For this week’s Stamped, Morenike Olusanya (popularly known as Renike), a Nigeria-based visual artist, walks us through her unplanned girls trip to The Gambia and Senegal. She tells us about how much she enjoyed her first trip outside Nigeria and why she considers Dakar a “Lagos that works.”
This is her story as told to Chukwunonso Emelumadu, Writer at Backdrop.
I think it’s important to note, from the jump, that I didn’t initially plan to go on this trip. My friend told me she was taking a trip to The Gambia and Senegal, and since I had never travelled outside Nigeria before, I decided to go with her.
A friend of hers was also going on the trip, and we all met up at the airport. So we all went to The Gambia together as a nice little girl squad of three. Our trip lasted two weeks in total — one week in The Gambia and the other week in Senegal.
In The Gambia, we stayed at an Airbnb on the outskirts, which was a bad decision in hindsight. After the trip, we learned that it’s better to stay in a hotel when you visit either of these countries.
The first half of our trip was basically just us beach-hopping. We spent so much time at beaches and resorts because those are the best experiences The Gambia has to offer; the beaches in this country are so beautiful. Sanyang Beach and Serengeti Beach are two of the beaches we visited and really loved.
Visiting beaches and chilling by the water wasn’t the only thing we did in The Gambia, though. We went to some nice lounges and restaurants, where we really enjoyed ourselves. We also went to a market, where we got some really cool souvenirs; I love that I will always have something that reminds me of my first trip.
The last thing we did in The Gambia was to visit the Makasutu Forest Reserve. It’s a private, secluded place, where you can enjoy and appreciate nature; I absolutely loved that experience.
At the end of the first week, we left The Gambia and headed to Senegal. There, we visited Saly and stayed in Villa Dokimale, which is one of the most beautiful villas I have ever seen. When we were there, another one of our friends joined us, making it a four-girl getaway.
We stayed in Saly for three nights, and we considered our time here as a recovery period from all our beach-hopping in The Gambia. Everything about the villa was beautiful and encouraged relaxation. After our recovery and relaxation session in Saly, we headed over to Dakar.
The first place we visited in Dakar was a restaurant called Phare de Marmelles. The food wasn’t exceptional, but I really liked the music they played and the scenery. It’s a really beautiful spot on top of a hill, giving you an amazing view of the whole city; all in all, the restaurant had a really good vibe.
The next memorable place we went to in Dakar was Accrobaobab Adventure — this was the highlight of my trip to Senegal. There were a lot of fun, challenging activities, like tree and rock climbing. I really enjoyed it because it raised my adrenaline level, and I always thought I’d never be able to do things like that; I was very proud of myself. Another thing I did in Dakar that I loved was going to a random restaurant and kizomba dancing with my friends. We had so much fun.
Towards the end of our time in Dakar, we went to Goree Island, which is an island famous for its role in the slave trade. The Island is a tourist attraction, and there are tour guides there giving history lessons about what happened on the island hundreds of years ago. To be honest, I didn’t really fancy this part of our trip because some of the stories I heard got me really emotional. Regardless, it's a really important part of Senegalese and African history.
I also want to add that Senegalese jollof rice is as good as Nigerian jollof rice. It's so good that it was finished or unavailable whenever we ordered it at a restaurant; it’s in really high demand. A friend of ours who stays in Senegal was kind enough to get a caterer to make it and bring it to our Airbnb, and it was definitely worth it. I’ve never had Ghanaian jollof rice before, but my friends who have say Senegalese jollof rice is much better. Ghanaians, don’t worry, third place isn’t too bad.
I liked so many things about the trip. The best way to describe Dakar is ‘a Lagos that works’. You’ll find good roads, good electricity supply, an overall functioning society, in addition to the vibrant style of Lagos. The only thing we struggled with was the language barrier: they spoke French and barely any English, which made some things difficult. Thankfully, one of us knew a bit of French, so we were able to get by.
The Gambia, on the other hand, is a small, quiet country, and I really liked that about it. The people there are so nice and friendly; I was really able to relax and temporarily forget my worries on the beautiful beaches.
It’s important for me to mention that my friends were the best for planning our activities. If not for them, I'd have stayed indoors throughout. They contributed a great deal to making it a memorable experience for me. All in all, it was a great first trip, and I can not wait to go on many more inside and outside Africa.