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Introduction

As the main destination of tourists to West Africa, Senegal provides visitors a wide-ranging experience, offering a thriving music scene, bustling markets, bird watching, lovely beaches and a rich culture and history. From cosmopolitan Dakar to the resorts of Cap Skirring, Senegal offers excitement to adventure seekers, families, independent travelers and tour groups alike.

Senegal was part of the area of the great Islamic Sahel empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Portuguese, Dutch, English and French explorers came to the region and it became a key transshipment point for Slaves. Senegal gained independence from France in 1960. Only a handful of leaders have ruled Senegal and, unlike many of its neighbors, it has never suffered a coup. Poet and teacher Leopold Senghor was the founding president, voluntarily stepping aside in 1980 to hand over to his hand-picked successor, Abdou Diouf. Diouf ruled until elections in 2000 when he was defeated by long-time opponent Abdoulaye Wade. Wade won reelection in 2007. Senegal shares a border with Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Guinea.

Senegal has a population of 12.5 million. Ninety-five percent of the country is Muslim and four percent Roman Catholic. One percent adhere to traditional beliefs. Senegalese Islam is distinct in the prevalent role of brotherhoods and marabouts, or local religious leaders. While the official language is French, the dominant local language is Wolof, spoken by 44 percent of the country.

Once the capital of French West Africa, Dakar retains its cosmopolitanism with a diverse array of cultural and historical influences. Dakar nightlife offers dancing at nightclubs, live music from West Africa's hottest performers, and restaurants ranging from elegant fine dining to casual street-side vendors. In a single day, you can sample bissap juice and buy crafts as Sandaga market, explore historic Gorée Island and various museums, and dance to live mbalax beats at downtown clubs.

A short journey from Dakar is the Reserve de Bandia, which has a lovely restaurant near a stream where visitors can view crocodiles. Wildlife in the park includes giraffes, buffaloes and a couple of elusive rhinos. The Parc National du Niokolo-Koba also offers wildlife viewing. The Parc National aux Oiseaux du Djoudj and the Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie are bird sanctuaries of world renown.

Senegal offers many beaches, as well as opportunities for fishing and biking.

Several flights from Europe, the United States and other African countries arrive in Dakar daily. Transportation is available from Dakar to all areas of the country. Transportation by car or bus is affordable, and sept-places (station wagons seating seven people) are available to cities such as St. Louis, Kaolack, Thies, or tourist destinations such as the scenic Lac Rose, the waterfalls at Kedougou, or the impressive mosque at Touba.


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