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 country’s first president, Leopold Senghor, about the uniqueness of the black race, by a specially created 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 birds of all kinds: eagles, vultures, ostriches, cranes, flamingos, parrots… It is especially present in the Saloum River Delta area, which is vivid evidence of the possibility of harmonious coexistence of man and the biodiversity of the natural environment.
There are also reptiles – pythons, cobras, monitor lizards. Senegal has many national parks, in which the local fauna is fairly well represented. For example, Fatala National Park is located 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.
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 is the multifaceted capital of Senegal, the center of all activities, including international ones. There is no shortage of people to be seen 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.
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 Gorée
There are quite a few places in Senegal that are protected by Unesco. Another place you can’t miss is Île de Gorée, the island, 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 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 back from Senegal
Mostly souvenirs – elegant statuettes of ebony and teak, panels of butterfly wings. Jewelry, 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 for getting into a cab, and then – according to the tariff.
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
Unfortunately you can’t get to Senegal by direct flight from Russia – there are none, as well as from Kazakhstan and Belorussia. You must inevitably change planes in a European city like Paris or Madrid, for example. You can also fly via Istanbul or Tunis.
You should keep in mind
Senegalese are smiling and friendly, of all African people are considered the most beautiful and have a heightened sense of dignity. When communicating with them you should take into account the class and the importance of social status. And also remember their special reverence for baobab trees, which are protected by law, so not only cutting without special permission, but even climbing on them is strictly prohibited.
The locals call Senegal “Teranga Land,” which means “land of hospitality” in Wolof, the language most people speak. So it is worth going and not without reason to expect a good welcome.
Monument of Freedom, Senegal. Photo by Jeff Attaway.
Senegal is an independent state in western Africa, which got its name from the Senegal River. The western borders of the territory face the Atlantic Ocean, while Senegal shares other borders with Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea, respectively. Within the state, a thin strip runs Gambia, another independent semi-enclave, which has access to the ocean.
Senegal is considered a unique place that combines French colonial chic and African exoticism. Here the endless savannas are replaced by picturesque oases with lush vegetation. The distinctive culture of the local population is unlikely to leave anyone indifferent. If you want to at least temporarily become a part of an authentic African life, then Senegal will certainly meet your expectations.
Hotel Les Collines de Niassam, Senegal. Photo by Chris Watkins.
Nature and climate
The territory of Senegal is almost 200 sq. km. The country is located in a zone of subequatorial climate and has a flat terrain with savannas and sparse vegetation. Only in the southeastern part of the country there are rare highlands, where the highest point does not exceed half a kilometer above sea level.
The weather in the north of the country is predominantly arid, while in the south there is high humidity. Temperatures are about the same throughout the year, ranging from +23 in January to +28°C in July.
In addition to the Senegal River in the north, there is another major river, the Casamance River, in the south of the country. The other rivers are shallow and dry up completely during the dry summer. The animal life today is not diverse, although until comparatively recently many of the large fauna typical of the region could be found here, but almost all of them have been exterminated. In areas remote from large cities and villages inhabited by cheetahs, jackals, hyenas, rare birds and reptiles. In the coastal waters of the ocean there are many fish, including predatory members of the aquatic world, for example, you can often see sharks.
Zebras, Fatala Park, Senegal. Photo by rogerkessell.
History of Senegal
The country’s history can be divided into three periods: before the arrival of the Europeans, the colonial period and the independent period. Before the landing of the first Europeans there were scattered African tribes living along the Senegal River. In the 9th-13th centuries on the territory of modern Senegal several ancient states existed at once. Around that time, Islam, brought by the conquerors from Arab countries, became widespread. In time Islamization has finally strengthened, and to this day virtually the entire population of the country is Muslim.
The first Europeans appeared in what is now Senegal in the mid-15th century. It is documented that in 1444 Portuguese navigators reached the shores of the Atlantic at the place where Senegal flows into the waters of the ocean. The Portuguese immediately saw the advantageous location and settled on the island of Gorée, which was later transformed into the largest slave trading center in the region.
In 1620 the island of Gorée near the coast of Senegal was conquered by the Dutch, followed by the English and the French. France soon secured the right of commercial control of the region. As part of the Senegal Company, founded by the French, a settlement-factoria was established at the mouth of the Senegal River in 1638, later renamed the city of Saint-Louis. The fate of the island of Gorée under French expansion was sealed – in 1677 it also became French.
In the course of years of wars with local states by the end of the 19th century French expansion ended in victory and the creation of the colony of Senegal, which joined the ranks of other French colonies in the western part of the continent. The first decades of the 20th century were marked by the active assimilation of the Senegalese population initiated by the French government. For example, locals gained the right to vote in the French Parliament, which elected its first black deputy, Blaise Diagne, the future mayor of Dakar.
The island of Gorée, Senegal. Photo by James A. Brown.
Long-awaited sovereignty and modern life in Senegal
After World War II, Senegal’s colonial status was changed to a French overseas territory. This was the first major victory of the local political forces in the struggle for independence. Senegal officially became an independent state in 1960.
With the acquisition of sovereignty from the young republic was expelled almost the entire European population, among whom many useful professionals. The illiterate indigenous population struggled to keep the existing industrial and agricultural facilities afloat.
Currently, more than 75% of the working population is employed in the agricultural sector. Peanuts, rice, cotton, sorghum and a number of other crops are grown for export. Exports of minerals include phosphates, oil and derivatives, gold.
Termitenik, Senegal. Photo by Beth.
Population and local customs
Senegal has a population of just over 17 million people. 99% of the population is black, 1% are French and Lebanese. 96.5% of the total population are Muslim and only 3.5% are followers of Christian religions. More than 70% live in rural areas. Senegal still has French influence to this day, and this is expressed both in the appearance of the cities and in everyday life. For example, French is the second official language, along with Arabic (Hassaniya, an Arabic dialect common in Western Sahara).
Interestingly, despite the high level of Islamization, alcoholic beverages are very common in Senegal, which are openly consumed both by Senegalese themselves and by visiting tourists.
A pair of green pikes, Senegal. Photo by Sandeep Gangadharan.
Culinary traditions of Senegal
The long-term influence of Europeans has left its mark on the formation of the culture of the local population, especially in the development of the cuisine. The national dishes of Senegal are mostly of French origin. But if you want you can find African dishes cooked according to old recipes, for this you will have to look for ethnic institutions in the province.
Central to the diet of Senegalese is rice, which is grown in several varieties. Corn dishes are common in the southern regions of Senegal. Fish, seafood, and meat are served together with grits. One of the most popular dishes is chechuyab, consisting of rice stewed with vegetables and added tomato sauce. Special attention is given to various sauces, local chefs cook them in great variety, dramatically changing the taste of familiar dishes. Beuze is a sauce made from baobab leaves, Yeth is a fish sauce, Roff is a garlic sauce with bay leaf. And these are not all the culinary delights of Senegal.
Meat is quite expensive product in Senegal, but fresh fish and seafood is on sale everywhere and costs a penny by local standards. Fish is cooked in all sorts of ways – boiled, stuffed, made into minced fish and fried fritters with added vegetables.
Desserts are prepared according to French and Arabian recipes. Fresh fruit is an expensive delicacy for the Senegalese, as the arid climate is unfavourable for their cultivation. Of drinks the locals prefer strong tea with mint, and spicy coffee with the addition of cloves and pepper.
Senegal. Photo by Micheline Canal.
Dakar – the capital of Senegal
Dakar leads the top three largest cities in the country. The metropolis is located on the Atlantic coast, on the Cape Verde Peninsula. Dakar was founded by French colonialists and was once their main port.
Among the attractions of Dakar is the Theodore Monod Museum of African Art, which has no analogues in the western part of the continent. While in town, be sure to visit the Monument of African Renaissance, a grandiose statue that is the highest on the entire continent. Buy souvenirs, local clothes and other things at good prices can be found in the famous market of Dakar – Koloban.
Dakar, Senegal. Photo by Robert Banhidi.
Development of tourism in Senegal
In recent years, the country’s tourism industry has been experiencing a real boom. Staking on increasing the inflow of tourists, the local government is doing everything to attract holidaymakers from all over the world. So, one of the effective measures was the reduction of airfares – now the cost of the flight became even more affordable. There was even created a special agency, which has a task to increase the number of tourists to three million people by 2023, and thus to include Senegal in the top five most visited countries on the African continent.
Despite the fact that Senegal does not have any cardinal differences from the neighboring countries, it attracts tourists due to the stability of the economy and politics. It is hard not to agree that enjoying the beauty of nature is much more pleasant when the conditions for a good holiday, including security and public order.
The kingfisher, Senegal. Photo by juliendebande.
Where to stay in Senegal
Tourist complexes are concentrated mainly in the coastal zone. Here are hotels and hotels 3-5 stars, where you can find accommodation for every budget. A typical type of apartments – separate bungalows, stylized like the huts of local residents, both externally and internally. One of the most popular hotels is a three-star Royal Saly, which combines low room rates and fantastic views of the ocean. In addition to individual bungalows, the hotel has an entire building with budget rooms, for those who want to save money. Most hotels and hotels have their own beach, fully equipped to meet the needs of vacationers.
Lovers of first-class recreation will be happy to stay in one of the hotels of such international giants of the hotel industry as Radisson Blue, Terrou-Bi, Yaas, etc. – All of them are located in and around Dakar.
The hotel complexes, which have appeared in recent years, and continue to be built, demonstrate the serious intentions of Senegal to turn tourism into the main source of income. Today almost 10 percent of the population is involved in tourism, and this share only continues to grow each year. Not only domestic policy, but also Senegal’s international relations contribute to the development of tourism. Thus, among the major foreign investors are Chinese and Malaysian companies. China is Senegal’s second most important trading partner after the European Union.
Pelican Hotel, Ndangane, Senegal. Photo by Beth.
How to get to Senegal
Planning a vacation to an exotic country is convenient because citizens of the Russian Federation do not require a visa. However, remember that in this case your stay in the country should not exceed 90 days. Before the trip it is recommended to buy medical insurance in advance – so your stay away from home will be protected from unforeseen circumstances. There are no direct flights from Russia and CIS countries to Senegal so far, and to reach your destination you must change planes, for example in Paris, Madrid, Lisbon or Istanbul.
Somon, Senegal. The photo by Thierry Laurent.