As I stepped of the plane, I relished in the ease of walking through immigration, of the need to not have to show my yellow fever certificate, or have to queue for my eVisa or to wait with the anxiety about having to answer questions in the hope that my visa would allow me into the country. Compared to the other countries I had just travelled to in West Africa, Senegal was a breeze.
Rewind just one week before and Senegal wasn’t even on my radar. I was meant to be in Cameroon heading through Central Africa on a tour but life had had other plans for me and after being rejected for a Cameroon visa in Cote D’Ivoire I found myself with no other option but to go home.
Always one to see as much as I can, there was no way I was just flying home defeated. Instead I found myself booking a flight to a visa-free Senegal which was technically ‘on the way’ back to the UK. With the promise of Africa’s tallest statue and a pink lake, this was a country I was finally excited about travelling to.
Arriving in Dakar, the capital felt so different to the countries I had just been to. It was more developed than Ghana, Benin, and Togo and seemed so much more civilised than Cote d’Ivoire yet it still kept its rich West African culture amongst the modern buildings and giant monuments that had transformed this cosmopolitan capital city into one of arts and innovation.
After 5 days of exploring this African city (reduced by two days thanks to a cancelled flight), Dakar had restored my faith in West Africa and had ended my trip on a more positive note.
If you are planning your Senegal holidays, here are my favourite things to do in Dakar as a solo.
1. Gorée Island Senegal
As the most visited place in Senegal, Gorée Island is also the most educational. This island of less than 2000 residents holds a history of suffering and is home to the ‘Door of No Return,’ playing an important role during the centuries of slave history.
A UNESCO site since 1978, Gorée Island had a unique positioning. It had a convenient position, was easy to defend, and was a safe harbour to the West Indies. All of these factors made it a prime spot for the slave trade in Africa.
Slaves were bought to Gorée Island and held in cells for 3 months before leaving through the ‘Door of No Return;’ some choosing to throw themselves into the water and drown as the only alternative from a life of slavery. Whole families were brought here then separated into cells for the women, men and children.