Sunny Senegal, the westernmost country on the African continent, sees about a million visitors a year. The country’s 350 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean traditionally has been one of its major draws.
If you are looking for more than a resort vacation, Senegal also has plenty of tourist attractions inland: parks crawling with wildlife, massive mosques and historic sites recalling the dark days of slavery.
Senegal’s beach resorts are the genesis of its modern tourism industry, dating back to the country’s first Club Med that opened in the 1970s. Many of these beaches are close to the capital Dakar: Plage Bel-Air, N’Gor Island and Yenn.
To its south is a nearly 100-mile stretch of sandy beach known as the Petite Cote, dotted with assorted small fishing villages.
Below that is Saly, a popular resort area for water sports, although its reputation has been somewhat sullied in recent years by the growth of sex tourism. South of the Gambia is Cap Skiring, a coconut-tree-lined beach that also is home to numerous resorts.
You will not encounter the vast array of wildlife seen in eastern Africa on a Senegal safari, but nature tours are a key tourist attraction for the country nonetheless.
Of particular note is Djoudj National Park in northern Senegal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries. The park, on the Senegal River’s delta, is home to about 1.5 million birds, including African spoonbills, white pelicans and great egrets.
Southern Senegal along the Gambia River also is a prime spot for wildlife-spotting, including hippos, monkeys and crocodiles.
Goree Island, off Dakar’s coast, is one of the country’s most-visited historic sites. The island, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, once was a major hub of the African slave trade. Its House of Slaves, built in 1776, still stands as a testament to the horrific conditions that slaves faced.
Dakar itself is home to the IFAN Museum of West African Culture, which showcases the history of the region’s art and culture.
North of Dakar, the Island of Saint-Louis, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, maintains numerous buildings reflecting its French colonial history, including balcony and gallery houses.
Senegal is largely an Islamic country, and one of its largest orders, the Mouride Brotherhood, is rooted in Senegal’s second-largest city, Touba.
About four hours to the east of Dakar, Touba’s sites of interest include its Grand Mosque, a domed building with four minarets that can accommodate as many as 7,000 visitors at once.
Touba also is home to the tomb of Amadou Bamba, the founder of the Mouride order. Dakar has its own Grand Mosque, which includes a large library cataloguing Islam’s history in West Africa.
Top Tourist Attractions in Senegal
The Senegal River is a 1,086 km long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania. The Senegal’s headwaters are the Semefe (Bakoye) and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali.
From there, the Senegal River flows west and then north through Talari Gorges near Galougo and over the Gouina Falls then flows more gently past Kayes, where it receives the Kolimbiné.
After flowing together with the Karakoro, it prolongs the former’s course along the Mali-Mauritanian border for some tens of kilometers till Bakel where it flows together with the Falémé River, which also has its source in Guinea, subsequently runs along a small part of the Guinea-Mali frontier to then trace most of the Senegal-Mali border up to Bakel.
The Senegal further flows through semi-arid land in the north of Senegal, forming the border with Mauritania and into the Atlantic.
Île de Gorée is one of the 19 communes’ d’arrondissement of the city of Dakar, Senegal. It is an 18.2-hectare island located 2 kilometres at sea from the main harbour of Dakar, famous as a destination for people interested in the Atlantic slave trade.
Its population as of the 2013 census was 1,680 inhabitants, giving a density of 5,802 inhabitants per square kilometre, which is only half the average density of the city of Dakar.
Less than an hour away from the capital city of Senegal there is an unusual lake that will surely catch the unsuspecting visitor’s eye because of its unusual yet vivid pink colour.
Lake Retba (or Lac Rose as it is known by locals) is separated only by some narrow dunes from the Atlantic Ocean and, as expected its salt content is very high. Its salinity content compares to that of the Dead Sea and during the dry season it exceeds it.
Its distinct pink colour is caused by the Dunaliella salina bacteria, which is attracted by the lake’s salt content. The bacteria produce a red pigment in order to absorb the sunlight, thus giving the lake its unique color.
Its colour is especially visible during the dry season (which lasts from November to June) and less during the rainy season (July-October).
The House of Slaves and its Door of No Return
This is a museum and memorial to the Atlantic slave trade on Goree Island, 3 km off the coast of the city of Dakar, Senegal. Its museum, which was opened in 1962 and curated until Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye’s death in 2009, is said to memorialize the final exit point of the slaves from Africa. While historians differ on how many African slaves were actually held in this building.
The Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
This is a wetland in the Senegal River delta, which serves as an over-wintering site for vast numbers of waterfowl and other Palaearctic migrant birds. Historically, the site was subject to alternating cycles of seasonal flooding with fresh water from the Senegal River, followed by an influx of salt water from the ocean during the dry season.
This hydrological regime has been altered with the construction of dams both upstream and downstream of the sanctuary. A seasonal freshwater flood is now provided by release of impounded water, but the saltwater flooding no longer occurs.
Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal
Who knew that a little known park in eastern Senegal has lions, hippopotamus, water buffalo, the rare giant Eland, and the northernmost population of chimpanzees in the world? West Africa is not known for its game reserves, but there are a few on offer (like Pendjari) that are certainly worth visiting. The Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal is one of them.
It sits on one million hectares of protected land, making it the largest park in Senegal. Since 1981, it has been classified as a World Heritage Site.
While there is not much in the way of facilities, there is basic accommodation available. As I write this, the road is currently being worked on and will soon be newly paved all the way through the park.
Saloum Delta National Park
The Saloum Delta National Park is one of the premiere tourist destinations in Senegal. The place is known mainly for its birds.
The park can be found at the Saloum River delta and also the Sine River. The Saloum River goes up 100 km east of Kaolack. The Saloum delta is at its mouth.
There are many bird species that can be seen in the reserve. Some of the most common are the Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, the Eurasian Spoonbill and the Greater Flamingo.
The park encompasses 76,000 hectares. About 61,000 hectares of the site is comprised of water. About 7,000 hectares are made up of saltwater vegetation and inter tidal mangroves. The Saloum Delta National Park is included in the 180,000 hectare biosphere reserve. Forests and savannah take up 8,000 hectares.
Guembeul Natural Reserve
The Guembeul Natural Reserve is one of the biggest reserves in Senegal. It is home to many kinds of animals, some of which are endangered and being protected.
The reserve is 10 km south of Saint Louis at the Saint Louis Region. This region is to the northwest of the country close to the Senegal River mouth. It is 320 kilometers north of Dakar, the capital of Senegal.
The park encompasses an area of 720 hectares. The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife. There are scores of different bird species and reptiles in the site. You will also see different species of mammals. It is especially known for the gazelles and the African Spurred Tortoise.
The Guembeul Natural Reserve is particularly well known for its reintroduction programs for the gazelles and the tortoise. You will also see snakes, lizards, lions, cheetahs, elephants, crocodiles and many more.
Top Safari Lodges in Senegal
This is located in Sokone. Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided. A terrace with river views is offered in each unit. A continental breakfast is available daily at the lodge. Les Barracudas offers an outdoor pool.
The accommodation has a garden to relax in after a busy day, along with a a private beach area. This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Sokone! Guests are happier about it compared to other properties in the area.
Les calaos du saloum
It features a garden and bar, Situated in Sokone. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and luggage storage space, along with free Wi-Fi. Staff on site can arrange airport transfers. The rooms are equipped with a private bathroom with free toiletries.
This offers free Wi-Fi in all areas, a terrace and an outdoor swimming pool with sunbeds, Located in Toubakouta. Excursions and guided tours can be arranged at the property. Featuring garden or river views, all accommodations are fitted with air-conditioning.
Each unit includes a private bathroom fitted with shower. Guest can enjoy local and international dishes at the property restaurant. A range of drinks is provided at the bar. Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport is 254 km from the property. Free private parking is possible on site.
Set in Toubakouta, within 15 km of Fathala Wildlife Reserve and 16 km of Reserve de Fathala, Les Palétuviers provides accommodation with free Wi-Fi. This 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom.
The property features a year-round outdoor pool and a 24-hour front desk. At Les Paletuviers, all rooms are fitted with a terrace.
The units feature a desk. Breakfast is available every morning, and includes continental and Full English/Irish options. You can play table tennis and darts at Les Palétuviers.
Le Bonobo Lodge
This provides a restaurant and free Wi-Fi, 14 km from Fathala Wildlife Reserve and 15 km from Reserve de Fathala. A continental breakfast is served daily at the property. The lodge offers a year-round outdoor pool.
Le Bonobo Lodge offers a terrace. Delta du Saloum National Park is 22 km from the accommodation. This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Toubakouta! Guests are happier about it compared to other properties in the area.
Situated in Toubakouta, within 15 km of Fathala Wildlife Reserve and 16 km of Reserve de Fathala, La kora offers accommodation with a garden, free Wi-Fi. Offering a terrace, the property is located within 21 km of Delta du Saloum National Park.
The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk and currency exchange for guests. At the guest house, the rooms have a wardrobe. A continental breakfast is served daily at the property.
14 km from Fathala Wildlife Reserve, chez l’artiste features accommodation in Toubakouta with access to an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour front desk. The property is 16 km from Reserve de Fathala and 22 km from Delta du Saloum National Park.
This villa has 2 bedrooms, a living room and a fully equipped kitchen with an oven and a microwave. The villa also offers a bathroom with a shower. Guests can also relax in the garden.