Dakar

Bustling city markets 
IFAN Museum of African Arts
Gorée's House of Slaves

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Dakar

A city of contradictions

Arriving to Senegal with an MSC cruise, Dakar’s great restaurants, outstanding music scene and alluring beaches give other African capitals a real run for their money.

The architecture and leafy boulevards of the downtown “Plateau” area – a peninsula poking south into the Atlantic – are more evocative of southern France than Africa: to be reminded where you are, visit the IFAN Museum, with its large collections of crafts and ritual objects, or any of Dakar’s lively markets. Kermel has souvenirs, fish, flowers and fruit, Sandaga offers household goods, CDs and attaché cases made of beer cans, and the Cour des Orfèvres has Moorish silverware.

Youssou N’Dour’s home town of Dakar has been a musical hotbed ever since his career took off in the 1980s, with artists from the region flocking to the city’s clubs and studios. A twenty-minute voyage from frenetic Dakar, an highly recommended MSC excursion will allow you to visit the UNESCO-protected island of Gorée, sheltered from the Atlantic by the Dakar peninsula. Gorée’s notorious history as a slave depot and its sleepy, slightly scholarly present-day incarnation – pastel-coloured mansions and a clutch of museums above the shore – make it an excellent and instructive escape from the city.

The Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) was used to store “pieces of ebony” before they were shipped to the Americas, and the IFAN Historical Museum, housed in the Fort d’Estrées, takes you through the history of Dakar.

Must see places in Dakar

  • Dakar Grand Mosque

    Dakar Grand Mosque

  • Pink Lake

    Pink Lake

  • The Slave Trade Museum on Goree Island

    The Slave Trade Museum on Goree Island

Discover our excursions

5 results found

  • DAKAR CITY TOUR

    DAK01

    Get your fill of Dakar’s main attractions on this panoramic tour of the city’s appealing streets and squares, which will see you leave the ship for about half a day. The route through Dakar will take you past the central hub of Independence Square and down Leopold Senghor Avenue in the business district, while a stop is scheduled at the President’s Palace for you to take photos. You will also be able to catch outside views of the Senegalese parliament house, or the National Assembly, as it is known, Dakar’s resplendent white Roman Catholic Cathedral and the no less impressive Grand Mosque, which opened its doors to worshippers in 1964. After a chance to admire the typical Sudano-Sahelian architecture of the Fann district, you will visit the Soumbédioune handicraft market and a sand painting gallery to see examples of Senegal’s favourite art form. These beautifully colourful "paintings", which often depict scenes from everyday life, are created using only local sands and demand a high level of skill from the artists. It will then be time for you to return to the ship, which ends the tour. Please note: the number of guides for languages other than English is limited.
      • Duration
        3:30 h

    • GORÉE ISLAND

      DAK03

      The small near-shore Island of Gorée – or Île de Gorée to give it its local name – is situated only a stone’s throw from Dakar’s main harbour and is your destination on this 3-hour tour. Reaching the shores of this UNESCO World Heritage Site begins with a short trip by boat. As a former site for processing slaves destined for onward transportation, the island is known particularly for its 18th-century House of Slaves, now a memorial museum that remembers the victims of the slave trade. After paying the museum and the island’s castle a visit, a stop will also be made at the old governor’s palace. Some free time is then scheduled for you to browse or shop at the island’s small craft market before you begin your return journey back to your ship. Please note: the number of guides for languages other than English is limited.;;;;;;
        • Duration
          3 h

      • THE PINK WATERS OF LAKE RETBA

        DAK02

        A natural phenomenon that is well worth a visit while in Dakar is the nearby Lake Retba, a body of high-saline water that is home to microorganisms that turn it a vivid shade of pink. Your outing begins with a scenic drive through the fertile Niayes valley, with a stop scheduled at a typical village of the indigenous Wolof people for a chance to meet the locals. Then you will continue on to Lake Retba, where you will leave the coach to board a jeep for an enjoyable ride over the sand dunes. On returning to the banks of the lake, you will have some time to take photos of the rose-coloured waters and perhaps even of salt harvesters going about their traditional trade. You will then begin the drive back to the port and your ship, with further glorious views of the Niayes valley to savour on the way. Please note: the number of guides for languages other than English is limited.;;;;;;
          • Duration
            4:30 h

        • THE MONASTERY OF KEUR MOUSSA

          CULTURE AND HISTORY

          DAK07

          Take a break from the ship and instead prepare to explore the hinterland of Dakar for a few hours, beginning with a relaxing 1-hour drive to the small town of Sébikotane, whose local economy is largely based on growing fruit and vegetables. After a short stop in town, you’ll continue by coach en route to the Monastery of Keur Moussa (House of Moses). The fraternity of Benedictine monks that currently resides at the monastery sustains itself by growing various fruits and vegetables, making goats’ cheese, handcrafting traditional Senegalese kora harps and recording music CDs. African musical traditions and instruments have also found their way into the celebration of mass at the monastery, which was founded by 9 French Benedictine monks in 1961 as a place of Christian contemplation in a predominantly Muslim nation. You’ll have a chance to observe artisans building musical instruments and try some of the locally farmed melons, honey and mangos before you begin your journey back to Dakar and your ship. Please note: the number of guides for languages other than English is limited.
          • No guide available

          • Limited seats

          • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

            Difficulty Level
            Easy

          • Duration
            4:30 h

        • THE BANDIA RESERVE

          NATURAL WONDERS

          DAK09

          An unforgettable African wildlife experience can be yours to enjoy by joining this half-day tour to the Bandia Reserve, situated about a 1-hour drive away from Dakar. Covering an immense area of dry forestland featuring acacias and ancient baobab trees, the reserve is home to both local Senegalese animals and others brought in from East Africa. Sightings of giraffes, birdlife, herds of antelopes and gazelles, crocodiles and even buffalos are likely. You’ll get to explore the reserve on a jeep, with a local guide on board to be your “wildlife scout”. Keep your camera at hand throughout to capture unique views before your outing begins to wrap up with your return to Dakar and your ship. Please note: the number of guides for languages other than English is limited.
          • No guide available

          • Limited seats

          • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

            Difficulty Level
            Easy

          • Duration
            4:30 h

        The excursions in the programme are intended to provide MSC Guests with an idea of the different tours that can be arranged in each port of call; this programme is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise. 
        Shore excursions programs and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.
         
        Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.

        Senegal

        Peanut fields and empty savannas
        Peanut fields and empty savannas

        Senegal is the biggest holiday destination in West Africa, with dozens of beach hotels, mostly catering to French visitors, to the north and south of the relatively handsome capital, Dakar, which a cruise to Senegal will show you.

        Head north towards the Mauritanian border, and you reach France’s first trading post in the country, the time-warped colonial capital of St-Louis. Turn south and the beaches splinter into sandbars and creeks in the delta of the Saloum River, a fine birdwatching area. Inland, much of the country is flat, baobab-specked savannah and peanut fields, but there are interesting areas, culturally, in the far southeast, where you also find one of West Africa’s best national parks, Niokolo-Koba, with significant big game. Senegal is a highly stratified society based on class and caste differences and dominated by its biggest tribe, the Wolof. They figure prominently in government and business and their kingdoms used to cover the heart of the country – an area now largely under fields of all-important peanuts.

        French style and Islamic convictions coexist with great success, though both elements are introductions of the last century and a half. In the far south of Senegal, on the other side of The Gambia, a completely different tribal and social structure prevails in the forests and creeks.