The following is a guest post on the top 5 must-do activities in Dakar, by Senegal-based expat Rachael Cullins of the Girl,Guy, Globe blog.
When I told my friends and family members several months ago that my husband, two dogs and I were moving to Dakar, Senegal, I got one question more than any other: will you go on a safari?
Despite America’s impression that Africa is one huge land of zoo creatures, they don’t grow ‘em that exotic in this part of the world. Tigers, lions and rhinos (oh my!) aside, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in Senegal’s bustling, dirty but fun capital city, Dakar.
Go the zoo
After you visit the Dakar zoo, located in Parc de Hann in the eastern part of the city, you’ll feel compelled to tell everyone how depressing it was. The animals are in small pens; the habitats are, in addition to being virtually nonexistent, vastly different than what would ever be acceptable in westernized countries. But after relaying your dismay about the animals, you’ll also be secretly admitting to yourself that the zoo was a little bit awesome. Why? Because you can get close enough to lions to see every whisker on their faces and a zoo guide just might invite you to climb over the railing separating you from the friendliest chimp, in order to shake his hand and give him a good scratch on the head. Try getting that experience in America.
Take a one-dollar trampoline jump by the Atlantic
As you’re cruising down the Corniche, the pretty boulevard that runs along the city’s western coastline, you might see a unique sight: people bouncing a huge trampoline right next to the sea. Do it. It’s 500 CFA, the equivalent of about $1 USD, for 15 minutes of fun.
Play on a boogie board at Yoff beach
Dakar’s beaches are hit and miss. Many are rocky, most are dirty, and nearly all have Atlantic waters of bleak, nondescript colors. But at Yoff beach, on Dakar’s northern coast, it’s a different story. The water is blue with huge breakers, perfect conditions for boogie-boarding or surfing. You’ll find a few plastic seaweeds floating in the water, but otherwise, the trash situation isn’t bad. You can rent a shaded cabana for a couple bucks and pass the time outside the water by soaking up sunrays or watching many a muscled, handsome Senegalese man play soccer in the sand. Not that I would know.
Down a few beverages while observing Dakar’s amorous scene
Finding a lady of the night is easy in Dakar, if you’re so inclined. Ok, please don’t do it – but do hit up a bar. A good choice for decent drinks and a fun atmosphere is The Patio in the Almadies neighborhood, about eight miles north of downtown. The Almadies is the most affluent section of the city, and thus where many working women hang out. Sidle up the bar, enjoy upbeat tunes and do some people-watching.
Get your exercise on the Corniche
Fitness is huge in Senegal. Don your running shoes and join the crowds on the Corniche, especially up near the huge ocean-side mosque close to the African renaissance statue. You’ll see buff bods everywhere, often doing seemingly pointless exercises such as not-so-deep knee bends or bouncing stretches on a rail. You’ll also get some awesome sea breezes and sweeping views of the ocean, mosque and cliffs.
For more tips on Dakar, connect with Rachael via her blog.