Off the Beaten Track, Senegal
Explore Senegal for an experience off the beaten track. We can put together an itinerary to give you a real flavour of this exciting country. See Susan Dudgeon’s article about her trip there.
Day 1: ARRIVAL-DAKAR
Stay at the Terrou –Bi, a new hotel with immaculate grounds and a lovely pool and pretty beach near to the rooms. There are 112 spacious en-suite rooms with a balcony looking onto the beach or the tropical gardens. The service is one of the best in Dakar and it has a choice of three excellent restaurants.
Day 2: DAKAR – ILE DE GORÉE – DAKAR
This morning you will be met at the hotel and driven to the port to take a private catamaran over to the Ile de Gorée, frequently visited from the 15th century onwards by all sorts of adventurers attracted by the gold and slave trades. It was a centre of deportation, and the ‘slaves’ house’ with its door opening to the ocean is a poignant reminder of former times. You will have lunch on the catamaran with drinks included. In the afternoon you will navigate off the Cap Manuel, then stop at Madeleine island, passing Mamelles which are two old volcanoes before returning to Dakar to stay at the Terrou-Bi for the night.
Day 3: DAKAR – PINK LAKE – LOMPOUL DESERT
This morning you will be met at the hotel by your English speaking driver-guide and driven one hour to the famous Pink Lake of Retba, a magical stretch of pink water whose salinity causes everything to float. Behind the lake are the dunes and pounding waves of the Atlantic - the Wild Coast. You will see how salt is extracted from the lake by the village women. You will then have lunch near the lake and then drive north (4hrs) to Lompoul village, entering Senegal’s unique desert. Here you will stay in a Berber Tented Camp in the heart of the dunes, where you can ride a camel to see the sunset or have an early morning walk to see the sunrise.
Day 4: LOMPOUL –LANGUE DE BARBARIE- ST LOUIS
After breakfast, you will drive on to Gandiole village on the Barbarie Peninsula where you will take a motorised canoe along the Senegal River, before visiting the Barbarie Peninsula ornithological reserve. After the visit, you will have a relaxed lunch on the peninsular estuary. In the afternoon you will be driven to St. Louis (1 hour) where you will stay at La Maison Jamm for 2 nights. La Maison Jamm is a charming colonial house, built in 1848 and has been beautifully restored using the original techniques and materials. It combines the charm of the old and the comforts and service of a modern guesthouse. There are four en-suite rooms.
Day 5: ST LOUIS – DJOUDJ – ST LOUIS
Depart towards the north. 60km later you will arrive at the National Park of Djoudj where you will take motorized canoes to go through the River Senegal’s waters. Located in North-Eastern Senegal, not far from the mouth of the Senegal River (37 miles from St. Louis), this ornithological park is the third most important in the world. Its excellent positioning allows for the confluence of numerous migrating birds from the North to South, or vice versa. You will head back to St Louis in the afternoon. Located in the northwest of Senegal at the mouth of the Senegal River, and 200 miles north of Senegal's Capital City Dakar, it has a population of 171,000 and it is one of the four most important cities of Senegal. The city is presumed to be the first European town of all West Africa. . Walking along its narrow streets bordered by colonial houses is like living in another century. You wil have time to have walk on the streets of the historical capital of Senegal.
Day 6: ST LOUIS – TOUBA – SALOUM
After the breakfast you travel to the sacred city of Touba (2hrs). This is the main sanctuary for the followers of the Muridism, the branch of the Islam that prevails in the country. Soaring skyward from the dusty plains of western Senegal (170 km due east of the capital of Dakar), stands the Great Mosque of Touba. Constructed in 1926 to house the tomb of the Senegalese saint, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, the enormous mosque is the most visited Islamic pilgrimage site in West Africa. Islam has existed in Senegal for over a thousand years. The first ethnic groups to accept the religion of Muhammad were the Tukulóor kingdoms during the 11th century, and by the beginning of the 20th century, most of Senegal had been entirely Islamized. However, the style of Islam practiced in Senegal is significantly different than that found in most other Islamic countries. The Islam of Senegal is similar to the mystical Sufi tradition, which is characterized by its reverence of spiritual beings (alive or dead) that are believed to embody extraordinary amounts of baraka, or divine grace. In Senegal, Islamic practice takes the form of membership in religious brotherhoods that are dedicated to the marabouts (the founders or current spiritual leaders) of these brotherhoods.
From here you will drive (3.5 hrs) to Saloum to stay at Le Royal Lodge for the next 6 nights. The region is a joy to explore, whether you're picking your way in a personal horse-drawn carriage through the great herds of baobabs and salt-craters dug by the local women or quietly navigating the lush greenery of the labyrinthine waterways in a pirogue. Otherwise you can just relax at the hotel. You will spend the next 6 nights at Le Royal Lodge which is a luxury 5* hotel set in lovely gardens beside the Saloum National Park.
Day 8: Full day excursion onto the National Park of Saloum in a pirogue with a picnic on an island
Drive to the fishing village of Djiffer, the entrance of the Saloum Delta National Park. In a traditional pirogue explore the mangroves and ‘bolongs’ (waterways) where you can see oysters on the roots as well as numerous birds on the paletuvier trees. We can observe wood or sea shell collectors. Discover the burial mounds made out of heaps of seashells. Enjoy a “Robinson Crusoe” picnic with grilled fish and take a swim on a deserted beach on the island of Sangomar. Back to the hotel at 5pm.
Day 10: Explore the Palmarin Reserve on a cart in the morning
Local horse and carriage transport across the Palmarin Reserve. Stop at the famous salt wells with different colour depending of the salt concentration. Continue across the salty, sandy areas known as “tanns”. See the ancient burial mounds made out of heaps of seashells. Follow the track at the border of the mangrove and the wonderful bush tree area with baobabs, palm trees, mangos … with zebu’s crowd. Come back through Guedj village and have a look to the Mosque and the church. Lunch not included and free afternoon.
Day 11: Local market and bush village – Lunch in Joal – Visit of the shell island Fadiouth
Drive along tracks through the bush, visiting Peul and Wolof villages. Stop at a typical weekly market. Soak up the colourful, sweet-smelling and warm atmosphere. There you will find all kind of products in a colourful, chaotic atmosphere: fabrics, food products, magic powders and other talismans…Tool repairers work next to the female canteen holders, and the breeders sell animals to allow them to barter for other needed products. Visit a primary school and a public clinic. Drive up to Joal, birthplace of the former Senegal President, Léopold Sédar Senghor. Lunch. Board a small pirogue to cruise along the oyster beds and mangroves to reach the grain stores and then visit a cemetery set on a hill of shells. Enjoy an excellent view of the fascinating mangroves from there. Walk through Fadiouth’s lanes and visit the church, where Sunday mass is sung by a choir playing traditional instruments. Return to the mainland by a very beautiful wooden bridge 800 metres long. Stop in the fishing port of Joal to observe the activity on the fishermen’s return.
Day 12: SALY
Transfer to Saly visiting the Bandia animal reserve on the way. Enjoy a safari in the animal reserve of Bandia located in a 3500-hectare wide conservation area. With a professional guide, see numerous species native to Senegal: buffalos, antelopes, impala gazelles, monkeys, tortoises, crocodiles…and also to South Africa such as white rhinoceros, kudu, elands, cape moose, giraffes, ostriches, zebras… Stop at the crocodile pool where animals come to drink and buffalos wallow in the mud. Refreshments available. See numerous birds including small hornbills, grey heron, eagles, blackbirds, kingfishers. Overnight at Lemantin Beach Hotel on a half-board basis.
Day 13: DAKAR
This afternoon you will drive to Dakar and to the airport for the flight back to the UK.