Safaris in Senegal: prices, when and where to go

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Dakar is a very busy place by African standards. Many airlines fly here, but Turkish Airlines is the most convenient way to get from Moscow. The flight from Istanbul to Dakar takes eight hours with a stopover in Nouakchott. In the opposite direction there is a direct flight to Istanbul. Before the current crisis, Senegal was visited annually on average by about a thousand tourists from Russia. Among the countries of black Africa, it was in fifth place in this regard, after South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. However, over the past year and a half or two years, the flow of tourists arriving in Senegal has dried up to the size of a barely visible stream. For our compatriots, financial considerations have played a major role. But at the same time tourists from Europe disappeared. Another reason played a role: Ebola. Although there have been no cases of Ebola in Senegal itself, to a European, it is all the same whether it is Senegal, Liberia or Sierra-Leone. In an attempt to recover the missing tourist, the Senegalese authorities made the maximum possible visa concessions. On May 1, 2015, a visa-free regime was introduced with most European countries, including Russia. But the problem is that the official declaration was not supported by relevant regulations, and on this basis, the Senegalese embassy in Moscow still insisted on the need for a visa to enter the country. In short, I had to sacrifice a page in my passport so as not to provoke unpleasant problems. Dakar looks clean (of course, by African standards) and green. However, the two days I spent here were first of all business, and therefore I saw the sights of the capital mainly from the bus window. Even the famous monument of African Renaissance (which reminded me amazingly of the Muha worker and collective farmer) I did not manage to photograph well. Here are some quite haphazard photos from Dakar. Guard of Honor at the presidential palace. This is a soldier of the Red Guard (Garde Rouge), a special unit of the national gendarmerie. “The Red Guards perform primarily ceremonial functions and, as part of mounted patrols, maintain order on the city’s beaches. The uniform of the Red Guards is borrowed from the French colonial troops. Senegalese riflemen and spaghetti riders were seen in both World Wars and even in the Russian Civil War. In Bulgakov’s Days of the Turbins there is an inscription on the stove wall in the apartment of the main characters: “Breyman’s witticisms are playful, but where are the Senegalese companies?” The majority of Senegal’s population is Muslim, but there is a fairly noticeable layer of Catholic Christians in the country. Therefore, a Catholic cathedral in the capital looks quite appropriate. Notre Dame du Dakar was built in 1936. The cathedral is famous primarily for the unusual painting of the central dome. In the center of the city, on Soweto Heroes’ Square, where the Senegalese parliament building stands, there is the Museum of African Art. It is considered the largest in West Africa, but on closer inspection it is rather disappointing. There is a collection of masks on the first floor of the museum, but surprisingly, there are almost no Senegalese ones among them. The vast majority are masks of the Senufo and Bambara peoples who live in Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. By the way, the same is the case in the local souvenir markets. Here you can buy Dogon carved doors, the same Senufo masks, bronzes from Burkina Faso and even Nigeria, but almost nothing local. The Senegalese specialties are genre pictures on glass, sand paintings on the island of Gorée, and woven baskets of the Wolof people.

The island of Gorée (emphasis on the last syllable) is located directly opposite the center of Dakar and has actually been part of the city for a long time. The ferry to Gore takes twenty minutes and you are already on the island. Now the Mountain is a purely tourist attraction. It is preserved in its original form of colonial architecture, many cafes and restaurants. But a hundred and fifty years ago, the island was the main center of the slave trade in all of West Africa. It was the shortest route to the New World and therefore slaves from other parts of the continent were brought to the mountain. Here they were, so to speak, “sorted” and loaded onto ships. At that time there were more than two dozen such “sorting stations” on the island. One has survived to this day – the famous Slave House. Visitors are admitted here for 40-minute “sessions”. Before the walk through the museum (and there is nothing but empty rooms) a local vocal ensemble performs for the tourists. However, they sing Zulu songs (although there were no Zulus in these parts at all), but tourists who do not know African languages, in general, do not care. There is another museum on the island, a historical museum, in the round building of the former fort. There are more exhibits, but also mostly photographs and diagrams. On the same day, after visiting Gore, we went in the direction of Retba Lake. Tourists know it better as the Pink Lake because of the characteristic color of the water. This, in turn, it owes it to the microscopic algae that live in it. It is hard to imagine how they had to adapt – because the salt content of the lake exceeds 40%. They say that the Pink Lake can appear before the tourists and a dirty-gray and murky-brown. But we were lucky – the water in the lake was really pink, even more of a lilac hue. There are several lodges on the shore of Pink Lake, but not too many tourists in them. They experienced their heyday in the days when this is where the famous Paris-Dakar rally ended. You can imagine that once there were hundreds of people bustling around, engines roaring and commentators speaking loudly. Now all that is left are concrete foundations covered with sand. Nowadays the shore of the lake is occupied by salt miners. Salt is mined here from the bottom, in the easiest way possible: the divers just scoop it up with a plastic container. This work is extremely hard and it employs mostly emigrants from Burkina Faso. Boats full of salt are docked at the shore, and then the women step in. They unload the boats and dump the salt into high piles on the shore. As the salt dries, it is separated from the dirt, sifted and poured back into the piles. When the dealer arrives, the salt is loaded into bags and sent for sale. It’s hard for me to imagine how all this is even possible. I tried just taking a dip in the lake (after all, the Dead Sea managed to do that), but it ended badly. My body kept tipping over in the water in the strangest way, and the salt kept threatening to get in my eyes. In my opinion, to dive into the lake, you need to take a solid load with you, not to mention the charms of being in such concentrated brine. The next day promised to be an eventful one. We were to reach the Lumpul Desert, and in the evening, still before daylight, be in St. Louis, in the very north of Senegal. In order to save time, we decided not to drive along the highway, but right on the edge of the sea. To say it bluntly, the trip turned out memorable! Just imagine – almost a hundred kilometers of wide sandy and completely deserted beach.

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A couple of times on the way we met unfinished hotels, as a memory of the disaster that befell the local tourism business. However, we must admit that to attract tourists here requires a huge investment. Those who have been to West Africa know a local peculiarity – an almost total absence of any bays and gulfs on the coast, protecting from the waves. The ocean is here in all its might and two-meter waves are common at any time of year. In order to equip places for swimming, it is necessary to build breakwaters, to deepen the bottom, and all this costs a lot of money. But as a road, the beaches of Senegal serve perfectly. We raced at a hundred kilometers to get through before the tide came in. In the open back of the jeep it was impossible to open my eyes, let alone speak, because of the wind. But despite all the hurry, we had to slow down near the town of Kayar. A huge crowd of people, what looked like two or three thousand, blocked our way in a black shifting mass. It turned out that at this time the fishing boats that had been at sea for the night were returning. By this time, the entire population of the town had come ashore. Fishermen are being trucked to the place where the fishermen have arrived. Fish is everywhere: in plastic troughs, which the loaders drag directly on their heads, huge piles piled on carts, lying right underfoot. The screams, the smells – in short, the feeling that the white tourists, accidentally trapped in this hell, right there and get torn. In fact, it was not so scary, although we managed to get through the crowd with great difficulty. Well, then it was easy – another ten kilometers and the turn to Lumpul. Here is one of the tourist gems of Senegal. Lumpul is a real desert with sand dunes and all other trappings. But it is surprisingly small – less than ten kilometers across. A tourist lodge is built here, not too luxurious (tents on a boardwalk), but with the bare minimum of amenities. I confess right away, I did not go beyond the lodge. First of all it was too hot, and secondly I had been to Sossusflei in Namibia six months before, and I was not expecting that its much smaller version would amaze me. We had a bite to eat at the lodge and reached St. Louis at about five o’clock in the afternoon. If you’re going to Senegal, St. Louis is a must-see. The city was founded back in 1638 and was the center of the French colonial administration until 1902. St. Louis is located on an island in the middle of the Senegal River, just a few kilometers from the border with Mauritania. At St. Louis, the Senegal River splits into two branches. From the left bank to the island is a metal arch bridge (it is named Federb Bridge in honor of the French governor) of very impressive length. Local legend has it that the structures of the bridge were supposed to go to another, French St. Louis, only to end up in Africa by mistake. Now St. Louis is considered the “cultural capital” of Senegal. Numerous festivals are held there, including a jazz festival, the largest on the continent. Mention of the “cultural capital” inadvertently draws parallels between St. Louis and Leningrad during the Soviet era. At the dawn of Perestroika, I had to live there, and I remember the “great city with a regional fate” well. Like Leningrad at the time, St. Louis has noticeably fewer new buildings than the capital. But colonial architecture is represented here in all its glory.

It is true that all the colonial mansions look neglected, the broad boulevards (also a memory of the French) are devoid of even rare grass, the trees standing on them are mostly long dead. The only reminder of St. Louis’ former glory is an old steam crane, forever moored to the shore. St. Louis is separated from the right bank of the river by a narrow channel. There, on the right bank, are the city’s most exotic neighborhoods. Fishermen live here, whose tight-knit community rejects any outsiders. The streets are filthy, it’s easy to catch a passerby’s leering gaze, and at dusk, you’re guaranteed not to show your face at all. But here you can see the houses, which are two or three hundred years old, like this Portuguese-style casa. By the way, it seems that the building now houses a brothel, which would seem surprising in a predominantly Muslim country. Note the graffiti on the wall of the house. You can see this pattern everywhere in Senegal. If you look closely, you can see in it the silhouette of a man in a traditional broad shirt, a boubou. This is a reproduction of the only surviving photograph of Sheikh Amadou Bamba, a very popular person in the country. To begin with, Islam in Senegal has a number of peculiarities. Muslim believers here usually belong to one of several associations. In the literature they are called Muslim fraternities or orders, but any of these translations is not accurate. A fraternity (let’s call it that) is usually formed around a particularly revered leader. Amadou Bamba was one of them. Legends are told of the miracles he performed. At one time, the colonial authorities twice expelled him from the country, but later awarded him a medal for helping to mobilize his followers to the front of World War I. After the war, Amadou Bamba settled in the city of Touba, where he died in 1927. Touba is now as sacred to Senegalese Muslims as Mecca.

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wolker55 member Posts: 80 Photo: 840 Registration: 05/10/2010 City: Yaroslavl Thanked (a): 6 times. Has thanked: 79 times. Age: 66 Countries: 89 Reports: 17 Gender: Male

The island of Gorée (emphasis on the last syllable) is located directly opposite the center of Dakar and has actually been part of the city for a long time. The ferry to Gore takes twenty minutes and you are already on the island. Now the Mountain is a purely tourist attraction. It is preserved in its original form of colonial architecture, many cafes and restaurants. But a hundred and fifty years ago, the island was the main center of the slave trade in all of West Africa. It was the shortest route to the New World and therefore slaves from other parts of the continent were brought to the mountain. Here they were, so to speak, “sorted” and loaded onto ships. At that time there were more than two dozen such “sorting stations” on the island. One has survived to this day – the famous Slave House. Visitors are admitted here for 40-minute “sessions”. Before the walk through the museum (and there is nothing but empty rooms) a local vocal ensemble performs for the tourists. However, they sing Zulu songs (although there were no Zulus in these parts at all), but tourists who do not know African languages, in general, do not care. There is another museum on the island, a historical museum, in the round building of the former fort. There are more exhibits, but also mostly photographs and diagrams. On the same day, after visiting Gore, we went in the direction of Retba Lake. Tourists know it better as the Pink Lake because of the characteristic color of the water. This, in turn, it owes it to the microscopic algae that live in it. It is hard to imagine how they had to adapt – because the salt content of the lake exceeds 40%. They say that the Pink Lake can appear before the tourists and a dirty-gray and murky-brown. But we were lucky – the water in the lake was really pink, even more of a lilac hue. There are several lodges on the shore of Pink Lake, but not too many tourists in them. They experienced their heyday in the days when this is where the famous Paris-Dakar rally ended. You can imagine that once there were hundreds of people bustling around, engines roaring and commentators speaking loudly. Now all that is left are concrete foundations covered with sand. Nowadays the shore of the lake is occupied by salt miners. Salt is mined here from the bottom, in the easiest way possible: the divers just scoop it up with a plastic container. This work is extremely hard and it employs mostly emigrants from Burkina Faso. Boats full of salt are docked at the shore, and then the women step in. They unload the boats and dump the salt into high piles on the shore. As the salt dries, it is separated from the dirt, sifted and poured back into the piles. When the dealer arrives, the salt is loaded into bags and sent for sale. It’s hard for me to imagine how all this is even possible. I tried just taking a dip in the lake (after all, the Dead Sea managed to do that), but it ended badly. My body kept tipping over in the water in the strangest way, and the salt kept threatening to get in my eyes. In my opinion, to dive into the lake, you need to take a solid load with you, not to mention the charms of being in such concentrated brine. The next day promised to be an eventful one. We were to reach the Lumpul Desert, and in the evening, still before daylight, be in St. Louis, in the very north of Senegal. In order to save time, we decided not to drive along the highway, but right on the edge of the sea. To say it bluntly, the trip turned out memorable! Just imagine – almost a hundred kilometers of wide sandy and completely deserted beach.

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wolker55 ” 22 Dec 2015, 10:15

At the mouth of the Senegal River is the Lang de Barbarie Nature Reserve (Lang de Barbarie). In Russian it would be more correctly translated as Berber Spit. Indeed, the right bank of the river in this place is a narrow spit that stretches for almost seven kilometers. The width of the spit in most cases is no more than 200 meters. The ocean actively advances on this piece of land. The water at the mouth of the river has long been salty. In order to stop the salinization, a few years ago a narrow canal was dug through the spit. The idea proved unsuccessful; the channel is eroding and getting wider every year. Even now the Berber Spit, in fact, has become an island, and in a few decades it may disappear altogether. On the Berber Spit is the largest bird sanctuary in Senegal. There are also several lodges here, secluded and isolated to the point that there is not even a cell phone connection, let alone the Internet. This was a problem for me, as I needed to urgently address several work issues, but, nothing to do, I had to forcibly enjoy the seclusion. Fortunately, the next day we had to leave for the busiest resort in Senegal. The area is called Sine Saloum after the names of the rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean here. Sine Saloum has many hotels, including some of the highest class. Despite the generally very problematic situation with tourism in Senegal, the local five-star hotels have managed to keep afloat to some extent. One beach vacation for guests is usually not enough, and therefore several tourist facilities have appeared in the vicinity. But here appears a problem. There are no historical monuments nearby, and those that are have purely local significance. How interested can European tourists be in the house where the future first president of Senegal Leopold Senghor lived in his youth? Most tourists have never even heard his name. Africa for tourists is, above all, the exotic nature, lions and elephants. But in the west of the continent the big animals were exterminated a long time ago. That’s how private game reserves, essentially cage-free zoos, came into being. The biggest of them in Senegal is the Bandi Reserve, 40 kilometers from Dakar. True, there are no lions, or as if, here. Lions, like other predators, would scare away other animals, and the reserve would lose its main advantage – the opportunity to see animals at any time and in large numbers. As for elephants, there simply would not be enough food for them on the relatively small territory of the reserve. As local guides joke when showing guests this unusual baobab, this is the only elephant living here. The largest inhabitants of Bundy are the family of white rhinos. In addition to them here you can find giraffes and more than a dozen species of antelope. Animals are not afraid of no one and let the jeeps with tourists very close. It turns out a kind of safari-lite. Of course, it does not compare with a real safari, but as an element of variety, it can decorate your stay in Senegal. If we go back to the baobabs. For me it is a symbol of Africa, I really love these “trees growing horse up” and I always enjoy another date with them. Well, probably in no other country have I seen as many baobabs as in Senegal. The most interesting souvenir you can take from here is a small (two to three years old) baobab, which you can plant in a flower pot at home. I, however, did not dare to do it, since I always have problems with houseplants.

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There are a huge number of baobabs growing in the Bundy area. The most famous of these is the one where the remains of the griots are buried. Griots are musicians and storytellers, an important part of the traditional culture of almost all West African countries. However, in the class structure of African society the griots occupied one of the lowest places, essentially on a par with the slaves. For this reason it was forbidden to bury the griots in the ground. Empty trunks of old baobabs were used for this purpose. In Bundy tourists are shown a baobab, in the hollow of which you can see a human skull. But for us, something else is more interesting. A strange inscription is carved on the trunk of a baobab about two meters from the ground. It clearly shows the Russian letter “ch”, not found in other alphabets. It may not be so, but one gets the feeling that someone started carving “Sochi” in English spelling, and then stopped and continued in Russian. I will say right away that this was long before last year’s Olympics, but after all, sailors from Russia have been to Dakar before.

wolker55 member Posts: 80 Photo: 840 Registration: 05/10/2010 City: Yaroslavl Thanked (a): 6 times. Has thanked: 79 times. Age: 66 Countries: 89 Reports: 17 Gender: Male

All about vacations in Senegal

Senegal is a West African country washed by the Atlantic Ocean, the beaches stretch for hundreds of kilometers. It is considered one of the most stable, economically developed and educated on this continent. It actively develops the idea of the poet and the first president of the country Leopold Senghor on the uniqueness of the black race, specially created by the Institute for Basic Studies of Black Africa.

Senegal is inhabited by many tribes with their own traditions and culture, but almost all speak French.

Tours to Senegal are unusual and quite rare from Russia. But every January, it attracts the fans of the iconic Paris-Dakar World Race.

Nearly seven hundred thousand tourists visit Senegal every year.

A bit of history

In ancient times, these lands were inhabited by three ethnic groups: the Wolof, Serer and Tukuler. In the 11th century Berbers and Arabs from the north of Africa started to instill Islam here. Europeans first appeared in the 15th century. In the 17th-19th centuries the French were especially active in developing West Africa.

Until 1960 Senegal remained a colony of France, but even after becoming independent, has maintained strong economic ties with it.

Senegal on the Map

Nature and climate

This flat country is located in the subequatorial belt among the savannas and sparse forests. It is hilly only in the southeast, where the few Senegalese rivers have their sources, most of which have temporary streams that depend on heavy rainfall. Only three – the Senegal, Gambia, and Casamance – flow permanently, and there are plenty of fish in them.

In the north of the country is a semi-desert with sparse vegetation, while in the south there are dense forests of oil palms, baobabs, bamboos, mahogany and teak, as well as mangrove swamps.

Senegal is rich in wildlife – giraffes and antelopes, elephants and cheetahs, hippos and crocodiles, buffalo and warthogs. Many different birds: eagles, vultures, ostriches, cranes, flamingos, parrots… It is especially present in the Saloum river delta area, which is a clear proof of the possibility of harmonious coexistence of man and the biodiversity of the natural environment.

There are also reptiles – pythons, cobras, and varanas. There are many national parks in Senegal in which the local fauna is well represented. For example, Fatala National Park, almost on the border between Senegal and Zambia. Almost all representatives of African fauna can be found here in their natural environment.

Between July and October, Senegal has a rainy season, which may last more than half a year in the south and two to three months in the north. But the rains are not long, besides it becomes fresher and the savannah is buried in greenery. And fishing – the main pastime for many travelers to this country – in this season is considered the best.

The temperature during the year is between +23C and +28C throughout the country.

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The most comfortable tourists feel in Senegal in November and February. However, the holidays may be spoilt by “Harmatan” – dry winds from the Sahara, which blow at this time and bring clouds of sand, raising waves, not suitable for windsurfing.

Dakar

Dakar is the multi-faceted capital of Senegal and the hub of all kinds of activities, including international ones. You see a lot of people on its streets – respectable businessmen and ordinary Senegalese in national dress, tourists.

The main attraction of Dakar is the Theodore Monod Museum, the oldest on the African continent, which has a rich collection of African art, it is in no way inferior to the best European and American museums.

In the city there are many hotels and restaurants of European level, the colorful markets.

The famous local mosque Grand Mosque is located in the old quarter of Medina, the minaret of which is brightly lit at night. In Senegal, almost 90% of the inhabitants are Muslim.

Dakar is also famous for its bright and crowded festivals – jazz music and African arts. Festivals of all kinds are popular in this country and take place regularly.

South of the capital is located Petit Cote – the main resort area, because it is here the best Senegalese beaches.

Water sports, diving, for example, is more comfortable in early spring.

And 30 km from Dakar, one can hardly remain indifferent Lac Rose (Pink Lake). The water of this shallow, salty body of water takes on a bright pink color on sunny days due to the large amount of algae.

Saint-Louis

The ancient namesake of the American city stretches 320 km from Dakar. It is scattered, because its scheme is unique in its own way – the city consists of three parts called “Continent”, “Island” and “Berber language”. The first with the second, for example, is connected by a half-kilometer bridge, built in 1887 by French engineer Gustave Eiffel, one of the creators of the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. In 2011 it was completely reconstructed.

Saint-Louis was founded in 1638 at the mouth of the Senegal River by the French, and over time it became the capital of all West Africa. The city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it has preserved the architecture of the colonial era almost in its original form. Remarkably, the embankment of the former local port is still lined with seashells, which were once worked on by slaves.

In St. Louis excellent sandy beaches and calm clear waters, especially this holiday preferred by the French. But you should know that all inclusive is not in honor here, alcohol – even more so, at best the classic French breakfast – coffee-croissant- butter-jam.

Ile de Gore

  • Senegal has quite a few places protected by UNESCO. There is also the Ile de Gorée (Îlede Gorée), which is Senegal’s biggest tourist attraction. In ancient times, it was the center of the West African slave trade. Remained on the island fortresses, colonial houses, and a local museum “La MaisonDesEsclaves” allow you to present a fairly clear picture of the life and work of slaves.
  • Senegalese cuisine
  • Senegalese cuisine is a mix of African and European culinary traditions. Rice, sorghum, millet, and corn are present in almost all local dishes. Of course, the seafood is also present.

Experts advise to try a particular set of dishes:

Meat, baked on the leaves of the cycad tree, with a milk and coconut sauce – mafe;

spicy fish soup, served in a special way, in a clay pot covered with a cornmeal flatbread;

bright ruby baobab juice, the exotic taste of which usually delights everyone.

What to bring from Senegal

Mostly souvenirs are elegant statuettes of ebony and teak, panels of butterfly wings. Ornaments, especially in the ethno style. The latter, we note, is better to buy on the Ile de Gore, as they are half the price than, say, in Dakar, and at the same time more refined.

And then there are the fragrant orange mangoes and cashews. Wild mangoes are especially tasty, in the villages you can buy a whole bowl of them for 1€.

The hotels vary greatly in price from five thousand rubles per night per person in a three-star hotel to 16 thousand rubles and more in a five-star. It is possible to find a place and for two and a half thousand rubles, but whether it is worth it is a big question.

Lunch for two at a medium-sized restaurant will cost about three thousand rubles, you can also grab a bite at an outdoor cafe for 250-300 rubles. A small bottle of water costs 31 rubles.

You’ll have to pay more than a hundred rubles to get into a cab and then the fare is up to you.

Expensive pleasure to rent a car in Senegal – 90-150 € per day. In addition, you must have an international driver’s license and a credit card. And you must be older than 21 years. Most roads are of poor quality and there are few roadside service stations, gas stations and cafes.

How to get there

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