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THE INSIDE TRACK ON… SENEGAL

WHY VISIT?

Politically stable, not quite six hours by air from Paris and blessed with an idyllic Atlantic coastline and long dry season that starts in November, Senegal has long been a go-to destination for French sun-seekers taking refuge from the chilly European winter. But, as evidenced by a tally of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this culturally and ecologically diverse country offers far more than a stock beach holiday. Contrasting with the heady modernity of Dakar (a city sometimes dubbed the Paris of Africa) are the time-warped Île de Gorée and ancient megaliths of Sine Ngayène. And while wildlife viewing doesn’t compare to East or southern Africa, a network of national parks protects more than 650 bird species, from colourful parrots, rollers and bee-eaters to the millions of migrant waterbirds that settle seasonally at Djoudj.

WHERE TO GO

Tourism is focused on the coast. For a straightforward beach holiday you need look no further than the Petite Côte, whose palm-lined beaches — busy by West African standards but blissfully quiet by any other — are little more than an hour’s drive south of the capital. For those whose tastes veer more towards urban activities, the modern sprawl of Dakar and historic island-bound Saint-Louis rank among Africa’s most engaging towns and boast lively music and cafe scenes.

For more adventurous travellers, the vast, dry and thinly populated interior makes almost no concessions to tourism and is all the more rewarding for it.

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