The westernmost point on the African continent, Senegal is a place of natural beauty, bustling cities and a complex history. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, firmly placed within Western Africa, our Senegal tours highlight a rich pre-history as well as showcase one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world.
The early days of inhabitation, Senegal was home to African kingdoms that emerged in the 7th century. Several regional groups had control over the region when the Portuguese Europeans first made contact in the 15th century. Originally searching for gold, in the mid-15th century different European empires such as the French, Dutch and British started vying for land and power within Senegal’s modern borders.
Trading posts were set up but it was the dark history of the slave trade that would ravage this country like no other trade. Places such as Goree, a World Heritage site (UNESCO) became infamous for being one of the main gathering and embarkation points for millions of enslaved Africans who were crammed into ships and sent to the Americas. On the island, is the House of Slaves where captives were chained in tiny cells waiting to be shipped overseas. These slaves were acquired by the French who bought slaves from warring nations on the mainland. While there is no official count and Goree is far from the largest port of exit, it is believed that 12 million Africans were sold in the slave trade and transported across the Atlantic Ocean forced to work hard labour in the New World.
Until 1958, Senegal was part of the French empire and the current capital of Dakar has a decidedly French flair to it. Prior to 1958 the capital was the historic Saint-Louis which was the capital of French-administered Mauritania and Senegal. At the height of the French period some 4,000 French nationals lived here.
Beyond the cities, Senegal is home to one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries known as Djouj National Park. Situated on a major migratory route, this park is a paradise for bird enthusiasts and was awarded World Heritage status and a World Biosphere Reserve. Some of the world's greatest concentrations of white pelicans and other migratory birds can be seen here. On our Senegal tours, we board a motorized boat and cruise along the splendid waterways to observe the immensely rich birdlife.
The vast areas of marshes and wetlands along the Senegal River has its source in the Fouta Djalon Mountains of Guinee (where the great Niger River also rises) and marks the border between Senegal and its northern neighbour, Mauritania. Nature lovers also enjoy a stop at Rose Lake, a naturally pink hued lake caused by the high salinity and a non harmful bacteria that grows within it. Due to its high salinity, Rose Lake is a center of salt extraction where traditional methods are still in use.
Senegal tours and West Africa tours introduce the intrepid traveller to a place with many peoples, exciting landscapes and a long history worth learning about.