Landmarks in Senegal
Traveling to Senegal means having the chance to be at the westernmost point of the African continent: Cape Verde. Apart from this peculiarity, Senegal has a lot more to offer as a travel destination… and not just because it is one of Africa’s best-developed countries for tourism. In general, in Senegal it is even more important to distance oneself from mass tourism – even if the wonderful beaches, which are spread along the 500 km long Atlantic coast, have long been known as a good address for beach holidays and water sports enthusiasts with opportunities for surfing, Boogie surfing, diving and snorkeling beckon. What you will also find in the natural area of Senegal are the two important rivers Senegal and Gambia, or the Saloum, at the mouths of which there are sometimes dense mangrove forests. Large parts of the landscape are now also under nature protection or have been declared national parks, in which you will encounter a great diversity of species – both in the fauna and in the flora. The diversity of Senegal is also expressed in terms of cultural sights and in its urban side, which is most pronounced in the capital Dakar – in an old town that is well worth seeing, with great shopping opportunities and restaurants as well as plenty of nightlife. A visit to the offshore island of Gorée is also worthwhile. Another, albeit differently impressive, city is Art Touba, the holy city of the Mourids, where you will find one of the most magnificent mosques in West Africa. Also of cultural interest is St. Louis.
Goree Island is a Senegalese island just three kilometers from the country’s west coast. Goree achieved fame because it is said to have been one of the main hubs for the slave trade. With up to 100,000 visitors a year, the only 36 hectare “slave island” is one of the most popular destinations for trips to Senegal.
The dark history of the slave island
Until 2006 the myth persisted that Goree was one of the most important transshipment points for the slave trade and from there over a million slaves were loaded onto ships to America. In view of the small size of the island, however, this would hardly have been possible and, according to the latest research, only about 500 slaves passed through the famous “Gate of No Return” every year. Even so, Goree remains one of the top destinations for pilgrimages to the homeland of their ancestors for African Americans.
The memorial and place of remembrance of the history of the slave trade is the museum in the “Maison des Esclaves”, the slave house. Here, a guide dressed in traditional robes tells the story of the building while the tourists explore the dark, narrow chambers or take a look through the “gate of no return”. In the brick-red building, the slaves were sorted and weighed and then had to be cooped up like animals to wait for their shipment.
UNESCO World Heritage Site old town and artists’ quarter
After visiting the museum, it is worth strolling through the historic old town, whose houses in red, yellow and ocher colors are reminiscent of times long past. Portuguese, Dutch, English and French influences have left their mark on the many colonial-style buildings.
The artists’ quarter of the island is located on a hill. Numerous painters and sculptors have quartered themselves here between the thick walls of the fort and make this place an experience especially for art lovers.
Although the island of Goree is very tiny, it has a lot to tell about the history of Africa and is therefore a worthwhile destination, especially for study trips.
Djoudi National Park
The huge Djoudj National Park is located in the very north of Senegal and is particularly known for its extensive bird populations. The park, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981, is the third largest bird reserve in the world. In addition to the approximately 400 animal species, there are also migratory birds of Europe in the winter months, which come across the first fresh water in the park in Senegal after crossing the Sahara desert. The many bird species such as pelicans are particularly beautiful to look at, but many other rare animal species can also be discovered here: storks, cormorants, flamingos, crowned cranes, ospreys, etc. In the national park there are also a large number of other animal species, for example crocodiles, boas, Gazelles, turtles, warthogs and jackals. However, these are not seen as often as in the large game parks in South Africa.
The bird park is 16,000 hectares and is located in the northeast of Saint-Louis. If you want to visit the park, you can combine this visit with a city tour of Saint-Louis. In the larger hotels in the Senegalese city, excursions to the park are offered. You can also explore the Djoudj National Park with your own or a rented car. The ideal time to visit the beautiful park is in January and February, when the migratory birds have arrived from Europe.
In 2000 the national park was included in the database of endangered world natural heritage due to the danger posed by a rapidly spreading aquatic plant. Six years later the problem was resolved and the Djoudj National Park could be removed from the list again.
Lompoul coastal desert
In the West African Senegal, the Lompoul coastal desert attracts visitors with a unique landscape. Located between Dakar and Saint Louis directly on the coast of the Atlantic, this desert impresses with its shimmering orange dunes. It is often a program item in Senegal Gambia tours, which are offered by various tour operators. Some people may be familiar with the region from the Paris – Dakar rally. The desert camp can be reached by off-road vehicle. The exciting journey gives a first impression of the vastness of the desert. On the one hand the sea, on the other hand seemingly endless sand landscapes, this is the coastal desert.
Spend the night in the camp
In the evening, travelers enjoy the sunset by the campfire. The natural spectacle is replaced by a clear starry sky, under which you can sit together for a while. Folklore dances can also be seen here. The Bedouin tents offer a traditional and at the same time comfortable place to stay. There is even an outdoor shower facility. Those who wake up early can watch the sun rise over the dunes and enjoy this natural paradise.
Activities on a trip to Lompoul
The Lompoul coastal desert offers the opportunity to take long walks through the sandy landscapes and climb the dunes from which one can see the coast. A ride on a dromedary is also possible. If you want to experience a unique desert panorama far from the hustle and bustle, you will surely like the Lompoul coastal desert with its endless expanses. This destination is ideal as a stopover on tours or study trips through Senegal.
Sine Saloum Delta
Senegal’s unique wetland area
The Sine Saloum Delta is a biosphere reserve located on the Atlantic coast in Senegal, West Africa. It is located 150 km southeast of Dakar and begins behind the Petit Côte near Ndangane. The Delta du Saloum National Park in Senegal is roughly the size of the state of Hamburg. In the estuary between the Sine and Saloum rivers, the mixing of fresh water and the sea water pressing into the rivers created a unique, varied natural landscape. It consists of marine areas, floodplains and countless small islands with a diverse flora and fauna. 40 percent of the delta are among the most important ecosystems on the continent and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Species richness of plants and animals
The delta is characterized along the coast by high dunes, lagoons, offshore sand islands and shell limestone islands, which were created by their inhabitants. An endless labyrinth of watercourses, so-called bolongs, runs through the landscape. In addition to mighty baobab trees and palm trees, four different types of dense mangrove forests thrive in the nature reserve. They provide a habitat for antelopes, colobus monkeys, hussar monkeys, warthogs, various antelope species and an immeasurable wealth of bird species. In addition to cranes, herons, storks, flamingos, pelicans and cormorants that spend the winter here, terns, ducks and species of gulls can be observed. Dolphins, manatees, turtles and an immense population of species-rich fish live in the waters.
Excursions and sights
The Sine-Saloum Delta is a paradise for ornithologists, anglers and nature-loving travelers thanks to its abundance of species of plants and animals. It is an ideal starting point for bird watching excursions and photo safaris to be undertaken during a study trip to the west coast of Africa. They are offered under the guidance of locals who are familiar with the area. With manoeuvrable pirogues (small boats) the tangle of side arms is traversed to explore the unique landscape of the biotope. On one of the countless islands, you can visit a small village with typical straw huts to get to know the culture of the different tribes. The town of Foundiougne, which has well-preserved houses from the colonial era, is well worth a visit. One of the largest weekly markets in the region also takes place there.