Senegal — Attractions
Senegal’s original capital, St Louis, is lined with stately French colonial-era streets, while its current capital, Dakar, is Africa’s westernmost city. After exploring Dakar’s numerous museums and vibrant music scene, visitors may wish to escape to the tranquil islands of N’Gor, most famous for its surfing, and Gorée, whose House of Slaves is an especially moving sight for African-Americans in search of their slavery roots. Senegal’s most beautiful beaches may be found along the nearly 100 mile Petite Côte Atlantic Ocean coastline between Dakar and northern Gambia, but the country’s most unusual landmark is Lake Retba, otherwise known as Pink Lake for its bright color.
Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire (IFAN)
Senegal’s Presidential Palace and its luscious gardens surround the biggest and oldest museum not only in Dakar, but in all of West Africa. Although there are no English translations of the museum’s French displays, no interpretation is necessary to admire the traditional West African farming tools, musical instruments, artwork, statues, and handmade fabric displayed within the museum’s walls.
Address: Place de Soweto Centre, Dakar
Phone: +221 821 40 15
This bright ‘Pink Lake’ is famous not only for its unusual bright pink waters but also because of its high salt content. Microscopic green algae called Dunaliella salina give the lake both its pink color and the nearly 40 percent salt content which allows its swimmers to float easily above the waters, similar to the Dead Sea. The lake’s salt collectors constantly rub themselves with shea butter to protect themselves from skin and tissue damage. Lake Retba’s bright pink color can most vividly be seen during Senegal’s dry season.
Address: North of Dakar
Goree Island (Île de Gorée)
This small island just a 30 minute pirogue or ferry journey away from Dakar’s bustling harbor is the last sight many captured slaves saw of their homeland before being transported to the New World. Today, the House of Slaves the Dutch first built to hold captives in 1776 has become Gorée Island’s most infamous tourist attraction, and its dungeon tours are especially moving for the descendants of those former slaves. Gorée Island also includes Senegal’s maritime museum, women’s museum, and the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire museum dedicated to West African culture.
No point in Africa lies further west than this tiny island just a five-minute pirogue ride from Dakar. N’Gor Island may be most famous for its sensational surfing, but visitors can also rent paddle boats to travel around the island, enjoy meals at N’gor Island restaurants, or admire the beautiful bougainvillea gates guarding residents’ homes.
Keur Moussa Abbey
Nine monks first founded this peaceful hillside abbey about 30 miles east of Dakar in 1961. Today, visitors from all over are still welcome to attend the abbey’s Sunday morning services accompanied by traditional kora, balafon, and drumming. The monks also make and sell koras, broilers, goat cheese, and tropical fruits grown on their own orchards.
Address: Keur Moussa Abbey, P. O. Box 721, Dakar
Phone: +221 33 836 33 09
Niokolo-Koba National Park
Several of Senegal’s largest and most exotic wildlife species roam freely across the forests and savannah of this southeast Senegal World Heritage Site close to Guinea-Bissau. This park contains no fewer than 78 percent of Senegal’s gallery forests, 1,500 plant species, 330 bird species, and 84 mammal species. Among the latter are antelopes, panthers, Africa’s biggest lions, and even a handful of rare elephants. The Dindefelo Falls tower more than 360 feet above this stunning landscape
Address: Upper Casamance, Eastern Senegal
Saloum Delta National Park
This national park in Senegal is named after its Saloum River Delta location 50 miles west of Kaolack. The North Atlantic meets the Saloum River in this park filled with sand dune islands and stunning mangroves. The park also contains the Fathala Game Reserve, the only place on Earth where visitors can see rare Western Giant eland antelopes, and the bird watching paradise of Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary. The Fathala Game Reserve can safely be explored by pirogues, hiking, or self-driving safari tours. Each winter, aquatic warblers migrate from Europe to join Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary’s flamingoes, pelicans, and nearly 400 other exotic bird species.
Address: Western Senegal
Dakar Grand Mosque (Grande Mosquée de Dakar)
This majestic mosque’s ornate interior, similar to Casablanca’s Mohammed V mosque, is closed to the public. However, visitors can still admire the mosque’s equally impressive exterior, especially beautiful when illuminated at night, and nearly 220 foot tall minaret.
Address: Allée Pape Gueye Fall, Dakar