Peanut fields and empty savannas
Senegal is the biggest holiday destination in West Africa, with dozens of beach hotels, mostly catering to French visitors, to the north and south of the relatively handsome capital, Dakar, which a cruise to Senegal will show you.
Head north towards the Mauritanian border, and you reach France’s first trading post in the country, the time-warped colonial capital of St-Louis. Turn south and the beaches splinter into sandbars and creeks in the delta of the Saloum River, a fine birdwatching area. Inland, much of the country is flat, baobab-specked savannah and peanut fields, but there are interesting areas, culturally, in the far southeast, where you also find one of West Africa’s best national parks, Niokolo-Koba, with significant big game. Senegal is a highly stratified society based on class and caste differences and dominated by its biggest tribe, the Wolof. They figure prominently in government and business and their kingdoms used to cover the heart of the country – an area now largely under fields of all-important peanuts.
French style and Islamic convictions coexist with great success, though both elements are introductions of the last century and a half. In the far south of Senegal, on the other side of The Gambia, a completely different tribal and social structure prevails in the forests and creeks.