After our short flight over from Conakry, we landed into Blaise Diagne International Airport at 14:51 in the afternoon. This would also make Senegal my 60th visited country, quite the achievement for age 24! It was quite a long drive over to the hotel, but we checked in and I arranged to meet three of the girls downstairs for a trip to the mall and to go for dinner.
But not before I went out to try and catch the sunset quickly!
We chose a seafood/Italian restaurant in the hotel, and we grabbed 4 pizzas and 4 glasses of wine as we chatted away and had some lovely food.
After dinner a lot of the crew were meeting in the pursers room for some drinks and a night out, so we girls joined for an hour or so before calling it a night as we were up early the next morning.
That morning, we met at 9am and went across to the ferry terminal to go to Gorée Island. Gorée is a tiny, car free island off the coast of Dakar, in Senegal. It’s known for its role in the 15th to 19th century Atlantic slave trade. On the narrow streets, colonial buildings include the House of Slaves, now a museum. The 19th century Fort d’Estrées houses the IFAN Historical Museum, with exhibits on Senegal’s past. The Henriette Bathily Women’s Museum considers the role of women in West African society.
As we pulled into the island the view was beautiful, and I wasn’t expecting this Mediterranean feel of the blue crystal waters and the colourful back drop of houses.
Our first stop of the day was to the House of Slaves. The House of Slaves and its Door of No Return is a museum and memorial to the Atlantic slave trade on Gorée Island, 3 km off the coast of the city of Dakar, Senegal. Its museum, which was opened in 1962 and curated until Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye’s death in 2009, is said to memorialise the final exit point of the slaves from Africa. While historians differ on how many African slaves were actually held in this building, as well as the relative importance of Gorée Island as a point on the Atlantic Slave Trade, visitors from Africa, Europe, and the Americas continue to make it an important place to remember the human toll of African slavery.
It was such a harrowing place. I was shocked as our guide informed us of the horrific events that went on during this abominable time in the past. The conditions in which the slaves were kept were inhumane and it’s sad to know that this went on in our past. You always learn about these topics at school, but until you actually witness the small squalid rooms they were packed into whilst they were placed in chains and shackles, you don’t realise how hard hitting this was.
The photo below is called the Door Of No Return, and here once the slaves stepped out of this door onto the plank of wood, they had been sold and would be placed on a ship for a long period of time until they reached their international destination. What was difficult to hear was that many slaves tried to commit suicide here and would throw themselves off the plank to the rocks below so they could escape this terrible nightmare they were trapped in.
As we exited the House of Slaves we walked around the small island as our guide told us information about how they value the trees, the type of people here and how Gorée came to be.
We also stopped in an art workshop where 4 local guys were making beautiful artwork out of different locally sourced coloured sands. The pictures were amazing, and I had to stop myself buying something. Pretty soon there’s going to be no space left in my apartment to place all the things we’ve bought from around the world.
We then walked to the top of the hill on the island where the old cannons used to be during the war. They are still in place but completely unusable, but there were plenty of people selling different gifts and produce and also some interesting pieces of artwork. One of which our guide called the Burj al Arab of Senegal.
Finally it was time for lunch and I was SO hungry as I hadn’t eaten since our pizza last night and it was pushing 1pm now.
We ate in a restaurant by the waterfront where I ordered garlic prawns which were heavenly. And of course it had to be washed down with a local beer!
Time to take the ferry back to the mainland, and our next stop of the day was to Lake Retba. More commonly known as the Pink Lake.
Lake Retba or Lac Rose (meaning Pink Lake) lies north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal, some 30 km (18 miles) north-east of the capital, Dakar in northwest Africa. It is named for its pink waters caused by Dunaliella salina algae and is known for its high salt content, up to 40% in some areas.
I’ve heard many crew saying that the lake isn’t worth visiting as it isn’t very pink but I was SO impressed with how beautiful it was. And to watch the people working and extracting the salt, with the huge piles of salt around the lake. It was a very pretty and tranquil setting.
We had a little wander around the area and stumbled upon the cutest lake side hotel called Hotel Palal Lac Rose. So if anyone was looking for a cute shabby chic small hotel, I would recommend. It was very picturesque and I was surprised how busy it was to say I wasn’t expecting a tourist hot spot.
We ended our day trip venturing to the African Renaissance Monument. We could actually see this in the distance from the hotel, but you don’t notice how grand the monument actually is. It stands at 160ft and is made of bronze and features an African family looking out to the West.
The statue cost $27 million to build and caused a lot of distress within the community for the numerous people living in poverty and many without basic human needs like running water and electricity. Additionally, a predominantly Muslim country, the woman is scantily clad which caused upset to many especially with the monument being the tallest in Africa and seen for miles around.
However, it is a monument of the future and symbolises Africa’s potential, rebirth and liberation from centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism.
As you walk up towards the monument each step also stands for one country in the world. A lovely and finishing touch to a beautiful monument.
That night, we called at a different restaurant in the hotel as our long trip together slowly came to a close. I had a wonderful trip with some wonderful colleagues. Africa is definitely my favourite continent. It has such much to offer and is vast in so many senses. Rich and bright in cultural and natural diversity and I don’t think I ever get bored there. I can’t wait to explore even more African countries.