As February approaches earnestly, reminding me that a couple of important occasions are celebrated in the month, I can’t help but long for Saly. Oh sweet Saly, how I have missed thee.
So who is Saly? Actually it’s a place. Located in the Thiès Region and part of M’Bour department, about 80km from Dakar, Saly is a popular beach resort and one of the most alluring tourist spots in Senegal.
Saly is not just a major tourist destination in the country, it is regarded as the top tourist destination in all West Africa. Known in full as Saly Portudal, it was originally a Portuguese trading post named Porto de Ale.
Although Saly is still a developing community (you can see construction work going on at different places), yet it is at once both rustic and urban in a sense, offering you a refreshing world of fun and excitement.
I suggest a good knowledge of French because, trust me, it can be pretty difficult getting by, except you have a guide who understands English. Wolof and French are the main languages in the country. But well, I survived – no, I enjoyed my time in Saly.
There are several hotels and places to stay offering varying services from cheap to boutique and luxury.
Night life in Saly is vibrant and it starts pretty late from about 23:30hrs and it don’t stop ’till the break of dawn.
La Place des Bougainvillées is the heartbeat of Saly where the bars, lounges, discotheques, nightclubs, and restaurants are clustered. Banks, supermarkets, pharmacies, shops and ATMs are within also that axis, and taxis are there all day, all night to take you where you want to go.
Golf de Saly is there for you, if you want to play golf. About 20km away is the Réserve de Bandia where you can enjoy a safari. No lions, elephants or leopards, but it’s a great experience all the same.
The people are pretty warm and friendly, and Saly is safe enough for a late night stroll, but you don’t have to take chances.
Anyway, February is here and it’s my church’s anniversary month on the first. I’m getting ready for the Blessing Pact on the seventh, Valentine Day follows a week after, and of course my birthday, a day before. Perhaps, I need to see Saly again this February and enjoy some teranga hospitality.
After a couple of days in Dakar, Senegal, I headed on to Saly to meet with my Senegalese friend Diallo. I had booked a one-night stay at the Baobab Belge, a B&B via Booking.com, anticipating that if it falls short of standard, I’ll move elsewhere. I didn’t have to. The Baobab Belge turned out the perfect place – nice, cozy and cost effective.
Saly, a major tourist hub is a beach resort town, about 70km east of Dakar, lying on the Petite Côte, and classified under the M’Bour Department in the Thies Region.
Saly is divided into three areas, or like Fatmata, my Gambian friend puts it, “…there are three Salys.”Saly Portudal, Saly Niakhniakhal, and Saly Nord. The heartbeat of the town is La Place des Bougainvillées which is in the Saly Portudal area. That’s where you’ll find the clubs, bars, casinos, restaurants, banks, shops, discos, ATMs, taxi rank, etc. The Baobab Belge was further down in Saly Niakhniakhal, about a 5mins drive away.
I arrived Saly around 15:00hrs, disembarking at the fuel station along the main road from the Sept-Place I boarded from Dakar. Once I got down, I called Diallo and he told me where and how to find him. I got a cab which took me to La Place des Bougainvillées where Diallo was waiting with his warm teranga smile. We were meeting for the first time, but we’d been communicating via emails.
Being pretty tired, I declined Diallo’s offer to grab a bite first, opting to get to my accommodation instead and settle in. I assured him we would explore the night together, later. A cab got us to the Baobab Belge in about 5mins, where Dominique, the Belgian owner of the accommodation gave us a warm welcome. Diallo left shortly after, promising to return later for our nocturnal rendezvous.
Dominique manages Baobab Belge with her Senegalese husband. She had actually taken time to call me before I left Dakar to confirm my arrival and I was impressed by the fact that she offered to pick me up on arrival, but I told her I was meeting someone, Diallo. She showed me around the place and made me my first meal of thieboudienne (rice and fish) in Saly, after I had settled in.
Located just about two minutes from the beach (Plage de Saly), the Baobab Belge is a cute little B&B cottage with about five rooms in a garden-like space. These rooms of varying sizes are named after local musical instruments and they include: two Koras, one Balafon and one Tam Tam – I stayed in the Balafon. A two-storey building is close by where Dominique stays with her husband, and I learnt there were available rooms there too.
There are a couple of raffia shades, hammocks, and a cute little Jacuzzi-like tub in the garden. There’s a sitting area in front of the kitchen. The rooms have all the necessary convenience – bathroom with shower and toilet. Each room has a flat screen TV, mosquito nets and fans, as well as air conditioning. The environment is neat, welcoming and quite relaxing.
Dominique mentioned that she and her husband play with a band most evening at of the spot at La Place des Bougainvillées, but I never got to go see them before I left. They also organise activities like quad-biking and water sports for guests, and even take people on tours to places like Reserve de Bandia, La Somone, and other interesting places close by.
Staying at the Baobab Belge felt much like home, because I had the keys to the main entrance, so I could stay as late as I wanted. The people are was very peaceful and I remember walking with Diallo back to a La Place des Bougainvillées around 12 midnight, after he brought some items I asked him to get for me. He had to get back M’Bour and he could only get a taxi at La Place des Bougainvillées. Of course I took a taxi back myself, but it was not because I was afraid. It was because it was dark and not too sure about the route.