There are 1073 World Heritage sites, cultural and natural, listed by the United Nations. Senegal is home to seven of these, two natural and five cultural sites. We were able to visit four of these. I talked about Goree Island, one of the cultural sites, in a previous post and also a bit about the Sino-Saloum delta in “the land of the Baobabs” post. We also spent time Saint Louis another cultural site and the Djoudj Bird Sanctuary, near the border with Mauritania. Saint Louis is about 180 miles from Dakar, but takes nearly 4 1/2 (or even 5) hours to get to. The bird sanctuary is “near” to Saint Louis (about 30 miles) — even so took a good hour and half to travel there. Some of this travel time is traffic related, but roads can be rough and slow contributing to the effort. You learn to slow down mentally traveling in Africa.
Saint Louis spans three plots of land, two islands and a mainland all connected by bridges. The middle plot is the old city founded by the French and the capital of colonial Senegal from 1872 to 1957 when the capital was moved to Dakar. Saint Louis seems to be reinventing itself as a tourist site with a range of lovely accommodations, restaurants, and an active Institut Française. We saw a great concert at the Institut of a local favorite, Élage Diouf.
The lively arts, music and culture scene are encouraged by not only the Institut by a good photography museum (Musee de la Photographie), music at Ndar Ndar Music and Cafe, and artisanal workshops scattered throughout.
According to the UN World Heritage Website Thanks to its regular layout, its system of quays and its high quality colonial architecture, the Island of Saint-Louis comprises a remarkable example of a colonial city with stylistic unity and urban homogeneity based on typologies and town planning principles inherited from the colonial administration.
We stayed at a lovely auberge, Au fil du fleuve, whose charming host Madame Marie-Caroline Camara can be seen in the Senegal episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
Our trip to the Djoudj bird sanctuary was being in the midst of a National Geographic special. We had a very, very able guide, Biram Seck, whose eye for spotting birds and other wildlife was impeccable. We found the flock of pelicans at feeding time, collecting food for the young pelicans who are about 3 weeks from taking flight. They are dark feathered rather than white, in part to camouflage them from their predators.
I took far took many bird pictures. And a few of the warthogs.
Our travels back to Dakar took place in a Sept Place, a kind of taxi with places for seven passengers in a stationwagon/hatchback.
We returned, tired but gratified from our travels.