What a way to start my Travel More Africa conquest. I have always dreamt of seeing more of our beautiful home but haven’t really set the time or money aside. Few things excite me more than travel lately…I’m not sure if it’s my age showing but I scream for a good vacay and a bit of DIY these days.
Senegal feels like the Africa I see in my dreams, both humbling and enchanting. The people are warm, the setting is magical and the atmosphere is like none other I have ever experienced. One thing that was a big contrast to life in Johannesburg is that it was really safe to walk around. Women, young and old walk around the city until pretty late at night with a calm confidence I have not seen in a long time.
Francophone West Africa has a certain appeal that in my opinion can be attributed to the people, the fish and the seaside. It’s super humid in Dakar and it took a lot of climatisation but once I got accustomed to the weather my adventures became far more enjoyable.
I went to a number of places that will always remain ingrained in my heart and I have catalogued my favourites below.
Goree Island is known as the door of no return. This was the last place where slaves were kept before they would be shipped off to America. It was a cruel endurance test staged in tiny inhumaine rooms packed with hopeless groups of women children and men respectively. The experience of walking this Island is wounding and enriching at the same time. Seeing the shackles that were used to take men and women from their home to be sold in foreign lands like livestock was shattering. Places like Goree are very important because we must always look at the horrors that humanity has created straight in the eyes and not turn our faces lest we forget. I am forever grateful for this experience. I would definitely recommend a trip there when in Dakar.
The Pink Lake: Lake Retba
Lake Retba is nothing short of magnificent. God is definitely showing off. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon which based on my shoddy understanding of a French translation is the most opportune mix of algae, salt and sunshine. The salt which is extracted from the lake provides for most of francophone West Africa. The air around the lake is dense and misty giving it the look of a fairytale setting. The women that sell crafts by the lake are really persuasive so if you plan to go, take the exact amount of money you plan to spend. The arts and crafts are amazing so you may be tempted to buy a lot more than you planned to.
We went to Marche Sandaga which can only be described as follows: Hot humid and busy! There are endless options of everything. Bags, dresses, ornaments, you name it. I’d say dress down and be decisive. The main market was too busy so I found a more quaint market on a corner just up the road from the Pullman Hotel which had exactly what I needed. The baskets I found were for decor and household utility but I managed to ask the seller (the sweetest woman ever) to add a strap to mine so that I can use it as a bag.
Loman Art Gallery
This is the residence and gallery of South African born artist Loman. She was home when I stopped by, working on a piece with her mother! What great luck. She welcomed me warmly and opened her home to me. I walked around the splendid space looking at her magnificent artworks including a large mural of the late Miriam Makeba.
Overall, I enjoyed my entire stay. The beaches I saw, the African Renaissance Museum and all the restaurants we ate at. Remember to have all the seafood you can get your hands on while in Dakar!
What you will need:
A lot of loose light clothing
A wide brim light material hat
Enough French to get around (or an app that can help with that)
Room in your suitcase to take baskets back home
Hair that can withstand humid weather
An open heart
My next installment will be of Namibia. I hope you enjoyed my Senegal diary. 🙂
Images and footage by myself and Guy K. Video Edit by myself and Yehshen Naidoo.
Watch the full video below.