Senegal-useful information and travel advise.
Senegal has become independent in 1960s. There are two official languages: Volof and French. 96% of people are muslims. Dakar is a colourful, unique and fascinating place, with a long history and rich cultural heritage and one of the most beautiful and colourful people I’ve seen. Dakar – the capital, is as a safe city, as far as you avoid walking after dark. You’re definitely going to meet people who will try to be your guide but I would advise do not interact with them, as all they do is ask for money. Do not become agresive, refuse politely but confidently. Saturdays are market days!
I’ve listed number of useful information around transportation, mobile networks and best one-day trips from Dakar. There are plenty of small shops, where you can buy snacks and water – choose bottled only!! May festivals are great experience, check more information on: www.festivalsalam.com.
Practical advise for Senegal!
Internet and mobile network in Dakar.
There are 3 mobile networks in Senegal. SIM cards are available – best to find an Orange spot but avoid small booths – as the card might last shorter than said. Orange in Les Alamdies was a very good spot to buy a SIM card, ladies were helpful and did everything to set up an internet connection on my phone. Wifi is available in most hotels.
Transport in Dakar city.
TAXIS in Dakar are the main transport and most convenient. It will take less than 3 seconds to catch one. Always agree the price before you get in!! Some transfers: Yafo – Almadies 1500-1800F.
ATM’s: There are lots of ATM’s and banks in the city. Some additional charges may apply for cash withdrawal.
Top things 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 easy sea access and an empty beach.
- Fish market in Yoff.
- Saturdays are market days!
One-day splendid trips from Dakar!
Bandia National Park is a fabulous safari experience. It’s a 3500 hectares of fenced but natural environment of majority of African animals. The only way to explore the park is by hiring 4WD jeep with a driver. You will not be able to drive your own vehicle. On a jeep tour you’ll have a chance to get very close to most of the African mammals and reptiles.
Start your trip to Bandia National Parkas as early as possible. Be prepared there are huge traffic jams in the city of Dakar and it takes forever to drive out. Bandia National Park is located 65 km from Dakar east direction. We hired a taxi guy for the day /which is quite expensive/ but I heard it is possible to get there by a local bus. It’s quite small reserve comparing to most African national parks, perhaps because this is privately-owned tourist attraction. But it is well maintained. To observe wildlife you have to avoid the hottest hours. The animals are not active during the day due to the extreme heat. They are to be seen early in the morning even before sunrise or late afternoon, after the sunset.
Sally fishing village & The Somone Lagoon.
These are the two very pleasant options for a one-day trips from Dakar.
Saly – a small fishing village and one of the most beautiful tourist spots of Senegal coast, with wide sandy beaches and lagoon waters. Luckily the place wasn’t turned into hotels agglomeration, but kep its natural landscape with fantastic bungalows as main accomodation option. The place sinks in flourishing colourful exotic plants.
The Somone Lagoon – another great holiday destination, very pleasant and quiet place, perfect destination for discovering the real African lifestyle. Take a boat tour along the mangroves to watch wildlife in an eco-friendly natural environment. You’ll see lots of oyster plantations on the river. One hour boat tour is a realaxing experience, try some local specialities in one of the local restaurants, located near the lagoon.
Mbor fish market in Senegal.
Mbour Fish Market – visiting this place brought me one of the most unique moments in my life. I’m still not sure whether it was perfectly safe to go there even guided by a local man but it would be very difficult to reach the place on your own. It was our taxi driver who took us there after I said I would like to see a real side of Senegal and working class. The taxi driver was a good friend of our hostel owner (by the way an Italian guys 😉 !), he said he perfectly trusts the driver and we’ll be safe with him. We parked in the middle of an extremely busy 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 those pictures 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 crowd and mess, cleaning fishes brought by their men. The smell of the place was more than nighmarish, but we were really trying not to show it.
What’s more, there were tones of rubbish rotting around the beach and sea water and the heat even tripled the smell. You would instinctively squint the eyes, but the whole scenery kept them opened. This was a real Senegal. Exactly the one I wanted to see. Real scenery of bloody work and extreme African poverty.
Lac Rose (Lac Retba) - one-day trip from Dakar to a rose lake.
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 a pink colour and is completely harmless to humans. Extremely interesting is a fact that it needs to be windy for the river to turn into pink colour. At least this is what they say.. I wasn’t luckly enough to see this phenomenon when I was there in the middle of the summer. The whole lake scenery is incredible. Take a short walk to discover salt decks and beautiful colourful women. There are plenty of attractions for visitors: tour packages, quads, boat trips, etc. The prices are crazy but we tapped in a low season and managed to negotiate a fair price for a boat trip through the lake. You got to explore the landscape of the lake. But just so you know – you can walk around the lake yourself, although they would encourage you to buy a tour instead.
Read all important information from my Lac Rose trip: https://freestyletraveling.com/lac-rose-pink-lake-in-senegal/
Goree Island in Dakar.
Goree Island – one of Africa’s most famous memorials to the slave trade. The island is most known from the House of Slaves – a small museum, unleashing a sad history of the Atlantic slave trade. Equaly impressive is the monumnet outside the entrance of the museum, with two crying slave couple hugging, with chains hanging from their wrists. Getting to the island is easy and it’s a must see destination for a one-day trip in Dakar. You need to take a ferry from the main Dakar port. The trip takes half an hour to get to the island. Once the ferry arrives you will need to wait until the museum opens, it is purposely organized this way to encourage people to visit the island and to shop souvenirs. Local people are selling stuff everywhere. What’s more, be prepared you’ll be approached by one of the local women on the ferry. She will engage you with a conversation, buying your attention to to visit her shop on the island. She will ask for your name and once you get off from the boat she will cream your name waving at you to come to her shop. She’ll find you in the crowd and you’ll have no choice but to visit her shop. 🙂 Anyway, the prices are ok, I ended up buying a colourful African top, more to be kind to her.