A multicoloured and multi-ethnic country, Senegal appears to be a formidable melting pot where diversity and tolerance coexist in harmony. Fulani, Serere and Wolofs, Catholics and Muslims, the differences blend into a fabulous kaleidoscope. Less than six hours by plane from France, it is the ideal starting point to discover Black Africa. Lush vegetation, Sahelian plains, fine sandy beaches, mangroves, Senegal is a little of all this.... but probably more than that! To really live the country, it is the human relationship that must be given priority. The good humour, joviality and deep generosity of the Senegalese people are revealed to the traveller if he stays for a while in their company
Welcome to Senegal!
Landing in Dakar, where the airport is still a "tourist area". Unnamed hubbub and solicitations from all sides, here we have adapted to the Western rhythm: immediate needs satisfied in the moment. The capital itself can be surprising, because it does not really resemble the idea of the African city. And for good reason, it has nothing in common with the typical Senegalese city. Urban, industrial, it alone, it breeds in population the fifth of the country. In stark contrast, it offers anyone who takes the time to discover it a captivating duality between its popular and grid-shaped medina and its Plateau, an economic and administrative centre. Its large mosque is undoubtedly one of the most important religious buildings in Africa. However, we go to Dakar more than we stay there.
In its surroundings, we will not miss the island of Gorée, to better understand the history of the slave trade first, and to enjoy its unique atmosphere second, only 20 minutes from the teeming capital. A kind of languor runs over this city with a heavy and fascinating past, its sweet atmosphere with indolent beauty cannot leave anyone indifferent.
How to pass, not far from there, next to the Pink Lake, one of the country's most famous excursions! The high salt density colours the lake water more or less pink depending on the season. Winter is the best time to admire it in its most beautiful colours. We will be able to observe the hard work of salt workers: tirelessly, they collect mountains of iodine to dry them in the dry, under the African sun.
The little coast is popular!
While the majority of tourists automatically head for the Saly-Portudal seaside area, south of Dakar, it is not there that we will find the most beautiful beaches or, far from it, a traditional Senegalese life. On the other hand, the coast is entirely bordered by comfortable hotels set on a pretty coastline and is perfectly suited to those who enjoy the pleasures of the seaside. 5 km away, you can watch the return of the fishermen from M'Bour, one of the most important fishing villages on the coast: the arrival of these dozens of multicoloured boats in the light of the rising sea is a spectacle not to be missed. Then, we will go to the Sine-Saloum to admire the historical treasures of the region which once housed the kingdoms of powerful ethnic groups and was the site of notorious battles. It is currently a very popular site for lovers of mangroves, lagoons and forests. We can follow in the footsteps of Léopold Sédar Senghor in Joal, his native village, by visiting immaculate beaches; make a flea jump to Fadiouth, known as "the island of shells" as it is so covered and almost entirely composed of these limestone envelopes. Further south, the Sangomar Point and the Missira Protected Forest offer picturesque stops and exceptional views for nature lovers.
Adventurers will push to eastern Senegal, a little-known region, because it is too poorly served by public transport. However, it deserves to be approached more closely: between deserts and hilly forests, Eastern Senegal offers a great diversity of landscapes. It is here that you can visit the country's most important national park, Niokolo-Badiar, classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Casamance, a source of joy
Now, on her way to the exciting region of Casamance, trapped between Gambia and Guinea, whose culture she shares
Mangroves and lagoons follow one another in the heart of the tropical forest, revealing an exceptionally rich nature. You can observe these water tables by taking a canoe cruise on the Casamance River. We will stop in the small traditional villages on the islands formed by the bolongs. The cultivation of rice fields sculpts the landscape, palm trees border the coasts, the beaches extend over miles of fine sand. The region therefore attracts fishing enthusiasts
Its main town, Ziguinchor, is the perfect starting point for Cap Skirring, the region's seaside resort, where water sports enthusiasts will enjoy themselves. Travellers who enjoy the most authentic places will be thrilled by the contact with Carabane, a city on the water, which is held thanks to mangroves, a phantasmagorical site delicately set between land and sea!
The city unveils its grace from the canoe, to the nonchalant rhythm of the small boat that leads you. Isolated and as if abandoned by tourism, it offers a bewitching stopover: its heavenly beaches stretch endlessly, not the slightest toubab ( "white man" in Wolof) seems to have trod the sand. Sport fishing is the main activity, but why not visit the surrounding villages, where Guinean traditions take precedence over Senegalese identity
A timeless city
We will finish this stay by going up to the far north and Saint-Louis, the former capital of the country with a rich past. A historic city par excellence, it distills the scents of New Orleans or, closer to Gorée Island: with its old-fashioned colonial districts, a sweet fragrance of nostalgia perfumes the city. Unlike the busy Dakar, Saint-Louis has kept its calm, and a village atmosphere reigns in its alleys. We cannot ignore the incredible work of art that is the Faidherbe Bridge, linking the island-city to the mainland. Near the square of the same name, in the heart of the old town, the colonial houses surround Saint-Louis with a mad charm and character. We will buy quality souvenirs, before spending the last festive night in one of the city's trendy bars. And promise yourself that you will soon rest your suitcases on the land of Teranga!
When? When? Senegal is pleasant all year round, but prefer the dry season, from October to June.
Getting there. The Paris-Dakar flight lasts about 5h30 and the round trip costs between 450 and 850 €.
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