Senegal in West Africa has a few surprises in store for you. The country has 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that represent the cultural and natural significance of the region. Discover for yourself Senegal’s hidden gems on a guided tour of Senegal.
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011
Saloum Delta is to Senegal what Okavango Delta is to Botswana. A region of incredible biodiversity and breathtaking beauty, it’s calling out for a visit.
Located at the mouth of the Saloum River above the Senegal-Gambia border, Saloum Delta is made up of over 100 islands. The magnificent delta extends 73 kilometres along the coastline and 35 kilometres inland, with the Saloum River emptying out into the North Atlantic Ocean.
Saloum Delta is home to an abundance of wildlife and over 530 recorded bird species. The beauty of Delta du Saloum is you can see the region’s rich fauna and flora up-close on a popular safari boat cruise.
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1978
Gorée Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Senegal, although not the most fun place to visit. Located 3 kilometres off the coast of Dakar, the island serves as a living museum, capturing the history and trauma of the country’s Atlantic slave trade era in the 1400s.
A prominent landmark on Gorée Island is the House of Slaves which includes the Door of No Return. The door memorialises the final steps and exit point the slaves took before being loaded onto ships destined for the New Word, never again to return to their homeland.
Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981
Senegal has always been popular as a birding destination and attracts devoted ornithologists from around the world in search for some of the most endangered bird species in the world. The country’s premier birding destination is Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, a 16 000-hectare wetland comprising a large lake surrounded by perennial streams, waterholes and backwaters.
The precious ecosystem supports a fragile sanctuary for some 1.5 million birds, including rare and endangered species such as the white pelican, purple heron, African spoonbill and the great egret.
Niokolo-Koba National Park
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981
Niokolo-Koba National Park is located on the banks of The Gambia River in a protected wilderness area in south-eastern Senegal, near the Guinea-Bissau border. Covering an area of over 913 000 hectares, the natural biosphere is world-renowned for its incredibly rich fauna and flora.
Characterised by thick forests and vast savanna plains, Senegal’s flagship national park is home to many endangered species such as the Derby eland (one of the largest antelopes in the world), chimpanzees, lions (the largest of the species found in Africa), leopards and a strong population of elephants. It’s also a popular birding destination with over 329 recorded bird species found in Niokolo-Koba National Reserve.
Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik cultural landscapes
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2012
Bassari Country is located in south-eastern Senegal and comprises three important geographical areas: the Bassari-Salémata area, the Bedik-Bandafassi area and the Fula-Dindéfello area. Each region is characterised by its unique biome and abundant fauna and flora. However, its UNESCO World Heritage status relates to rich cultural significance.
Bassari Country was inhabited by the Bassari, Fula and Bedik people between the 11th and 19th centuries. Each indigenous group left behind a visual footprint of their unique cultures and habitats which provide insight into their agro-pastoral, social, ritual and spiritual practices. The multi-cultural landscape of Bassari Country has been well preserved and is home to descendants of these ancient inhabitants.
You might also be interested in the Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa
Island of Saint-Louis
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000
The Island of Saint-Louis is located at the mouth of the Senegal River, just north of Africa’s westernmost point. The densely-populated narrow strip of island is linked to the mainland by a modern steel bridge. It was developed as a French colonial town in the 17th century and part of its UNESCO World Heritage Status relates to it being an outstanding example of a colonial city, characterised by its particular natural setting.
From 1895 to 1902, Saint-Louis served as the capital of French West Africa and played an important cultural and economic role in the whole of West Africa. It became the hub of European traders travelling up the Senegal River to trade in gum Arabic, gold, leather and tragically slaves.
The original town plan, a system of quays and striking colonial architect give Saint-Louise its distinctive appearance and identity. Since the capital of Senegal was transferred to Dakar, Saint-Louis has fallen into decline. It’s worth a visit purely for its rich history and outstanding colonial architecture.
Stone Circles of Senegambia
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2006
Stone Circles of Senegambia consists of four large groups of stone circles that represent an extraordinary concentration of over 1 000 monuments. The stone circles are laid out in a band 100-kilometres wide along a 350 metre stretch of riverbank on the River Gambia.
The four groups representing Sine Ngayène, Wanar, Wassu and Kerbatch cover 93 stone circles and numerous tumuli and burial mounds. Excavations of a few of the burial mounds indicate the stone circles date back to between 3rd century BC and 16th century AD. The Stone Circles of Senegambia represent a prosperous, high-organised and sustainable society that inhabited the region for more than 1 500 years.