Senegal is one of the most underrated places you could ever visit. I have always been intrigued by Francophone countries. When I was twenty years old, I remember just finishing my degree and applying to work as a teaching assistant in Senegal with the British Council and putting Senegal as my first place. There were only four spaces available and unfortunately, I never made it! I was placed on the programme to go to Chile instead!
Timing is everything, as I found myself there ten years later!
So here are my twelve reasons to visit Senegal;
1. Flights are relative cheap from the U.K. As a teacher, trying to find bargain flights is usually a struggle. However, I managed to bag a flight for £365 for the Easter Break which is quite cheap. Even cheaper would be to fly to Gambia with Thomas Cook for around £200 and then cross the border.
2. Senegalese food is probably the most fragrant food you will find in West Africa. Thieboudienne is a traditional dish from Senegal which consists of fish, rice and vegetables, in a tomato base. The rice that is normally served with it, is quite similiar to jollof rice ( a West African rice dish with a peppery tomato base). Of course the vegetables that comes with it are also a healthy option, making it the perfect meal! On the left hand side of the photo below, in the creamy coloured sauce is Yassa Poisson (fish served in an onion sauce with carrots and turnip). Thieboudienne and Yassa are two separate meals, but I just had to be greedy that day.
3. Mbalax music is the local music you’ll hear at live music venues across Senegal. It is authentic, full of infectious percussion and nothing like you’ve heard before. The drum beats are insane. This music will have you moving!
Our favourite song which we heard in constant rotation whilst we there was Youssou N’Dour’s ‘C’est l’amour’. You probably remember him very well from his 90’s hit which featured Nene Cherry, but he is pretty big in his home country, as you’d expect. Waly Seck is another awesome Senegalese artist to watch out for too.
You can also do some dance classes on the beach which is something we took advantage of. We paid around £20 for a full band to teach us for two hours on the beach.
4. The Pink Lake. This place is divine! About an hour from Dakar, you can just rest in the salty lake and float! Some amazing sand dunes are also nearby which are even better. You can rent some quadbikes too whilst you’re there. You can find more about this in an upcoming post.
5. Baye Fall. As someone who is intrigued by sense of community, faith and fraternity in different countries. It was lovely to see the Baye Fall men walking around and helping in their communities. We got talking to a few who were really cool and very charitable.
They often come together to raise money for young people and children within their neighbourhoods. Baye Fall is a brotherhood with roots which lie in Islam. I had to do the forbidden ‘Can I touch your hair?’ when I saw this guy’s locks. Wouldn’t you have done the same?
6. Great nightlife. Our first night in Dakar, we found ourselves in a bar called Blue Saxo which had amazing live music. This bar is nowhere to be found in the Lonely Planet, which is why staying in an Air BnB with local recommendations, is the way to go!
Also, if you do plan to party, it is best to leave the house around 1am to party. Don’t make the same mistake we did by leaving before midnight! You’ll be waiting around in silence.
7. Dakar is reasonably cheap. We did struggle to find hostels and spent a lot of time in hotels and Air BnBs. However, it was still fairly reasonable. In terms of travel SE Asia probably still stands at the cheapest, but Senegal wasn’t as expensive as some other parts of Africa. I spent around £750 in two weeks, which is decent.
8. You get to practise your French. I seem to find African French a lot easier than what most would say is authentic French from France. However, Wolof is mostly spoken and sometimes you may find yourself in a taxi and the driver will have no knowledge of English or French!
9. A day trip to Goree Island, which was one of the largest slave trading centres in Africa. As you could imagine, visiting The House of Slaves was very disturbing. But the island itself is tranquil and it is definitely worth a visit.
10. You can find some lovely beaches! Head down south to Saly. It is absolutely gorgeous with amazing beaches. Nothing but pure relaxation.
11. Concerts are really cheap. Easter and Christmas tend to be a good time to visit Africa. There are many eventful things happening.
We managed to catch a WizKid Concert which we hadn’t really planned to go to. We got tickets for around £10 and it was outside, so the vibes were amazing. A year later, Wizkid came to London and tickets were bordering £40. We got an absolute bargain!
12. Take a trip to Saint Louis, or Ndar as it is called in Wolof which is takes around five hours to get to from Dakar. Mostly known for its colonial architecture. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days and chill out. I think the best Thieboudienne ( fish and rice dish in tomato sauce) which I tried, was here!
If you want to visit somewhere new this year. Definitely think about coming to Senegal!