The group flights arrive in Dakar early this morning. After some time at our hotel to sleep and freshen up, there is an optional city tour of the lively city of Dakar (included in the package price). Alternatively you may wish to stay at the hotel and relax after the flight. In the afternoon we drive to Lac Rose (Pink Lake), named after the waters which can appear a striking shade of pink because of the high concentration of cyanobacteria. This phenomenon cannot always be observed, but it becomes particularly evident during the dry season or depending on the atmospheric conditions. The lake is also known for its high concentration of salt (10 times higher than the Atlantic Ocean), and local people mine the salt for sale in Dakar. 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.
This morning we take the early 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 breakfast 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. In the afternoon we drive to the village of Lompoul, where we take 4WD vehicles to our camp in the desert. There is time for an optional camel ride amongst the dunes (some up to 40m 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 Lompoul.
In the morning we leave camp and drive to St Louis, a colourful colonial city 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. After lunch we have a walking tour of the city to see the mosque, cathedral and former presidential palace, and we cross onto the adjacent Langue de Barbarie to see the hustle and bustle of the lively fishing district.
In the morning we drive to Djoudj National Park (80 km, approximately 1 hour drive), the second 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.
Today we have a long drive (approx. 10 hours) across Senegal to remote southeast Senegal, one of the most interesting regions of the country. We stop en route to visit the holy city of Touba with its great Mosque which plays an extremely important part in the religious life of Senegal. We arrive at Wassadou in the late afternoon and settle in to our basic yet comfortable riverside camp.
This morning we will get take a boat ride in search of hippos and crocodiles as well as the birds, baboons and monkeys that fill the forests which line the banks of the river. We will then take a game drive through the forest in search and hopefully see a multitude of birds, as well as warthogs, deer and antelopes. Though not comparable with the incredibly prolific East African parks such as the Masai Mara and the Serengeti, Niokolo Koba N.P. is one of the largest parks in West Africa and it offers a great variety of scenery within its borders. You should note that the roads within the park are in poor condition and bumpy. We leave the park in the afternoon and head to Kedougou, the center 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 an hour from Kedougou to the start of the path up to the village - the walk takes approximately an hour, and the path is quite steep and uneven. 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 only Bedik village in the country and its 500 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 steepness 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 raod 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. 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 a short stop at the stone circles we continue our journey to our camp at Tendaba, crossing the Gambia River by ferry.
Today we take the ferry back over the river and drive into Senegal. We arrive in Toubakouta for lunch, and after some time to relax we take a boat ride in the late afternoon 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 Siin 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 (fishing, jet skiing, Bandia Nature Reserve). In the late afternoon 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), before we head to the airport in the late evening for our return flight to London.