Amazing Things to Do in Senegal
August 11, 2019
As an avid traveler I love to go places and do what the locals do. I’m often not interested in the generic tourist recommendations. Who needs one more key chain, sculpture, bracelet, shot glass, etc? Of course these things are great and cheap to bring back for friends and family members who missed out on the trip. But let’s be honest, these are probably not souvenirs that are authentic to the country you’re currently visiting. Also, if you’re in Dakar, Senegal there are literally shopping opportunities everywhere. Commerce is a built in part of the culture. So, if you’re like me and seek adventures rather than generic plans to buy a bunch of souvenirs here’s a quick list of a few places for adventure, food, and partying I’d recommend that many locals also enjoy.
Île de Ngor
While this place is very popular it’s on my list because I love the beach and it’s a great spot to lay in the sun and take a dip in the water without thousands of people. The mainland side is a bit more crowded with lots of vendors urging you to buy but, once you get to the island (via boat for 1.000-2.000 CFA) it’s a lot less vendors. Initially, there may be some people trying to sell their merchandise but they won’t be relentless.
I also like this island because the water is cleaner than a few other popular beaches. If you stay all day there are restaurants with great fish, chicken, shrimp, several snacks and drinks. You can even get a hookah (locally called shisha) if your into that.
You can also go on a boat rides. If you’re with a group, for about 25.000 CFA a group of 5 can go out in a private boat (bring your drinks and a speaker) and have a small boat party. At some point during the ride you can even jump off the boat and take a swim (life jackets provided).
Another popular location but I’d pick this for the adventure. There are quads/ATVs/ buggies/boats and also camel rides. If you’re into those kinds of activities I recommend the ATV tour which is fun, great scenery, and affordable. For 20.000 CFA you can ride solo (accompanied by a guide). This tour includes riding through a small town, the lake, and the beach/ocean. There’s plenty of hills and dunes to navigate through, with photo opportunities built in.
After or before your rides, you can enjoy the beach and ocean water. These waters are relatively calm and the water is pretty clean as well. Watch out for the sand bars though! If you want to take a break from the ocean there are a few hotels surrounding the lake with pools that you can swim in for the day. Of course, if you get hungry, there are a few restaurants at these same hotels.
Saly/ Obama Beach / The Rhino Resort Hotel & Spa
Lots of people love to go to Saly to get a break from the city and relax on endless beaches. There are several resorts and spas in Saly but I like to go to Obama Beach and The Rhino Resort Hotel & Spa. I appreciate Obama Beach because it’s a reasonable price point, they don’t charge you to enter the facility, and the beach views and activities are the same as the nearby competitors. Most days there’s live music while you dine and enjoy the sights. The beach is usually very clean and the water is calm enough to swim comfortably. There are jet ski, catamaran, and boat rides, all available usually around 10.000 CFA each.
The Rhino Resort Hotel & Spa is an amazing getaway within your travel. The spa is a great way to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate. Whenever I can find a good massage, steam room, and hot tub between adventures I take full advantage. There is also a wide range of massage and facial services. I did find that the water temperatures were not as hot as I am used to, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. The tranquil environment and aesthetically pleasing views make this hotel and spa a great venue even if you only go for the day.
All in all, Saly is a great day or weekend trip out of Dakar.
There are several beaches throughout Dakar and each one has its own appeal. Some are sandier, rockier, have calmer waves, are surfer-friendly, have food and dining, etc. However, the common factor is that there is local culture present at all times. On any given time or day you will always find people swimming, cooking, and hanging out. Around sunset, virtually every beach is full of locals playing football (soccer), working out, wrestling, drinking tea, and/or playing music. The beach is a sure way to observe and participate in the culture of Senegal and learn the languages (mainly French and Wolof).
In Dakar, Senegal there are many markets for shopping. While shopping is a touristy thing to do I have added it to this list because of the culture of the African marketplace. Even if you don’t buy anything, experiencing the life of the market is a must. Visiting the market is an adventure in itself. Navigating through the different sections of fabric, jewelry, baskets, shoes, furniture, metal work, visual arts, and everything in between can be a bit overwhelming but also a lot of fun. Keep in mind, most prices in Senegal are negotiable. In fact, they encourage you to bargain with them, as it is a part of the cultural. One major tip for the market place (and generally throughout the country) is to always have at least one Senegalese person who speaks all of the local languages with you. Even if you feel comfortable on your own and have a functional grasp of French and Wolof the presence of a fellow Senegalese goes a long way when interacting in busy public spaces. Plus, you’ll probably find even more adventures!