Among all the things to see and do near Dakar, Senegal, there are two that usually stand out. Those are the Pink Lake and the Gorée Island. They may sound touristy, but in reality, Pink Lake was almost deserted when we visited it (only a few salt workers in their daily duties), and Gorée Island welcomed a half-full ferry of visitors, which was far from our perception for a “touristy place”. The bottom line: go visit Dakar and its markets, the Pink Lake and its salty hills, the Gorée Island and its painful memories from slavery.
We set off to the Pink Lake (Lac Rose). It turns pink because of the combination of bacteria in it, some wind and sun. It’s one of the most colorful places on Earth to visit.
We’re lucky. Boats with flags of Senegal sail in the pink waters to extract salt. This is the only place in the country where you can do this without paying a fee. So here you can see guests from other countries. There is salt for everybody so far. The bottom has 1 meter of water and a meter and a half of salt. Men with shovels dig firmly in the middle of the lake. On the coast, there are literally piles of salt.
This beauty used to be the finish of the Paris-Dakar rally before the race moved to South America.
This happened because of the harsh desert in northern Africa causing some deaths. We get on an old-school jeep and start rushing through the sand. First, we go around the lake, then we hop on and off sand dunes, pass through a small village, then through a forest and finally, we go out on a huge beach next to large ocean waves. The beach is long as far as the eye could see, there is a single old man with luggage on the enormous beach. Such a thing we were lucky to see in New Zealand, the 90 Mile beach. Wow!
Dusty and happy we end the adventure with lunch in a huge and empty hotel complex with its typical houses.
There are plenty of horror stories how slaves were “handled” and “treated” on the island before they sent them to North and South America. You can visit the Museum of Slavery to become speechless and breathless and empathize with the unfortunate past. There is an exit door called “the point of no return” – some people preferred to drown or get eaten by sharks rather than be slaves in an unknown place without their families for life.
Nowadays we can still notice how we, people, are slaves not to other people, but to money. That’s why, ironically, on the island of Gorée, you can see a “black” child diving into the sea to get a penny, thrown by an old “white” man.
On the positive side, we chatted with a nice lady-merchant – we exchanged stories of our backgrounds, business ideas, and eventually, we got a souvenir or two from her. Of course, we bargained a little to keep the good mood on.
We continue to Dakar, where we tour the administrative center, then two of the most popular markets and end after dark with the huge statue of the Renaissance.
Last days in a place are always associated with many energy given away in markets in search of the best gift at the best price. But hardly the art of bargaining will be ever going to get us tired …
We conclude with dinner in a pizzeria with our guides Ali and Tafa. We have become family for the past six days. It’s time to let them go to go to their real families. See you soon!
Do it yourself
This post contains information on how to plan a trip to Senegal, details of visas, security, etc.
Independent travel around the area can be done if you speak fluent French and if you can speak Wolof or other local dialects. Otherwise, it would be quite adventurous. Allow yourself more time if you still decide to go for that adventure. We choose the Andaando tours to take us around the country and share their local stories with us.
What’s left for our next visit in Senegal? The south of the country, which is located south of Gambia – the area is called Casamance. It is supposed to be very beautiful and quite different. Do you think borders can drastically change people and cultures?
Feeling adventurous? Want to explore traditions of other cultures? Subscribe to our YouTube channel for some real action!