Sparsely populated and predominantly occupied by deserts, West Africa is probably the least well known tourist region of the continent. Senegal is located between dry and barren deserts and fertile savannah, covered with tropical vegetation. Here you can see Africa in a way you’ve always imagined it. The amazing wildlife of this small Atlantic state leaves breathless the thirst for adventure travellers and provides excellent opportunities for an active vacation amidst the wilderness.
Geographic location, boundaries and size. Senegal covers an area of 196,190 sq.km. It is located on the Atlantic coast in the western parts of the African continent. It is situated between 12.18 and 16.41°N and between 11.21 and 17.31°W.
Cape Almada is the westernmost point not only in Senegal but also in mainland Africa. Senegal borders with Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. The small African country of Gambia falls entirely within the territory of Senegal.
Climate of Senegal. Senegal falls within the subequatorial climate zone. There are two distinct seasons – dry and wet. The dry season lasts from November to May, coinciding with the winter months in the northern hemisphere.
Usually nor a drop of rain falls during the dry season in Senegal. The rainy season is shorter and lasts from June to October. With about 250 mm August is the rainiest month of the year.
Temperatures are consistently high and vary from 25°C during the dry season to 30°C during the rainy season. Nights are also very warm – between 17°C and 25°C. The combination of high humidity and high temperatures during the rainy season makes climatic conditions quite unpleasant.
Geography of Senegal. Senegal is a flat country covered with extensive savannas. It is divided into a northern dry and southern humid part.
To the north there is relatively sparse vegetation, while the large amounts of rainfall in southern Senegal provide good conditions for development of lush vegetation.
In the south-western part of the country around the Casamans River the savannah turns into a subequatorial rain forest. Senegal has low altitude, and the only higher relief forms are low mountains located in the south-east.
Here is the highest peak in Senegal. The peak has no name and rises to only 581 m. altitude. Senegalese coastline is slightly indented with the exception of the peninsula of Cap Vert.
Economy. Senegal is a developing country. In comparison with the surrounding states, it has much better developed economy. Over two thirds of the employed work is occupied in agriculture and the remaining one third is divided among all other sectors of the economy.
Senegal produces different kinds of vegetables, tropical fruits and grains. The most popular crops are rice, beans, corn, peanuts, bananas, cassava, sorghum, millet, mangoes, yams (sweet potatoes), oil palm, sugar cane and rice.
Important to the economy of Senegal is the extraction of timber, gold and chrome, the production of calcium phosphate and various chemicals, oil refining, production of peanut butter, fishing and fish-canning industry.
Special place in the economy of Senegal takes the tourist industry, which in recent years experienced a great progress. The official currency of Senegal is the CFA franc, also known as the West African franc.
It is also used by many other countries in Africa, including some neighbors of Senegal such as Mali and Guinea-Bissau.
Population. Senegal’s population is estimated at more than 12.5 million inhabitants and is still growing very rapidly. It consists mainly of Sunni Muslims. Official language is French, although some other languages are also quite common (Wolof, Serer and Fulbhe).
The majority of the population consists of black, although there is also a small number of Arabs who predominate in the region of the Sahara desert as well as some other smaller ethnic groups.
Most of the Senegalese inhabit the cities, but in the countryside live over 40% of local residents. The largest city in the country is the capital Dakar. The capital’s agglomeration has a population of nearly 2.5 million people.
Tourism in Senegal. Senegal is known as the most easily accessible country in West Africa. In addition to the regular flights arriving from different parts of the world, Senegal is known as the country with the best infrastructure in the region.
It has relatively high road and rail network density and good quality of communications. Therefore, travelling in Senegal is relatively easy and if you have visited some of the neighboring countries, you will find that the difference is noticeable.
If you decide to rent a car (this is always the most comfortable and convenient decision) you should pay attention to the speed, because the likelihood of crossing wild animal is significant and this can cause an accident.
The capital Dakar is the largest and most modern city in Senegal. It is situated on the Cap Vert peninsula on the Atlantic coast. The city wears typical African spirit with a slight European flair.
Walking on the streets you will maybe have a strange feeling of chaos. There are many people, everything is colourful (people’s clothing, buses, advertising boards, buildings), traders keep their goods directly on the ground.
Many people have unrealistic expectations hearing that the Dakar’s infrastructure is probably the best in West Africa. Although in this respect the country is quite different in comparison with its neighbors, do not forget that Africa is not Europe or Australia.
On the streets outside the city center often there are no side walks and sometimes the road surface is completely missing. However, south of the port the city changes rapidly. In this part of Dakar is located the city center and everything looks different.
The buildings are well maintained and the infrastructure is good. Here are all the diplomatic and administrative buildings. This is the face of Senegal to the world. The biggest attractions of the city are the Catholic Cathedral and the Grand Mosque, which represent the religious life of Dakar.
Senegal has many advantages. Over 500 km long coastline is occupied by endless beaches, covered with bright, golden, and sometimes orange sand. And though the sea is almost ever rough, there are still wonderful places for sunbathing and swimming.
The most famous resort in the country is Sally (Sally-Portugal). It is located less than 50 km south of the capital Dakar, and is known as the West African Riviera.
Sally-Portugal offers its guests a huge variety of accommodation opportunities in a hotel, villa or bungalow, according to their preferences and depending on their financial capabilities.
Here visitors could play golf or just lounge on the beach or near the swimming pool. Luxury hotels and villas are located in beautiful and fragrant exotic tropical vegetation. Besides Sally-Portugal, in various parts of Senegal there are many other smaller resorts that offer a variety of accommodation options.
Senegal is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in West Africa and the most beautiful country in this part of the continent.
This place attracts visitors with its wild and unspoiled nature and purity. Local flora and fauna are preserved within 4 national parks (2 marine) and 4 reserves. One of the places that are particularly interesting is the Niokolo-Koba National Park.
It is located in south-eastern Senegal and has an extremely diverse landscape. The park is a colorful mix of forests, savannas, rivers and lakes. Here you will find beautiful animals in their natural environment.
Here, visitors can see hippos, various antelopes and monkeys, wild boars, lions, leopards, few types of African crocodiles, elephants, giraffes and white rhinos, which traditionally occur rarely in this part of Africa.
The only flaw to go on a Safari in Senegal is the presence of pesky insects (especially mosquitoes). Therefore it is better to avoid the rainy season and to use mosquito preparation.
The cuisine of Senegal. The cuisine of Senegal is considered to be a combination of French and West African, but many people feel a slight Moroccan influence. It is often described as one of the most diverse in this part of the continent.
The reason lies in the diversity of ways to prepare Senegalese food. Perhaps the most common feature is the extensive use of peanuts in most dishes. This is not surprising since this is the most popular crop grown in the country.
Another characteristic is that many local dishes are served fried (fried bananas, fried fish balls in tomato sauce and so on). Meat is also regularly consumed (chicken, lamb, beef and especially fish).
The consumption of pork meat is not very popular from a religious point of view. Senegalese usually consume large quantities of rice and corn. The country is known for its variety of pastries and jams, which are usually prepared on the base of fresh tropical fruits that thrive here.
It is advisable to be very careful with the food you buy and eat. Carefully select the place to eat! Make sure that the hygiene is good.
When to visit Senegal? The best time to visit Senegal is during the period from December to April when temperatures are lower and rainfall – scarce.
Major event with international significance is the final part of the Paris – Dakar Rally, which ends in the Senegal’s capital in January and really worth seeing.
In addition, each year on the 4th of April locals celebrate the Independence Day. Military parade is organized in the capital of Senegal and people celebrate in all across the country.