A comfortable expedition from north to south in a crescendo of changing landscapes: from the dunes of the southern edge of the Sahara to the arid savannah of Ferlo, from large rivers to forests.
Depart from Washington Dulles (IAD) for your South African Airways flight to Dakar.
On arrival at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
DAKAR - TOUBA
After breakfast, visit the “Village des Arts” made up of fifty-two artist studios (ateliers). All disciplines of the visual arts are represented here (painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, video, installation, etc.). The Village has a wide gallery, which hosts exhibitions throughout the year and it is the best place to meet the finest artists and young talents of the Senegalese vibrant art scene.
Continue towards Touba.
The arrival of a group of western travelers is an unusual event in the sacred town of Touba, the rarely visited town is the right place to appreciate the hospitality of an African brotherhood. Touba inhabitants follow Mouridism and the town itself is a sort of theocratic “state within the state”, ruled by a Caliph. The founder of the Mouridi brotherhood was a Sufi named Amhadou Bàmba Mbake and still today the Mouridi have a large social and economic impact in Senegal thanks to their peaceful (and African) vision of Islam, Mouridism has become the bastion that protects Senegal from radical Islam. During the annual festival, the town is visited by four million pilgrims. Mouridi welcome any interest for their traditions, yet since Touba is a sacred town, all visitors must show respect for traditional rules; therefore, you must apply a considerate dress code, not smoke, not drink alcohol and not listen to music during the visit. If you follow these simple rules, you will be very welcomed. The Mouridi are proud of their town and appreciate your interest. Baye Fall, a member of a colorful branch of Mouridism, will accompany you during the visit.
In the afternoon, continue to the Ferlo Desert to discover the arid region where nomadic Fulani tribes watch over their herds of zebu. The Fulani (also called Peul) are the largest tribe roaming West African savannahs, living in a vast region from Senegal to Chad. Their origins are still covered with mystery but they all share a common and aristocratic cult for beauty and elegance. In the afternoon, a local guide will join you for a visit to the neighboring villages and shelters. When the herds come back, you might even be invited to witness the milking process.
Overnight on a full board basis at a camp made up of simple grass huts, managed by the local community
After breakfast, continue to Saint Louis, a charming old town which was the first capital of all French colonies in West Africa. On the banks of the Senegal estuary, it first became an outpost of the French colonial penetration - spices, slaves, gold and Arabic gum all arrived via the river. It was thanks to the ventilated climate and advantageous location, that the presence of European merchants had always been constant, even before the actual colonial period. The city itself was later built on two large islands, between the river and the ocean. Having been the former station of the “Aeropostale” airmail pioneer operation, Saint Exupéry himself - the famous aviator and author of “The Little Prince” - had a base here as well.
The best way to visit the narrow lanes of Saint Louis is by calash, just as locals do. Time to enjoy the unique atmosphere of this old town.
You will spend the night in the town's historic hotel. Built in 1895 and now fully renovated, it was here that all Aeropostale pilots use to stay.
Overnight on a full board basis at Hotel de la Poste or similar
DJOUDJ NATIONAL BIRD SANCTUARY
After an early breakfast, depart north to discover a unique humid and isolated ecosystem, limited to the north by the dunes of the Sahara and to the south by the dry Sahelian savannah. Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj) is a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This “humid paradise” - the best habitat and nesting site for over a million of migratory and resident birds - lies on the southeastern bank of the Senegal River and offers a range of wetland habitats that are very popular with migrating birds, many of which get there after crossing the Sahara. Out of over 400 species, pelicans and flamingos are the most common, whereas aquatic warblers are a bit less conspicuous - migrating there from Europe, this park is their single most important wintering site yet discovered. Apart from birds, a wide range of wildlife is also present.
After lunch, drive to the Lampoul Desert where, at the limits of the dunes, 4WD vehicles will be waiting to take you to the camp. Enjoy local dances.
Overnight on a full board basis in a permanent tented camp, the "Lodge de Lampoul"
After breakfast, depart to the port of Dakar to board a ferry to the island of Gorée. Facing Dakar, it was here that slaves used to be crammed in and then shipped to the Americas. The historic center has been totally restored to bear witness to those sad times. Today, the island has taken a new dimension. Thanks to the nice breeze, the many restaurants and shops, Gorée has become a very pleasant and trendy location.
Return to Dakar.
In the late afternoon and from the same port, you board the liner-ship “Aline Sitoe Diatta” which, in one night, links the capital of Senegal to Casamance, the southern region of the country.
Overnight on a full board basis aboard the ship in simple cabins
One of the main features of this tour is the progressive and continuous change of landscapes, climates, natural environments and cultures. After a night of sailing, you will experience the biggest change. In the early morning light, the ship leaves the ocean behind and enters the estuary of the majestic Casamance River.
The fishermen are in their pirogues collecting their nets and dolphins follow the vessel. From the edge of the river, you will discover the Casamance region - its large and luxuriant trees and its “sacred forests” where animistic cults are still practiced today. You will leave the ship at Karabane Island - where its historic ruins have been covered by lush vegetation – and board a local boat which takes you to a small island where you will take part in the “Essipati” dances of the women of the Diola ethnic group. Lunch in a tiny restaurant specialized with grilled oysters. After lunch, continue through a labyrinth of water and mangroves.
Upon arrival on the mainland, a minibus will take you to Ziguinchor.
Overnight on a full board basis at Hotel Kadiandoumagne, on the banks of the river or similar
Today you visit an adobe-fortified building still inhabited by some large patriarchal Diola families, a very interesting example of traditional African “sculptural architecture”. These large clay and wooden houses, where light comes from a central hole in the roof, are known as “impluvium houses” - an African variant of the ancient roman house – and had the function to protect its dwellers from outside attacks. It reflects the typical defense architecture of egalitarian and acephalous tribal societies, often victims of the expansionist policies of tribes with a more hierarchical organization.
During the visit, you will also be received by the king of one of the oldest kingdoms of the Casamance who is also the high priest, holding both political and spiritual powers. He will receive you surrounded by his important advisors. As guardian and heir of traditions, he is the best person to enlighten you on the history of his people.
Visit various fetishes of the region in the company of some local animist priests.
In the late afternoon, you will follow an isolated path to a tiny village and … masks leave the sacred forest (where only initiated are admitted) to dance for an enthusiastic local crowd. Mask are part of the animistic Diojla culture and Mandinka traditions - people fear and respect masks, consider them spirits who play an important role in solving conflicts between villagers. In the evening return to Ziguinchor.
Overnight on a full board basis at Hotel Kadiandoumagne, on the banks of the river or similar
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to board a spectacular flight to Dakar over river estuaries and the Atlantic coast.
Upon arrival to the new airport of Dakar, you will visit the center of Dakar, a large and vibrant African metropolis that was the cultural and intellectual capital of West French Africa. Reflecting that period, the Presidential Palace and the IFAN Museum (Institut Francais d’Afrique Noire), housed in a nice colonial style building and hosting an important collection of African art objects. When it opened, the museum was directed by Theodore Monod, a celebrated Africanist and one of the greatest Sahara experts.
Continuation to Lac Rose, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes, also known as Lake Retba. The water is ten times saltier than in the ocean and because of the high concentration of minerals the lake often shimmers into pink. More than 600 workers here collect salt following traditional ways. For the more adventurous, possibility to enjoy a “swim”, or rather a float in the lake.
Overnight on a full board basis at Hotel Le Trarza or similar
After breakfast, enjoy a spectacular excursion by a 4WD vehicle, driving for miles on the beach between waves and sand to discover the largest fisherman village in Senegal, where more than 4,500 wooden pirogues come to the shore with the catch of the day! You will then leave your vehicles and take a donkey chariot for a less intrusive visit. You will approach the fishermen selling their catch at the local market, the artisans carving large pirogues and the painters decorating the boats with bright colors and with the image of the “local saint” to guarantee a final magical blessing.
In the evening transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
Arrival in the United States at Washington Dulles (IAD) airports.
Round trip coach air on South African Airways from Washington (IAD) Airport to Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport; Assistance at airport upon arrival and departure; Domestic coach air as per the itinerary (Ziguinchor - Dakar); Accommodation as per the itinerary; Experienced tour guide; Tours and visits as per the itinerary; Most meals as per the itinerary; Entrance fees to parks, concessions, protected areas and cultural sites; All transfers as per the itinerary; All service charges and taxes
Add on air from other US cities; Earlier and/or later transfers from and to airport; Visa fees and any airport departure taxes; Any meal or sightseeing tour other than those specified in itinerary; Any items of personal expense - i.e. mineral water and drinks at meals, telephone calls, laundry, personal photos and videos etc; Personal and holiday insurance (compulsory); Gratuities for drivers, guides and hotel staff; Porterage; Costs relating to delayed or lost luggage