Songlines Music Travel, in association with Imaginative Traveller, invites music lovers and travellers alike to explore the sights and sounds of Senegal. Situated on the most Western tip of Africa, on the Atlantic coast, Senegal boasts a fascinating history, wonderful dance music, beautiful beaches, great cuisine and an abundance of wildlife.
On this trip, we will visit Dakar, a city pulsating with music, culture and nightlife, as well as the more laid-back coastal town of Saint Louis. With the help of our knowledgeable Songlines Travel Leaders, Corinna Fiora and Ken Aicha Sy, we will visit the best music venues and have the unique opportunity to meet some of the local musicians, as well as enjoy some live sessions.
9 nights hotel on a twin share basis
• Get to know the very best mbalax and hip hop music around the capital
• Meet with local musicians and communities
• Thoroughly explore Dakar and Saint Louis, including excursions to the Pink Lake, Djoudj National Park and Bird Sanctuary and the historic Gorée Island
Welcome to Senegal! Upon your arrival in Dakar, you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have some time to rest after your flight. In the evening, you will meet your tour leader along with your other travel companions. Your tour leader will provide an introduction to the group and give you some idea of what to expect for the days ahead. Having met everyone, head out into the town for your first night in Dakar.
Today you will have a chance to explore Senegal’s capital. Take to the bustling streets as you embark on a guided tour of the city, visiting all the main sights such as the Presidential Palace, cathedral, coastal lookouts, galleries and arts and crafts workshops. You will also take in the Grande Mosquée, located in the city’s traditional Médina quarter. Finally, take in the fascinating IFAN Museum of African Arts. In the evening, after dinner in one of the city’s restaurants, you will get a taste of music on a Saturday night, the best night in the city. Sample some of Dakar’s best live music venues. Come prepared for a late one, since most concerts in Dakar don’t get going until 1am!
After a jam-packed first two days, it’s time to relax as you head out to the idyllic shores of Ngor Island. This hidden gem lies just off the coast of Dakar and is Africa’s westernmost point. Ngor has now become somewhat of a surfer hideaway since the island is home to Senegal’s most famous wave, the ‘NGor right’, featured in ‘The Endless Summer’. Numerous small galleries offering art and music can be found amidst the winding streets of the town. See the traditional colonial pirogue boats that line the beach and try some fresh fish in the local restaurants. If you don’t fancy exploring the island, just sit back and soak up the relaxed atmosphere. Following a day’s worth of exploration, relaxation, swimming or surfing, take a boat back to Dakar for dinner and more music.
From Dakar this morning, your next stop will be the beautiful colonial city of Saint Louis on the northwest coast of Senegal, some 260km north of the capital. There will be a couple of stops on the way as you cruise up the Atlantic coast. These include a stop off to see a forest of baobab trees, followed by a visit to the artisanal fishing village of Kayar. This will enable you to get an authentic feel for the lives of these fishing communities. Whilst in the area, you will have the chance to visit the astonishing Lac Rose, where the warm and salty waters turn from pink to purple depending on the sunlight. On arrival in Saint Louis, check into the hotel and have a walk on the beach or a swim in the pool before dinner.
Your first full day in Saint Louis will enable you to fully explore this colonial town that has been compared to Havana in Cuba, the French Quarter of New Orleans and Bahia in Brazil. Let the city’s rich history unravel as you walk its streets. Saint Louis was West Africa’s first French settlement and it has a unique historical charm which has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. After a guided walking tour of the old town, you will have the chance to learn some Djembe rhythms during a specially organised class on the beach. The Djembe is a rope-tuned, skin-covered drum that is played with bare hands. Following dinner afterwards, head back to your hotel.
Today will begin with a day trip to Djoudj National Park and Bird Sanctuary. This World Heritage Site is home to a huge variety of birds including flamingos and pelicans. A ride in a pirogue along the park’s waterways will allow you to truly experience the wildlife. When you return to Saint Louis, soak up the sounds of the city again that evening as you visit some more of the local bars.
This morning will be at your leisure to relax at the beach or have a final wander around the city before a long drive that afternoon back to Dakar. On the way you will visit the famed tapestry workshops at the Senegalese Manufacturers of Decorative Arts, where workshop artisans reproduce original paintings by Senegalese artists onto decorative weavings, ceramics, mosaics and wall hangings. Back in Dakar, head out for dinner before checking out some more local bands.
After breakfast, take a ferry to Gorée, a tiny car-free island just off the coast of Senegal. This island has significant historical importance, since from the 15th to the 19th centuries, Gorée was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast. Rule of the island passed from the Portuguese to the Dutch, to the English and finally to the French. Here you will be able to gain some valuable insight into the contrasts between the solemn slave quarters and the elegant houses of the slave traders. You will be able to visit the museum, Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) and view the ominous Door of No Return. After this memorable experience, wander around the fortresses, streets and beaches of the island.
Your last full day in Dakar will be spent exploring the markets then meeting local painters and sculptors in the Artists Village. There is a fantastic local CD market here, so be sure to get hold of some souvenirs to bring home. You will also be able to meet with some resident musicians who will treat you to your very own private jam session. In the evening, your Tour Leader will seek out the best sounds in the city to enjoy throughout your final night in Senegal. Move to the infectious beats of the local dance music mbalax, the movement popularised by Youssou N’Dour. Fortunately, tonight Dakar’s nightlife will be at its finest since this will fall on a Saturday. Dakar is renowned as a location with some of the liveliest and most varied nightlife in West Africa, so this is the perfect place to round up your trip and make the most of your remaining time with the group.
After breakfast, your tour will reach an end, so bid farewell to your fellow travellers and depart for your onward travel.