Senegal Ease: Dakar and Saint-Louis
As the world’s intrepid travellers seek out ever more exotic destinations, some places well worth a visit remain overlooked due to lack of awareness of what they offer. Senegal is one of these places, a fascinating country with a good infrastructure for tourism that remains nevertheless a destination rarely considered for a holiday by anyone other than French and German tourists seeking tropical sunshine on pristine beaches. This lack of awareness is perhaps due in no small part to the rivalry between the French and the British during the colonial era, but we are in the 21st century now, living in a privileged time when global travel is easy and accessible. Most people are surprised to learn that Senegal is just one change of planes away from Australia (and the entire Asia-Pacific region) thanks to Emirates’ service between Dubai and Dakar.
Affluent travellers who leave their plush, five-star accommodation at Radisson Blu Sea Plaza in search of cultural activities would be impressed by the contemporary art scene in Dakar, one of Africa’s most vibrant cities. Sophisticated galleries with multilingual staff are accustomed to welcoming collectors from all over the world seeking new works for their walls and portfolios. From the exclusive Galerie Cecile Fakhoury to the Village des Arts, where both nascent and established artists have their studios in a creative atmosphere, art is part of life everywhere in this energetic city.
And beyond, too. To the north of Dakar is Saint-Louis, the former capital of the entire French West Africa colony for more than 200 years from the late 1600s to the first years of the 20th century. Today a small city by modern standards, Saint-Louis is still evocative of its past. Though many European-style buildings are in disrepair, the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in many ways a walk into another era. Vivid scenes of fishermen departing and arriving in their traditional pirogues, as their ancestors have done for centuries, are part of everyday life here. One place that combines past history with modern convenience is the exceptional Au Fil Du Fleuve guesthouse, a restored warehouse converted into eclectic accommodation for travellers who appreciate the finer things in life presented in a casual manner. Owner Marie-Caroline is as charming as she is informative, a fountain of information for her guests who have ventured this far off the beaten path. Given the quality of the guest experience at Au Fil Du Fleuve, the guesthouse is a favourite for diplomats based in Senegal and neighbouring countries looking for a relaxing weekend away. Au Fil Du Fleuve provides just that; guestrooms are simple but chic, public areas positively transcendental. The breakfast area and living room on the ground floor open to a beautiful courtyard that is the focus of the house. Artworks and books add an air of sophistication and give people things to talk about over evening drinks served by Marie-Caroline at 7pm to her guests before they venture out to dinner at any of the wonderful restaurants in town.
There is no air service between Dakar and Saint Louis, but the 320km ride by car is made pleasant by the drivers of JUMP Services, a locally owned company that understands the needs of international visitors. With French- and English-speaking drivers and guides, JUMP’s reliable staff are the personification of African conviviality. Contact JUMP Services owner Astacko Seck by phone or WhatsApp on +221 776 344 850 to make arrangements.