There is no shortage of things to see and do in Senegal. The Majority of it is concentrated in the north area of the country but the south has some seriously stunning and secluded beaches.
If you are in the capital, Dakar, it looks like its only a few hours drive down to the south of the country but you have to pass through the country of The Gambia. Dividing Senegal, The Gambia is only 50km wide but will slow you down quite a bit going through it. The Gambia river runs through the entire country and there isn’t a single bridge that connects the north and the south of Gambia. The only way across is by ferry. So if you are driving it could take you anywhere from 2 – 12 hours depending on border checks and ferry wait times, to cross the tiny country.
If you don’t intend on spending time in the Gambia. A much more entertaining and relaxing alliterative getting you to the south of Senegal is taking the Dakar/ Ziguinchor Ferry. This ferry connects Senegal’s Capital with the largest city in the south. The ferry takes 16 hours but the drive is going to take a minimum of 10 hours with a lot more hassle. The only set back of the ferry is that it runs just two days a week. Tuesday and Friday from Dakar and Thursday and Sunday from Ziguinchor.
I recently took the ferry going from Ziguinchor heading to Dakar. We were told to book tickets as much in advance as possible which is difficult if you aren’t in either city. We just happened to be coming from Bissau and to our surprise there actually is a ticket office in Bissau. We went to the ticket office in Bissau on the Wednesday but they said tickets were sold out for the Thursday. We decided to leave Bissau early on Thursday in a shared taxi to Ziguinchor just in case we could get a ticket. We arrived at around 9:30 and rushed to the ferry ticket office and lucked out massively taking the last spots in a 4 sleeper cabin.
There are 4 options. These are the prices for Residents and Foreigners. Baggage is included in the price. Check the Senegal Ferries Website for up to date info and cost of transporting Vehicles.
Category 1/2-seater cabin 26 500 FCFA 30 500 FCFA
2nd class / cabin 4 places 24 500 FCFA 28 500 FCFA
Category 3/8-seater cabin 12 500 FCFA 18 500 FCFA
4th category / chair Pullman 5000 FCFA 15 500 FCFA
The Departure Times
All times are subject to “Africa Time”.
Dakar –> Ziguinchor departure: Tuesday and Friday
Boarding: 14h 30 to 17h 30
Ziguinchor –> Dakar departure: Thursday and Sunday
Boarding: 11h 30 to 13h 00
The ship is fairly new, not more than 20 years old, and from what I gathered it’s from South Korea. It accommodates a few hundred passengers. It has a restaurant, an outdoor bar. Toilets and showers on each level. A viewing deck. A prayer room. A reception and common seating area.
We had a standard 4 bunk room. The cabins were cleanly. Bunk beds with curtains for privacy. There was a closet for each person in the room. The room was also equipped with a shower and toilet. I think the rooms are great value. We saw many people taking to the top deck to grab a bench as a bed for the night instead of the shared seating. The weather was good but it was incredibly windy and loud. If you are not on a really tight budget I would go for a cabin option.
There is a bar and a restaurant on board. The bar serves sandwiches and snacks the entire day. The restaurant has two sittings a lunch and a dinner. The dinner doesn’t open until 8 pm. The prices on the boat of quite reasonable.
It was great. I enjoyed grabbing a beer and heading up to the top deck and breathing in the fresh salt air. I could view fishermen and dozens of dolphins from the deck as they chased the ship out of port. Other than that entertainment was sparse. If you are looking for a way to get to and from these cities this is certainly the way to do it if the dates work. Alternatively, you can take a Senegal Airlines flight ( if still in business) for around $100-150 USD but I would not recommend this airline. Or, like mentioned before, you can do the drive through Gambia.
TIPS: Book in advance. Buy some bottles of wine to bring on the boat with you. Bring fruit or snacks and a book or movies.