Senegal Travel Guide
Sitting on the most westward flank of land in all of Africa, Senegal was front and centre during the slave trading days. Carried out by colonial powers hungry for labour, you would certainly understand if this country was an unstable mess in the present day like many of its neighbours are.
Instead, Senegal has emerged as one of the more stable nations in Western Africa, thanks to its focus on maintaining harmony among its many ethnic and religious groups. If you are looking for places in West Africa to add to your itinerary, include Senegal in your travel planning.
Currency: CFA Francs
Languages: French, Pulaar, Wolof, Jola, Mandinka
What To Do
Like many other nations in Western Africa, Senegal was negatively impacted by the slave trade. Learn more about how this vile act of commerce affected this nation by paying a visit to the House of Slaves.
A place that chronicles the last days of enslaved Africans on their home continent, visitors will tour the building through which more than 1,000,000 people were processed and sent off to buyers worldwide.
This includes the ominous Door Of No Return, a shadowy exit that faces onto the open Atlantic, a sight so impactful that it caused Nelson Mandela to break away from his tour to meditate on what he had seen.
It has been barely more than a half-century since this nation won self-rule for itself. To mark this milestone, the government unveiled the African Renaissance Monument in 2010, the tallest statue in all of Africa.
Sitting atop a hill outside of Dakar, it stands over 49 metres above the ground, making it easy to see throughout much of the city.
The symbolism is meant to chronicle the new era of African Reconnaissance in the 21st century, but it did not come without its fair share of criticism, as it was constructed by a North Korean company, it offended the sensibilities of local Islamic imams, and the wasteful expenditures were protested by a population with more pressing concerns than marking their independence with a tremendously expensive statue. Despite these issues, the grandiose nature of this landmark makes it worth checking out.
There are few things more jarring than things that don’t look the way they should. Lake Retba falls firmly into this category, as its vibrant pink hue separates it from the blue we are used to seeing when it comes to most bodies of water.
This is due to the presence of Dunaliella salina algae in the water, which gives off a pink tinge when light hits the surface of the lake on a sunny day. Lake Retba also boasts a salinity equivalent to that of the Dead Sea, making it possible to float on its surface without sinking.
While you do so, observe local workers as they harvest salt from flats onshore. The production of this mineral provides Senegal with much of the salt they use for preserving the fish their ocean fleets catch off the Atlantic coast, making operations vital to the proper operation of the Senegalese economy.
If you came to Africa to check out the wildlife, taking a day trip out to Reserve De Bandia is a must when you are in Senegal. A private park created in 1990, its 3,500 hectares are home to rhinos, giraffes, antelopes, and buffaloes.
Many of them were re-introduced to the land here in an effort to bring them back to a part of Africa that had wiped them out generations before.
Looking to photograph birds instead? Taking a boat trip deep into the heart of the Somone Lagoon Reserve will help you achieve this goal. As you weave amidst the mangroves, keep your binoculars and cameras at the ready for specimens such as pelicans as they take flight.
This isn’t the only attraction, though, as your boat guide will take you to a beach where the water is clear and activities like volleyball are available to help you enjoy the rest of your day.
What to Eat
Looking for a filling meal while visiting Senegal? Treat yourself to some Poulet Yassa. Marinated with lemon, and cooked with onions and chilli peppers, it is a meal that will refuel you after a strenuous day spent exploring.
Thiebou Jenn is another meal that you will enjoy after a full day of sightseeing. Considered by many to be Senegal’s national dish, it is a complex stew consisting of Thioff (a local fish), a mix of shellfish local of Senegal, a variety of vegetables (turnip, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, etc), and various spices. It is said no two Thiebou’s are the same, so be sure to try multiple versions during your time in the country.
When the time for dessert arrives, try and track down some Thiakry. Consisting of millet or wheat granules combined with sweetened condensed milk, raisins, coconut, and spices like nutmeg, it is a delightful treat not often found elsewhere in Africa.