Explore West African wetlands, islands, desert and coast

Discover wildlife-rich wetlands, desert dunes, delicate French colonial architecture and sleepy coastal villages during this 13-day Expedition through Senegal and The Gambia. See abundant, colourful bird life. Ponder the remnants and legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. Search for hippos and chimpanzees while you cruise on pirogues. Watch the sunrise over undulating orange dunes in the Lompoul desert. Visit four entries on the World Heritage list. Relax on the golden sands that line the coast. This trip will open your eyes to the beauty and natural splendour of two countries on the edge of West Africa.


Start
Dakar, Senegal
Finish
Dakar, Senegal
Destinations
Gambia, Senegal
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition
Code
DWSG
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 4, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Take a morning cruise by pirogue into the mangrove-lined wetlands of the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, keeping a special eye out for pelicans, purple herons and cormorants.

  • Watch as thousands of birds of all shapes, sizes and varieties fill the dusk sky above the Saloum Delta during a nightly migration known as ‘putting the birds to sleep.’

  • Contemplate the mystery of the ancient laterite slabs that make up the Wassu Stone Circle during a visit to the archaeological site known as West Africa’s Stonehenge.

  • Look out for crocodiles, hippos and monkeys during a cruise around the Baboon Islands. You might even be lucky enough to spot the chimpanzees in their island sanctuary.

  • Finish your trip with days spent on the sandy beaches of The Gambia and Senegal, taking in the surf culture of West Africa that few travellers see.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is an expedition trip and is new to our range this year. And while we have thoroughly researched every detail of the logistics, new destinations can sometimes throw us some unexpected surprises. More often than not, it’ll be a great surprise. But every now and again there might be a hiccup. We like to think that’s what puts the ‘adventure’ in ‘adventure travel’.

  • This itinerary includes one night in a nomadic tent in Lompoul and 2 nights at a basic hotel in Kuntaur. These accommodations are below the usual Intrepid Original standard however we believe the experience will make up for any lack of comfort.

Itinerary

Welcome to Senegal. Sitting at the continent’s western-most tip, Senegal also marks the fusion point of Africa’s Arabic north, with the diverse and colourful cultures of the region’s southern gulf. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Tomorrow will include a full-day exploration of Dakar, so perhaps for tonight simply settle in and get to know your fellow travellers and leader.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Rise and shine for a tour of Dakar, beginning with a visit to a huge statue dedicated to Senegalese independence – the African Renaissance Monument. This epic bronze statue (which is almost the size of the Leaning Tower of Pisa) is controversial for a bunch of reasons, not least of all that it cost USD 27 million and was built by a North Korean construction firm. Next take a drive past the Presidential Palace and gleaming white Our Lady of Victories Cathedral. Visit the oldest art museum in West Africa, the IFAN Museum of African Arts (established in 1938). Spend some time viewing the collection of tribal costumes, masks and instruments. Next take a midday ferry to the Ile de Goree (20 minutes), a small World Heritage-listed island that was a centre of the transatlantic slave trade from the 15th—19th century. Take a walking tour of the island, including the House of Slaves, a former holding centre for slaves and now a museum and memorial. Stay on the island tonight in basic accommodation.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ile de Goree - Walking Tour
  • Dakar - City Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Rise early for the 8 am return ferry to Dakar (20 minutes). Board your private vehicle and continue to Lac Rose (Lake Retba), a salty lagoon that becomes a striking shade of pink when the sunlight is just right (another good reason for the early start this morning). Next jump in a pickup truck and explore the area a little, from the local salt gathering sites to a small Fulani village. Grab a local lunch, then make the approximately 5-hour drive into the Lompoul desert. If time permits, you can choose to take part in an optional camel ride at sunset. Your accommodation this evening is in Bedouin-style tents set among the dunes. As night falls, settle in around the campfire and sip tea while you stargaze and listen to enchanting Sahel music.
Accommodation
  • Nomadic Tent (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Another early start is in order this morning so you can catch the sunrise over the orange sand dunes. Check with your leader for the exact time to set your alarm for. The magical sight makes any residual sleepiness worth it. Hit the road (or the sand) at 6.30 am for the 3-hour drive to Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary. Arrive and take a 45-minute excursion into the waterways of world’s third-largest bird sanctuary by motorised pirogue. Keep an eye out for flamingos and pelicans among the nearly 400 species of bird that call the sanctuary home throughout the year. Eat lunch at a local restaurant, then continue to Saint-Louis (1.5 hours). Known locally as Ndar, the World Heritage-listed city was one of the capitals during French occupation. Arrive and embark on a walking tour that highlights the city’s remaining colonial architecture. In the evening retire to your hotel and perhaps consider an early night as tomorrow brings another early start.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Djoudj National Park - Pirogue Bird Watching
  • Saint-Louis - Walking Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Get set for a 7.30 am departure for Toubakouta (6 hours), breaking up the drive with lunch in Kaolok en route. Set on the Saloum Delta in the heart of the Sine Saloum region, Toubakouta is yet another World Heritage-listed spot. Arrive in the mid-afternoon and settle in before a 5 pm excursion into the mangroves of the Saloum Delta. The boat trip is timed in order to catch the nightly migration of thousands of birds to the island where they sleep in the evening. This event is known as the ‘reposoir des oiseaux’ (roughly translated as ‘putting the birds to sleep’). Return to your hotel for the evening and maybe cool off with a swim in the pool.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Toubakouta - Saloum Delta Boat Trip
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Catch a few extra winks this morning before an 8.30 am departure into The Gambia. Cross the border and deal with associated formalities, then continue east to Kuntaur. Arrive at around 1.30 pm and eat a late lunch at this evening’s accommodation. Then, head to the nearby Wassu Stone Circle, another World Heritage-listed antiquity known by some as West Africa’s Stonehenge. The mysterious circle is made up of 11 slabs of laterite that experts believe were set in place between AD 500—1000. Spend some time contemplating the secrets of the stones and learning about the other archaeological finds made at the site.
Accommodation
  • Basic Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kuntaur - Wassu Stone Circle
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a 2.5-hour morning cruise on the mighty Gambia River, heading for an archipelago called the Baboon Islands. If you’re lucky, it might be possible to see crocodiles, hippos, monkeys and lizards during your time on the water. Cruise close to the shore and you may also see the chimpanzees who reside on the islands thanks to the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project. Return to land and enjoy a free afternoon. There are plenty of optional activities on offer. Maybe take a guided walk through the local villages and rice fields or organise a guided excursion to a nearby baobab forest. The latter offers a rare opportunity to see these ancient trees (that are under attack from climate change) along with plenty of bird varieties, monkeys and pigs that call the forest home. Back at your accommodation, perhaps relax at the riverside restaurant.
Accommodation
  • Basic Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kuntaur - Gambia River Boat Safari
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Begin the day with a short drive followed by a ferry to Janjanbureh (Georgetown). Take a 45-minute tour of the colonial and historic buildings that remain in town, including the Governor's compound, a former slave house and the local market. Continue to Kassagne (approximately 4 hours), arriving in the mid-afternoon at your riverside accommodation. The rest of the day is free for you to do as you please, so maybe explore your surroundings a little. Your lodgings tonight are set deep in the Gambia inlands, making for a lush and serene environment.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Georgetown - Walking Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Maybe take advantage of a chance to sleep in, because today you are free to do whatever you’d like. There are a range of optional activities on offer at your accommodation. Maybe head out in search of birds on a guided nature walk or take a cruise in a traditional boat and look for sea otters. It is also possible to take a full-day history tour to learn more about the historic slave trade in the area, take a cooking class, visit the nearby markets and plenty more. Of course, if you’d prefer it is always possible to kick back and relax.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kassagne - Village Art Project (6 hr) - EUR50
  • Kassagne - Walking Tour (1.5 hr) - EUR5
  • Kassagne - Bike Tour (1.5 hr) - EUR8
  • Kassagne - Home Cooking Class (5 hr) - EUR30
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a 1.5-hour drive to the coastal village of Kartong, arriving in the mid-morning at your eco-lodge. Enjoy free time for the rest of the day to explore or relax at your leisure. Why not take advantage of a complimentary local village tour guided by a member of staff and learn more about how your accommodation operates as a community-based tourism initiative. You could also choose to hire a bike, go birdwatching or simply relax on the sandy shore of the deserted beach that lies just 100 metres from the accommodation.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Make the approximately 2-hour drive to Banjul, capital city of The Gambia. Head straight for your accommodation, situated on the sandy shores of Kotu Beach. Enjoy a free day to relax and unwind in the sunshine, perhaps taking part in an optional fishing excursion or taking a stroll through Banjul. The lively Albert Market is a great place to spend a few hours wandering if you want to pick up some souvenirs.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Depart Banjul on the early ferry at around 7 am for a 1-hour journey to the other side of the river, followed by a 1-hour drive to the Senegal frontier. Once the border formalities are out of the way, head straight for Joal Fadiouth (approximately 3 hours), a village set on an island made from clam shells that you will explore by pirogue. Enjoy lunch at this unique spot before continuing to Toubab Dialao (approximately 2 hours), a village on the Petite Cote (which roughly translates as the Small Side). If road conditions are optimal, you’ll arrive in the late afternoon. Maybe watch the sunset from the beach your accommodation is situated on.
Accommodation
  • Basic Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The final day of your tour has arrived. An airport transfer is included, though please note this needs to be organised at least two weeks prior to trip commencement. The airport is an approximately 40-minute drive from the accommodation, so please factor that into your plans for the day. If you wish to spend more time here (and we don’t blame you!), we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). To arrange this, speak to your agent at the time of booking.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (5 nights), Nomadic Tent (1 night), Lodge (3 nights), Basic Hotel (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Ile de Goree - Walking Tour
  • Dakar - City Tour
  • Djoudj National Park - Pirogue Bird Watching
  • Saint-Louis - Walking Tour
  • Toubakouta - Saloum Delta Boat Trip
  • Kuntaur - Wassu Stone Circle
  • Kuntaur - Gambia River Boat Safari
  • Georgetown - Walking Tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. As an expedition trip it requires a minimum of 4 people to depart. Please do not book any non-refundable flights or services before the trip is guaranteed to depart.
2. An optional single supplement is available on all nights of this trip, subject to availability. Please refer to your booking agent for further information.

Essential trip information

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