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A Trip to Senegal with Kids: A Family Adventure

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

African Renaissance monument
African Renaissance monument

Unveiling Senegal's Rich Cultural Tapestry

Welcome to Senegal, often referred to as the 'Land of Teranga,' a country where vibrant cultures, mesmerizing landscapes, and warm hospitality eagerly await your family's arrival. Nestled along the picturesque West African coast, Senegal is a nation steeped in history, influenced by indigenous tribes, Arab traders, and European colonizers. Its unique blend of tradition and modernity creates a captivating backdrop for your family's journey.

Discovering Senegal's Cultural Heritage

Senegal's history is a magnificent mosaic of cultures and civilizations. From the early days of the Wolof, Serer, and Fulani peoples to the arrival of Arab and European explorers, Senegal has been a melting pot of traditions. By the 15th century, it had become a significant center for trade, linking Africa to the Arab and European worlds. This rich historical tapestry is visible in Senegal's architecture, music, and festivals, providing your family with a window into the past.

Guided by the National Motto: "Un Peuple, Un But, Une Foi"

Senegal's national motto, "Un Peuple, Un But, Une Foi" (One Nation, One Goal, One Faith), underscores the unity and determination that have shaped the country's destiny. As your family embarks on this remarkable journey through Senegal, you'll experience firsthand the living legacy of this motto, woven into the very fabric of Senegalese culture.

Best time to Visit and Purchase Tickets to Senegal

The best time to visit Senegal is during the dry season, from November to April, with pleasant temperatures and minimal rainfall.

Weather Highlights:

  • November to February: Cool and dry, 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F).

  • March to May: Warming up, occasional showers.

  • June to October: Wet season, heavy rain, 30°C to 35°C (86°F to 95°F).

  • October to November: Transition to drier and more comfortable weather.

Coastal areas are humid, while the north is drier. Plan your visit according to your preferences and the activities you wish to enjoy.

Must-Visit Places in Senegal

Gorée Island: A Lesson in History and Beauty Begin your journey with a captivating visit to Gorée Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site steeped in history as a former slave trading hub. Stroll through its charming streets, where the island's museums and historic sites offer valuable insights to visitors of all ages. Gorée Island, a discovery of the Portuguese, rests peacefully in the Bay of Dakar, once a notorious center of the transatlantic slave trade. Within its bounds lies the House of Slaves, a poignant symbol of this dark chapter in history, built in 1780. The ferry ride from Dakar to Gorée is an adventure in itself, a sensory experience that will enchant the curiosity of children and adults alike. Getting There: Embark on a ferry ride from Dakar, a brief yet captivating voyage that will spark the curiosity of your young adventurers.

Dakar: Where Modernity Meets Tradition Senegal's vibrant capital, Dakar, seamlessly blends modernity with tradition. Dive into the bustling markets, such as Sandaga Market, where children can explore local crafts and cuisine. For a panoramic view of Dakar, ascend the African Renaissance Monument, which can also serve as an educational stop. While in Dakar, engage in thrilling activities like windsurfing and surfing or indulge in sandy baths on beaches like Yoff, Madeleines, Bel Air, N’Gor, and Ouakam.

Getting There: Dakar boasts an international airport, ensuring a convenient arrival for your family.

Pink Lake (Lac Rose): A Surreal Splash of Color Marvel at the surreal pink hue of Pink Lake, a salt lake that captivates the senses. Take a refreshing swim and delve into the traditional salt harvesting methods alongside the salt gatherers. This hands-on experience will intrigue both children and adults alike.

Getting There: A short and scenic drive from Dakar leads to Pink Lake A.k.a( lac Retba), offering picturesque vistas along the way.

Sine-Saloum Delta: Nature's Wonderland Immerse yourselves in the enchanting beauty of the Sine-Saloum Delta, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Discover mangroves, wildlife, and fishing villages on a family-friendly boat tour, perfect for spotting exotic birds and dolphins. It's a unique opportunity for your kids to connect with the wonders of nature.

Getting There: Drive or arrange a guided tour from Dakar to explore the delta's natural wonders.

Saint-Louis: A Stroll Through Colonial Charm Experience the colonial charm of Saint-Louis, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Traverse its narrow streets in a horse-drawn carriage, allowing kids to absorb the town's history and cultural richness. Saint-Louis boasts two renowned national parks, stunning beaches, colonial houses, and the iconic Faidherbe Bridge, a 500-meter-long marvel connecting Sor District and St. Louis.

Getting There: Reach Saint-Louis via a picturesque drive from Dakar or a domestic flight, ensuring accessibility for families eager to explore.

Exploring Senegal with Your Kids: Unforgettable Family Destinations

Houses and monument to Slavery -Goré Island
Houses and monument to Slavery -Goré Island

When it comes to family-friendly destinations, Senegal rolls out a warm welcome mat. Your kids are in for an adventure of a lifetime in this vibrant West African nation.

1. Senegal River: A Waterway of Wonder Finding the perfect spot for your kids to have a blast during your vacation can be a breeze in Senegal. The Senegal River, for instance, is an ideal place for family fun. Stretching nearly 2000 kilometers through various West African countries, it winds its way through four nations before embracing the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, it acts as a natural border between Senegal and neighboring countries. Activities to enjoy with your kids along this picturesque river include boat trips, leisurely riverside walks, and refreshing dips in the waters.

2. Djoudj National Bird Park: A Avian Extravaganza Located just 6 kilometers north of Saint Louis, Djoudj National Park is a bird lover's paradise and ranks as the third-largest bird sanctuary globally. Each year, around 3 million birds migrate to this haven. You and your children will have the chance to encounter a dazzling array of feathered friends, including elegant pink flamingos, graceful ducks, stately white pelicans, and majestic grey herons. The park is also home to various other fascinating wildlife, such as jackals, monkeys, crocodiles, warthogs, and gazelles.

3. The City of Touba: A Spiritual Journey Touba, situated approximately 194 kilometers east of Dakar, is a remarkable destination to explore with your kids. It holds the honor of being the spiritual capital of the Muslim Brotherhood and boasts magnificent mosques scattered throughout the city. These architectural gems make for an awe-inspiring sightseeing experience, providing insights into the Islamic culture.

5. Cap Skirring: Seaside Bliss for the Family For a dose of seaside serenity, head to Cap Skirring resort, nestled in the southwest corner of Senegal. If your family craves the beach life, this is the perfect haven. Stretch out on the sandy shores, build sandcastles with your kids, and let the waves lull you into relaxation. Cap Skirring promises a beachside experience that your family will cherish.

African Renaissance monument

Getting Around Senegal

Senegal offers various transportation options. For intercity travel, domestic flights and well-maintained roads are available. Taxis and car rentals are convenient for exploring cities. Local buses are economical but may not be the most comfortable option for families. Plan your transportation according to your family's preferences and needs.

5 Must-Try Senegalese Dishes

  1. Thieboudienne: Senegal's national dish, a flavorful fish and rice stew. Encourage your kids to taste the different flavors and textures in this iconic meal.

  2. Yassa: Chicken or fish marinated in onion and mustard sauce. It's a tangy delight that can be adjusted to suit your family's spice tolerance.

  3. Mafé: A peanut stew with meat and vegetables. Kids often enjoy the nutty, mildly spicy taste, making it a great introduction to Senegalese cuisine.

  4. Accara: Deep-fried black-eyed pea fritters, perfect for snacking. These crispy bites are a hit with children and are widely available as street food.

  5. Bissap: A refreshing hibiscus drink, great for kids. Encourage your little ones to savor this sweet and tangy beverage, especially on hot days.

6 Best Family Luxury Hotels

  1. Terrou-Bi Hotel (Dakar): Beachfront luxury with family-friendly amenities. The hotel's beach access and swimming pools provide endless entertainment for kids.

  2. Lodge des Collines de Niassam (Delta du Saloum): A serene eco-lodge amidst nature. Your family can experience wildlife safaris and boat trips, creating lasting memories.

  3. Royal Decameron Baobab (Somone): An all-inclusive resort with a water park. Kids can enjoy water slides and activities while parents unwind.

  4. Radisson Blu Hotel (Dakar): Modern comfort and a stunning ocean view. The hotel's proximity to attractions makes it convenient for family outings.

  5. Les Palétuviers (Delta du Saloum): A boutique hotel with a tranquil atmosphere. Families can explore the delta's beauty and cultural heritage.

  6. Hotel de la Poste (Saint-Louis): Historic elegance in the heart of Saint-Louis. The hotel's classic charm complements the town's atmosphere.

6 Local Secret Gems

@ Ngor

  1. Ile de Dionewar: A hidden gem in the Saloum Delta, this island offers pristine beaches and opportunities for bird-watching, providing an unspoiled natural experience.

  2. Fadiouth: Known as the "Shell Island," Fadiouth is entirely built on seashells and offers a unique, picturesque setting for exploration.

  3. Dindefelo Waterfalls: Tucked away in the southeastern region, these waterfalls provide a stunning backdrop for family adventures and picnics.

  4. Lompoul Desert: Experience a desert safari with your kids and explore the golden sand dunes, an adventure they'll never forget.

  5. Niokolo-Koba National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers exciting wildlife safaris, with a chance to spot rare species like the West African lion and chimpanzees.

  6. HLM Market : Nestled within Dakar's vibrant HLM district, the HLM Market stands as a well-kept secret gem of Senegal. For those seeking to carry a piece of African textile artistry home, this market is an absolute treasure trove. It's a haven for textile enthusiasts eager to explore the rich world of African designs. One of the market's unique offerings is its skilled tailors who can craft garments tailored to your preferences, whether you lean towards modern or traditional styles. What's particularly delightful is the serene and unhurried atmosphere of HLM Market, allowing you to leisurely browse its wares undisturbed.

16 Tips for Traveling to Senegal with Kids

  1. Vaccinations: Ensure your family's vaccinations are up to date and consult a travel clinic for advice on additional vaccines.

  2. Travel Insurance: Invest in comprehensive travel insurance to protect your family's health and belongings.

  3. Visa: Check visa requirements and obtain them in advance if needed to avoid any last-minute hassles.

  4. Local Language: Learn some basic Wolof phrases to enhance your interactions with locals and show respect for their culture.

  5. Currency: Exchange currency at reputable locations or withdraw local currency from ATMs.

  6. Safety: Senegal is generally safe, but always be vigilant in crowded areas and keep an eye on your belongings.

  7. Sun Protection: Pack sunscreen and hats to protect your family from the sun's intense rays.

  8. Hydration: Carry reusable water bottles and stay hydrated, especially in Senegal's warm climate.

  9. Local Customs: Familiarize your kids with local customs, such as greetings and gestures, to foster positive interactions.

  10. Local Food: Encourage your kids to try local dishes but be cautious with street food, especially for young stomachs.

  11. Mosquito Protection: Bring mosquito repellent and bed nets if necessary to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

  12. Electricity: Senegal uses European-style plugs (Type C and E), so ensure you have the right adapters.

  13. Medical Kit: Pack a basic medical kit with essential supplies for minor health issues.

  14. Traffic: Be cautious of traffic, especially in busy cities like Dakar. Hold your children's hands when crossing roads.

  15. Time Management: Embrace the relaxed pace of life, known as "African time," and plan activities with flexibility.

  16. Tipping: Tipping is appreciated in Senegal, so have some small change on hand for service providers.

25 Useful Phrases in Wolof to help you get by while in Senegal

When venturing into the enchanting land of Senegal, understanding a bit of the local language can be a doorway to deeper cultural experiences. Wolof, one of Senegal's most widely spoken languages, is rich and expressive, and it reflects the warmth and hospitality of its people. In this guide, we'll introduce you to 25 essential Wolof phrases that will not only help you get by but also allow you to connect with the heart and soul of Senegal. Whether you're bargaining at a bustling market or simply sharing a smile with locals, these phrases will be your key to an authentic Senegalese adventure.

  1. Hello - "Nopp naa ngi fii" (Nop naa ngee fee)

  2. Good morning - "Nopp naa jamm" (Nop naa jahm)

  3. Good afternoon - "Nopp naa rekk" (Nop naa rek)

  4. Good evening - "Nopp naa jamm ak jamm" (Nop naa jahm ak jahm)

  5. Good night - "Nopp naa leen" (Nop naa leen)

  6. Please - "Nopp naa la" (Nop naa laa)

  7. Thank you - "Jërejëf" (Jeh-reh-jehf)

  8. Yes - "Waaw" (Wahw)

  9. No - "Déet" (Dayt)

  10. Excuse me - "Nopp naa lay toog" (Nop naa lay tohg)

  11. I don't understand - "Maa ngi nekk naa la" (Ma ngee nek naa la)

  12. How much does this cost? - "Boolem yow benn baax?" (Boh-lehm yaw ben bakh?)

  13. My name is [Your Name] - "Nopp naa [Your Name]" (Nop naa [Your Name])

  14. What is your name? - "Nopp naa tuddu jëm?" (Nop naa tood-doo jehm?)

  15. I'm lost - "Nopp naa leen la" (Nop naa leen laa)

  16. Help - "Nopp naa xel" (Nop naa khel)

  17. Where is the bathroom? - "Toog naa gënaa tuddu?" (Tohg naa gheh-naa tood-doo?)

  18. I need a doctor - "Maa ngi laaj naa" (Ma ngee laahj naa)

  19. I'm vegetarian - "Maa ngi jàbb naa" (Ma ngee jahbb naa)

  20. Water - "Nopp" (Nop)

  21. Food - "Nopp ci kanam" (Nop see kah-nahm)

  22. How are you? - "Nopp naa la?" (Nop naa lah?)

  23. I'm fine - "Nopp naa la jëf" (Nop naa lah jehf)

  24. What is this? - "Wax naa ko?" (Wahkh naa koh?)

  25. I love Senegal - "Nopp naa sett naa Senegaal" (Nop naa set naa Seh-neh-gahl)

5 famous Senegalese celebrities

On the sports front, Senegal boasts remarkable talents like Sadio Mane, a celebrated midfielder in the Premier League's Liverpool, and the legendary Jule Bocandé, recognized as an African Football Legend by CAF in 2009.

Music enthusiasts will be thrilled to learn that the iconic Akon hails from Senegal, his roots influencing his music journey. Another musical gem is Youssou Ndour, who not only ventured into politics as the Minister of Tourism but also recently released an album titled "History."

In the world of entertainment, Senegal takes pride in Issa Rae, known for her web series "Awkward Black Girl" and groundbreaking HBO series "Insecure," marking her as the first black woman to create her own premium cable series.

Rama Yade, a Senegalese-born author and French politician, has held key positions, including Secretary of Human Rights in the French government and currently serving as the Vice President of the Moderate Conservative Radical Party.

Lastly, Gabourey Sidibe gained acclaim for her role as Claireece 'Precious' Jones in the movie "Precious" and later starred in the musical drama series "Empire," earning numerous accolades, including an Independent Spirit Award and Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.

4 POPULAR Senegalese proverbs and their meanings.

1."Nopp na lañu jàpp, jàpp na lañu nopp."

  • Translation: "The hand washes the hand, and the hand is washed by the hand."

  • Meaning: This proverb emphasizes the importance of mutual support and cooperation. It signifies that individuals often rely on each other for assistance and that helping one another ultimately benefits everyone.

2. "Sukaay na fàttaliku ci feeñ."

  • Translation: "Patience is the key to well-being."

  • Meaning: This proverb underscores the value of patience in life. It suggests that by being patient and persistent, one can achieve a state of well-being and success.

3. "Nuy yaay ci biir, yaay na lañu saax."

  • Translation: "If you want to know a woman, ask other women."

  • Meaning: This proverb highlights the idea that women understand each other's experiences and perspectives better. It encourages seeking advice and insights from those who share similar backgrounds or circumstances.

4. "Kukoy sàmm mboolom ci rew."

  • Translation: "The fear of the elders is the wisdom of the young."

  • Meaning: This proverb emphasizes the importance of respecting and learning from the wisdom of older generations. It suggests that young people should heed the advice and guidance of their elders to gain knowledge and maturity.

Did you Know ?

@ Lompoul desert

Senegalese culture is steeped in superstition, with taxi drivers often resorting to unique tactics, like attaching a goat's tail to their cars during low seasons, seeking divine help to attract more clients.

11 Fascinating Facts About Senegal

  1. Lebou Fishing Tradition: The Lebou people of Dakar have a unique fishing tradition, showcasing their skills on wooden pirogues. You might even witness this cultural spectacle during your visit.

  2. Teranga: Senegal is known for its hospitality, encapsulated in the word "teranga," which means welcoming and generosity. Experience this warm hospitality when interacting with locals.

  3. Music: Senegal is famous for its music, especially genres like Mbalax and traditional griot storytelling. Attend a local music performance or festival to immerse your family in Senegal's rhythmic culture.

  4. Griots: Griots are storytellers and historians, preserving Senegal's oral traditions through their tales and songs. Encourage your kids to listen to their captivating stories.

  5. Independence Monument: Dakar's Independence Monument is a symbol of freedom and commemorates Senegal's independence from France. It's an excellent opportunity to discuss history and independence with your children.

  6. Linguistic Diversity: While French is the official language, Wolof is widely spoken, reflecting the country's linguistic diversity. Learning Wolof phrases can be a fun and educational activity for your family.

  7. Gorée Island's Door of No Return: Gorée Island is known for the "Door of No Return," a symbolic passage through which enslaved Africans were led onto ships bound for the Americas. It's a poignant reminder of the transatlantic slave trade's impact.

  8. The Great Green Wall: Senegal is part of the Great Green Wall initiative, a project to combat desertification by planting a massive wall of trees across Africa. Learn about environmental conservation with your kids.

  9. Senegal's Religious Harmony: Senegal is known for its religious tolerance, with a predominantly Muslim population that coexists peacefully with other religious groups. Explore the country's diverse places of worship.

  10. Traditional Wrestling: Senegal has a strong tradition of wrestling, known as "lamb" or "laamb." Attend a local wrestling match for an authentic cultural experience.

  11. The Lion King Connection: The Lion King drew inspiration from African culture, and Senegal's landscapes and wildlife are reminiscent of the film's setting. Share this connection with your children before or after your visit to the national parks.

Current Hot Trend in Senegal 2019

  1. Green Energy Revolution: Senegal is at the forefront of the green energy revolution in West Africa with the launch of its first large-scale wind farm. This ambitious project involves the importation of turbines that are set to provide a substantial portion of the country's power needs. As the world increasingly turns towards renewable energy sources, Senegal's wind farm represents a significant step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

  2. Infrastructure Development: Senegal is experiencing a surge in infrastructure development. From new roads and bridges to modern airports and ports, the country is investing heavily in improving its transportation and logistics networks. This trend not only enhances Senegal's connectivity within the region but also positions it as a vital hub for trade and commerce in West Africa. These infrastructure projects are opening up new opportunities for economic growth and international partnerships.

As we conclude this journey through Senegal, I must confess that this country holds a special place in my heart. Having spent precious years living in this vibrant land, Senegal is not just another travel destination for me; it's like a second home.

My fondest family memories were crafted against the backdrop of Senegal's warm hospitality, rich culture, and breathtaking landscapes. From exploring bustling markets in Dakar to the tranquil shores of Gorée Island, every moment spent here with my parents and siblings was a treasure.

The tips and insights shared in this guide are not just from a traveler's perspective but from someone who has deeply immersed themselves in the rhythms of Senegal.

So, as you prepare to embark on your own adventure through this captivating West African nation, know that you're not just visiting a place; you're stepping into a world where cultural discoveries and natural wonders await at every turn. Pack your bags, embrace the hospitality, and get ready to create lasting memories with your children, just as I did in this enchanting second home called Senegal. Safe travels!

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