The Motherland, West Africa, Senegal

A trip of a lifetime dropped into my lap, and I was not planning it; I was going to the Motherland! Senegal – Cote D’Ivoire – Ghana.  When a friend invited me to celebrate Christmas and the New Year in West Africa, I immediately said yes without any questions. Just let me know the dates, and I will be there.

The airfare from New York was ridiculous, so I booked my intra-flights first (Dakar to Abidjan, Abidjan to Accra).  After a week or two of watching the flights, I finally ended up using airline points then I upgraded to first class.  Once the airfare was booked, it was time to look into the requirements for each country.

Entry Requirements

Let me tell you prepping to go to the Motherland ain’t cheap. Yeah, I said, “ain’t”. Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana had entry requirements, but Senegal did not. The following is a breakdown of the costs associated with traveling to West Africa.

  • Yellow Fever vaccine is $305.00, and it is not covered by your health insurance even though the insurance company says it is covered (mandatory for the Ivory Coast and Ghana)
  • Cote D’Ivoire Visa, $73.00
  • Ghana Visa, $63.00
  • Visa passport picture, $17.00
  • Mail Ghana’s visa application with passport via FedEx, $38.00. I don’t trust the U.S. Postal Service
  • For Ghana to return your passport and visa via FedEx, it is $29.00
  • Travel Insurance, $330.00

A total of $855 and I have not left the States, but I am going to the Motherland!

Journey to the Airport

Can you please tell me why I had drama on my travel day? It would not be me if I didn’t. The day started crazy as I had to work, and everyone wanted a piece of me. Anywho, it was supposed to be a smooth and leisurely ride to JFK as my travel mate coordinated the car service.

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:30 pm. We left at 3:15 pm. We would arrive at the airport at 5:00 pm; relax in the lounge before our flight. Well, that was not the case, we got stuck in traffic. A ride that normally takes less than 2 hours, took over 3 hours. My travel mate and I were quietly having anxiety, but we did not want to voice it.

We arrived at the airport at 6:20 pm. (You know for international flights you must arrive 2 hours before departure). We were fortunate for the outdoor check-in that had no lines. After we checked in and it was time to hustle to our gate; we arrived as they were boarding. After a glass of champagne or two, we finally exhaled.

 

Senegal

Senegal is a country in western Africa; located at the westernmost point of the continent Senegal is known as the “Gateway to Africa” and the capital is Dakar. This lively and attractive metropolis, located on the Cape Verde Peninsula along the Atlantic shore, is a popular tourist destination.

General info
  • Flight time from New York: 7.5 hours
  • Time Zone from New York:  5 hours
  • Official Language: French
  • Religion:  Islamic
  • Currency:  West African CFA franc (XOF), $1 USD is 611 CFA
  • Weather: Temperatures tend to be between 70°F to 85°F (20°C to 30°C). It is warm, but the city has a nice Ocean breeze.
  • Ethnic Group:  Jola, Mandinka, Pular, Serer, Soninke, Wolof
  • Independence: 4 April 1960 from France.

Blaise Diagne International Airport (DSS) is about an hour outside Dakar without traffic. The traffic in Dakar is horrendous and there are no traffic rules/laws. What I mean there are no traffic lights and/or signs. However, everyone follows the rules and there are barely any accidents.  Regardless of the traffic, the drive was scenic and interesting.

Accommodations

We stayed at the Radisson Blu Dakar Sea Plaza, the best hotel in Dakar. The oceanfront hotel is west-facing the Atlantic Ocean where you will have a beautiful view of the sunset. The hotel is just beautiful with several pool-side restaurants. Also, adjacent to the hotel is a shopping mall. You cannot lose.

Things to Do

Dakar has a lot to see and do. My travel mates and I did the following

The African Renaissance Monument

This is an undeniably breathtaking copper statue in the capital. A must-see in Dakar. This monument celebrates not only Senegalese liberation but African liberation from colonialism. I hope you like stairs because just like the road to freedom, it is a long climb of about 198 steps.

 

Lac Rose

Also known as Lake Retb; this is a beautiful lake located 45km from central Dakar and is naturally pink due to the high salt content.

Though it wasn’t mainly pink when I went, it is worth a visit if you have extra time on your trip as the landscape and area alone are quite different from inner city Dakar.


Goree Island

If there is one must-visit place in Dakar, this is it! Just off the course of mainland Senegal, Goree Island offers a better understanding of the transatlantic slave trade and Senegalese history. This UNESCO World Heritage Site truly feels like you are stepping back in time from museums to well-preserved buildings.

This island is a chilling reminder of the scar of slavery many African countries still carry. I advise going with a tour guide, you can hire them before you get to the port where you buy tickets to the island or on the island.

The Nightlife

Normally, during my travels is about the sites and the culture. On this trip, I did a couple of things outside my norm—the nightlife. So, when I travel, it is all about seeing everything and being in bed by 9 pm.  So my travel mate said there is a white party that we are going to. My response was “okay”.

My travel mate then sends me the IG information and it looks cool. After the alcohol wears off and the glasses are on, I see 000h to 500h. I look at my travel mate and said the party starts at midnight. 000h means midnight. She gives me a look. All I kept saying “I haven’t left the house after 9 pm since I was in my 20s.”

The parties/clubs don’t start until after midnight. So make sure to get a nap in to dance the night away with some African Beats.

For the entire trip, I was in bed by 4 am. Who is this girl?! 🙂

Food 

So, we ate and kept on eating on this trip. I have an affinity towards seafood. Don’t ask me what the chicken and meat taste like lol.


And of course the drinks. A lot of champagne on this trip.

This had to be our favorite morning drink – fresh squeezed ginger and grapefruit juice

For Christmas Eve, we were invited to my travel mate’s friend’s home for a traditional Senegalese meal Thieboudienne. It is the national dish of Senegal, an aromatic combination of fish, vegetables, and rice in a hearty tomato sauce flavored with garlic and chili paste mixed with vegetables (pumpkin, cassava, eggplant, carrots, and peanut oil).

Then it was Christmas and time for our next stop – Cote D’Ivoire; but before we left, it was the pajama photos.

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