Those on the group flights arrive this evening and will be transferred to our start hotel in the centre of Dakar.
This morning we have an optional city tour of Dakar visiting Monument de la Renaisssance, the Presidential Palace, the largest Cathedral in Dakar and the IFAN Museum (please note that entrance fees to the Renaissance Monument and IFAN Museum are not included). In the afternoon we take the ferry (20 minutes) to Ile de Goree, also known as the Slave Island. The infamous island, which played a pivotal role in the transatlantic slave trade, is today a Unesco World Heritage site and commemorates a very dark chapter in human history. The peaceful island, with its quiet narrow roads (there are no cars on the island) and colonial buildings adorned with bougainvillea flowers, seems an unlikely setting for the tumultuous events that the island witnessed in the past. After lunch in a local restaurant, we visit the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves), with its famous Door of No Return, and walk to the fortress which guarded the sea around Dakar from attack by the allies during WWII. Please note that we may have to swap over the visits of Goree Island and Lac Rose at short notice but you will still visit both sites.
This morning we drive to Lac Rose (Pink Lake), named after the waters which used to appear a striking shade of pink because of the high concentration of cyanobacteria. The lake is known for its high concentration of salt (10 times higher than the Atlantic Ocean), and local people mine the salt for sale in Dakar and neighbouring countries. The sand dunes which surround the lake were once the finishing point of the Paris-Dakar rally, and there is an optional trip in a 4WD truck to further explore the lake, the dunes and a nearby Fulani village. We later continue on to St Louis, a colourful colonial city, full of derelict charm and the first French settlement in Africa. Its buildings have preserved their character and are testament to the important role played by the city in the past when it was the capital of Senegal.
In the morning we drive to Djoudj National Park (80 km, approximately 1 hour drive), one of the largest bird sanctuary in the world and one of the highlights of our trip. This Unesco Heritage Site, is home to 3,000,000 migratory birds from November to April and is a paradise for bird-lovers with its colony of pelicans, flamingos and an incredible variety of other birds such as cormorants, herons, harriers, and egrets amongst others. We explore the park by motorised boat, and then drive to a viewpoint for a panoramic view over the beautiful colony of flamingos that have settled here.
We have a walking tour of the city to see the mosque, cathedral and former presidential palace which is still used as the residence and offices of the current governor of St. Louis. We walk through the town's cobbled streets, soaking in the French colonial architectural style from a bygone age and cross onto the adjacent Langue de Barbarie to see the hustle and bustle of the lively fishing district. In the afternoon we drive to the village of Lompoul, where we take 4WD vehicles to our camp in the vast sand-dune fields. There is time for an optional camel ride amongst the dunes (some up to 30m high), or to simply stroll through the desert before sunset. You should bring an overnight bag containing just what you need for the night in the desert - your main luggage will be stored in the village of Lompoul.
Today we have a long drive (approx. 10 hours) across Senegal to remote southeast Senegal. One of the most interesting regions of the country, it is home to Bassari and Bedik peoples as well as the Madingas from neighbouring Mali, Guinea and Gambia. We stop en route to visit the holy city of Touba with its great Mosque which, as the holy centre of the Mouride Sufi brotherhood, plays an extremely important part in the religious life of Senegal. We arrive at Wassadou, idyllically situated along the Gambia River, in the late afternoon and settle in to our basic yet comfortable riverside camp.
This morning we will take a boat ride in search of hippos and crocodiles as well as the birds and baboons that fill the forests which line the banks of the river. As the boat holds only 6 passengers, we may have to split the group up. In the afternoon we head to Kedougou. The city whose name translates from Mandiga as 'Land of my father, is the centre of the Bassari country.
This morning visit the traditional Bedik village of Iwol. This is a unique opportunity to meet this fascinating tribe and learn about their culture, traditions and rituals. We drive for under an hour from Kedougou to the start of the path up to the village - from here it's a steady climb up the cliff along an uneven path taking aproximately one hour. This ethnic group escaped from Mali in the 12th century when the Fulani King Alpha Yaya Diallo wanted to convert them to Islam and settled themselves behind the mountains of Kedougou. This is one of the few Bedik village in the country and its 500-odd Christian-animist inhabitants live in a cluster of thatched mud huts next to a sacred 500 year old Baobab tree. The Bedik women wear rings and porcupine needles through their noses and colourful beads around their necks. Please note that this walk can be challenging due to the heat (especially in March-May) and the gradient of the path, and it may not be suitable for those with knee problems or those who are not confident in their level of fitness. We continue our journey and head to the Dindefelo Waterfalls. These falls, at their fullest in November, are approximately 100m high and surrounded by lush forest. After a walk of around 45 minutes along a rocky path, we reach the waterfalls and have the option to go for a swim before our picnic lunch and our return to Kedougou.
Today we have a long drive to Gambia (approximately 9 hours including border formalities), stopping for a picnic lunch near Velingara. Whilst the road is mostly in good condition, the short stretch from Velingara to Georgetown (around 30 miles) is in a poor state of repair and is consequently extremely bumpy. We arrive at our riverside camp in Georgetown in the late afternoon. Please note this is the most basic accommodation on the trip.
We depart early this morning for a half day boat excursion on the Gambia River. The birdlife along the river is especially rich and varied, and we should see fish eagles, weaver bird colonies, and rollers as well as egrets and herons. Along the way we pass Baboon Island Park where we normally see monkeys and even, sometimes, chimpanzees. We disembark close to Wassu Stone Circles - although their exact purpose is not known, these megalithic monuments were probably used to mark burial grounds. Despite the fact that stone circles can be found in Europe and the Middle East, the concentration of these fascinating monuments is particularly high in Senegambia, showing the existence of a highly organised society and a complex culture. The stones were skilfully shaped into cylindrical or polygonal shapes and their height varies from 1 to 2.5 metres, and some weigh as much as 10 tons. After visiting the stone circles we get back on the boat and return to Georgetown. From here we drive approximately 2.5hrs to Tendaba where we spend the night.
This morning we continue our drive along Southern Gambia on our way to Toubakouta making a number of stops along the way. We first stop at Makusutu Cultural Forest for a nature walk, some palm-wine tasting and short trip in the mangroves. We then continue onto Lamin fish-farm and water gardens before finally arriving in Banjul. Gambia's vibrant capital city. Whilst our bus queues for the ferry crossing to the north bank of the river we explore the city on foot. Crossing the river we arrive at the border and re-enter Senegal before finally driving the short distance to Toubakouta.
The morning and early afternoon are free to relax or take an optional boat ride to Sipo island. In the late afternoon we take a boat ride to discover the spectacular mangroves and wildlife of the Sine Saloum Delta, one of Senegal's most beautiful areas. Formed by the Saloum and the Sine rivers, this delta is a paradise for birdwatching and we can observe flocks of birds (notably egrets and kingfishers) returning to their roosting sites as the light fades.
Today we drive to the twin community of Joal-Fadiout. Joal, on the mainland, is a largely muslim village, whilst a short walk over a wooden bridge takes us to the unique island of Fadiout, mainly inhabited by Christians. Fadiout is almost entirely made of oyster and clam shells - the houses, cemetery and roads are covered with shells and no cars are allowed on this beautiful and relaxed island. In the afternoon we drive to Saly, a renowned coastal resort, where the rest of the day is at leisure to relax on the beach or by the pool.
Today has been left free for relaxation on the beach or to take one of the optional activities on offer (quad biking, jet skiing, Bandia Nature Reserve). For those who wish, in the morning, we visit the fishing village of M'Bour to see hundreds of colourful fishing boats returning with their catch, and enjoy a walk around the lively local market. There are a few hotel rooms available for you to freshen up (1 room for every 4 clients). The tour ends in Saly or you can join the evening transfer to Dakar airport and end in Dakar.
Arrive in London.