Senegal is a friendly and extraordinarily diverse country, enormously rich in fauna and an ideal place to visit for anyone eager to experience Africa’s natural wonders. It is located in the western tip of Africa, and has a sub-Saharan tropical climate throughout most of its territory. The Atlantic coastline enjoys moderately warm temperatures throughout the year due to the oceanic influence, while the interior boasts the typical tropical bi-seasonality marked by a rainy season and a dry season.
Within Senegal’s borders, three ecosystems of great value converge: the Sahel, the sub-humid tropical forest, and mangrove wetlands associated with the Atlantic Coast. This is one of Senegal’s biggest attractions; here one can enjoy the contrast between different natural environments in a relatively small area including desert plains, wetlands, mangroves, savanna, riverside forests, sub-humid forests, and farms.
Senegal’s varied ecosystems are home to a rich diversity of birds, with more than six hundred species nationwide. On this tour we will see large populations of waterfowl in Djoudj, as well as desert and savannah species, a large number of migrant and wintering species and forest birds typical of the tropics. Senegal is a wonderful destination for those new to the world of African birds, but will still surprise and delight even the most experienced traveler and naturalist.
Days 1, 2 and 3
Arrival at Dakar International Airport. Within Dakar’s limits we will be able to see some interesting birds such as Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus), African Anhinga (Anhinga rufa), Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus), Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis) and impressive numbers of yellow-billed kites (Milvus aegyptius).
On our first morning in Senegal, we will head to Djoudj National Park, an important and well-known reserve on the border with Mauritania and an obligatory stop-over point for thousands of migratory and wintering birds including Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludícola), whose principal wintering grounds are here.
En route, we will make several strategic stops in the acacia savannah. This area is home to five vulture species, cálaos o tocos and resident as well as migrant passerines. Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus benegalus), el Speckle-fronted Weaver (Sporopipes frontalis), Sahel Paradise Whydah (Vidua orientalis) and la Green-wingend Pytilia (Pytilia melba) will be some of the highlights of this leg of our trip.
No trip to Senegal would be complete without tasting thiebou djen, a local dish of rice, fish, and vegetables topped with a sauce made of onions, tomatoes, and tamarind juice with a hint of spicy peppers and chili. Yum! On our way we will stop to enjoy a traditional Senegalese meal.
In the afternoon we will pass through the city of Saint-Louis, close to the mouth of the Senegal River, where we will find the first bodies of water with large numbers of herons, including Great Egret (Ardea alba), Yellow-billed Heron (Egretta intermedia), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis) and Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides).
As we get closer to Djoudj, we will transition to a desert environment, where we will find large concentrations of fauna around the river and pockets of standing water which accumulate during the rainy season. Here it will be possible to see Senegal Thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis), Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii), Little Stint (Calidris minuta), the impresive Abyssinian Roller (Coracias abyssinica) and the peculiar Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus), who are often found in the company of cattle, feeding on parasites.
Once inside the park gates we will have a few days to explore its surroundings. We will awake to the call of the African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) on the hotel grounds, whose surroundings provide cover and food for a good number of passerines such as Western Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna opaca) and Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) as well as colonies of weavers and starlings.
The Orange-breasted Waxbill (Amandava subflava) or the African Pygmy Goose (Nettapus auritus), as well as some more common birds in impressive numbers, such as the Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata), Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and African Anhinga, help make this area one of the most important tourist attractions of the region.
On the way to Gran Lac, we will pass semiarid plains with scattered acacia trees, which may reveal a few surprises such as Kittlitz's Plover (Charadrius pecuarius), Kordofan Lark (Mirafra cordofanica), Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix leucotis) or the Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), among others. At Grand Lac we will observe large flocks of whistling ducks and impressive numbers of Black-crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina), Eurasian Spoonbill and Yellow-billed Stork.
Days 4, 5, 6 & 7
There are many interesting species to be seen along the road from Saint Louis to Wassadou. Apart from vultures: Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii), White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) and Hooded Vulture, we will see some new species such as African Collared Dove (Streptopelia risoria), Broad-billed Roller (Eurystomus glaucurus), Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus), Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates), Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) and Black Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas podobe), among others. The sacred city of Touba is an important place for migrants en route from Europe such as White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator).
Wassadou is, without a doubt, a must- see spots for any birder. Its surroundings make exploring the dry tropical forest and river edge very accessible. The comfortable cabins are close to the Gambia River, providing the perfect observation point to make birding a relaxing, easy and fun experience. Without leaving the camp we will be able to see more than 100 species in one day, with some of the most interesting birds being: Wahlberg's Eagle, African Fish Eagle, African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis), Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius), White-crowned Lapwing (Vanellus albiceps), Blue-bellied Roller (Coracias cyanogaster), Swamp Flycatcher (Muscicapa aquatica), Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis) and the spectacular Standard-winged Nightjar (Macrodipteryx longipennis).
During our stay in Wassadou, we will take the opportunity to enter the heart of Niokolo Koba Park. On this occasion, the mammals and the birds will be sharing the stage: Guinea Baboon (Papio papio), Kob (Kobus kob), Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) and, floating along the Gambia River, small groups of Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius). The park is also home to large predators and scavengers such as Lion (Panthera leo), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Spotted Hiena (Crocuta crocuta) and the last remaining Wild African Dogs (Lycaon pictus) of western Africa.
Days 8, 9 y 10
On our way to Toubacouta, we will make occasional stops along the way, where we will be able to see Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala), Brown Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinereus), Martial Eagle (Polemaetus belicosus), Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta) and Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura), among many other species.
Toubacouta is located in the heart of the Saloum Delta, and houses an impressive mangrove forest (180,000 hectares of which 76,000 are protected). It is a RAMSAR site designated as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It also contains a considerably rich bird life, including the spectacular Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath), Western Reef Heron, Yellow-billed Heron, Reed Cormorant and African Anhinga. Dozens of them seek refuge in the mangroves and can be seen here.
In the areas surrounding Toubacouta we will be able to find Pearl-spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum), Wire-tailed Swallow (Hirundo smithi), African Thrush (Turdus pelios) or Pygmy Sunbird (Hedydipna platura). It is also possible to see the rare yellow morph of Common Gonolek (Laniarius barbarus). The individuals with this plumage are very difficult to find and are present in the region only during breeding season.
On the way back to Dakar, we will spend our last afternoon with our scopes pointed toward the Atlantic Ocean in order to look for Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus), Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus), Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) and even Bottle-nosed Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) breaking through the ocean’s surface at sunset.