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Published: July 17th 2017
West Africa 2017
Lonely Planet and Bradt Travel Guides
Greetings once more from Croydon, and once more on the eve of a bit of an epic summer journey ahead of me. School is out again for another year, and after another incredible and rewarding year of teaching, I am just about ready, bags packed, to set off on another summer trip to far-flung destinations, counting countries as I go.
This time I head to West Africa. Rather daunting I must admit, given the bad press, news and disasters that regularly seem to emanate from the region, but it is indeed one region of the world which I have yet to set foot in, and have yet to explore and learn more about. I have chosen what I see to be the safest region/countries of travel for the time being: Senegal, The Gambia and Cape Verde. Indeed, the latter two are quite up-and-coming package tourism destinations for the British, whilst the former appears to be the same for the French. In fact, Senegal is considered to be one of the safest countries in Africa for travel, having maintained a stable democracy for longer than any other post-colonial African nation. Whilst Ghana is deemed to be “Africa for
beginners” for Anglo-Saxon travellers, it appears that Senegal is the French version of “Africa for beginners”. So despite having chosen a rather “scary” sounding region for my summer travels 2017, it does appear that the countries on my itinerary generally avoid the bad press and news which hover around their neighbours such as Mali, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
So tomorrow I fly Iberia, via Madrid, to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. I spend a few days acclimatising there, though considering that it’s only a four-hour flight from Madrid, and only an hour behind current British time, it almost feels like I’m not doing a long-haul flight, and thus not exploring some kind of exotic, far-flung destination. I am quite certain, however, that landing at Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport these tentative expectations will be quite shattered. From Dakar I head south to the Sine-Saloum Delta, a beautiful, natural region of tropical mangrove forests along coasts and estuaries. I plan from here to head into The Gambia, for around a week, and then return to Senegal for another week before jet-setting off from Dakar to Cape Verde for nearly two weeks of island-hopping, purposefully avoiding the two European package
holiday islands of Sal and Boa Vista, and visiting instead the islands of Santiago, Fogo, Sao Vicente and Santo Antao. I then return to Dakar for a final few days of covering an area or two of Senegal which I may not have ticked off the list earlier, most likely to include the former French colonial capital of West Africa, Saint Louis.
Dakar will remain my base for most of my travels around West Africa, rather like Nairobi was for my trip around East Africa a few years ago, a “star-shaped” journey, as opposed to a “circular” or “linear”. My itinerary for The Gambia and then the week and a few days either side of my Cape Verde trip may be a “make it up as I go along” journey. This is because I visit The Gambia out-of-season, their tourism season catering towards European winter-sun-seekers, and thus a number of the establishments I’ve tried to contact there have not got back to me, and those that have mention that they are closed for the off-season. It may be the same also for the tourist spots in Senegal, as it is also the rainy season as I visit, and a number of National Parks which would be high on my list also appear to be closed for the European summer. Ah well, I am quite sure that my visit will be full of adventure, excitement and plenty of new experiences, and I often rather enjoy travelling outside of the tourist season anyway, taking advantage of cut prices and empty attractions.
So, it is with backpacks-packed and travel shoes a-ready that I sign off for this entry. Tomorrow I fly from Gatwick to begin my summer adventures 2017, and I am looking forward very much to updating my blog as I go. Please do watch this space 😊
All the best for now
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