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On Africa’s Atlantic coast, Senegal has Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau as neighbours, and offers almost every form of tourism imaginable: sunny seaside resorts (such as Cap Skirring), cultural and sport tourism (hunting and scuba diving) and ecotourism (there are six major game parks and reserves).
Between its French (Senegal was once the capital of French West Africa) and Middle Eastern influences (through extensive trade), Senegal has its own fusion of exotic music, food and customs. It’s a relatively short hop too; flights to Senegal take just six hours from the UK and Ireland.
Dakar, the capital, was once known as the Paris of West Africa, the most important port on the coast, trading in slaves and gum arabic. Today, it’s one of West Africa’s coolest cities.
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Senegal has a tropical climate with a dry season that runs from December to April and is swept by the hot harmattan winds. Temperatures range from 18 to 25 degrees during these months. The rainy season is between June and October when temperatures average 30 degrees. The interior is hotter than the coast; close to the border with Mali temperatures can reach 54 degrees.
Travel between November and March for dry and cooler weather, but watch out for dust storms. This is also a good time to take flights to Sengegal for bird watching and for beach holidays (February-April best).
During the wet season – May to November – conditions are humid and some roads may be impassable.
Air Senegal connects Dakar with Ziguinchor, Cap Skiring, and Tambacounda, but not year-round.
In Dakar and other large cities, cars rapides (small buses) are a popular way of getting around. From Dakar to other cities around Senegal, Big Mercedes buses (Ndiaga Ndiaye) with room for between 15 and 30 passengers, travel the roads. The taxis in Dakar are orange and black and can be hailed on the street. Bargain with the driver and set a fare in advance.
Rail: there is just one service for passengers, a twice-weekly (Saturday and Wednesday) run linking Dakar with Bamako (Mali).
Ferry: sails between Dakar and Goree island.
Car rental: it’s possible to hire a car, although it is expensive. Roads are of good quality, but care is advised; drivers will share the road with wagons, carts, donkeys and livestock.