Sand. That is one of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of Senegal. You see, no matter where you go in the capital city, Dakar – whether to one of the many beaches, a nearby island, on the highway, or even near government buildings or international organizations – there is a chance that you will be swimming walking on sandy streets. And if you want to make snow angels in sand dunes, you can travel not to far outside of Dakar to Lac Rose (Pink Lake) or closer to Senegal’s former capital, Saint Louis, to Lompoul desert.
I traveled to Lompoul with my sister a couple months ago, and we survived camping in the desert and playing hopscotch on camelback. There are a couple campsites in Lompoul whose basic amenities include tents furnished with bed(s), full bathroom, and a nearby restaurant where one can purchase meals. We chose to stay at Camp du Désert, because it had good reviews and was a bit cheaper than Lompoul EcoLodge. Jumia Travel was having a discount, so we were able to pay 36,000 cFa for a double room, which also included breakfast and half-board (dinner). Camp du Désert has a total of 14 basic tents, which are either single, double, and triple rooms with the single being the most expensive and the triple being the least expensive.
My sister and I decided to be adventurous on the way going there and take public transportation. For our trip back to Dakar, we paid a bit extra for a private taxi that took us all the way to the front door of my house. The entire trip from the bus/car park in Baux Maraîchers in Pikine to Camp du Désert took approximately 4.5 hours and cost us 2,500 per person. The return trip to Dakar took approximately 3.5 hours and cost us 20,000 per person. The cost-time travel breakdown is as follows:
- We took a sept place (a car that crams seats seven people) from the car/bus park in Pikine – a suburb of Dakar – called Baux Maraîchers. We entered a sept place going to Saint Louis, and we told the driver we would be stopping at Kébémer, which is a town about one hour before Saint Louis. We paid 1,500 cFa each, and it took 3.5 hours to get there.
- Note: one can take a normal Dakar yellow taxi to Baux Maraîchers ; any taxi driver should know it. Depending on where in town you are, it can cost up to 2,000 cFa.
- The driver dropped us at the Total gas station in Kébémer. We simply walked across the street to the “garage”. We actually missed it at first, because what they called a garage was very small and not clearly marked. There are unmarked clando-style taxis, which fill up about four or five people and drop them off at a garage in Lompoul village. My sister and I paid 1,000 cFa each and approximately 30 minutes later we got down at the garage in the village.
- From there an official (and free!) Camp du Désert vehicle transported us to the actual campsite in the desert. Another 30 minutes later and we were in our temporary home!
Since we arrived in the evening and were pretty worn out from our journey, we didn’t do much that night. As I mentioned earlier, dinner was provided in our accommodation package, and it actually wasn’t bad at all! First, they served an entrée of vegetable soup and baguette before bringing out the main course: couscous with baked chicken and a vegetable sauce that contained carrots, potatoes, and cabbage. For dessert, we had fresh fruit. After our meal, we joined other guests who were dancing around a bonfire to music played by local musicians. I shook what my mama didn’t give me instead of allowing my food to digest. No regrets.
The next morning, it rained for a few hours, but thankfully it held up long enough for my sister and I to take a demi-tour of the sand dunes on camelback. We paid 3,000 cFa for the 15-minute tour instead of 6,000 cFa for the 30-minutes tour. Another popular option is to take a tour of the dunes in a caravan. This costs 35,000 cFa for 2.5 hours and includes a driver/tour guide who takes visitors across the dunes and all the way to the ocean. One has the option of stopping at the ocean for a quick swim for about 15 minutes before continuing on to the fishers’ market and then heading back to the campsite. My sister and I opted simply for the camel ride, and we checked out later that day. For our return trip we took a private taxi that was recommended to us by Camp du Désert; we paid 20,000 cFa each and arrived back to Dakar in about 3.5 hours.
If you’ve traveled (or are planning a trip) to Lompoul desert, which booking site did you used, which mode of transportation did you use to get there, where did you stay, and which activities did you do?