Casamance, in Diola country

Casamance, the granary of Senegal

Casamance River – Ziguinchor © Sergey –

Flown by the eponymous river, the Casamance is the most lush region of Senegal. THE Saloum deltaformed of a concentration of islets surrounded by canals (the bolongs), mangroves and sandbanks, is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

To the west, the lower Casamance concentrates a beautiful range of landscapes covered by colonies of migratory birds. Between intense forests and beaches lined with coconut trees, its villages are a dive into the heart of age-old traditions.

The population, deeply animist even if she remains very attached to traditional religions, continues to dance to the rhythm of the three-stringed calabash guitar and to tell stories around the fire.

Casamance has made an asset of this independent spirit, and the restart of the Dakar-Ziguinchor boat linesymbol of a fundamental economic link for Casamance, announces the opening up of tourism in the region.

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Take advantage of a stop in Dakar to visit the island of Gorée and its slave house with its moving “door of the journey of no return”. With its houses of all colors, its squares and its palaces left abandoned, nostalgia invites itself into the bowels of this island, a memorial site listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Ziguinchor and Cap Skirring: two facets of Casamance

Ziguinchor and Cap Skirring: two facets of Casamance

Cap Skirring © Barbara Divry

Gateway to Casamance 500 km south of Dakar, the tourist development of Cap Skiring has long been associated with the Club Med built in the 1970s. Images of the bungalows on the edge of a white sand beach as far as the eye can see have gone around the world. Since then, the former fishing village has expanded and hotels have sprung up all over the coast.

Under impressive rollers, surfers and kite surfers cross the azure sea. Water sports are popular here and the water temperature is pleasant all year round. On the beach, iron birds imagined by local artists rub shoulders with a herd of cows. The image does not lack fantasy, especially when a calf comes to graze on the beach towels!

Karabane Islands © Sergey –

Continuing seventy kilometers south of Cap Skirring, on the left bank of the Casamance River, Ziguinchor is the other face of Casamance. It is the economic city par excellence with its roadside stalls, its busy atmosphere, its markets overflowing with fruits and vegetables, its artisans trained in the school of resourcefulness.

From Ziguinchor, escapades in the bolongs (surrounding arms) are easy. THE Karabane Islands located thirty minutes by canoe from the village of Elinkine are one of the first French trading posts in Senegal marked by the history of slavery. They are home to colonial architecture amid lush vegetation.

In Casamance, the interior is dotted with guava trees and orchards punctuated here and there with rice fields and mangroves. It is at the foot of the mangrove trees that the women harvest the oysters. Dried and smoked, they are sold in the markets of Ziguinchor.

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When going to the craft village of Cap Skirring, don’t forget to bring ideas for kits, computer bags and clothes, because several sewing workshops offer to create your models in pretty local wax. They deliver you to the hotel or at the last minute to the airport. Lead times are short and prices very reasonable.

Meeting the Diola ethnic group

Meeting the Diola ethnic group

Kadioute Eco-museum © Barbara Divry

Dominated by the Diola, a people of breeders and farmers, Casamance is distinguished from the rest of Senegal by unique customs and folklore. In this matrilineal society, ancestry and inheritance are transmitted by women, spirituality occupies an important place.

Nothing like a passage to the Kadioute ecomuseum at the exit of Cap Skirring, in Boucotte, to see it! Among the Diolas, the animist world – beliefs in the spirits of nature – is very present and the fetish worship is practiced in sacred forests.

Valère is our guide in the heart of this wood populated by century-old cheesemakers. In the middle of a cozy atmosphere, all the everyday tools and musical instruments are reviewed. He suggests practicing carrying a basket on your head. The exercise is perilous, except for African women who learned to wear it from the age of eight!

At the foot of a sacred cheese maker, Valère unfolds the history of colors, the meaning of dances and the collection of basketwork used for fishing before discussing the history of beliefs. Night begins to fall and the presence of bones and offerings at the foot of a cheese maker makes the sacred practices even more mystical. The veneration of ancestors and the spirits of nature are part of the spiritual universe of the Diola ethnic group. Reservation +221 783 517 696.

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Sleeping in the Seleki solidarity camp allows you to discover the earthen architecture topped with a thatched roof. These Impluviums are linked to the culture of lower Casamance, they belong to the villagers. Their crown-shaped construction around a central patio allows rain to be collected. Book with Jean Bassene by WhatsApp +221 777 316 830.

Solidarity experiences and projects

Solidarity experiences and projects

Solidarity project © Jérémie Vaudaux

In a building in the suburbs of Ziguinchor, the appointment is made with two representatives of the Atlantic Africa association. The somewhat formal framework is necessary to understand the earth oven manufacturing project aimed at reducing wood consumption.

Every year, part of the mangrove and forest of Casamance disappears to be used as firewood. A family of twelve uses around six kilos of wood per day.

By contributing to the manufacture of the ovens, an adobe element equipped with two custom-made hearths, the association is committed with few resources (an oven costs €25) to lastingly change daily practices to save natural resources.

Evidence on site in the village of Kabiline. In the middle of ritual dances, the village chief clears a path for members of the association who have come to supervise the construction of the oven. Everything is done on site.

The secret ? A mixture of earth and cow dung left to sit for several hours. It is now up to the inhabitants of the village to make other ovens which will reduce coal consumption by 30% and thus avoid deforestation.

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Among the solidarity projects promoted by the Vision Éthique travel agency is the visit to the JIITO cooperative in the village of Mandina Mancagne. Twenty-four groups of women work here, in turns, to transform the fruits into jams, juices and chips. The dried mangoes alone are worth the detour! The products are sold on site and in Cap Skirring


Consult our online guide Senegal

How to get there?

From Paris, 2 direct Air France flights per day to Dakar. Allow a little less than 6 hours of flight.

To reach Cap Skirring, the companies Transair and Air Senegal provide several connections per day. Allow 50 minutes of flight.

Find your plane ticket

When to go?

Rather in the dry season from November to June. Temperatures are between 25 and 30°C.

Good addresses

– Hotel Djoloff: 7, rue Nani, Fann Hock. Built responsibly and sustainably, this thirty-three room hotel is centered on a patio immersed in vegetation. In the middle of Dakar, a breath of fresh air blows inside. On the top floor, the terrace restaurant and bar are open to all. In the basement, a jazz club. Room from €100.

– Hotel Kadiandoumagne: Boutody pier, in Zinguinchor. The establishment is located facing the Casamance River in a lush garden. The name of the forty-seven rooms corresponds to a nearby village. As a decoration, the famous paddle that can be found everywhere in Casamance. Room from 55€.

For committed tourism, the Vision Ethique travel agency offers trips to Casamance involving travelers in financing local associations. Visits are organized within communities and a carbon assessment is offered for each trip.

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