Dakar, Senegal 2022

     On December 8 we were in Dakar, Senegal.  We were supposed to be in Banjul, Gambia, but were informed a few days earlier that the stop had been changed because tidal conditions in Gambia, where we would have to sail up a river to the port, would not permit more than a brief stop there.  We previously visited Dakar in 2018 and if you want to read more about this area you can see it here:


As you can read in that post, in 2018 the stop in Dakar was problematic, mainly because passengers were harassed in town and some crew members were robbed of their phones (as far as we know none of this happened during this visit).  We had a bus tour of the highlights of Dakar on that visit along with a very interesting morning on Goree island.  So we decided to spend this visit at the Bandia nature reserve visiting a variety of African animals.

     Located about 40 miles south of Dakar, Bandia has some 2500 acres, soon to be expanded to 8500 we read in 2018 and again this year, of natural habitat surrounded by a fence.  Since it was established in 1997 they have been bringing back many native species that had gone extinct in this area over the last several hundred years from hunting and the loss of habitat due to encroaching human settlement.  We rode in safari vehicles through the reserve’s dirt roads with a guide to help spot animals and tell us about them (although her English was a little hard to understand).  We left early in the morning, passing the Dakar railroad station on the way out, then boarded the safari vehicles, open but with a bright green canopy on top, and set out into the woods.

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      The absence of large predators is clear from the relaxed way the animals stand around, mostly eating, and from the fact that monkeys and birds can be seen walking around on the ground.  We have read that there are some lions and hyenas here but they are kept in separate fenced areas so they can’t bother (by which we mean eat) the other animals.  We did not see them.

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     We don’t know the names of all the animals we saw but will do our best.  Our first encounter was with a Green Vervet Monkey, which seem to be plentiful in the reserve.  They have black faces with orange, white and black fur, with very long tails.  They are found as far afield as the Caribbean, where we saw one once in Barbados.

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     We saw several kinds of antelope.  The Roan Antelope is striking for its black and white face and curved horns, resembling an Oryx with shorter horns.  The Eland has straight horns and a clear beige face.  We saw a group of them in some woods.  Impalas were also there.  We had seen them in herds during our 2018 South Africa safari, but here it looked like just a family group.  In South Africa they provide food for the big cats and other predators, but there was none of that here.

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     We stopped near a lake where some birds were standing on the shore.  We don’t have identifications but the tall one may be a heron.

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    We saw some Patas monkeys on the ground and sitting on logs.  These are ground dwelling monkeys and they are the world’s fastest primates, able to run more than 30 miles per hour.  I guess that comes in handy if you want to stay alive while living on the ground, although there doesn’t seem to be any danger in this area.

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     We came upon what turned out to be a young buffalo, sans horns, hurrying through the grass looking like some kind of strange dog or pig from a distance.  Then it caught up to its mother who was grazing in the grass, which gave away its identification.  If you look closely there is an Oxpicker bird perched on the mother’s side, just above and to the right of the calf.  These little birds (6 or 7 inches) spend their time on the hide of buffalo, giraffes, rhinos and other large animals in Africa where they dine on ticks and other insects (as well as the animal’s blood sometimes if there is a sore spot).  Most of the large animals don’t seem to mind them; perhaps they are happy to have their parasites removed.

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      Several giraffes were munching on some trees.  And a couple of zebras were lazing in the grass.  This is what you see when you do a game drive in the middle of the day, since most wild animals take it easy then and are more active in the evening and the early morning.

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     A couple of showy types of bird were around too.  We saw two Western Red-Billed Hornbills sitting on a branch.  Elsewhere on the ground we saw what is probably a Long-tailed Glossy Starling.  It’s back was a shiny metallic looking blue-green and it had round yellow eyes that looked a little freaky.  A startling starling!

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     Speaking of birds, we saw two ostriches, both males (black and white feathers).  Ostriches are the biggest birds on Earth and the fastest two legged runners, peaking at about 40 miles per hour.  Each of the ones we saw was by itself.  With their large bodies and tiny heads they looked like something out of the movie Yellow Submarine.

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     Bandia Reserve has a large number of Beobab trees scattered throughout.  These large trees can live a thousand years or more and have very fat trunks with a lot of water in them.  They stood out from other trees during our drive because they were very white and mostly leafless (in addition to being big).  Near the end of our drive we stopped by a particularly large one and our guide explained that inside this living thousand year old tree is where the indigenous people of the area bury their Griots when they die.  Griots are African storytellers who preserve the local history through oral performance, with or without instrumental accompaniment.  This is similar to Homer, the somewhat legendary blind troubadour of ancient Greece credited with authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey even though he would not have been able to read or write.  Griots are prominent people in their societies, often important advisors to the local headmen.  Our guide told us that after several generations the local people decided to stop burying their griots in this tree, but then they were hit by several years of drought.  This convinced them to resume the practice, after which the drought ended.  On the other side of the tree from where we were parked there is apparently a large hole in the bottom of the tree with a metal fence, behind which can be seen a couple of skulls.

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    After our drive was finished we walked to the outdoor cafeteria.  We passed a fenced area on the way in which were several giant tortoises.  The cafeteria has a view down to a lake that is full of crocodiles.  Happily, they weren’t too close and the overlook was well beyond their reach.

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    So ends the good part of this excursion.  It was a nice drive and we saw quite a few animals, considering the time spent and the time of day.  But of course this was nothing like the 4 day safari we had in South Africa in 2018.  Still, it was our only opportunity to drive into the woods to visit animals in their natural habitat, so we were happy to have done it.

     We returned to the bus at the appointed time and had to wait . . . and wait, because there are often some people who think they are entitled to take as long as they want, here to eat and shop, before joining the others at the bus.  Then as we finally left the reserve one of the passengers asked the guide if he could have something to drink.  They didn’t have anything (some people bring their own water if this is important to them) so the whole bus full of people pulled over at what looked like a sort of drug store and we all waited while he went inside and bought some soda.  We were irritated because the last time we were here there was a great impromptu market spread out on the dock and since we had missed shopping (and everything else) in Cape Town we were hoping to do some here.  But as we got back into town, already much later than advertised, the guide announced we were going to stop at a large local market at the request of a couple of passengers who wanted to shop there.  This was met by a loud chorus of “No, take us to the dock” from most of the other passengers but that made no difference.  The bus pulled into an alley through traffic and the guide and about three people got off the bus and went into the market while the other 40 or so people just sat on the warm bus waiting for them.  After about 25 minutes (I think) they finally returned, having purchased . . . nothing. 

     When we finally returned to the dock we discovered that this time there was no market there!  We don’t know why but this was quite disappointing for us.   Before dinner we sailed away from Dakar and from the continent of Africa, heading west with only two more stops before reaching the US.

One response

  1. Konnie

    Love taking tours of animals. WE did a 32 day safari and really enjoyed it. We we’re on a tour that had one more stop and a couple said they were tired and wanted to be taken back to the ship. The rest said no but the driver took us all back to the ship.

    April 17, 2023 at 3:55 pm

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