Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Senegal has beautiful beaches, a rich cultural history and in 2026, it will become the first African country to host the Olympics, specifically the Youth Summer Olympics. Senegal’s capital, Dakar, is a surprisingly short flight away from the east coast of the United States — in the same amount of time it takes to Paris, you can visit this Francophone nation which boasts both surfing and desert adventures.

Intrigued? We followed along as travel and lifestyle content creator Dev Walker explored Senegal for the first time. She was astounded by the variety of landscapes the country has to offer. “From the beaches in Saly, to the busy city of Dakar, the desert in Lompoul, and the mangroves in Fatick,” says Walker. “I was blown away by how so many areas were so different that you would’ve thought you were in multiple countries instead of one.”

For many Black Americans, travel to West African countries such as Senegal is more than just a vacation, it’s an exploration of their African heritage. “As a Black American who never was able to trace their African roots, I was always fascinated with West Africa,” says Walker. “I always heard great stories about Senegal, specifically from other Black creators who traveled there and decided to make it their home base after loving it so much, so I knew I had to make it out there.”

If you’re thinking about visiting Senegal, here are Dev Walker’s recommended places to visit.

1. Saly Beach

Around 90 minutes from Dakar, Saly is the perfect beach town. It has great restaurants (Chez Rasta), water activities and affordable luxury hotels in the area. It’s great for a day trip if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dakar.

2. Gorée Island

My favorite experience in Senegal was the one that was the least expected. I was very hesitant to visit Gorée Island due to its connection to slavery. I was sick of seeing slave sites and overall Black trauma. I decided to go but refused to do any tours. I went there and said I was going to wing it.

Although it has a dark past, it’s very possible to visit here and make the experience your own. People actually live on the island so it’s a great place to meet locals and support their businesses. Oddly enough, I found a tree that caught my attention so I decided to snap some photos and a man who lived in the neighboring house introduced himself. We had a funny convo over some wine on the sidewalk and then he invited my friend and I to lunch in his home with his family. Easily some of the best food I’ve ever had. They spoke very little English and I speak zero French but we tried our best and had a great time together; it reminded me that kindness is a universal language. I was able to visit a place that once held a lot of pain and turn it into something positive. That day will stay with me forever.

Gorée Island has a small beach area for swimming and some restaurants for you to try. It’s a 20-minute ferry ride from Dakar.

3. African Renaissance Monument

You can’t come to Dakar without seeing this monument. It’s the tallest statue in Africa at 161 feet and shows a Black family symbolizing triumph. Fun fact: it’s also taller than the Statue of Liberty and Christ Redeemer. You can enjoy the view from the stairs (there are almost 200 of them so pace yourself) or pay to go inside and take an elevator to the man’s crown with unobstructed views of Dakar.

4. Melo

After taking photos at the monument above, walk about ten minutes down the street and have a French-inspired brunch here. This is the perfect place to cool off after walking up and down those stairs. I had the avocado toast with smoked salmon, home fries and a side salad. Brunch for two came to about $32.

5. Ngor Island

This is an easy yet hectic five-minute boat ride in Dakar. The boat is packed and the waves get rough so be prepared to get wet. But it’s pretty much over before it begins and then you arrive. Get lost along the narrow paths and admire the art, or watch the surfers do their thing at the beach. Lastly don’t forget to try some local food at one of the beach front restaurants. I had some amazing Senegalese jollof rice and grilled fish that came to about $7.

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