Your browser does not support the HTML5 video element.
Discover tropical Anglo-influenced Gambia and exotic Francophile Senegal, and compare the colonial imprints in this beautiful region on this West African adventure. Walk through slow-paced French colonial towns, see prolific birdlife and explore some of the region's finest national parks.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple boat
6 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights comfortable lodge
1 nights simple rondavels
2 nights comfortable rondavels
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. Dakar is one of the main sea ports on the west African coast, and it's thought the name derives from Wolof word for the tamarind tree.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Dakar at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Blaise Diagne International Airport (DSS), which is about one hours' drive from the city centre.
Our welcome meeting will take place on the morning of day two at 8.30am. If you have free time on arrival, you may choose to take in the atmosphere at one of the markets.
Savana Hotel (or similar)
After a relaxed breakfast our leader will complete the welcome meeting before we will drive to the ferry terminal to take a ferry to Isle de Goree, a small and peaceful island without any traffic. The ferry crossing takes around 30 minutes, and on arrival we'll drop off our luggage before a guided tour of Isle de Goree on foot. Once a busy trading centre during the 18th and 19th centuries, the island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town's architecture may make you feel you have been transported in time to an old-world Mediterranean district, due to the island's charming colonial-style houses, wrought-iron balconies, narrow streets and brightly coloured bougainvillea. Le Castel is situated on a rocky plateau with its fortifications dating back to different periods, and we'll also explore the old Slave House originally built in 1786. This evening will be free to relax.
Hotel Madou (or similar)
This morning we return to the mainland by ferry and drive to Lac Rose - the Pink Lake. This large shallow lagoon is extremely salty and is also renowned for its pink tinge, caused by the high concentrations of minerals in the water. We'll have a 30 minute walk around the lake followed by free time for a lunchbreak. The pink hues change during the day and from season to season but no matter the time of year the locals can be seen out on the lake working hard to collect salt into baskets on their small boats.
This afternoon we will drive to north for around 4.5 hours to St. Louis. Once the French capital city of West Africa, St. Louis is colourful, charming and full of culture. Jazz music is the rhythm of the city which is now a UNESCO World Heritage, and the evening will be free to explore. For dinner you may wish to try the local dish of Thieboudienne, a mix of fish, tomato, rice and vegetables created in St. Louis.
Hotel Sindone (or similar)
An early start to visit Djoudj National Park, regarded as one of the most important bird reserves in the world. This national park provides the first major water source for migratory birds after their long and gruelling flight over the Sahara desert. We travel by motorised boat along the complex network of channels which lead off the Senegal River. The bird count reaches millions, some species are prevalent such as pelicans - there are as many as 15,000 in the park. We may see them performing an amazing display of synchronised diving for fish and will see a breeding colony. Around three million birds pass through the park annually which includes 400 different species - including herons, white-breasted cormorants, spoonbills, jacanas, Egyptian geese, West African fish eagles and flamingos to name but a few. You may also see crocodile, wild hog, monitor lizard and water python.
Early this afternoon we return back to St. Louis in time for lunch and some free time before exploring this marvellous old town by calesh (horse-drawn carriage) with a local guide. Full of 19th century French colonial buildings, this was the first French settlement in Africa and the Headquarters of Senegambia (the term used to describe the whole region). By the late 18th century St Louis was a busy port and trading centre and was inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.
Today we'll start early for our visit the Langue de Barbarie National Park, located on a thin sandspit in the estuary of the Senegal River, and home to water birds such as flamingos, pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets and ducks. During the months from November to April, the national park also fills with many more migratory birds from Europe. We'll take a motorised pirogue across the river to access the national park.
After a morning of exploration, the afternoon is free to relax or wander further around the town. The streets of the St. Louis are narrow, dusty and easy to navigate and are lined with old French-style villas, some of which are slowly crumbling, that still have an air of colonial charm with colourful shutters and iron balconies.
Early this morning we begin our journey to The Gambia and much of the day will be spent in the bus travelling. We will break up the first leg of this journey with a visit to an astounding mosque in Touba, the sacred focus of the Mouride Islamic brotherhood. Their founder Amadou Bamba, Senegal's most famous and influential 'marabout' (holy man), is buried here and pilgrims visit the town all year round, and as we pass through on a Friday the Mosque is busy with worshippers.
Continuing through the town of Kaolack we enter The Gambia and head east following the route of the river towards Georgetown which was an important administrative centre during the colonial period. Our accommodation this evening is a simple riverside camp made up of simple rondavels with basic ensuite facilities. There is no main electricity but instead limited solar power and no hot water but the fantastic location offers a feel of sleeping within nature while the monkeys and birds add to the wild setting.
Laminkoto Camp (or similar)
The Gambia River flows along the entire length of the country for 300 miles from east to west into the Atlantic Ocean. The banks of the river have been inhabited since 2000 BC and slave ships once travelled along its course exporting slaves. We spend the next two days on this mighty waterway, cruising downstream in a converted groundnut boat, passing tropical forest, bamboo groves, rice paddies and mangrove swamps. Amongst the varied fauna present in this area are monkeys, hippos, crocodiles and of course a great number of bird species. Early this morning we will board our home for the next two nights and begin our journey down the Gambia.
Along the way today we will visit the Wassu Stone Circles by bush taxi. There are several circles each consisting of about 10 to 24, reddish-brown stones between one and 2.5m high and weighing several tons. These were once burial sites dating back to 500 to 1000 AD, however very little is known about the people who were buried here and the stones still present a mystery to archaeologists.
We spend one overnight on board a motor cruiser. Facilities on board are simple with a western-style toilet, a small kitchen and bar. At night we sleep in a communal setting on the upper deck on mattresses, and during the day time can be spent relaxing on the upper deck in the sun or on the lower deck with seating in the shade.
Gambia Motorcruiser (or similar)
This morning we continue our gentle cruise downstream, with time to take in the flora and wildlife along the river banks. The crew will put together lunch on the boat before arriving in the small settlement of Tendaba on the Gambia's south bank in the late afternoon.
On arrival we leave our boat and drive to a lodge on the banks of a tributary of the Gambia River at Bintang Bolong and check in to our river front accommodation, home for the next two nights. The next couple of days will be a break from the hustle and bustle of normal life, as our accommodation is set on the water's edge, it's a great chance to explore the natural surroundings spotting the resident birdlife from the restaurant terrace. Due to the camp's rural setting electricity and hot water can be very limited and outages may occur.
Bintang Bolong Lodge (or similar)
We spend a full day in the river basin around Bintang Bolong. The lodge is located in the middle of a mangrove forest which offers fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities, in particular for those with a keen interest in birdwatching. The rich habitat supports a huge range of birds, including kingfishers, egrets parrots, hornbills, lapwings and herons in abundance.
Birdlife is at its most active in the mornings and evenings, we start the day with an early morning boat trip to spot wildlife on the banks of the river including three species of monkey, and at low tide, crocodiles and lizards. The middle of the day is left free to take shelter from the heat. In the evening apes and vultures inhabit the overwhelming Baobab trees, and after dusk great colonies of fruit bats can be seen swarming into the night.
This morning we begin our journey back into Senegal. We'll drive for around three hours to a river crossing where we'll take a ferry journey to Farafenni before continuing to the land border to cross into Senegal. Once we've crossed we'll then continue to Toubakouta, our home for tonight. Today's journey will take around six hours in total but could be longer depending on how long it takes to cross the border.
The afternoon is at your leisure to relax, have a dip in the pool or explore the local area. Our accommodation is rondavels set within the lush grounds of the hotel set on the river bank. This evening there will be the opportunity to join other guests an optional boat excursion.
Keur Saloum Hotel (or similar)
This morning we will depart our accommodation and cruise north along the Sine-Saloum Delta by motorised fibre boat for approximately 4-5 hours. We weave our way through the maze of wide channels, past mangroves, open forests, sand islands and villages built on islands constructed with oyster shells. We may also chance upon pelicans and flamingos.
After a packed lunch onboard, we'll arrive in Ndangane, our destination for tonight where the afternoon will be free to absorb the slower pace of life. Ndangane is a small fishing village often used a base along the Delta, the beach is lined with traditional pirogues and along the main stretch of road there is a small number of bars and craft shops.
Le Pelican Hotel (or similar)
Today we depart Saloum Delta National Park to begin our journey back to Dakar. Our first stop, just a short time away is to see a giant Baobab tree. Baobab trees are the national symbol of Senegal, some trees dating back 6,000 years and can only be found in a few places around the world. We'll have a short stop here before we continue.
Our next stop will be for a guided walking tour Fadiout Islands. This unusual destination is composed of oyster and clam shells, and the inhabitants are both Muslim and Christian who all live together peacefully. The Christian and Muslim cemeteries are built on a huge ancient shell mound and our guide will take us around to help us understand this very unique community.
Later this afternoon we'll continue on our return journey to Dakar, arriving in time for dinner.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Dakar.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Dakar at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Blaise Diagne International Airport (DSS), which is about one hours' drive from the city centre.
Senegal’s tropical climate is split into two periods: The dry season features temperatures in the mid-20s centigrade which can rise to 35 degrees between November to April. The Harmattan is a dry wind which blows from the north, usually from December-February, and evening can feel much cooler during this time.
The green (rainy) season of the African monsoon is between June to October, with more rainfall in the south as it heads northwards. Days can alternate between hot and dry and wet and damp, with average temperatures between high-20s to low-30s.
Humidity is higher and temperatures lower along the coastal areas, while temperatures inland fall at night. Average sunshine hours per day ranges from 8-10 hours between October to May.
2 Pin Round
The Gambia has a tropical climate which features the green and dry seasons. The green season between mid-June to mid-October sees the annual rains which transforms the dry land into lush green areas. Average temperatures during the green season are in the low-30s with high humidity and more rainfall in the south. The dry season between late-October to May has average temperatures of between high-20s to mid-30s centigrade with sunny days. Humidity is higher though the temperatures are lower on the coast, and temperatures inland fall at night. Average daily sunshine hours between October to May ranges from 6 to10 hours. The Harmattan is a dry wind which blows from the north, usually from December to February.
3 Pin Flat
Saloum Delta (Senegal): Bird watching trip, Approx. Cfa10,000 per person (est. GBP15 per person) Payment by cash preferred
Pack essentially for hot conditions. Light cotton clothing is recommended plus protective headgear in case of strong winds. A light fleece is advisable for cool nights. Long sleeved shirt and trousers help give protection against mosquitoes try avoiding dark colours. A wide-brimmed sun hat is useful for protection during boat trips and sunglasses. Please note: Senegambia is predominantly Muslim and women will need a headscarf plus a full length skirt or sarong for visiting the mosque in Touba.
Comfortable shoes and sandals.
One main piece of baggage (a soft bag/holdall or rucksack) and a daysac , total allowance: 44lb/20kg. Remember you are expected to carry your own baggage in and out of hotels - so we recommend you pack light.
Take a sleeping sheet for the Gambia accommodation as it is basic. Sheets and blankets are provided for the river cruise. Binoculars for bird watching and game viewing, a small torch, insect repellent, water bottle and swimwear. A mosquito net may come in useful - many hotels are close to water and although hotels have nets on the windows and over the beds, these are not always 100% effective.
Bus, 4WD, Boat
Senegal's tourism infrastructure is well developed and standards are generally good throughout the country. We stay in a selection of properties ranging between simple guesthouses and comfortable hotels chosen for their location or authenticity. All properties feature hot water and electricity but as with many countries in West Africa, Senegal is subject to low water pressure and outages at any time. Gambia's tourism infrastructure is far less developed. Hot water and electricity are unreliable. Standards of service can vary greatly and waiting times for simple requests can be lengthy but staff are often welcoming and friendly. We stay in two different eco-camps ideally located on the riverbank and a perfect spot for bird-watchers. Electricity is only available between set hours and can be temperamental, and hot water can also be unreliable. The rural location of both camps offers excellent bird spotting opportunities as well a great place to watch sunsets along the river or sit under clear skies without light pollution. The night on the boat is simple, with basic facilities. There is one western-style WC, a small kitchen and bar. Sleeping arrangements are under the stars on the upper deck. Thick mattresses cover the deck to create a communal sleeping area, with mosquito nets provided at night. During the day time can be spent under the sun-shade or below on the lower deck where there is comfy seating. Mosquito nets are provided on all nights of the tour except in Dakar and the Saloum Delta National Park (1 night).
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Senegal: Visas are not required for holders of UK passports. If travelling on a one way ticket you need to have a minimum of 3 months validity on your passport. If you are travelling on a return ticket your passport must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. All other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. A multiple entry visa is required for this trip if a visa is required for your nationality to enter the country. We will need to gain your multiple entry visa prior to arrival in Senegal. In addition, in order to cross the land border between Gambia and Senegal (on day 10) you must have an actual yellow fever certificate/card. Electronic or photocopy versions are not acceptable and you may be fined or refused entry if you do not have one. The Gambia: Visas are not required for UK passport holders when arriving into an international airport or crossing land borders from Senegal to The Gambia. Passport must be valid for the entire duration of your visit. Visas are not required for Canadian, Australian & New Zealand passport holders when arriving into an international airport. Passports must have a minimum validity of 6 months and at least 1 blank page at time of travel. Visas are required by US citizens and should be obtained before departure. When crossing land borders from Senegal to Gambia an entry stamp is required by some nationalities (unless you already have a valid Gambian visa) and maybe chargable at approximately GMD3,000 (£60-65). We advise for all passengers to travel with the entry stamp fee in case this charge becomes applicable to other nationalities at short notice. All other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
A Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate is required when travelling to Senegal. We recommend protection against malaria, hepatitis A, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, polio and yellow fever. You must travel with your Yellow Fever vaccination card. You may also want to take immunisation against meningococcal meningitis. Malaria is present in the region so consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. You must travel with your current vaccinations card/booklet as this will be requested by the Senegalese border authorities. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
A Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate is required when travelling to the Gambia. We recommend protection against malaria, hepatitis A, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, polio and yellow fever. You must travel with your Yellow Fever vaccination card. You may also want to take immunisation against meningococcal meningitis. Malaria is present in the region so consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
In 2023, Ramadan runs from 22nd March to 20th April. Read more about travelling during Ramadan.
The following 2023 departures will coincide with Ramadan.
12th March 2023
2nd April 2023