At a Glance
Dates: April 5th - April 17th, 2024
Extension: No extensions currently available
Prices: This tour is available for £3,150 per person sharing. There is a single supplement of £210.
In a sentence: A novel safari offering species as diverse as Giant Eland and African Manatee, this is a truly unique trip and one that any serious mammal-watcher shouldn't miss!
Senegal is rarely on a list of top safari destinations but it has a huge amount to offer committed wildlife-watchers. The country's rich coastline offers opportunities to encounter the rare Atlantic Humpback Dolphin and African Manatee, the latter being essentially guaranteed. Inland, the arid north is a good bet for the shy Pale Fox, with the estuarine environment of Djoudj offering great birding opportunities. The highlight of any visit, however, must be the beautiful Niokolo-Koba National Park. Here, with a slice of luck, Lion, Leopard and even African Wild Dog can be encountered, and the remote Mount Assirik holds populations of Bush Elephant, Forest Elephant, Lord Derby's Eland and Chimpanzee.
On arrival into Dakar, you will be met by your tour leader and the remainder of your group. From here, you will transfer by road the three hours' drive to Kaolack and your comfortable local hotel. After a chance to settle in, this evening we will make the short drive to the famed Kousmar Island, a haven for birders. This small island, between two branches of the Saloum River, plays host to an astonishing roost of scissor-tailed kites and lesser kestrels, often numbering over 60,000 in total. Our evening visit is planned to coincide with the impressive spectacle as these birds return to their nocturnal roosts, and the sights and sounds of this can be remarkable.
After an enjoyable evening at Kousmar, we return to our hotel for dinner and some rest.
After breakfast today, we embark on a full day's drive, taking us first east to Tambacounda and then south as we drive around the Gambia. In total, the drive today tends to take around seven hours, over very good roads, and we may spy our first mammals of the trip in Patas monkeys. Eventually, we will reach the unassuming turn off the road to Campement Wassadou, where we spend the night outside the park. As we arrive, don't be surprised to spy your first green monkeys and Guinea baboons of the tour hanging out around camp, and we may be lucky enough to spot hippo in the river below. The birding is here is superb, and African finfoot is particularly well-seen. After dinner, a night walk along the access road generally produces common genet, civet and Senegal galago, after which we return to camp.
This morning begins with a boat trip on the Gambia River from camp. This stretch of river not only affords good views of green monkey and Guinea baboon, but is also a birding highlight. African finfoot, Pel's fishing owl, blue-bellied roller and yellow-crowned gonolek are all possible on this relaxed sojourn on this iconic and life-giving river. After an excursion of two hours or so, we return to camp, and make the short transfer by road to the entry gate of Niokolo-Koba. Here, we will meet our local guide and open vehicle and transfer into the park.
Niokolo-Koba is a beautiful park, but it has long been neglected and poorly managed. Sadly, as a result, game densities are much lower here than in parks elsewhere on the continent, and local guiding standards are extremely low. However, some species have clung on, against all odds, and on the long drive to our stunning accommodation, which sits about two hours' drive into the park. The vast majority of this drive is through extremely arid terrain, although we may spy Defassa waterbuck, roan, warthog, red-flanked duiker, common duiker and bushbuck as we drive. The birding is also excellent, with yellow-billed shrike, stone partridge and Abyssinian ground hornbill all possible.
On arrival at the lodge, there will be a chance to settle in and, if time permits, an afternoon game drive will follow. Whilst our lodge offers unparalleled comfort by Senegalese standards, and a wonderful vista, its location sometimes does not lend itself to game-viewing, and we may have to drive some distance to the central game-viewing area of Simenti to give ourselves a chance of spotting lion, leopard and more. Lion are doing poorly here, with just half a dozen or so in this core area, so sightings are far from guaranteed - by contrast, this is the best spot for leopard in West Africa, although these secretive cats are always hard to find. Buffalo and even wild dog can be seen here too, although more common are western hartebeest, kob, waterbuck, bushbuck, warthog, Patas monkey, roan, green monkey, Guinea baboon, Gambian mongoose, common duiker and red-flanked duiker.
Sadly, park rules mean we will have to be back at the lodge an hour before sunset this evening. We have long lobbied park management to change this bizarre rule, and are actively working with Panthera to secure night drives as soon as possible - we cannot guarantee that permission will be granted in advance of this tour. Our lodge does have access to a nocturnal hide, but access is limited to two people for one hour each night, and sightings from this hide are limited.
Days Four to Nine
The next six full days are dedicated to exploring this park, our favourite in Africa. Game-viewing here can be bruisingly unrewarding, and we have spent months here in the past without seeing any big game. However, with our wealth of experience in this park, we will be sure to target key areas known to produce encounters with lion, leopard, buffalo and wild dog. There can be no guarantees, but morning and afternoon drives to the key watering points around Simenti, including the Gambia River, will give us our best chance of encountering these elusive mammals, as well as the diverse birdlife of the park.
With such an extended stay, we have the opportunity to explore areas of the park not ordinarily visited. We will make a day-trip to the remote south of the park and the area around Mt Assirik. This area is particularly dry and inaccessible, and protects the very few remaining bush elephant, giant eland and chimpanzee in the park. Our chances of encountering giant eland will be greatly increased if rare permission to bivouac here is granted, and we will seek this permission immediately prior to our visit (which is the soonest we are allowed to ask!).
Each evening, we will access the nocturnal hide, and time will be set aside on most days to relax and soak in the creature comforts of our superb lodge. If clients desire, we may de-camp to the much more basic campsite on one night, where honey badger, civet and spotted hyena are commonly seen.
After a final morning game drive near the lodge, we will exit the park and return to Campement Wassadou where we overnight.
We spend today on the road, embarking on the long drive westwards to the tiny village of Pointe Saint Georges on the Casamance River. We will arrive by late afternoon and will have time to settle in to our basic accommodation before dinner this evening.
Pointe St Georges
The full day today will be spent on the nearby beach, watching African manatee at the nearby spring. This is probably the best place to see these manatee anywhere, although the choppy and dirty water can make clear sightings difficult - the best view is usually granted when the manatees break the surface with their calves. Keep an eye out also for dolphins, both common bottlenose and Atlantic humpback, as we stake out the manatees before returning the short distance to camp.
This morning we transfer to Cap Skirring for our hour-long flight to Dakar, where the tour ends.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run from April 5th to April 17th, 2024. The tour is timed to maximise our chances of encountering African Manatees and the big game of Niokolo-Koba, but the weather is extremely hot.
The cost of this trip is £3,150 per person sharing, with a single supplement of £210. This excludes all drinks and lunches, but includes breakfasts and dinners. To secure a place on this tour, a deposit of £950 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise.
British nationals do not require a visa to enter Senegal. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Senegal in April is very hot, with little rain and maximum temperatures of around 41 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 26 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. All major currencies can be exchanged in Dakar.
Safety and Security
There are currently no security issues in any of the areas visited by this tour.