Senegal is ‘The Country of Teranga’. Teranga, if you didn’t know, means hospitality in the local tongue of Wolof, and you will indeed find this to be one of the friendliest spots in West Africa. Don’t be surprised to find yourself being invited into someone’s home to eat one of many mouthwatering dishes.
A simple wander around the local markets will unearth handmade fabrics and authentic arts and crafts, while on almost every street corner in the towns and cities you’ll find musicians full of energy. You’ll also be tempted into bustling locales serving up rich cuisine influenced by the Maghrebis, French and Portuguese.
Most visitors land in Dakar, the chaotic, fast-growing capital, which despite its great nightlife and restaurants, can give you a bad first impression of the country. Golden beaches are a stone’s throw away, however, while to the north are the mighty Baobab trees of the Sahel.
Indeed, the diversity of Senegal is perhaps its best feature. In the southeast is the mountainous region of Fouta Djallon, home to secretive tribes and beautiful waterfalls. The southern Casamance region boasts palm-fringed tropical beaches and islands. The west is populated by mangroves and one of the largest concentrations of migratory birds in the world. Top of the country’s selling points is perhaps the wildlife, which apart from birds includes giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, lions and panthers.
Senegal is also an exciting place for outdoor adventure types. Surf some of the best waves in West Africa in year-round warm waters, hike through lush tropical rainforest-clad mountains and discover towering waterfalls, or go deep-sea fishing off the continental shelf.
Culture vultures won’t be disappointed either. There are year-round music and art festivals such as the St Louis Jazz Festival, and well-managed museums displaying some of the most interesting artefacts found in the region. You’ll also find well-preserved colonial ruins, as well as reminders of the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Easily accessible from Europe and the US, offering an array of experiences, with up to eight months of sun a year, and one of the best infrastructures in the region, what’s not to like? Whatever you’re after, Senegal probably has it.