Senegal

The capital of Senegal, Dakar, is the westernmost point in Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north. Senegal is externally bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south; internally it almost completely surrounds the Gambia, namely on the north, east and south, except for Gambia's short Atlantic coastline. It lies between latitudes 12o and 17oN, and longitudes 11° and 18°W. The country attained independence from France on 20 June 1960 while it withdrew from the Mali Federation on 20 August 1960. The official currency of Senegal is the CFA Franc and French is the official language.

The Wolof are the largest single ethnic group in Senegal at 43 percent; the Fula and Toucoleur (also known as Halpulaar'en, literally "Pulaar-speakers" – 24%) are the second biggest group, followed by the Serer (14.7%), then others such as Jola (4%), Mandinka (3%),Maures or (Naarkajors), Soninke, Bassari and many smaller communities (9%).

Notable Places to Visit

Goree Island

Also called Ile de Goree, this small island is just off the coast of Dakar, Senegal's sprawling capital city. Goree Island is a big tourist attraction because of its history as a major slave-trading center. It's an important destination for African-Americans in particular who come to pay their respects and reflect upon their ancestors' past. In fact the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) on the island has become a place of pilgrimage for everyone to reflect upon the horrors of the slave-trade and remember the millions of souls who died because of it.

Iles de Madeleine

This is a huge rock jetting out of the ocean that is a National Park of Senegal. The ocean around the island is such a beautiful turquoise. The rock formations are absolutely incredible. There's a lagoon in the middle of the island to swim at and a very small beach. There is a lot of wildlife on the island as well; birds, crabs, fish, and such. Shade is very limited on the island, unless you hide in the shadow of some of the rocks. The appeal of nature and the national park on Ile de Madeleine simply cuts it for those who appreciate its beauty.

IFAN Museum

The Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noir has an impressive collection of masks, statues, musical instruments and agricultural implements from all over West Africa. It is one of the oldest art museums in West Africa. It was promoted by Léopold Senghor, the country's first President. In December 2007, its official title was changed to The Théodore Monod African Art Museum ("Musée Théodore Monod d'Art Africain"), after the French naturalist Théodore André Monod, former director of IFAN. The museum is one of the regular locations used in the Dakar Biennale exhibition, showing art by contemporary African and diaspora artists.

Langue de Barbarie National Park

The Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie is an ecosystem rich and varied. It is a unique combination of environments (mangroves, sand dunes, the Senegal River, the Langue de Barbarie, tidal wetlands, the beach, and the ocean). Here many different species thrive, crabs, lizards, and over 160 species birds can be found throughout the park. Starting in February, bird populations are busy nesting and raising their young. This is by far the best time to visit the park. A trip to the bird reproduction island is an amazing experience. Clouds of thousands of birds are seen swarming all over the island displaying mating behaviors, building nests, laying eggs, and raising their young. It is a wonderful place for nature lovers, sightseers, photographers, and bird watchers to visit. The park is located just 18 km (11 miles) south of Saint-Louis in the region of Gandiol.

Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary

From November to April, some three million birds migrating south from Europe stop here, because it's one of the first places with permanent water south of the Sahara. This park is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world, and almost 30 species have been recorded. Pink flamingos, pelicans, ducks and waders are most plentiful. Situated in the Senegal River delta, the Djoudj Sanctuary is a wetland of 16,000 ha, comprising a large lake surrounded by streams, ponds and backwaters. It forms a living but fragile sanctuary for the white pelican, the purple heron, the African spoonbill, the great egret and the cormorant. A wide range of wildlife also inhabits the park, which is designated a World Heritage Site.

Niokolo-Koba National Park

Located in a well-watered area along the banks of the Gambia river, the gallery forests and savannahs of Niokolo-Koba National Park have a very rich fauna, among them Derby elands (largest of the antelopes), chimpanzees, lions, leopards and a large population of elephants, as well as many birds, reptiles and amphibians. It is a World Heritage Site 

Bandia Nature Reserve

This is a private game reserve in Western Senegal located 65 kilometres from Dakar near Sally and Mbour. Created in 1990, Bandia is the first private reserve of Senegal. All the tumulus of the Bandia forest was classified by the historical monuments in 2003. The reserve offers its visitors a wide variety of typical African savannah animals of which there are Giraffes, White Rhinos, Roan antelopes, Waterbucks, Kudus, Oryxs, Impalas, Cape Elands, Lord Derby Elands, Kob Antelopes, West African Forest Buffalos, Wart Hogs, Crocodiles, Green Vervets Monkeys and Patas Monkeys. 

The Sine Saloum Delta

The Sine Saloum Delta is a 180,000-hectare area that encompasses the Saloum Delta National Park, and is a truly stunning part of Senegal. Formed where two rivers converge on the mighty Atlantic Ocean, it's a region of great diversity consisting of a unique estuarine environment, glorious beaches, mangrove swamps, sand islands and ever-shifting dunes. The region is a joy to explore, and whether in a personal horse drawn carriage through the great herds of baobabs and salt-craters dug by the local women or quietly navigating the lush greenery of the labyrinthine waterways in a pirogue, one is sure to absorb the region's gentle magic.

Retba Lake

It’s more commonly known as the Pink lake due to its marvellous pink color. The lake even turns a beautiful purple in the sunlight, this is owing to its high salt content and unique bacteria. The color alone is enough to draw tourists, but the fascinating salt harvesting that takes place is also worth a look. The lake is just an hour's drive north of Dakar and gives the visitor a nice insight into local village life, vegetable markets and traditional Fula culture.

 

Notable Events

  • World Festival of Black Arts – (Also known as Dakar Biennale or Dak’Art)
  • Festival International du Film de Quartier
  • Abéné Festivalo
  • St Louis Jazz Festival
  • Kaay Fecc Traditional & Contemporary Dance Festival
  • Gorée Diaspora Festival
  • Independence Day (4 April)
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