Travel Tip: Never settle for a crane-free hotel

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Senegal 2018
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We left Mbour at 9 am, but not before Colin grabbed a Cafe Touba and a breakfast sandwich. Bandia Nature Reserve had not been high on our list since it’s a zoo rather than a natural community of animals. However, we were pleasantly surprised. The Reserves spans 3500 acres, 2000 of which are open for exploration by 4×4. Although many of the animals were originally brought in from South Africa and other countries, many of them are also native to Senegal – including buffalo, gazelle, and monkeys. And all of those animals brought into the park from other countries have flourished. The herds of giraffe, multitude of gazelle species, zebra, buffalo, and impala all included young. Of course the one notable exception to this trend is the pair of white rhinos who happily wander the park.

And of course there were birds. We were most impressed by the Senegal roller, a showy bright blue bird which flashed brilliantly as it flew. Hornbills were plentiful but proved photographically elusive, at least for bird photography novices like us. At one turn a male ostrich took umbrage with our jeep and flopped onto the ground to give us his best fighting display. The driver slowly nudged him with the jeep to force him to disengage but he proceeded to pace along with the jeep in an attempt to goad us into a fight.

The last stop in the park is the restaurant/playground/giftshop/crocodile pit. The crocodiles are also native and are kept in a walled pond where they are fed meat from the restaurant to the delight of visitors. We wish every zoo experience left us feeling so positive about the wellbeing of the animals.

Our original plan had been to skip Bandia altogether in favor of hiking in the nearby Popenguine forest reserve. By our reasoning, the animals and birds there might not be as exotic as those in Bandia but would have been found in their natural habitat. Kat’s recent food aversion put serious hikes out of the question, but Alex had already planned for us to spend the night in the town of Popenguine – or so we had thought. In reality, we passed through the town and followed a dirt road a few miles down to a secluded resort. Although we understand that many people are looking for this kind of experience, we were not hoping to spend our last day in Senegal in a mini-Europe enclosure. Thankfully, our resort was only two miles south of Toubab Dialao, a place that came highly recommended by a friend. After lunch and a prerequisite nap, we headed up the beach.

When the shore turned rocky, Colin navigated us through the coastal villages. Upon reaching the our destination point on the map, we headed down to the beach to get a lay of the land. A local fisherman took us rock hopping around a bend in the shoreline to see the locals pulling freshwater from a well spring only exposed at low tide. We stopped and chatted with two of his friends who understood a little English. On the cliff above us loomed Sado Bade. Almost Gaudi in architecture, this shell-and-mosaic complex houses a hotel and restaurant, but also classes for batik, pottery, drums, mediation, etc.. We climbed up from the beach and sat in the courtyard enjoying peanuts and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. We purchased another bottle of water for the walk home.

Back at our resort Kat was on a mission. The best perk of this beautiful resort is not the stunning series of pools, the soft clean sand, or the artful decor – its the cranes. Unbelievably, this resort keeps two black crowned cranes on the grounds. These fantastic birds simply roam freely wherever they please. The cranes are native to Senegal but not in this region. Kat insisted on searching them out and watching them for a while before heading back to the room. We spent the remainder of the evening painting and reading on the beach until dinner.

 

Tomorrow we wake early to head to the airport and say goodbye to Senegal.

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