Among one of the most stable countries in West Africa, Senegal is known as the ‘country of Teranga’. That’s an expression in Wolof which means hospitality. You will indeed find Senegal to be one of the friendliest spots in Africa.
If you are planning a trip to this beautiful country, then this article will be of much help to you. So shall we get started?
With a population of well over 15.85 million, Senegalese still maintain unity and peace in the country. One of the major contributing factors is their national motto ‘Un Peuple, Un But, Une Foi’ which means ‘One Nation, One Goal, One Faith’.
The capital city, Dakar, is known for its lively market and rich musical culture. What’s more, the capital city is located between the mouths of the Senegal and Gambia rivers. This city also has an amazing harbor that boasts of ranking among the best in Western Africa. That’s because it's protected by limestone cliffs.
In a country with about 10 ethnic groups and thirty-eight languages, the diversity thrives successfully thanks to Wolof. This is a lingua franca language that transcends linguistic and ethnic boundaries and reinforces a sense of togetherness in the Senegalese society. Technically, French is the primary official language but the majority of the natives use Wolof to communicate.
The currencies used in Senegal are CFA franc and West Africa CFA franc. Additionally, one USD approximately translates to 585 West African CFA franc as of this writing. However, the exchange rate is always changing depending on the economic fluctuations.
Best time to Visit and Purchase Tickets to Senegal
The climatic conditions in Senegal might be a bit different from the one in your home. The Harmattan winds in the region bring swirling clouds of dust. This might lead to a tickly throat. Therefore, you should definitely bring lots of water. Also, don’t forget to carry your moisturizer!
Probably the best time to visit Senegal is during the winter dry season which is usually between November and March. This is typically the time of the year when the temperatures are marginally cooler. Also, the Harmattan winds blow away any slight trace of humidity.
Weather Conditions in Senegal
Senegal experiences tropical climate with pleasant heat all year round. On top of that, the country also has well-defined dry and humid seasons. More importantly, these seasons result in southwest summer winds and northeast winter winds.
The dry season that’s between the months of December and April is typically dominated by hot, dry Harmattan winds. What’s more, Dakar has an annual rainfall of about 600 mm in 24 hours and occurs between June and October.
Should I be vaccinated when heading to Senegal?
You should be up to date with your vaccinations when traveling to any destinations. And, Senegal is no exception. Though the risk is quite low, you should be aware that Zika Virus is endemic in Senegal. Additionally, pregnant women should book an appointment with their physicians before heading to this country.
On top of that, vaccinations for Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A are strongly recommended. You should also consider using anti-malaria prophylactics. If you are planning to travel with an infant of 11 months old or younger, then take your kid for a measles vaccine.
Top Tourist Attractions in Senegal
The bustling city of Dakar is the capital city of Senegal. Many would say, Dakar is the home to all the traditional and trendy aspects of Senegal. And, I agree. This breath-taking city features authentic culture, dancing as well as bargain hunting. This is just one of the best places to visit in Senegal.
As soon as you get off the plane, Dakar will shake all your senses with the salty and warm blast of humidity. Each one of the Dakar’s district has a different vibe and charm. Hence, the nights in Dakar tend to be very rhythmic.
The downtown part of the city is the most convenient place for tourists. And best of all, it’s accessible on foot. Some of the activities you can engage in Dakar include;
· Windsurfing and surfing
· Taking sandy baths in beaches of Yoff, Madeleines, Bel Air, N’Gor, Ouakam among others.
· Visiting the markets and shopping streets
· Nightlife experience
2. Pink Lake
Pink Lake is one of the wow-factors of Senegal. Also well-known as Retba, this is the most visited site in Senegal across the world. The lake features a special pink color and very salty water. This lake has without a doubt warmed its way through the hearts of not only the Senegalese but also most tourists.
This spellbinding lake is said to take up different shades of pink and purple depending on the light exposure and time of the day. Hence, it offers a stunning view especially in the reflection of the sunlight. The lake has for decades now been exploited for salt by the locals. Salt harvesting is such an incredible activity to watch in Pink Lake.
3. St. Louis
St. Louis is one town in Senegal that is very rich with an unshakable colonial past. It is located at the mouth of the Senegal River. St. Louis is a very common tourist destination in Senegal. All thanks to its beauty, history and authentic culture. Actually, this city has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
St. Louis is home to two very famous national parks, magnificent beaches, and colonial houses. Also, the infamous Faidherbe bridge about 500 meters long that links Sor District and St. Louis. Some of the activities to engage in St. Louis include;
· Visiting the Famous Faidherbe bridge
· Visit the Research and Documentation Museum of Senegal
· Visiting the Fanal de St. Louis
5 Places to Visit with your kid while in Senegal
1. Senegal River
It can be hard finding the right place for your kids to have fun while you’re on a vacation. Thankfully, Senegal is built for kids and they will certainly enjoy the experience. The Senegal River, for example, is a good place to hang out with your kids.
The river stretches close to 2000 kilometers through different countries in West Africa. It flows through four countries all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. What’s more, it also serves as a border between Senegal and other West African Countries. Some of the activities you and your kids can enjoy include, boat trip, walking along the river, bathing in the waters among others.
2. Djoudj National Bird Park
About 6 kilometers north of Saint Louis, you will find the Djoudj National Park. The park is ranked as the third-largest bird sanctuary in the world. Close to 3 million birds migrate to the park annually.
Some of the birds you are likely to encounter in the area include pink flamingos, ducks, white pelicans, and grey herons. The park is also home to other animals such as jackals, monkeys, crocodiles, warthogs, and gazelles.
3. The City of Touba
Another great place to take your kids in Senegal is the city of Touba. It’s located about 194 kilometers east of Dakar. This place is actually the capital center of the Muslim Brotherhood. What’s more, it’s home to magnificent mosques around the city. That makes it a great place to go site seeing.
4. Gorée Island
The Gorée island was discovered by the Portuguese. It’s located at the Bay of Dakar and it was originally a slave trade center. The island is also home to the house slave that was built back in 1780. The house is considered a symbol of the slave trade. This island is a great place to take a trip down memory lane while enjoying the cool ocean breeze.
5. Cap Skirring
Lastly is the Cap Skirring resort that offers an amazing seaside experience. This resort can be found in the South West of Senegal. If you want to enjoy that beach life with your family, then this is the best place for you.
Secret Gem Locations
Located in the HLM district of Dakar, HLM Market is a must-see secret gem location of Senegal. This is just the place if you want to take some African textiles with you as you go back home. This is quite a goldmine for any textile lover who wants to try out some African designs.
The best thing is that you can also have your clothes tailored at the HLM market. Whether you want a modern or traditional design, at HLM Market the tailors got you covered. The market is pretty decent and you can walk around undisturbed.
Best Places to Unpack
· Raddison Blu Hotel: this is an exquisite luxury hotel that was the top choice for Barrack Obama during his tour to Africa back in 2013. The hotel features an infinity pool, sleek rooms and a romantic restaurant the overlooks the ocean.
Standard Nightly Room Rate is: $237
· Terrou-Bi Hotel: this hotel is just what you need if you are looking for coastline luxury. This hotel offers a private beach, a casino, a restaurant, a solarium among others. You will get the best ocean views from this hotel to relax away the afternoon. Not forgetting the stylish and modern rooms that come in handy.
Standard Nightly Room Rate is: $207 for a double room
· Savana Jardin Hotel: this is one of the finest hotels in the city that features a tropical theme. From this hotel, you get access to one of the best beaches in Dakar. More to that, you get to enjoy an Olympic swimming pool, fitness center, and sauna. The hotel has more than 100 rooms with 3 suites that overlook the ocean.
Standard Nightly Room Rate is: $152
· Residence Farex Hotel: $25 per night
· Quirksilver Boardriders Surf Camp: $42 per night
· Residence De L’Amitie: $43 per night
Local Food to try out in Senegal
The Senegalese cuisine is highly influenced by the French, North African and local culinary traditions. Simply a mish-mash of flavors that will definitely tingle your taste buds. In that case, here are a few local dishes that you must try out in Senegal;
This is a national meal that originates in the northern city of Saint Louis. It simply translates to fish served with rice. It features a piece of either grilled or fried white fish, a savory tomato sauce plus some seasoned rice. The dish could also be accompanied by steamed vegetables such as manioc, sweet potatoes or carrots. Thiéboudienne is a dish that you will easily find in many of the small shabby restaurants for as low as $2.65.
8 Must Know Tips Before Setting Sail for Senegal
1. Senegal is a majority Muslim country but there’s no need to worry about covering yourself up. Actually, even the locals rarely wear hijabs. They prefer the traditional Senegalese dresses that expose their necks and arms.
2. You need to brush up your French-speaking skills as very few locals speak English in Senegal.
3. It’s best to get a guide for your excursions and tours especially if you are not conversant with French.
4. Senegal can be extremely dusty during the dry season. Hence, you should carry your allergy pills. Also, your sunblock could come in handy as the sun can be quite harsh.
5. You will find Orange cell phone provider stands at most airports where you can get local SIM cards for internet, texts, and calls for roughly $30. However, you need to know that 4G internet is not available in Senegal.
6. In Senegal, you are not allowed to take pictures of certain buildings such as embassies, government institutions, or police stations.
7. Tourist need to have their identification documents with them at all times and are subject to questioning by law enforcement officers
8. In Senegal, bisexuals, gays, and lesbians may have a tough time. That is because their law forbids it. Also, in cities where the Muslim religion is strongly upheld, the locals may have a problem with public display of affection and indecent dressing.
Did you know?
· Senegalese people are very superstitious. What’s more, competition always breeds creativity. That said, Senegalese taxi drivers always seek divine intervention so that they can have that extra client. Therefore, when the season is low, these drivers put the tail of a goat on the rear of their car. This is basically a sign of pleading for heavenly intervention.
· Also, did you know that Sadio Mane a professional footballer who plays as a midfielder in the Premier League Club Liverpool is from Senegal? Well, now you know! Another talented footballer that’s probably worth mentioning is Jule Bocandé. He was named an African Football Legend by CAF in 2009.
· If you are a fan of music, then I’m sure you’d be surprised to know that Akon is from Senegal. The iconic Senegalese-American songwriter, singer, and music producer was born in St. Louis, Missouri and lived in Senegal during his childhood. He later attended high school in the United States.
· Another great musician from Senegal is Youssou Ndour. He apparently became the minister of Tourism from April 2012 to September 2013. On top of that, he released a recent album called History.
· That’s not all! Another great talented Senegalese in the limelight is Issa Rae. She is known for her great web series Awkward Black Girl on YouTube. Issa Rae has also starred in other series and movies such as Insecure which made history. That was because she was the first black woman to create her own premium cable series with HBO.
· Rama Yade, born in Senegal, is an author of several books and a French politician. She has also served as a secretary of Human Rights in the French government. Rama is currently the Vice President of the Moderate Conservative Radical Party.
· Lastly, Gabourey Sidibe shot into stardom when she played her role as Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones in the movie Precious. Since 2015, Garbourney Sidibe stars in the Musical drama series Empire as Becky. She won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and later earned the best actress nominations for Golden Globe Award and Academy Award.
Proverbs that trace their origin to Senegal
· A rotten fish pollutes the whole kitchen.
· Poverty is an older daughter of laziness.
· Kings have no friends
· An empty belly has no ears
Current Hot Trend in Senegal 2019; Senegal has started on the importation of turbines for its first-ever large scale wind farm. This is such a great project for West Africa since it will cater to nearly a sixth of the country’s power.
Well, there you have it! Senegal is one of the best places to visit in West Africa. The country packs amazing arrays of different landscapes into a small area. Above all, the community will welcome you with open arms as you take a tour through the town.
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