Tour to Senegal & Gambia : Between forests and savanna

NATURE. We move across an incredible variety of natural environments such desert dunes, savanna, forest, mangrove swamps. North to south is also the route of migratory birds, a constant presence along the whole journey. Djoudj in Senegal is one of the main migratory birds’ sanctuary on earth and Gambia is a well-known birding destination.

HISTORY, PREHISTORY & TIME LESS VILLAGES. We will discover historical sites as Goré ancient slave-trade island, Saint Louis – the first colonial capital of “French West Africa”. Dakar, contemporary large capital and African intellectual center since the time before the independence. We will experience the meeting with “Timeless” people as Nomadic herders and remote villages and discover a prehistoric sites, with thousand mysterious stone craved monoliths.

ART, CULTURE & MUSIC. In the northern savannah we will be invited at the camp of nomadic herders and  we will meet with the largest religious and peaceful brotherhood that practices an African form of Islam that rejects fundamentalism and violence. In the south, we will be introduced to animistic traditional religions, tribal kings, dancing masks and remote tribes who still worshiping ancestor statues; a unique chance to enjoy tribal art in is original contest. In the animistic Casamance region we will witness at the celebrations of Diola mask, the incarnation of mythical spirits… Masquerade is a unique experience that involves the participation of the entire village in an intense mixt of magic, music, and dances. We will focus also on contemporary art and music: Dakar has always been the cultural capital of West Africa, a melting pot of painters and sculptors from the whole continent.

  • Duration: 10 days
  • Guide: English speaking
Price from 2 421 € Send request
Day 1

Dakar, the capital

Arrival in Dakar and transfer to the hotel.

Day 2

Dakar contemporary art metropolis & Goré

Dakar became the center of political, artistic and intellectual “renouveau” from independence time. Visit of the “Plateau” district, the Governor Palace and some interesting markets as Kermel built in pure colonial style. Lunch in a typical restaurant.

Arrival at the port of Dakar to board a ferry and spend a night in Gore Island.

In Goré slaves used to be crammed and then shipped to the Americas. The town is totally restored to bear witness of those ancient times, however thanks to the nice breeze, the ancient architecture, the many restaurants and boutiques; Goré today has become a very pleasant and trendy location.

Day 3

Gorè, Lac Rose and fisherman villages

Waking up in Goré before the crowd arrives is a pleasure, as strolling in the tiny stone paved alleys of this historical settlement.

Ferry to Dakar and drive to Lac Rose, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes, also known as Lac Retba. The water is ten times saltier than in the ocean and thanks to this high concentration the lake often shimmers into pink. Workers here collect salt in the traditional way. Along the coast we discover the largest fisherman village in Senegal, more than 4500 wooden painted pirogues come to the shore with the catch of the day… We will leave our vehicles for a less intrusive, but fun, donkey chariot to approach the fisherman selling to the local market women, to meet the artisans craving the large pirogues, the painters decorating them with bright colors and if  we are lucky the “local saint” for final blessing before sailing…

At the edge of Lampoul Desert, some 4WD vehicles will be waiting to cross the dunes and take us at our fix camp.

Day 4

Saint Louis

Saint Louis is a charming old town which was the first capital of West Africa French colonies (AOF). It has been the former base of the “Aeropostale” airmail pioneer operation between Europe, Africa and South America. Saint Exupéry, the famous author of “The Little Prince”, was one of Aeropostale pilot following this route. The best way to visit the narrow lanes of Saint Louis is by calash, just as locals do, and walk in the fisherman quarters. Time to stroll in the tiny avenues and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this old town.

We will spend the night at the historic hotel of the town – built in 1895 and now fully renovated – it was here that all Aeropostale pilots use to stay.

Day 5

Bird sanctuary & Nomadic tribes

Early morning departure northwards to discover Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj), a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This “humid paradise” – the best habitat and nesting site for over a million of migratory and resident birds – lies on the southeastern bank of the Senegal River and offers a range of wetland habitats that are very popular among migrating birds, many of which get here after crossing the Sahara. Out of more than 400 species, pelicans and flamingos are the most common, whereas aquatic warblers are a bit less conspicuous – migrating here from Europe, this park is their single most important wintering site yet discovered. Apart from birds there is also a wide range of wildlife such as warthog and crocodiles. Motorboat excursion leaded by a local guide-ornithologist

In the afternoon continuation to the Ferlo Desert to discover the arid region where nomadic Fulani tribes herds large droves of zebu. The Fulani (also called Peul) are the largest tribe roaming West African savannahs, living in a vast area from Senegal to Chad. Their origins are still covered with mystery, but they all share a common and aristocratic cult for beauty and elegance.

In the afternoon a local guide will join us for a visit to the neighboring villages and shelters. When the herds come back, we might even be invited to witness the milking process.

Day 6

Tuba Brotherhood

The rarely visited holy town of Tuba (Touba) is the right place to appreciate the hospitality of an African brotherhood. Tuba inhabitants follow Mouridism and the town itself is a sort of theocratic “state within the state”, ruled by a Caliph. The founder of Mouridi brotherhood was a Sufi named Amhadou Bàmba Mbake and still today the Mouridi have a large social and economic impact in Senegal: thanks to their peaceful (and African) vision of Islam, Mouridism has become the bastion that protects Senegal from radical Islam. During the annual festival the town is visited by four million pilgrims. Mouridi welcome any interest in their traditions yet since Tuba is a sacred town, all visitors should show respect for traditional rules, therefore we must apply a considerate dress code, not smoke, not drink alcohol and not listen to music during the visit. If we follow these simple rules, we will be welcomed. Baye Fall, a member of a colorful branch of Mouridism, will accompany us during the visit.

Day 7

Stone cercles

Early departure, we will leave the main road to discover the unique megalithic site of Sine Ngayene composed by 52 circles of erected stones, including a double circle. UNESCO has included the 1102 carved stones in its program.

After Gambia border formalities, we will drive to the northern banks of Gambia estuary where we will join a ferry with a colourful crowd to cross this large river.

We will shore at Banjul and arrival to Senegambia hotel: the first hotel that has open the country to tourism. It is located in a large and lush park where it is easy to encounter birds and monkeys that roams freely…often even in the reception. It will be Friday evening, lunch in a restaurant before roaming from club to club to enjoy vibrant music and African style of enjoy.

Day 8

 Gambian birds

With an ornithological guide we will discover different species of African birds in their habitat. Visit the National museum focused on different aspect of the country: from archaeology to recent history, to art, music and photography. Lunch and in the afternoon drive to the southern border whit Casamance region of Senegal.

Day 9

Sacred kings

We will leave the main road to visit an adobe-fortified building still inhabited by a large patriarchal Diola family, a very interesting example of traditional African “sculptural architecture”. These large clay and wooden fortified houses, where light comes from a central hole in the roof, are known as “impluvium houses” and had the function to protect its dwellers from outside attacks.

We will be received by the king of a Diola Kingdom. After the protocol salutations the king, that is also the high priest holding both political and mystical power, will answer our questions on the traditional rules in Diola society.

In the afternoon we follow an isolated path to a tiny village and … masks leave the sacred forest (where only initiated are admitted) to dance for an enthusiastic local crowd. Masks are part of the animistic Diola culture and Malinké traditions – people fear and respect masks, consider them spirits who play an important role in solving conflicts between villagers.

Day 10

Ancestors’ cult

Transfer to the airport to board a spectacular flight to Dakar over river estuaries and the Atlantic coast.

Arrival in Dakar and assistance for last shopping.

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