Visiting Senegal? A few things to do

I visited Senegal last month after 10 years! I didn't remember so much about Dakar from the last time I visited, but the thing that struck me most in 2012 was the Gorée Island (île de Gorée) and I knew I had to go back.

Senegal is a small country in West Africa with a population of about 16 or 17 million. Largely on the coast, a good part of the population speaks Wolof, one of the national languages. Wolof and French are widely spoken.

The baobab tree and the lion are national symbols. While talking about boabab trees, someone made reference to how elders sit under baobab trees in rural areas and disputes get resolved under boabab trees. It obviously holds great significance and there are lots of these trees all over the country.

If you followed the Africa cup of Nations recently, you'll know that the team that won was the Lions of Teranga 😊

A baobab tree

Dakar, the capital of the country, has a nice vibe to it, it has a life of its own and there are lots of things to do. The night life is indeed night, as they start late, close to midnight (depending on the kind of fun you are looking for) and go on till morning. There is a wide range of restaurants, bars and hang out spots with live music. There is a beach area lined with exercise equipment already set up. You'll find people exercising there most times, the area is called La Corniche. 

In Dakar, the art scene is grand, from street art to graffiti, museums and the art village. The traffic is equally hectic so the colourful streets can keep you company while you get through. Have a look at  some of the street art I drove past:

I dedicated a day to art, and started at the arts village (village des arts). I got there after 11am and was early, so some shops were closed but the ones that were open gave me a good idea of things. Typically most people open at 12pm I was told.

The place does not seem so popular, two taxis I asked didn't know the place. I ended up using google maps to get us there.
As I always ask for permission to take certain photos, some of the shop owners were reluctant for me to take photos. Apparently, people publish and use their art work without giving them credit, but some didn't mind. 

The artist who did the paintings above mentioned that it was a new style of abstract art, it was aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

From there, I went on to the Musée des Civilisations Noires (museum of black civilisation). It is definitely interesting to visit. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm, with an entry fee of 2,000FCFA.

There were so many exhibitions a display of people who have contributed to amplifying black voices from way back. It was interesting to see the new school included like Lewis Hamilton, Hussein Bolt, George Floyd etc

I saw lots of art works, paintings, history etc from different parts of Africa and beyond. I was beaming when I saw a few art works from at least 3 different parts of Nigeria.

I took lots of photos but a visit to this museum is so much better. A whole section was dedicated to African women leaders. The awareness that women remain a minority in politics made me quite pleased.

There was a part on religion but a large part of that section was on Islam. Senegal has predominantly Muslims so that would explain it.

The African Renaissance monument in Dakar was one I had been waiting to visit, you can probably see my joy in the photo.

The monument is huge and symbolises the triumph of African liberation. It was designed by a Senegalese architect, Pierre Goudiaby but built by a North Korean company. It is possible to go up to the top, but at the time I visited, they were on a lunch break that would last for two hours, so I passed on that.

Of course I went by a few other places not mentioned here, would be too much for one post.

Heading outside Dakar

It makes a world of difference if you have a car. A friend hosted me through my time in Dakar so we drove everywhere we went. The road network is good, so nothing to worry about there. 

First stop was the Lac Retba popularly known as the pink lake (lac rose), about 30km from Dakar. The dunaliella salina algae that's responsible for the colour produces a red pigment that colours the lake. The lake appears bloody sometimes, so it isn't always pink. Here are two photo I took from different parts.

The lake is 3m deep, 1.5m is made up of salt and 1.5m of water. You can't sink in this lake with its high salt content. We saw a man harvesting salt and were told that 24 tons of salt is exported annually. This activity is quite tedious and to protect their skin, the people who do this cover their skin with shea butter before they start.

The salt comes out looking greyish (pictured above) but as it is left in the sun for a few days, it changes to the normal colour that we all know.

You can take a canoe ride to the middle of the lake which I did and there are also quad bikes around if you are up for an adventure.
Of course I went on a ride!

Next, we went to a shell island (l'ìle aux coquillage) - a small town in Fadiouth in the Thiès region of Senegal. This was one off the beaten path. 

The ground is covered in clam shells everywhere and it is a predominantly Christian town with lots of religious monuments showing this. we wandered around the island for a little over an hour.

There are a few of these monuments in random places around the town. We paid a visit to the church.

We ended the day in Saly. Also in the Thiès region, it is around 90km from Dakar and is a seaside resort area. It took 1hr 30mins to get there.

The streets of Saly are lined with resorts, hotels, tourists and a lot of retired people who make a life out there. If you are one for life by the sea/ocean, this might be for you. There are artisanal places you could visit but I didn't visit any. 
Saly is not cheap but is laid back and is a place where you can easily rest. I rested and ate quite a lot while I was there.

The walkway to be beach in our hotel
Watching the sun set on the beach

We stayed at the Royam hotel. I quite liked it, I was in a room facing the ocean.

During one of my morning walks, I spotted this colourful boat

After Saly, we proceeded to Samba Dia in Sine-Saloum in Fatick region. This part was for complete disconnection as there was not much to do anyway. There was an option to go through some groves by canoe but we didn't feel up to it, so we did nothing for the two days we were there. We found a hidden gem, Nino Ranch lodge, run by a Finnish couple. There is a homely feel to this place, there is the main house which has three rooms where we stayed and outside there are two other rooms which were executive style. It has an impressive swimming pool that's the shape of Africa, this took 7 years to build. They took their time with it.
The food here, made with love by the owners, is five star! We savoured and loved every single meal.
There is an inbuilt dining table with benches and a bar in the pool. Can you see the bar stools? The spot where the bar is, is at Senegal on the map.

L'île de Gorée (Gorée Island)

I looked forward to going back since my last visit and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the island. To get there, you have to get to this ferry port, then it is a 20 minute ride from Dakar.. The ferry has fixed times and the transport fare for different categories are in the photo below.

I went with a French friend, I was not paying attention while the payment was being sorted out. For some reason I asked how much was paid and discovered the wrong amount was paid for me (5,200 FCFA). As an African residing in Africa, the fare for me was 2,700 FCFA so we went back to rectify it. After showing my identification, that was sorted out. So pay attention...

l'île de Gorée is an island of 1800 inhabitants, rich with history and so much colour that speaks of its colonial past. All the inhabitants know each other from what our guide told us. There are 1000 Muslims and 800 Christians...he was so precise! The different colours of the buildings represent the different people who attempted to colonise the place, the Portugese, the Dutch, the French, the British then the French took over.

According to our guide, Gorée means dignity in Wolof. However, the slaves who were there were treated with anything but dignity!

Do not visit on a Monday as the slave castle will be closed. In general, on Mondays, tourist attractions are closed.

And I could not leave Senegal without eating the famous Theboudiene, so I treated myself to it on the island.

It is a plate of jollof rice with fish, carrots, boiled cassava, aubergine, turnip, tamarind (tsamiya 😀). Interestingly, Jollof rice is originally from Senegal from a place called Jolof/Wolof, but I won't add this to the running dispute between Nigerians and Ghanians on whose jollof rice is better, hahahaha.

Two other places I wanted to visit were Saint Louis and Désert de Lompoul (Lompoul desert). St. Louis is old town known for its colonial style architecture while the desert is one for adventure. This time, I took it easy in Senegal as I was tired from work and needed to rest, my body couldn't have handled more. I had a great time and will probably check these two places out when next I visit.


  1. Wow...Amazing. Great post. I enjoyed being carried along. Hope I get to visit Senegal sometime.:)

  2. I am so impressed with the quality of this travel diary and the beauty of the pictures. Thank you Ene for sharing and for contributing to the tourism promotion of my beautiful country, Senegal. I hope to meet you there on your next visit you already planned:).

    1. Thank you Ibrahima for your kind words. I hope you can show me some places on my next visit.

  3. OMG, next time you go, I wanna go with you! Thank you for this wonderful virtual tour, though it felt like I was right there with you. I went ;-), I saw, I learned, and I loved it!

    Thank you to Ibrahima for sharing Ene's post :-)

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. Do come along with me next time.

  4. How kind, thank you


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