A warning about the Senegalese safari experience…

If you’re thinking of trying it, keep your expectations modest! Steve and I paid $178 for a “package” organized by our B&B that included sharing the 70-minute taxi ride to Bandia National Park, the park entrance fee, rental of the safari truck (which we shared with the above-mentioned Ardyce and her mom, an Italian guy, three African-American ladies who’d come to Dakar for the black African arts festival, the B&B owner’s 16-year-old son, and a guide), plus the guide’s services.

A converted pickup hauls tourists around Bandia National Park.

In French, the guide dutifully recited the gestational period and age of every species we saw — but not much more.  The experience reminded me a lot of going to Orange County’s Lion Country Safari, back in the days when it was operating.  Only briefer and more expensive. 

Who doesn't like giraffes?

On the other hand, it’s churlish to complain about a two-hour outing with the breeze blowing through the safari truck and sightings of impala and sable antelope, savannah buffalo, eland, zebra, ostrich, giraffe, monkeys. (No predators; they’re long gone.) The animals posed and munched among dense acacia and thorn trees, and — thrilling to me — forests of baobabs.  The best thing our guide did was to spot a fallen baobab fruit (not so easy to find!  Monkeys love them so much that the Senegalese call them the “monkey’s bread.”  He let us photograph the long oblong fruit, then smashed it against the side of the truck to reveal a fractured white interior. He passed it around to let us extract fragments, which looked like pieces of white packing material. Inside each piece was a huge seed (the malevolent invaders that Le Petit Prince had to ceaselessly prevent rooting in his beloved planet!)  The big surprise was the taste of the white stuff around the seed — refreshingly citrusy.

Now we’re happily settled into the Relais in Kaolack — by all reports a dreary town despite being the crossroads of Senegal. But our trip here was a personal triumph, and Laura and Alberto will meet us here tomorrow afternoon so we can continue on into the delta paradise where we’ll ring in the New Year.

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