We arrived in Dakar in August of 2018 with two teenage boys. We haven’t been disappointed. As soon as we landed we were looked after wonderfully by the ISD community. From being housed in our apartment to being shown the options for supermarket shopping to coffee shops and restaurants. We were also immediately given some guidance about Senegalese culture and opportunities to experience the vibrancy of the markets and the beaches.
As we have grown into learning more about the city our options for lifestyle choices often revolve around the wonderful Atlantic Ocean. Surfing has been an incredible outlet for us and our children and a physical challenge unlike any other sporting or outdoor activity they have experienced before. There are a number of surf schools in Dakar and one with direct links to the School community. Kayaking and kite surfing are also options although the wind is not as reliable for kite surfing as places such as Morocco or Portugal. Whilst the city beaches can be less manicured and ‘kept’ than European equivalents there are a number of beach clean up initiatives and a growing awareness. Mamelle beach is a hidden gem and wonderful for relaxing and swimming. Ngor island is easy to access and has lovely relaxing options for beach as well as eating and drinking although can become very crowded at the weekends. Driving into the downtown area of the city known as “plateau’ provides other opportunities and certainly more of a ‘high end’ feel on the waterfront. Additionally, there are a growing number of branded hotels which have waterfront access and provide a much more developed experience, typically with poolside brunches and waiter service.
Travelling in and around Dakar can be hectic although very easy with the vast amount of taxis which can be hailed on the roadside and are very reasonable as long as you prepare to barter. For those interested in getting out of the city a car is recommended. The main highways are French style peage roads and excellent. Traffic is pretty substantial particularly when leaving the city on a Friday evening although there are a number of super beach destinations within 90 minutes of the city.
Most of the information that can be found in travel guide books or sites is reliable and so not worth repeating here. However, suffice to say a basic grasp of French is hugely helpful in terms of negotiating day to day life. Additionally, Wolof the local language is spoken by all local people (not all speak French) and a few words will facilitate the ‘opening of doors’ that may not otherwise occur. We certainly feel ‘wolof’ was something we neglected and would recommend for new arrivals. The vibrancy and experiences offered in Dakar are extensive, music and cultural events are regular and well advertised. As is common in the world of International Education the challenge is to truly find a work life balance and whatever our level of cultural comfort, find the time to get outside the walls and experience the wonderful world of Dakar and Senegal.
Paul Lennon, High School Assistant Principal & DP Coordinator