Dakar is the thriving hub of western Africa and the capital city of Senegal. Its location has contributed significantly to its growth – as the most western point of mainland Africa, it is a key port for trans-Atlantic and European trade. It is not only a trade centre though, but also an administrative one. Dakar is home to the Senegal National Assembly and the Presidential Palace.
The city itself has over 1.5 million residents, and the metropolitan area is estimated to have over 2.4 million inhabitants. For many, it is the hustle and bustle of everyday life that is the real drawcard for this off-the-beaten-track destination – locals in suits and vibrant garbs parade through the dusty streets, the air is filled with a mixture of heady smells and sounds, and there is a real sense of liveliness that makes Dakar a fascinating destination for visitors.
The port is located on the south coast of Dakar, on the small hook that curves back toward the main landmass.
The port at Dakar is equipped to receive cruise ships. You will find taxis waiting outside ready to carry passengers to the city.
Facilities near the port include:
Ferry for Ile de Gorée.
How To Get Around
Taxis are readily available in Dakar, but be prepared to haggle and agree on a set price before leaving. Don’t surprised if your driver tries to open the negotiations again at your destination. For those just going to the city centre, it is possible to walk – it is less than 2 kilometres from the port to the city.
Travel times from Dakar Port:
It is a 20 minute walk to the city centre
It is a 20 minute walk to the Grand Mosque
It is a 25 minute walk to Cathedrale du Souvenir Africain de Dakar.
It is a 5 minute journey to the city centre
It is a 5 minute journey to the Grand Mosque
It is a 20 minute journey to the Baobab trees.
It is a 30 minute journey to Ile de Gorée.
Currency – The currency in Dakar is the West African CFA Franc (FCFA). Notes come in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 francs. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 francs.
Time Zone – Dakar runs on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which has no offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – The climate in Dakar is classed as hot semi-arid, meaning it is generally warm with a short wet season and a long dry season. The wet season is from July to October. September is the hottest month in Dakar, with temperatures reaching an average high of 30.4 degrees Celsius. February is the coldest month, with an average high of 24.6 degrees Celsius.
Ile de Gorée – This small island is located off the coast off Dakar. From the 15th to the 19th century, it was the biggest slave processing centre on the African coast. Visitors can explore the island and see the contrast between the slave quarters and the elegant buildings belonging to the slave traders. You can also tour the House of the Slaves, which was a slave house built in 1776 by the Dutch, who were in control of the island at the time. This museum is a testament to the horror of the slave trading practices of the time. Be aware that much of the written information on the island is in French, so if you aren’t confident in the language it is wise to organise a private guide or attend as part of a guided tour.
Tree Top Adventures – Located in the bush of Senegal is an extensive forest of baobab trees. When you visit, you can experience an adventure built from these trees using zip lines, high ropes and narrow beams and branches. While it can be physically challenging, it is designed to be accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels. The friendly (and patient!) guides help you navigate the trees and also provide suggestions of things you can try while you make your way through the park. Safety is prioritised and this is an attraction unique to the area. It is wise to book prior to arrival to guarantee your spot and find out what you need to wear or bring with you.
Religious Buildings – There are a number of religious buildings in Dakar, including the Dakar Grand Mosque and the Cathedrale du Souvenir Africain de Dakar. The Dakar Grand Mosque is one of the most significant religious buildings in Senegal, while the Cathedrale du Souvenir Africain de Dakar is an impressive fusion of European and African architecture.