Northern Africa
LAST UPDATED 25/06/2008
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Level of surfing


Quality of surf

Very Good

Call code


Net code





0 km


Tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands


Very Isolated, Extreme Heat, Coup / Civil Unrest

Best Months

March - September




CFA Franc (XOF)

Time Zone


Special Requirements

Special Pass / Permits, Lengthy VISA Process, Non tourist Friendly


CIA WFB: Map of Senegal; 2007

Situated in west Africa just north of the equator lies Senegal. First made famous for surfers by Bruce Brown discovery in his 1966 classis, Endless Summer. Bruce wanted to pick an area on the west African coast that no one  would have heard of but he also wanted to give himself a good chance of actually scoring some waves there. It isn’t hard ot look at a map of west Africa and see just how far the Almadies Peninsula jutts out into the Atlantic. Following from that it isn’t hard to imagine that peninsula as being a natural swell magnet  and hey – Bruce was right. Senegal offers excellent surf and one of the most stale democracies in the whole of Africa.


Gbaku: Touching the supernatural in Kaolak, Senegal; 1967

Like many areas of Africa, Senegal was home to primitive and prehistoric cousins of modern humans for millions of years. Senegal was once part of the great inland Empire of Ghana. Islam first came to the area from the Sahara trade routes in the 11th century. The Jolof Empire formed in Senegal around 1300AD. As Europe extended her reach south, Senegal came under Portugues, Dutch and then British rule before France was to claim the Almadies Peninsula and the site of modern day Dakar, the capital in 1677.

This era was to usher in a dark time in the history of Africa as Dakar became one of the busiest slave ports in West Africa. Millions of West Africans were deported from here over the next 100 years. In the 1850’s, France consolidated her rule over the area by moving eastwards and eliminating the native empire of Jolof. The British still held an area around the Gambier River and hence this area was to form a separate British colony. In 1959, Senegal and French sudan were merged to form the Mali Federation and shortly thereafter gained independence from France.

The union dissolved soon afterwards. Senegal briefly merged with The Gambia from 1982-89 before separating and taking the shape it still holds today. Since 1982 there have been ongoing unrest and violence in the area of southern Senegal below The Gambier termed the Casamance Region. Many people in this region originate from more of a Portugues background and set of influences and were to eventually form a seperatist group. Sporadic violence in the region has continued for the past 20 years. Senegal has a strong history of democratic process however and the future seems somewhat positive with peace talks last being held in 2005. Today however the region still appears occasionally on travel warning lists. Surfers should proceed here with caution. The area around Dakar is very friendly however and one of the safest places you will find for a family vacation in the whole of mainland Africa.


Boullu; Le Grand Mosque de Ouakam; 2005

Ouakam is perhaps the most well known break in the country and arguably one of the best waves in the world. The wave itself is a world class right hander reef break, but when you add to this the spectacle of nearby sheer cliffs, a local fishing village operating as they would have  1000 years ago and the shadow of a nearby mosque you can be in for a truly magical experience.

The whole west African coast can be horribly inconsistent from June to October but any swell in the region is likely to be captured by the peninsula at Dakar and indeed, this is the location of all of the main named breaks in the country. It truly is a magnificent site to behold a powerful swell decending upon the peninsula. As many as 10 world class reef breaks lie within a few kilometres of each other, some to the south and some to the north of the isthmus. Larger swells will wrap around the entire peninsula giving you a few options to consider. At least one of them is likely to be at exactly the location for wind and your own comfort levels as far as size goes. The area north of Dakar right up to the border with Mauritania and the town of Saint Louis is basically a 300 kilometre long beachbreak. There are few features to break up the sandflow along the coast here but like all beachbreaks they can be good on their day. The beach breaks up at Saint Louis with foredunes being separated from the mainland by flooded coastal lakes. The estuary mouth at Saint Louis can create very interesting sand bank formations that would definetly be worth investigating if you are in the region.


Kahuna613: Air Senegal 737; 2006

The easiest way to reach Senegal is to fly into Dakar. Depending on where in the world you are coming from you can connect from Johannesburg in South Africa or Morocco in the north. Many European cities connect to Senegal. Air France will probably be your best internationally and Air Senegal for internal flights. You can arrive by ferry from the Cape Verde Islands from the west or via road from Mauritania to the north. The road down the coast of west Africa from Morocco would no doubt be a fantastic experience but probably not for the faint hearted.

The border between Senegal and Mauritania is a hot bed of corruption. Expect to pay a lot of people a lot of money unless you have a good guide or a lot of African experience. If you do drive into Senegal, make sure you are not driving a car more than 5 years old. If you are then you need ot be carrying a permit called a Carnet de passage which needs to be arranged well in advance. If you don’t have this and your car is more than 5 years old you will not be allowed to enter the country. This has something to do with people entering Senegal with older and poorly maintained vehicles and selling them.

Once you are in the country you can hire local taxi drivers for a few days quite cheaply. All of the named spots are very easy to find and in a pretty tight radius around Dakar. Best to take your own map as not a lot of people surf here so few will know where you need to go. Ouakam is famous for it’s mosque however so you should have no problems in finding it. Once you get to the coast you will see how everything else fits in as well.

where to stay

Kahuna613: Sunset from Hotel de l'Independance; 2006

A lot of the major chain hotels are present in Dakar such as The Sofitel, Continental and Novotel. Rooms start from around 100 euros per night. Unaffiliated hotels can offer a nice clean room usually with a pool in the hotel for around 60euros. Rooms below that can get a little hairy and you will be back from the coast. The major chains are all down by the beaches so you can probably just wander across the road for a wave – just like Waikiki! The big chains offer enormous swimming pools, perfect for the wife and kids. There is a lot of great information on hotels and rates throughout the country on

Out of Dakar there are still many nice clean hotels though they are much smaller, cheaper too at around 15 euros per night. The Hotel La Residence in Saint Louis to the north is a fine hotel with a well stocked bar

what to pack

Muntuwandi: Malaria Distribution; 2007

Malaria is till reported outside the major cities of the country so bring anti-malarials with you. Worth checking that you are in date for all of your shots before you come as well, particularly tetanus. Depending on how sensitive your tummy is you may wish to bring your own stamatil, lomatil and other medicines that get you through 24 hour bugs. Don’t even think about drinking un bottled water unless you have a cast iron stomach – including ice in drinks. You will be in the tropics so remember sunscreen, hats and mosquito repellent.

dangers and warnings

The River Gambia

Bilharzia is an endemic disease which occurs in parts of Africa, including Senegal. The disease is called by a fresh water parasitic worm that is small enough to enter the body through your skin or be injested in contaminated water. Once in your system the wom lays thousands of eggs in your lungs, liver, kidneys and sometimes your brain. There is a cure for this disease but you should always exercise caution when swimming in large areas of fresh water in the African Tropics. Another reason to avoid this in Senegal is due to the presence of Nile Crocodiles, not quite as ferocious or large as the aussie Saltwater Crocodile but a known mankiller none the less.

The Harmattan Wind (Nov to May) can stir up a significant amount of dust to the north of the country and may pose a problem for any travellers with breathing or respiratory problems.

The Casamance region to the south still experiences violence and clashes resulting from the actions of the seperatist group in the region. Probably not the place to bring the wife and kids. If you do go here exercise extreme caution and check the appropriate travel advisory and warning services for up to date recommendations.

restuarants, shopping and nightlife

Bernard Bill5: Market Scene, Dakar; 1995

Dakar offers some fine restaurants at the major hotels. The local markets offer some excellent local treats. The Medina street restaurant is probably the pick and cheap with a  meal for less that $5. The country has excellent seafood with the local mangrove oysters a specialty. The locals toss them on a fire, when they open they’re done. Many of the smaller hotels and guesthouses will offer their own meals which is a great way to sample some authentic homestyle Senegalise fare.

You will find a lot of carvings throughout the country. Be careful of purchasing any thing other than treated hardwood however as your own customs department may confiscate suspect items when you bring them home. Drums and other instruments are a specialty, be careful of animal skins however. The Galerie Nationale d'Art in Dakar offers very fine paintings from local artists. Many have a fantastic French influence and range in price from a few dollars to thousands for the internationally known artists.

There are a lot of clubs and bars in Dakar. Remember that you are in a muslim country so open displays of drinking alcohol in the streets will not be viewed very well. The Keur Sanba Jazz Club has a very Parisian feel to it and is quite laid back. A lot of the bars are fairly male dominated and not that nice – probably just have a few at the hotel if you are with a family. Club Kilamandjaro is a better place to go for modern music a few drinks and a dance if that’s your thing, much more comfortable than the city bars.

what to do when it's flat

Henry Kotowski: Ile Goree; 2003

Goree Island was the departure point for the slave traders in the 1600’s and today is preserved by UNESCO, a fantastic look back into this dark phase of human history and an easy day trip from Dakar. There are many reserves and national parks throughout the country and depending on where you are or what you are hoping to see there will be one better suited to your needs.

The Bandia Reserve around 60 k out of Dakar is a private game reserve and offers you the chance to see many of the local animals up close without paying for an expensive safari. The Niokola Koba Park is the countries largest and most important. The entire 900,000 hectares are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and contain lion, leopard and many rare animals and reptiles. The park is 500 kilometres out of Dakar but well worth the trip if you have the time.

useful phrase guide

USGOV: Cuneiform script tablet dating to ca. 2400 BC; 2005

Apéritifs - before meal drink
Une table pour deux, s’il vous plait - A table for two please
Boisson compris - including wine
Boissons – drinks
Confiture – jam
Contre-indications - warnings (when medicine should not be used)
Eau - water
Fromages – cheeses
La toux - cough
La diarrhée – diarrhea
Le rhume – cold
Les maux d'oreilles – earache
L'indigestion – indigestion
Mal de tête, migraine - headache
Thé - tea

AV - a vendre - for sale
BAL - Boîte aux lettres (électronique), Email, letter box
A/R - aller-retour, Round trip
AJ - Auberge de Jeunesse, Youth hostel
BP - boîte postale - post office box
BNP - Banque Nationale de Paris, Large French bank

Can I pay by credit card? - Puis-je payer avec le carte de credit?
Do you have a children’s menu? - Avez vous un menu pour les enfants?
Do you speak English? - Parlez vous anglais?
Excuse me - Excusez moi
Good bye - Au revoir
Good evening - Bonsoir
Good morning / day - Bonjour
Help me please - aidez moi s’il vous plaît
How do you get to . .? - Comment fait on pour aller à . .?
How long does it take to get there? - Ça prend combien de temps pour y aller?
How much is it? - Ça coûte combien?
I don’t know how to say it in French - Je ne sais pas le dire en français
I don’t speak French - Je ne parle pas français
I don’t understand - Je ne comprends pas
Is this the right bus for . ? - C’est bien l’autobus pour . .?
Nice to meet you – Enchanté
Pain au chocolate - Croissant with chocolate centre
See you tomorrow / soon - À demain / bientôt
Tasting - dégustation
Thank you – Merci
The bill please - L’addition s’il vous plait
Water is not for drinking - eau non potable
Where are the toilets? - Où sont les toilettes?
Where is the nearest phone box? - Où se trouve la cabine téléphonique la plus proche?
Where is the nearest supermarket? - Où est le supermarché le plus près?
Yes / No - Oui / Non
You’re welcome - Je vous en prie
Where are the toilets? - Où sont les toilettes?
Where is the nearest phone box? - Où se trouve la cabine téléphonique la plus proche?
Where is the nearest supermarket? - Où est le supermarché le plus près?
Yes / No - Oui / Non
You’re welcome - Je vous en prie

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