As lover of Africa, I always thought Senegal was a kind of "Africa for beginners." As we were looking for a destination to spend a short holiday in winter that included sunshine, not too much of a time difference and some nice things to do, we ended up in Senegal.
Le Lamantin Beach
We booked a room at hotel Le Lamantin Beach and that was really amazing. The hotel consists of a collection of round, orange cottages with thatched roofs. The family room has an entire floor and there are two bedrooms. A very cozy swimming pool lies In the center of this small resort, and if you walk a few meters, you are on the white sandy beach.
The food in the hotel is really of incredible quality. Rarely have we had such good food in a hotel. On the buffet you found oysters and sea urchins every evening and the flamed pancakes were the best I ever tasted.
Walk up to the beach in the afternoon and walk a few hundred meters to the right. There you will find a beach bar where you can eat the most delicious langoust. You could find us there almost every afternoon.
Are you in for a little adventurous gastronomy? Eat the same lobster at the restaurant du Port chez Sacha. This is Africa at its best! We asked if we could eat "fresh" lunch, a man took his surfboard and paddled into the sea. Five minutes later, he stood next to our table with a cage with a few langoust in it. To be sure it was safe to eat over there, we checked the kitchen. That turned out to be very primitive but we decided to give it a try. The langoust was really, really great. You can find this restaurant by walking the beach to the left (about half an hour). Of course, you can also hire a horse and carriage. You'll enjoy some sightseeing at the same time.
4 things to do in Senegal
Besides eating, you can relax besides the pool, but make sure you book some of the following activities. We loved them all.
At the hotel you can book a day (or half day) trip. Thank God we booked only half a day because after an hour of bubbling, both the kids and myself were sea sick. We were happy when we could get off the boat. But if you have a stronger stomach, it's definitely a nice trip.
Rent a buggy (two persons) or quad and explore the interior with a guide. At the start we got a scarf to tie around our mouth and nose. That did not turn out to be unnecessary luxury because we had a lot of dust.
However, it was a great fun trip. The guide drove ahead and piloted us inland. We stopped at a giant termite hill and visited a family that lived in the middle of nowhere. No electricity or running water and they have never heard of Apple. Especially for our children, it was a reality check (and a culture shock). We stopped at Senegal's largest baobab. Eight people could fit in this tree. In the past, the dead were buried under the baobab, but since a couple years ago it is legally prohibited; These trees are the symbol of Senegal. According to our kids this was the best thing to do in Senegal.
“L’arrivée des pêcheurs” in Mbour (arrival of the fisherman)
A trip to Mbour is an absolute must. In the afternoon the beach is crowded. The women then wait until their men arrive with their colored fishing boats. They sell the catch that their men bring ashore. The return of the wooden fishing boats is beautiful and if you are on the beach, you really feel in Africa.
Just behind the beach you can buy nice souvenirs. Our son wanted a shark jaw, but we were really sorry we bought it when we opened our suitcase at home. Apparently there was some shark on the teeth, so our suitcase was rather smelly (and that’s an understatement).
Walk through the indoor market as well. If you see how fresh fish and meat are sold, you know why it's not wise to eat with the locals. Our western intestines are not really resistant to this. This is a must during your week in Senegal.
The Lac Rose is a salt lake 25 km from Dakar and was giving its name because of the pink/mauve color of the water. Due to the high salt concentration (380 grams / liter), there is virtually no life in the water and you can float in it. The lake is three meters deep, of which 1.5m consists of salt. The water goes underground from the ocean under the dunes so that it is purified. Since the 1970's, everyone is allowed to work freely. The salt is just shipped from the lake and stacked in the heaps on the beach. Each has its own salt mountain with a sign with its name. There are three qualities:
- the best can be used as a cooking salt
- the second for fish deployment
- and the latter is used in Europe to melt the snow.
Of course, everyone knows Lac Rose because the Rally Paris-Dakar ended here in former days. So this is one of the top things to do in Senegal.
All these trips can be booked through the hotel, but you can also take them on your own. Senegal is usually quite safe, but we were there one week before the elections, causing a grim atmosphere in Dakar.
Senegal is malaria territory, but in the dry season there is no mosquito to detect. Saly (where most hotels are located) is about a two hours drive from Dakar. An airport is currently being built in Saly, but it’s the African way: no idea when it will be done (update Dec 2018: the airport isn't finished yet).
If you are looking for a sunny destination in winter that also offers some nice things to do, I can highly recommend Senegal.
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