s nothing between! no hitchhiking/well not recommended. I had only few days to spend in Senegal so taxi was my way this time. Although Senegal turned to be an amazing country, where I could easily spend a month, as there’s so much to explore..
So first rule in Africa is?? Always agree the price in advance! For anything! Taxis, entry fee, shopping, etc. I truly don;t remember how much I paid exactly for the taxi but let’s say it was $120 for a day, including tolls, which trust me is not expensive. We visited 5 different places and the farthest was about 100 km from Dakar.
One-day trip itinerary outside Dakar.
1-DAY ITINERARY – SOUTH-WEST DIRECTION FROM DAKAR
Start at 8am at the latest, also because there may be a huge traffic and it can take long time to leave Dakar. Secondly, make Bandia National Park your first of last stop, as the animals are not active during the day due to extreme heat. They are to be seen early in the morning or late afternoon.
- Bandia National Park. Absolutely amazing safari experience. Although this Park fenced it’s a 3500 hectares of natural habit of majority of African animals. It’s an amazing experience which gives you a chance to get close to most of the African mammals and reptiles.
- Saly – small fishing village and one of the most beautiful tourist spots with sandy beaches and pure water. Luckily the place wasn’t turned into hotels agglomeration but remained nice and natural with fantastic bungalows around, which are surrounded by flourishing which all makes the place looking like paradise.
- The Somone Lagoon – another great holiday destination, very pleasant and quiet place, perfect African lifestyle destination. Take an hour boat tour along the mangroves to watch wildlife in an eco-friendly nature and oyster plantations. It’s a quiet area, where you can surely realax during this boat ride and stay for a meal in one of the local bars.
- Mbour Fish Market – this is the reason why I love travels! This was one of the most unique moments in my life. I’m still not sure whether it was safe and I’d say definitely impossible to reach on your own. We were taken by a local taxi driver, who was a friend of the owner of one of the local hostels. I was asking him all day to tell the driver to take us to a non-turistic unique place and he finally agreed. Taxi driver parked in the middle of a huge street market. I don’t think it’s possible to go there alone, especially for a white woman with a camera hanging from a neck. I still have a picture of this coast in front of my eyes, thousands of fishing boats, hundreds of thousands local men working on the beach, carrying tons of fish boxes, women sitting on a sand in the middle of this mess, cleaning fishes brought by their men. The smell was horrible but I was trying not to show it. What’s more, tones of rubbish rotting around in the heat made the smell so horrible, that it made you squint the eyes, but the whole scenery kept them opened. This was a real Senegal. Exactly the one I wanted to see. Not a daily picture. Real scenery of bloody work and poverty.
1-DAY ITINERARY NORTH DIRECTION FROM DAKAR
- Lac Rose/Lac Retba – Pink Lake, located 35 km north Dakar. This is one of the most salted lakes in the world (40%). It’s Duniella Salina bactiera, which couses the pink colour and is completely harmless to humans. The river to turn into pink colour it needs to be windy. At least this is what they say, as I wasn’t luckly to see this phenomenon when I was there in the middle of the summer.
- Goree Island – one of Africa’s most famous memorials to the slave trade. House of Slaves is a small museum in the island where you can hear about its sad history. But more imporessive is the monumnet of two crying slaves near the entrance. You need to take a ferry from the main Dakar port, it’s a half an hour ferry trip to the island. Once the ferry arrives you will need to wait until the museum opens, it is organized to encourage people to visit the island and buy souvenirs. Wherever you turn around locals sell stuff. What’s more, you’ll be picked on the ferry by a local woman, so don;t think it is just a conversation, she is buying you on the ferry, asking your name and then slowly arranging the meeting in the island. Until you realize she has a shop there, it’s too late, she’ll find you in the crowd and will call your name loudly, so you have no choice but to visit the shop. 😉 Anyway, the prices are not that high, so I ended up buing a top, which I never used.