Last June, I went to discover Senegal, for a few days, in « slow tourisme ».
I had this need to slow down, to take my time, far from the noise of the Senegalese capital, Dakar. I was thus able to take full advantage of two accommodations, very different butwhich have this same point in common: to allow travelers to disconnect, in a unique natural setting.
So I take you to the heart of the Pink Lake and then in the Sine Saloum to make you discover these two addresses and the unusual activities that I could do, off the beaten track... off the beaten track...
Discover the Pink Lake...differently !
The sun is hidden by a grey and misty sky and the heat is already and the heat is already there in this morning of June.
After an hour's drive from Dakar airport, the last kilometers on the sand the last kilometers on the sand make me arrive in a lodging integrated in the nature.
Here I am at the Gîte du Lac, a natural ecogite overlooking a banana plantation, on the edge of the famous Pink Lake. It is in this place where I will spend my next two days and nights. next two days and nights.
The Gîte du Lac has only 13 rooms with simple comfort with bathroom and WC. The rooms have either a view on the lake or are more "isolated" in the shade of banana trees and bougainvilleas.
À just arrived, I immediately noticed the calm that reigns here...
My neighbors seem to be birds that have taken up residence at the Gîte du Lac and near the Lac Rose: turtledoves, vanons parrots...
I immediately feel the calm and the desire to fully enjoy the place and the of the place and of this silence.
I am surprised to see all this green around me, between the banana plantations, the palm leaves, the flowers and the bougainvillea trees. bougainvillea trees. Not to mention this famous lake, in front of me...
Moreover, Lake Retba is the real name of the Pink Lake and has a particularity, in addition to being pink, it is to have a salinity higher than the Dead Sea.
It is on this lake that dozens of salt harvesters are busy every day with their colorful boats filled with salt.
«It is on this lake that dozens of salt harvesters are busy every day with their colorful boats filled with salt.
You can see these salt harvesters breaking off blocks and crusts of salt that have formed on the bottom of the lake with a wooden stick.
Then, the workers collect the salt with plastic sieves to put it directly into their wooden boat » - story shared on my blog la Girafe qui Vole (I put a link to my site if you want).
To meet these harvesters, nothing better than to go on board a salt boat. It is Demba, one of the harvesters of the lake, who takes me there.
As soon as I set foot in this boat, I immediately noticed the tranquility of the place, far from the noise pollution of Dakar and other small towns that I crossed before arriving at the Pink Lake.
« We cross the pink lake in the peace without a noise of engine with the fishermen (silent and concentrated) who collect these hundreds of kilos of salt »
Two other singular experiences to live during a stay at the Gîte du Lac and that I could test and approve are :
- The visit of the cheese factory
I lived a privileged moment with Papi who is THE cheese maker of the village. He owns dozens of goats, knows them all and has a real patience and know-how to take good care of them, milk them every day and make a fresh and succulent cheese! At his side, I was able to learn how to milk a goat. A moment filled with simplicity, good laugh (because it is far from being obvious to catch a goat and then to understand how milking works) and sharing with Papi.
- A horse ride on the dunes and the beach, a few hundred meters from the Gîte du Lac. It's the time of a one hour ride on the back of a horse named Oasis, that I went for a walk on the sand dunes and then trotted on a long wild beach.
Time seems to have stopped stopped here. At least, I feel disconnected and I have lost the notion of time with what I was able to discover in only two days.
And it continues with another 100% nature address in a breathtaking breathtaking region...
Discover a part of the Sine Saloum
After spending two nights at Lac Rose, I continue my journey to Sokone, which is the gateway to the Saloum Delta Natural Park, not far from the Gambian border.
The Saloum Delta is one of the six national parks of Senegal, which is nicknamed "the Amazon of Senegal", and is one of the most beautiful regions of Senegal to discover.
After more than 3 hours of driving, I arrive in the middle of the night in this ecolodge called "Barracudas". With this dark night, I have no possibility to see what this place looks like. I only have to wait the next morning to discover this place, totally integrated in the nature...
I discover my room, with a big bed and its mosquito net and some touches of African decoration, and I plunge in a sleep very quickly to begin a new day from tomorrow, which I am sure will be exotic...
While leaving my bungalow, I discover at my feet white shells. Here, they are shells which are used as ground and... this sight that I notice at once on the mangrove.
The location of this ecogite is in the heart of a park with lemon trees, bougainvillea and other local flowers.
The change of scenery is already assured...while it is only a few minutes that I am up and outside.
I go to the common parts where I discover a swimming pool which gives on the mangrove. The view is incredible. Right next door, I see the breakfast room where Lamine, the chef, has prepared a hearty breakfast...and local!
On the menu: bissap juice, mango jam and homemade pancakes, succulent! Nothing better than such a breakfast to explore this Senegalese region which I am sure will be surprising!
The "Sine Saloum Delta" extends over an area of 500,000 ha around the fossil river Saloum and two main arms, branched into salt water channels, called bolongs, splitting the land into a maze of over 200 islands. Dominated by mangrove trees, the landscapes combine tanns, sandy saltwater stretches, freshwater mudflats fringed with palm trees, shellfish heaps crowned with baobabs and stretches of wooded savannah magnified by cheese trees and cedar trees. The unique characteristics of this estuarine zone favor an exceptional ornithological richness.
Les Barracudas is a small responsible address which is involved in solidarity actions with the locals and which has only 14 rooms.
My trip on a kayak in the Saloum National Park, classified as a World Biosphere Reserve
I put on waterproof shoes that the ecolodge lends me and a certain Mamadou introduces himself to me to inform me that he will be my guide to go for a ride on his kayak. I get in the front of the kayak (with a comfortable padded back), and let's go for the adventure along the water...
I have a feeling of being in the Amazon, among all this sublime landscape with bolongs lined with mangroves, these birds living in the mangrove that I see briefly or that I hear in the distance or these crabs that we can see waving on the banks.
At the beginning of the walk, it's low tide then as time goes by, Mamadou explains and shows me that the water covers all the muddy lands in a huge "lake" dotted with small islands... The landscape is so changing and always so calm.
Between baobabs, mangroves, cormorants, kingfishers, flying fishes...everything is synonymous of quietness.
Mamadou took me by kayak. Special shoes on the foot,
The fishes come out of the water, the crabs show their claws out of the sand, the parrots scream, the cormorants fly at the slightest noise they hear.
During this walk, we didn't meet anyone, but usually, you can meet fishermen's pirogues or oyster pickers from mangroves.
I really enjoyed this walk because the silence of the place is so deep that it becomes really unique and again, out of time. And yet, it was only an hour and a half walk. I can't even imagine the disconnection when this walk goes on for several hours...it must be quite an experience!
After such a walk, the hammocks at the edge of the bank or a few swims in the swimming pool of the accommodation are good moments to relax and enjoy the place as it should be.
And yet there are so many other experiences to be had in the Sine Saloum. That's why Barracudas is the perfect place to stay for 2, 3 or even 4 nights and take the time to explore the area and experience all the different types of immersion.
In addition, I realize that in talking with the staff of this ecolodge, all staff members come from the village located not far from there. They know the environment of the place and are perfect hosts to welcome travelers.
What to do in the Sine Saloum region ?
Here at Barracudas, the emphasis is on "slow travel" to participate in local activities and experiences such as :
- Mountain bike rides
- A trip to the local market in the village of Sokone which takes place every Wednesday ;
- A meeting with the women of the village to discover the market gardens where they work ;
- Explore the private reserve of Fathala which is full of endemic animals of Senegal as well as other wild animals such as giraffes, zebras, rhinoceroses, horse antelopes (Koba), forest buffaloes, Cape elands, warthogs or monkeys, ostriches and a variety of birds.
It's crazy how in these two addresses where I stayed, I felt this sensation of feeling alone in the world and totally disconnected.
It is true that the wifi does not work everywhere, and sometimes not very well and therefore leads to disconnect well ... And how it feels good!
These two immersions, both in the Pink Lake and in the Sine Saloum, would not have been the same if I had not had moments of sharing with the locals, like with Papi the cheese maker or Mamadou, the guide during the kayak trip.
This quote takes on even more meaning in Senegal... "He who travels without meeting the other is not a traveler. He who travels without meeting the other, does not travel, he moves".
To finish, discover on Instagram my video dedicated to these two addresses