Senegal - Rose, Bud, Thorn
Three weeks of unexpected vacation in April spelled one thing: ~travel~ Though I tried to intentionally plan an explore Abidjan challenge, all this free time was eating me up, so I packed my bags and headed to Dakar!
Roses: Things I loved! 🌹
Le Lac Rose:
Visiting the Pink Lake was the highlight of my trip! It is truly a natural wonder. The lake is about an hour out of Dakar. Once there, you’ll find tour guides, artists, and women selling small souvenirs. You can, of course, buy the salt that makes the lake so pink. I also recommend swinging by Bonaba Cafe on the way back.
Gorée is an island right off the coast of Dakar, and holds one of the final exit ports of kidnapped Africans during the slave trade. It is a tiny island with a rich history, and I highly recommend visiting. I should note that the island relies heavily on tourism and fishing, so you can’t really visit and not get a tour guide.
Museum of Black Civilizations
I am a museum nerd and I loved this one. Some of the exhibits were under construction during my visit, but I learned so much! It was also a great opportunity to practice reading in French.
Matcha Café Dakar
Me 🤝 finding Japanese restaurants abroad. Great food, cozy ambiance, and super sweet staff. I wish I’d gone every day for breakfast.
The African Renaissance Monument
Stunning monument with incredible views of Dakar. Beware of the wind.
Thorns: Things I Regret
I want to sandwich this post and not end on a negative note.
My biggest thorn was transportation. I had a private car with a driver (arranged through my Airbnb) and that cost was more than the Airbnb itself. To be fair, I did take an out-of-town trip, but I truly was not expecting to drop so much on transport. I do think it made the most sense for my trip. Because it was a solo trip and many people in Dakar only speak Wolof, I didn’t want to waste my energy or time (I was only there for two full days) arguing with local taxi men. On her trip, a friend of mine was taken to the wrong airport because of a miscommunication. That being said, if you have friends who have been to Dakar, use those networks to functionally get a rented car. Maybe you won’t have a person waiting JUST you all the time, but using the same taxi driver a friend likes can save you a bit. I think I ended up paying 5,000 CFA more per excursion than my friends did because they took taxis. If I had been in Dakar for three or more whole days or I was with another person, I would have taken local taxis more.
Buds: Lessons for My Next Solo Trip
Overplan: Most people told me to not do this, and I think I fell too far left on the underplan - overplan spectrum. Many adventures didn’t take as much time as I thought they would, so most days I was home by four with nothing to do.
Stay in a hotel/hostel: This would have solved a ton of my problems. Hotels tend to have restaurants nearby, which can help give you a taste of the local cuisine. The staff tends to have recommendations, which I was seriously in need of once I’d gone through my “to-see” list. These places also tend to be more equipped with short-term needs, like towels, clean sheets, and toiletries while AirBnbs might not. It’s also easier to get back to a known hotel/hostel than a random residence.
Plan around great restaurants: My best day was the last one. I was determined to go to Matcha Café Dakar and it was a great coincidence that the African Renaissance Monument was nearby. Many trendy restaurants will be in busy parts of the city, so you can visit or even pass by touristy things on the way. And while an attraction may be disappointing, a highly rated restaurant rarely is.
Reach out: All of my possible connections in Dakar only came to mind once I got there, which wasn’t of massive help. I would recommend sitting down for fifteen minutes a week or so before your trip and making a list of potential connections - social media platforms to ask for help, people who travel a ton, people who have significant others from your destination. It was only after I left that people made connections, including a Fulbrighter there!
Find a moment for yourself: On my last day, right before we headed to the airport, I stopped by a small beach and watched the tide come in. As I stared out into the horizon, I was reminded that I am literally an ocean away from home. Watching the sea meet the sky really put that distance into perspective, and started my mental shift towards my departure. It was the perfect way to end my trip.