If not, it should be!
Here are my top 12 things to see from my two week trip to Senegal:
1. African Renaissance Monument & Museum
This monument is 160ft high (49m) and was meant to symbolize the triumph of African liberation. There was a lot of controversy around the statue because of the millions of dollars spent to build it, as well as the amount of nudity on display, which did not sit well with the majority Muslim community. Inside the monument is a museum on African & Black History. It costs 6500CFA for entry ($11USD) which also gives you access to the top of the monument overlooking Dakar. The museum features African art, cultural artifacts, musical items, attire, sports, and hunting tools.
2. Goree Island
You have to take a ferry to Goree Island. It costs 5200CFA ($9USD) for a roundtrip ride. It’s a double-decker ferry so you can choose your seat to sit upstairs where you’ll get the best view but keep in mind that there’s not much shade and it gets quite sunny. Once you get to Goree Island, you will be amazed at the bright and colorful buildings, however, they mask a very dark and painful history as Goree Island used to be the largest slave-trading center on the African coast from the 15th to 19th century. It used to be ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French. Its architecture is characterized by the contrast between the grim slave quarters and the elegant houses of the slave traders. The painful memories of the Atlantic Slave trade are crystallized in this small island. It costs 500CFA (less than $1USD) to enter the slave house which is now a museum. Inside you will see the various cells which used to be slave quarters that had no toilets, so slaves had to go to the bathroom in their cells. 20 million slaves passed through the island and 6 million died on route. The “door of return” is where millions of slaves passed through to be shipped to the Caribbean & America.
3. Ngor Island
You have to take a small fishing boat to Ngor Island, about 10 minutes and it costs 500CFA (less than $1USD). The island is a colorful haven for artists, surfers, and locals looking for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. With no motorized vehicles and electricity exclusively from solar power, the culture of the island is nothing short of warm, welcoming, and open. You’ll find amazing artwork everywhere and vibrant music playing as you walk through. There’s a boat-shaped building which is an orphanage called Ecole Maison Du Bonheur, also called “The Home of Happiness” which serves and houses the poorest children by helping them financially to be schooled and by offering them free artistic workshops. You’ll see the children’s artwork on the walls, painted in bright colors. You can learn more by visiting ecolemaisondubonheur.com
4. Queen Sipo
It was quite an honor and privilege to meet the Queen of a small village in Senegal called Sipo. Going strong at 97 years old, Fatou Mané, known as “Queen Sipo” has been ruling her village for more than 75 years!
She is the only Queen in the region of Toubacouta as other villages are run by chief men. Unfortunately, there won’t be another Queen as her successor is her eldest son.
Dressed in a green & white headscarf and a multi-printed blouse & skirt, Queen Sipo greeted my friend, and me with outstretched arms.
I immediately felt her warmth, strong presence, and sense of peace. She was quite fascinated by my African jewelry and held my hand gently while admiring my bracelets & necklace.
It was an even more special moment when she bowed her head while holding my hands and prayed for me.
This was one of my most favorite and cherished experiences from my Senegal trip. If you missed my visit, you can see the entire experience in my highlights.
She also prayed for us which was so special. She’s known as the guardian of sacred wood & a healer within the village. Many people stop at her house to receive her prayers.
5. Sine Saloum Delta
A scenic four drive south from Dakar, a 35-minute boat ride. Toubakouta has a population of about 5,000 people and only 150 people live on the island of Sipo. Sipo is the only village that has a Queen usually, they are run by village chief men. She’s been the head of the village for more than 45 years now.
6. Fathala Wildlife Reserve
What a great experience this was, you literally just follow the lions and walk wherever they decide to go. These two stopped in the shade to rest & Simba decided to climb the tree, YES, climb the tree. I didn’t even know lions could climb trees . . . but he’s pretty skilled at it!
I felt fierce, but, let me share with you that right after one of my photoshoots, Simba decided to jump down! I almost ran like a crazy woman! BUT I kept my cool and my brain kicked in and said “just walk, Lisa”, I walked slowly but fast. That was such a tense moment for me!
7. Salt Wells
There was so much salt laying around, it was leftover salt after packaging all the bags for sale. There were so many bags of salt ready to go, they sent them to Differ (a fishing village) to sell in the market. As well as salt fish and escargot (snails). Not too far away from the salt wells, you’ll find a lake with a few granarys that are used to store wheat & sometimes salt.
8. Djiffer Fishing Village
After the salt wells, we headed to the fishing village of Djiffer. Every time a boat comes in from the sea, people rush towards it to try and buy the best fish to sell at the market. They use the salt from the salt wells to salt fish, snails, sharks, stingrays, and more. After they salt the fish, the next step is to smoke the fish, which is covered with zinc and smoked all day long.
9. Phare de Mamelle
Beautiful rooftop spot to catch the sunset, have a drink or dinner and listen to live music.
10. Copacabana Surf Village
Time to warm up those muscles before you surf. We were land surfing first, learning how to get up on the surfboards, it felt like we did it a million times before we could go into the water! When you enter the water with your surfboard, always make sure it’s behind you because you will get smacked in the face. Yes, I learned the hard way! You will have quite a few wipeouts, another note to self moment . . . don’t go surfing with long nails! UGH, I broke like 3 of them, and the last one hurt, bad! After a great day, surfing was a success and we had so much fun!
Owned by local surf instructor Babacar, it's considered one of the best beaches where you can learn surfing. There's also a restaurant with amazing views of the ocean. The "poisson yassa" is a must-try!
11. Mosque of the Divinity
This is the Mosque of the Divinity (Mosque de la Divinti(e), unveiled in 1997, an important Muslim pilgrimage site and a breathtaking point of interest for curious travelers. From the top of the surrounding cliffs, the view looking out over the mosque backdropped by the ocean is picture-perfect. The inside is not open to non-Muslim visitors, but the view of the picturesque exterior is worth seeing.
The beach by the mosque is great for swimming, surfing, and the local fisherman sell fresh fish in the late afternoon. A fun fact, wrestling is the national sport of Senegal and everywhere you go, you’ll see kids and young men practicing to wrestle.
12. Plage de Mamelles
We stopped at this cute beach bar for food & drinks. It was low-key, I was sad to leave. I had my final meal in Senegal so of course, I had to eat fish!
Of all the countries I’ve visited, I hands down saw some of the most amazing sunrises & sunsets in Senegal. It was an amazing two weeks and I truly loved every single moment of my time here. I know for sure I’ll be back later. If you want to join me on our next trip, email me and I will get you added to our interest list for details.