The Republic of Senegal is one of Western Africa’s most vibrant and culturally rich countries. Both the home and inspiration of internationally renowned artists such as author and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene and poet and statesman Léopold Senghor, Senegal is an excellent destination for travelers eager to get their first taste of Africa. Senegalese music, art, and folklore enrich the fabric of almost all experiences available to visitors, especially in its capital, Dakar.
For those travelers more interested in African flora and fauna, Niokolo-Koba National Park offers visitors the chance to glimpse many of the famed “Big Five” (lions, elephants, rhinoceri, Cape Buffalo and leopards) as well as over 400 other species, including Derby elands, Guinea baboons, hippopotami, crocodiles, and chimpanzees. Geographically speaking, Senegal is a country of huge contrasts, from the desert of the north to the lush green forests of the south and the miles of pristine beaches that line the coast.
Some first-time visitors to the continent may be preoccupied with many African nations’ reputation for governmental instability. Not so in Senegal. The C.I.A. World Factbook lists Senegal as one of the most stable democracies in Africa, and the country has been a democratic republic since 1960. Senegalese infrastructure, while somewhat less reliable than in more developed nations, generally poses little difficulty to visitors. Meanwhile, the Senegalese attitude toward tuubabs (tourists) is characterized by benign interest combined with a certain level of non-hostile harassment. Nevertheless, Senegal is not a dangerous place for smart, aware travelers, making it an ideal jumping-off point for exploring West Africa. Senegal is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south.
For those who prefer that the world come to their doorstep, virtually every favorite tourist activity is available at Senegal's world-famous seaside resorts. Aquatic sports, horseback riding, cultural tourism, bird watching, hunting, and scuba diving are all close at hand, while further afield Senegal offers ecotours, historic museums, vibrant city life, gorgeous natural sites, and six major game parks and reserves.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Languages: French, inherited from colonial days, is Senegal's administrative language. Wolof is spoken by 80% of Senegalese, though 36 other languages are spoken within the country. English is occasionally spoken, more often in areas popular with tourists.
Power: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: West African CFA franc (Note: While Central African CFA francs have the same monetary value, they are not accepted in West African countries.)
Climate: It is tropical. Senegal is generally hot and humid, though from May to November the rainy season brings strong winds from the southeast. From December to April, the harmattan wind blows hot and dry.
Time Zone: UTC
Senegal's capital is also its largest city, and Dakar affords travellers an exciting array of musical, culinary, and cultural experiences.
A peaceful interlude after the bustle and noise of the city, the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj) is situated just north of the historic city of Saint-Louis. Avian enthusiasts and nature lovers can spend days watching the magnificent array of birds living in the park, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History buffs will discover a moving introduction to the sometimes tragic history of Senegal at the museum on Gorée Island, one of the former centres of the West African slave trade.
Located on the Cap Vert peninsula near Dakar, Cayar & the Pink Lake offer travelers a unique look at everyday life in Senegal, set off by an unusual natural setting.
Redolent with colonial history, Saint-Louis is one of Senegal's largest cities. Its streets are filled with colonial-era architecture, and several museums offer visitors the chance to learn more about Senegal's fascinating, sometimes turbulent history. Saint-Louis also boasts two national parks and a wildlife reserve in the surrounding region.
Located south of The Gambia along Senegal's southern coast,Casamance is home to hot temperatures and the most beautiful beaches in West Africa. Further inland, visitors can take part in the Diola ethnic group's integrated rural tourism program, which offers an unparalleled chance to engage with Diola culture.
Club Mediterranee (Dakar)
Mame Coumba Bang (Saint-Louis)
Keur Ndeye (Senegalese)
Chez Loutcha (the most varied menu in Dakar: cuisine from all over the world)
Le Bambou (French)
Senegalese, West Indian and African American music is the most popular.