Susan Dudgeon reports on her visit to Senegal with Farside Africa
We had travelled several times to East and Southern Africa with Farside Africa, so when we read an article about Senegal’s amazing beaches and culture, we contacted Farside to see what they could do. Vicky hadn’t been to Senegal in a number of years and hadn’t ever sent clients there but she enthused about the beauty of the country and its people so we decided to be the guinea pigs! Friends thought we were mad, citing humidity, terrible mosquitoes and untamed territory, but Vicky made sure we travelled at the right time of year and with the best guides to look after us.
We started in the capital, Dakar, where a private catamaran sailed us to the historic Isle de Gorée to visit the old slave houses, followed by a wonderful seafood lunch on board. We then headed north with our charming driver-guide, Yamar, to visit the pink lake of Retba, Senegal’s dead sea, where the women have the thankless task of collecting the salt. We managed to have a swim (or rather a float!) before a delicious lunch of yasa poulet, a traditional lemon chicken dish, in a simple shack on the beach. This was followed by an exciting short cut, driving up the beach racing the incoming tide. We passed through fishing villages with huge colourful wooden canoes which crash out to sea each morning on fishing expeditions. The ladies are dressed in beautiful multi-coloured wraps, carrying baskets of fish on their heads. This is true Africa where the villages are simple and have a pretty overpowering smell of fish!
After a night in a nomad’s tent amongst the sand dunes, we continued north - via Yamar’s village - to St Louis, a former French trading town at the mouth of the Senegal River. This was once one of the richest cities in West Africa. It is now somewhat dilapidated but in a charming sort of way. We stayed at a lovingly restored colonial house where we were entertained royally by the French owner and taken to a jazz concert after dinner. A highlight here was visiting the National Park at Djoidi, crossing the water ways in a motorised canoe. It is on the winter migratory route from Europe to Africa so we saw masses of birds. We then headed to the south to the Saloum Delta, where we spent a few days on the beach relaxing in a beautiful hotel. We went to mass on Sunday to hear amazing singing, and we visited a fascinating weekly market which sold everything from cattle, horses and donkeys to magic potions and spices. We could have done more but were very keen on some R&R by the pool.
Senegal was a delightful country to visit and we hardly saw a mosquito, while on the coast the wind made it quite cool (if not too cool!). Special credit goes to our driver-guide, Yamar, who took us off the beaten track and showed and taught us so much. We would highly recommend Senegal to anyone looking for something a bit different from Africa.