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Travelling to the Sine-Saloum Delta

Senegal day five


View Senegal 2016 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Waterbuck mother and baby visiting the waterhole

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At breakfast today we were treated to the sight of a couple of waterbucks, mother and baby, who came to drink at the waterhole and lingered for some time. A lovely ending to our short stay at Fathala.

Our journey to Fimela

After spending three nights at Fathala we left to travel further into Senegal. We drove (or I should say, were driven) north on what was at first a good road but which soon deteriorated into a dusty red sand track, made worse by the fact that work was in progress (February 2016) to surface it properly.

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Roadworks

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Scenery on the road

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Passing through a local village

But after 25 kilometres of bumping along through a string of very traditional-looking villages, each with a number of the family compounds so typical of rural Africa, we turned west, and back on to a properly surfaced road. Our driver explained that rather than travel through Kaolack, as we had expected, he planned to take the ferry from Foundiougne, cutting off a corner of the journey and avoiding another long stretch of unmade-up road. We might have to wait for the boat, he said, but that would still be preferable to the much longer alternative by road. This suited us, as the boat ride would break up the journey and sounded more interesting.

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The Saloum from the road

This better road led across salt flats and along causeways lined with mangroves to the town of Foundiougne, from where we were to catch the ferry across the Saloum. The queue of vehicles was too long to allow of us crossing on the ferry that was then loading, so we had to hang around for about 45 minutes while it crossed and returned.

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The ferry in Foundiougne
- this is the one that was too full to take us!

This unscheduled break gave us time to stroll around and take lots of photos, as well as to try to converse a little, in our sometimes inadequate French, with the local market traders etc. They were naturally keen that we shopped at their stalls (we didn't) but less keen on our cameras, although most tolerated them.

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Locals in Foundiougne

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Drums for sale in the market

The favoured local transport option of a horse or donkey and cart was much in evidence, carrying both goods and passengers.

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Local transport in Foundiougne

I rather liked the design of the building housing the port offices here - very 1930s, it seemed to me!

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Port building

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Decorated bike waiting for the ferry

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Ferry approaching Foundiougne

When the ferry returned we paid the foot passenger fee of 50 CFA francs each while our driver drove on separately (no passengers are allowed in vehicles). Life jackets were much in evidence, but thankfully not needed!

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Leaving Foundiougne

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On the ferry
- a white-breasted cormorant, I think, and two gulls

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Approaching Ndakhonga on the far bank

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Disembarking from the ferry in Ndakhonga

The crossing took only about 15 minutes, and once on the far side it was an easy drive of around an hour via the small town of Fatick and on to Souimanga Lodge near the township of Fimela.

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On the road to Fatick

Souimanga Lodge

When I booked our stay at this fairly remote small hotel in the Sine Saloum I opted to pay a little extra for what they term a ‘lagoon’ rather than ‘garden’ bungalow, as these face directly on the water and have their own private boardwalk and shaded jetty overlooking the water. But when we arrived it was to discover that for some reason we had been upgraded to a suite. These (there are just two) have the same lovely waterside setting as the lagoon bungalows, but the extra bonus of a small private plunge pool and a separate inside seating area. What a treat!

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Seating area

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Bedroom area


The room was beautifully decorated with interesting art pieces and lighting. It had plenty of facilities including air conditioning, mini bar, espresso coffee machine and a TV with French channels. The bathroom was very attractive with a monsoon shower.

At the end of our boardwalk was a deck with large beanbags and some shade, perfect for bird-watching. After a quick dip in the rather chilly plunge pool we spent what remained of the afternoon relaxing there and taking photos of the many birds who live among the mangroves.

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View from the deck, with next door's hide, and the boardwalk to our private hide

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Our suite from the hide

The Sine Saloum Delta is known for its bird-life. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a keen birdwatcher, as a photographer I am drawn to them and the challenge of capturing the beauty of something that hardly ever keeps still for long enough!

I also like to know what it is that I am photographing, something I found slightly frustrating here. The local guides here seemed much less knowledgeable about the names of the bird species than those in Gambia, and naturally when they could name them, they did so in French. A comprehensive guide to the birds of West Africa on the bookshelf in the bar area was also in French, so I resorted to Google and to sharing photos with well-informed Facebook friends! All bird photos labelled in this blog therefore come with a disclaimer – I am pretty sure I have the names correct but not 100% so. I’d be grateful to readers who can correct any errors, either on this page or the following ones!

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Bird-life among the mangroves

Today we saw herons, egrets and more, including several pelicans swimming among the mangroves.

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Pelican

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Black-winged Stilt

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Cormorants
- too far away for me to be sure which kind!

Back on the deck we saw a few more birds who came to drink from our plunge pool. There were Senegal Doves, also known as Laughing Doves, and also a Red-Eyed Dove.

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Senegal or Laughing Doves

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Red-Eyed Dove

We also saw several Common Bulbuls and a Weaver – either Village or Little, I wasn’t able to determine which.

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Common Bulbul
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Little (or Village?) Weaver

We were to see many more of the same species during the week we spent here, and more besides, so expect to see lots more bird photos in my following entries too!

Evenings at Souimanga

In the evening we had dinner on the decking by the main building. This is on several levels with only a few tables on each, and you have the feeling of eating in a tree-house – wonderful!

Dinner was a set menu but with a choice of two main courses, which seemed almost always to be either beef (served as a steak or brochette) or fish, again served either as a single piece or a mix of fishes on a brochette. One of the kitchen staff came to seek us out each afternoon to ask for our choice and also at what time we wanted to eat. Before our choice of mains, there was always an amuse bouche and an entree, and after it a dessert. There was no choice of these, but generally we found them tasty and they were thankfully much more varied than the main courses. We also really enjoyed both our pre-dinner drinks each evening (a beer for Chris and a cocktail for me, which came with what we still talk about as the best olives we have tasted anywhere in the world!

Posted by ToonSarah 07:15 Archived in Senegal Tagged landscapes animals birds boats views hotel river roads africa seabirds senegal street_photography Comments (8)

A long day’s journey

Senegal day eleven


View Senegal 2016 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Just before sunrise

With an early departure from Souimanga Lodge necessary today, we were up before sunrise and were treated to a rather different but equally beautiful view of the lagoon from our deck.

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Red-billed Hornbill

But there was no time to linger over photo-taking, nor to take a walk along our boardwalk to the hide to admire the views from there. Instead we quickly finished packing, left our bags outside the door to be collected shortly, and went to breakfast which the lodge had helpfully arranged for us to take ahead of the usual time.

There was just time at breakfast to take one last bird photo, as a rather handsome Red-billed Hornbill sat in the trees above the decking while we ate.

Back to Gambia

After breakfast we were picked up by our driver, David. On our drive here we had taken a short-cut, crossing the Saloum at Foundiougne, but for this return journey we took a different route. David had heard that there were long delays on the ferry so chose to take the longer way around by road.

We drove first to Fatick, where we stopped for a short while as David needed to pick up a spare tyre (having used his spare to replace a punctured one on the drive up the previous day). This was the only place in Senegal that we encountered any significant hassle, with a lot of the local children (who should properly have been in school) crowding round to beg. I found that pointing my camera towards them was an effective deterrent!

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In Fatick

From Fatick we could have taken the main N1 road south east to Kaolack but David chose a more circuitous route on a better road rather than subject us to its bumps and pot-holes! This took us through a lovely landscape of wide salt flats dotted with palms and big skies. Our only concern was the rather large number of overturned lorries we saw at the side of the road; David explained that they are often badly over-laden.

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Lorries from Mali on the road

When we finally reached Kaolack we found ourselves in the middle of a giant traffic jam. It lies at a major crossroads, with lorries from landlocked countries such as Mali passing through on their way to Dakar and the sea on the east-west N1, and the main north-south routes through the country, N4 and N5, converging here. Add to that the fact that there is a huge market on the southern edge of town, and there was some sort of convention on in town, and the result was gridlock. We must have taken well over an hour to drive a few hundred metres through the town, despite David attempting to go around the jams on the back-streets. At least in this busy town there was always some activity to watch on the streets around us, although having forgotten to charge my camera batteries before leaving Souimanga Lodge I was frustratingly unable to take any photos!

Eventually we reached the far side of town and could get moving again. There were no more major hold-ups, but we did have to negotiate the 25 kilometres or so of dusty, bumpy, unmade road on the N5 between here and Same. By mid-afternoon we were at the border in Karang; the crossing went smoothly and on arriving in Barra our luck improved, as the queue for the ferry was short enough to guarantee us getting on the next boat. The ferry journey was uneventful, and I squeezed one last photo out of my dying battery.

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Refreshment seller waiting to board the ferry

Return to Kotu Beach

Despite our good fortune with the ferry timings it was late afternoon by the time we docked in Banjul and completed the short drive from here to Kotu Beach where we had spent the first night of our trip and were to spend the last. Altogether the journey had taken us almost nine hours and we were very glad to arrive, even though it had been for the most part very interesting.

Our room at the Kombo Beach Hotel looked identical to the one we had stayed in on that previous occasion, although this time we were in block three rather than four and had less of a view.

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In the bar

We had a drink in the bar where we had eaten previously, but for dinner this time we discovered the Brasserie, an a-la-carte restaurant on the premises and overlooking the beach. We had a much better meal here, with the scallop starter being the star dish. It was very pleasant to eat with the sound of the waves crashing on the shore as the background sound track, and a relaxing end to the day after that long drive.

Posted by ToonSarah 11:11 Archived in Senegal Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises birds traffic hotel village roads africa gambia senegal Comments (2)

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