Senegal has a tropical climate with a dry season that runs from December to April and is swept by the hot harmattan winds. Temperatures range from 18 to 25 degrees during these months. The rainy season is between June and October when temperatures average 30 degrees. The interior is hotter than the coast; close to the border with Mali temperatures can reach 54 degrees.
When to fly to Senegal
Travel between November and March for dry and cooler weather, but watch out for dust storms. This is also a good time to take flights to Sengegal for bird watching and for beach holidays (February-April best).
During the wet season - May to November - conditions are humid and some roads may be impassable.
Getting around Senegal
Air Senegal connects Dakar with Ziguinchor, Cap Skiring, and Tambacounda, but not year-round.
In Dakar and other large cities, cars rapides (small buses) are a popular way of getting around. From Dakar to other cities around Senegal, Big Mercedes buses (Ndiaga Ndiaye) with room for between 15 and 30 passengers, travel the roads. The taxis in Dakar are orange and black and can be hailed on the street. Bargain with the driver and set a fare in advance.
Rail: there is just one service for passengers, a twice-weekly (Saturday and Wednesday) run linking Dakar with Bamako (Mali).
Ferry: sails between Dakar and Goree island.
Car rental: it’s possible to hire a car, although it is expensive. Roads are of good quality, but care is advised; drivers will share the road with wagons, carts, donkeys and livestock.
Senegal insider information
- Senegal’s coastline is 700km (435 miles) long. Almost 500km (310 miles) of it are sandy beaches fringed by palm trees. One of the most beautiful resorts is Saly.
- Goree Island is just a 20-minute ferry journey from Dakar. Between the 16th and mid-19th centuries, men, women and children were detained here before being dispatched to America and the West Indies. Forts and cannons highlight the island’s past; it was fought over by Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British forces. Today, the island is popular with second-homers and day trippers. Most of the buildings were used to house slaves, but are now museums including Maison des Esclaves (“House of Slaves”), one of Senegal’s most visited museums.
- Senegal’s former capital, Saint Louis, is said to be reminiscent of New Orleans with narrow streets, balconies and colorful patios. It is even possible to take a tour in a horse-drawn carriage.
- National parks of Senegal include Delta du Saloum National Park, 73,000 hectares (180,000 acres) of small islands and mangroves. Animal life includes deer, antelope, hyenas, pelicans, herons, teals and warthogs; bird species include pelicans, pink flamingos and storks. Djoudj National Park is situated along the Sahara’s southern border. With almost 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) of ponds, it is a wonderful place to see many types of migrating birds. Visit between November and April for best birding. The archipelago of La Madeleine, opposite Dakar, is a protected marine park on about 445 hectares (1,100 acres). Langue de Barbarie National Park lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Senegal River, home to sea turtles as well as many different types of birds. The Niokolo-Koba National Park is in south east Senegal. On almost one million hectares (more than two million acres), it is one of the most important reserves in West Africa and has more than 300 bird species, monkeys, buffalos, lions, elephants, hippopotamuses and crocodiles.