Saint-Louis, Senegal

“The chameleon changes colour to match the earth, the earth doesn’t change colour to match the chameleon”

Senegalese proverb

SL art

The only other place that I managed to visit whilst in Senegal was Saint-Louis, which I did on a two day tour from Dakar. Much more pleasant than a bus with no delays and travelling in comfort with air-conditioning. As it’s a good four to five hour drive, I’d definitely recommend staying overnight personally. I was impressed with the quality of the roads and once you are outside Dakar, there are lots of villages displaying different wares.

On the way, we stopped at a large baobab tree, thought to be 350 years old and my guide explained how every bit of the tree is used – pretty incredible! Once in Saint-Louis, I realised quite how far outside of the town centre my hotel (Hotel Mermoz – hotelmermoz.com) was. I had a few hours to kill before my city tour so would have struggled to get back into the town centre but this did mean that I relaxed by the pool and strolled along the beach.

SL horse cart

Truthfully, there is not a lot to do in Saint-Louis. I gather that most visitors do a city tour in a horse and cart and walk across the Faidherbe bridge (metal bridge in the first picture). The horse and cart tour is well worth doing and is a great way to explore the town. Saint-Louis was the original capital of Senegal when it was under French rule and there are a number of beautiful buildings that are reminiscent of the nationalities of previous inhabitants. We saw the world war 1 memorial, the old storage facilities for the when the ships unloaded and a couple of pet pelicans!

SL statue

The highlight of the tour was seeing the fishing community in action. Not only were the pirogues setting off for the night with families coming to wave them off but there was the fish market and lots of evidence of the preparation of salted fish. No one seemed to mind us wondering around taking photos. Once back at the hotel, it would have been rude not to have fish for dinner!

SL fish insta

The next morning, after a delicious continental style breakfast of French bed and croissants, we headed off for the Langue de la Barbarie National Park, which is famed for its abundant bird species. I think I was the first tourist of the day, so pretty much had the park to myself, along with my guide and driver of course! We set off in a pirogue and headed out to a sandy ridge where there were pelicans, herons etc. Apparently there are sometimes flamingos too.rons etc. Apparently there are sometimes flamingos too.

SL boat trip

I thoroughly enjoyed the boat trip, even if the others found it a little chilly! We could see fishing boats still out at sea and there were some pristine sandy beaches which were totally unspoilt – a real bonus in Senegal where I was shocked by the amount of litter in some places!

SL birds

SL national park

I don’t know much about birds but am pleased that I visited as it was something a bit different before the journey back to Dakar. On this journey, I asked to stop and see where the salt was being collected from where the river floods in rainy season. Absolutely fascinating but a lot of hard work.

SL salt

Overall, I had a great time on my fleeting visit to Senegal but don’t feel I really got to see the true country… If you’re planning on visiting, perhaps give yourself longer than 5 days!!

SL dusk

Next stop: Australia, Singapore and Vietnam!!

Senegal

“When I’m in Senegal, I can’t just sit in isolation making music. People need my help. And the Senegalese people helped create my music. It comes from the country itself”

Youssou N’Dour

 

Senegal boats

I’m just back from a cheeky little trip to Senegal – a beautiful country. Sadly I did not have very long there with just 4 days in country and 2 travel days, so I only got to see a tiny amount, only visiting Dakar and Saint-Louis.

I’ve travelled quite a lot in Africa – it’s probably my favourite continent – but had never been to west Africa. Since my return, I’ve read that the name Senegal is thought to come from the Wolof Sunuu Gaal meaning ‘our boat’ – pretty fitting as there are pirogues (canoe style boats) everywhere you look! I took so many photos of them as they are often painted beautiful colours.

pirogues

It’s not just the boats that are pretty though – the buses are often multi-coloured and the outfits are amazing too! And of course the African sunsets take some beating.

European colonisation began in the mid 15th century, with the French ruling from the 19th century, with influence easily seen in the amazing and varied architectural styles. The commonest languages spoken are Wolof and French, despite Senegal gaining its independence in 1960. In fact, I was a bit worried about how I’d get by as I am awful at languages and thus booked more tours than I normally would, as someone who normally prides myself as a fairly independent traveller. More people probably speak English than they’ll admit to, so I maybe could have muddled my way through.

baobab

The two tour companies that I used were quite different – one was Senegalese and the other American. Both had advantages and disadvantages so I guess it depends on whether you want more genuine info on Senegal from those who have always lived there or better English… As I was the sole person on all my tours, I could dictate a little when and where I wanted to stop and thus didn’t feel quite as much pressure as usual to make purchases. Be wary that prices vary widely between companies – in one instance, I found a tour that was over double the price but offered exactly the same thing! In the end, I did that trip on my own and thus saved a lot of money!

The weather was beautiful, food was great – lots of fresh fish and I really enjoyed poulet yassa (chicken with onions in lemon), not too many tourists, miles of beaches etc. Would I go back? Yes, but the world is a big place so I’d probably prefer to explore a few more countries first!

senegal beach

(All photos my own and taken on my smartphone!)