Southern Senegal – The Cassamance Region
By: Dan Grec
Isolated from Northern Senegal by Gambia and it’s mighty river, the Cassamance Region of Southern Senegal is often overlooked – a mistake no informed traveler should ever make. Because of this isolation, you could be forgiven for thinking you have arrived in a different country – the friendliness and vibrancy of Dakar remains, though the hustle and impatience has been long forgotten. Relaxation and lazy days days have replaced long commutes and suit-and-tie office workers. White sand beaches are endless and devoid of people, palm trees burst with coconuts, and local fishermen sell the fresh catch of the day – everything from barracuda to oysters and crayfish – right on the beach sand.
The enormous and braided Cassamance River snakes through the region, creating vast swaths of fertile mangroves and low lying rice fields. Jump aboard a hand-made wooded Pirogue – a very large canoe – to tour the remote, isolated farming communities dotted throughout. Accept the invitation to watch men and women plowing rice fields using nothing but hand tools. These fields are family and community owned, and have been passed down for many generations. The mouth of the Cassamance River, and further out to sea, offer world class barracuda sport fishing. Reports of landing over twenty fish in one day are not uncommon.
Travel to the region from Dakar can be made by road, sea, or air. The road journey, which skirts around the entire country of Gambia, is extremely long and arduous. A much more relaxing option is the large, modern overnight ferry that runs multiple times per week from Dakar. The ferry trip includes open ocean and a stretch along the mighty Cassamance River and even makes a stop on the beautiful Karabane Island. There are also daily flights from Dakar to Ziguinchor, the regional capital, which lies about 30 minutes by road from the beaches of Cap Skirring – the center of all things beach-side Cassamance.
Be sure to plan a stop in the magical Cassamance region of Southern Senegal, you will not regret it!
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