Senegal is a beautiful country on the Atlantic Ocean at the most westerly point of the continent of Africa. Until recently it has not really been on the tourist radar from the UK, although visitors from Europe have been enjoying it for years with it’s twelve month warm climate and wonderful friendly people.
This is the perfect holiday destination to enjoy the French West African culture and ideal for a winter sun break from the UK with pretty much wall to wall sunshine from November through to July. There is a short rainy season August to October with spectacular storms in between the sun. Temperatures are usually high 20s C all year.
The capital of Senegal is Dakar, one of the largest cities in West Africa. The name Senegal comes from the river which is it’s north and east border. To the west is the Atlantic and Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. Locked inside is The Gambia, sitting in a narrow strip along the river with North and South Senegal either side. Holiday combinations of both Gambia and Senegal are easy to arrange and it’s a great idea if you have a few weeks to spend time in both of these wonderful West African holiday destinations. Off shore about 300 miles in the Atlantic are the Cape Verde Islands. During the 17th and 18th centuries several trading posts belonging to colonial empires grew up along the coast with the town of St Louis becomming the capital of French West Africa, moving later to Dakar in 1902. Senegal won it’s independence from France in 1960 when Dakar established itself as the modern capital.
Senegal has three large rivers providing fertile lands to grow crops and fish with coastal lagoons and waterways leading off the main rivers. This makes Senegal a fabulous birdwatching holiday destination with plenty of coastal waders and large raptors plus several mammal species such as monkeys, warthogs, dolphins and manatees. The Sine Saloum Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and encompasses the Saloum Delta National Park where two mighty rivers meet the Atlantic Ocean, a mix of mangrove swamps, sand islands, beaches and ever shifting sand dunes. Most holiday hotels are on the coast south of Dakar, north of the Delta and a popular area is Saly on the ‘Petite Cote’ where there are a selection of hotels, palm fringed beaches, calm waters, bars, restaurants and shops. A short drive from Saly is the smaller resort of La Somone which sits beside a stunning lagoon, a birdwatchers paradise. You can also visit nearby Bandia Nature Reserve where you may see giraffe, rhino, ostrich, antelope, buffalo and impala. Both Saly and La Smone have some great water sport centres and can offer water-skiing, catamarans, kayaks, jet skis and windsurfing.
The people and music form the basis of one of Senegal’s main attractions – it’s culture. Grown out of centuries of tribal history and outside influences including of course the French, thre is an eclectic mix of local dress, music, architecture and cuisine here. Some of Africa’s most famous singers and musicians came from Senegal including Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal and Ismael Lo. There is an International Jazz Festival in Saint Louis in North Senegal every May which attracts people from all over the world. Take home some of Senegal’s vibrant music culture from your holiday! Much of the ethnicity of The Gambia and Senegal are related so share some customs and languages. French is still the official language here. Currency is the West African CFA Franc but Euros are accepted in hotels.
The range of holiday accommodation in Senegal is excellent with some luxury hotels and spas and local guest houses and smaller hotels, all providing fantastic food. Make sure you take some time out from sunbathing when you holiday to Senegal as there are plenty of opportunities to explore on day or half day trips or longer. Browse the colourful African markets and pick up some souvenirs after a spot of haggling! There are some lovely traditional fabrics, pottery and jewellery here with plenty of craft markets offering wood carvings, musical instruments, artwork and metalwork. Excursions include 4×4 bush drives, mini safaris, quad biking or sight seeing all with experienced local guides.
As in most African countries, sport is popular, with the Senegalese being particularly keen on football, you will find matches popping up in most towns and villages as you pass through. Another spectator sport here is ‘lutte’ wrestling, particularly atmospheric watched in a village surrounded by oil lamps as the muscular fighters adorned with lucky amulets challenge each other.
So if you want a tast of West African culture with friendly people, colourful culture, fabulous food, tropical beaches and birdwatching, get in touch and let me put together the perfect tailor made holiday to Senegal for you.