Senegal's Cap Skirring - for the best beaches in West Africa

By Jill Brown, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Cap Skiring.

Overall rating:4.7 out of 5 (based on 3 votes)
Enjoyable
3.666665
3.7
Useful
4
4.0
Inspirational
4.333335
4.3
Recommended for:
Beach, Cultural, Winter Sun, Mid-range, Expensive

Enjoy the winter sun with a guaranteed wow factor. Apart from sun worshipping, you can go cycling, fishing or explore the local culture, which has an exotic African flavour

The Casamance region, in southern Senegal, is renowned for its awesome beaches, its beautiful river scenery and its lush tropical forests. To capture all this, I was constantly reaching for my camera; but it‘s the people themselves that add that extra splash of colour. The overall effect is definitely more ‘oil on canvas’ than ‘watercolour‘.

We arrived just after Christmas, after touring Senegal’s fascinating interior, and stayed over New Year. This was the height of the tourist season but there was an overwhelming sense of space along the vast beaches. Tourism here is relatively low-key, and unlike the developed northern beaches, it has maintained its African atmosphere.

Beaches

Cap Skirring's miles of palm-fringed sandy beaches and its perfect ocean temperatures are an invitation to idleness, yet you are constantly entertained. Senegalese women in striking clothes and headwear tempt you with exotic fruits for sale from baskets on their heads. Young boys stroll their cattle along the beach to keep them cool. The occasional tourist jogs by. Senegalese men do staggering amounts of push-ups, in a craze to keep fit, because of their passion for football and wrestling.

Except for the most dedicated of sun worshippers, it's advisable to head for the shade around 1pm when the heat kicks in. Time for a cold drink and some lunch, or a siesta in the air-conditioned cool of your bungalow. My choice was to swing in a hammock in the garden, with a good book.

Once things cooled down, it was time for a swim, a stroll along the beach or some surfcasting for tropical fish. But beware, the barracuda have big mouths and sharp teeth. My husband went through kilos of prawns!

We also made good use of the hotel's rental bikes, by cycling up the beach or heading to town, about 5km. Northwards along the beach we came to a fishing village, where we were lucky to see the fishermen bringing their boats ashore and unloading their catch. If you go south, you will reach the Guinea-Bissau border.

At sunset, we sipped cocktails and watched the sun dip below the horizon, before effortlessly moving on to dinner by the pool.

Excursions

All the hotels offer a selection of guided tours and activities, like mountain biking or 4 x 4 trips. You can visit neighbouring villages for a peek at local life, visit craft markets, meet a fetishist, or even watch a traditional wrestling match. Best of all, in my opinion, is a boat trip on the 'bolongs', the backwaters of the River Casamance, with a visit to the Ile de Karabane for lunch.

The hotel found us a dug out and a boatman who specialised in fishing, and we set off into a maze of waterways. Women were stripping oysters from the mangroves, while a sea eagle perched above waiting patiently for its prey. For bird lovers there are loads of waders and many rarer species. However, our task was to catch the boatman's dinner! Unimpressed with our stingray, catfish and sea snake, he was finally happy with the parrot fish and bream we caught.

On the Ile de Karabane we indulged in barracuda and rice, and some freshly barbecued oysters. Originally, the island was a key French trading post. The old Catholic church is now in ruins, but there is a kindergarten, a medical centre, some simple mud hut accommodation, and not much else except for the pigs that roam free here.

Cap Skirring village

Cap Skirring is a laid-back place, but with plenty to catch your attention. The market is stacked with vegetables I'd never seen before, and plenty of bright-eyed fish. The main street is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. We didn’t test the latter, but I was assured that at night things liven up, and if you want to party, you're in the right place. All the beach hotels are only a few kilometres from the village - an easy bike ride or a cheap taxi fare.

Where to stay

We stayed at the Hotel La Palmeraie - Les Hibiscus on Cap Skirring Beach. It is in fact two establishments run together. The 4-star Palmeraie has individual villas, from 40,000CFA (£60) for two people per night, and the 3-star Hibiscus has B&B rooms from 29,000CFA (£39). There are two restaurants, a bar and two swimming pools. This is like a resort hotel but more ‘African', and we found the staff friendly and helpful.

If you are looking for more of a resort-style hotel with five star facilities and service, then you could opt for Les Alizes Beach Resort, also on Cap Skirring Beach, where double rooms with half board begin at 558,000CFA (£731) per person. Over the Christmas holidays full board is obligatory.

Where to eat

For lunch our favourite was La Paillote restaurant, right on the beach, just a five minute walk from the Hotel Hibiscus. It serves delicious brochettes and salads, but make sure you've done your homework on African footballers before chatting to the owner of the place.

For dinner, we ate at the Hotel Hibiscus, as we paid half-board. We enjoyed the poolside setting and the food, but it was often slow to arrive, unless you have children and then you get served first! But they did put on a phenomenal buffet for New Year’s Eve.

La Carpe Rouge is in the centre of Cap Skirring, and recommended by Petit Futé, a French travel guide. Alternatively, all the resort hotels have restaurants.

You may have heard of the separatist activists in the Casamance, but wherever tourists go security is tight, and we never heard of any trouble. But do get updates before you travel.

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More information on Senegal's Cap Skirring - for the best beaches in West Africa:

Author:
Jill Brown
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4.666665
Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
Total views:
729
First uploaded:
19 May 2010
Last updated:
4 years 40 weeks 5 days 21 hours 22 min 56 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Beach, Cultural, Winter Sun
Budget level:
Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
swimming, fishing, beach, culture, biking

Jill recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Hotel La Palmeraie-les Hibiscus
N/A
2. Les Alizes Beach Resort
N/A

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Community comments (5)

1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Richard
Glad you liked this. I loved the place. How hot? Well, if I say 25°-28° it doesn't sound very hot but at about 12.5°N of the equator the sun is very strong when right overhead, although some winds blow off the sea.
Cap Skirring airport is only a ten-minute drive from the hotels I mentioned (and most of the others)and they have complimentary transfers in their own minibus. Taxis are cheap but negotiable. Best to check with your hotel first what price you should pay. Probably a bit more than the locals.

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Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Jill, this is a great guide to what looks like a bit of an undiscovered gem. I read the story before looking at the photographs, and they were just as I'd imagined from your descriptions. Your recommendations are good - the only questions I had after reading this were:

1) How hot does it get when you say the heat kicks in; and
2) How long/expensive is a transfer from the nearest airport?

I look forward to seeing more guides from you on simonseeks.

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Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

I loved this guide, largely because this sounds the kind of place I'd love to visit. Until I can arrange that,reading this is the next best thing. The information seemed useful and practical.

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Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

This is a comprehensive guide, thanks Jill. I would love to see a more exciting introduction to really grab the attention of the reader. Discovering Senegal is in the same time zone as London isn’t very inspirational. I like guides that draw me in with an intriguing intro so I simply must read on; this is something you could change if you wished – you’re free to edit once a guide is approved on the site.

The photographs are really lovely. They’re striking and bright and do a perfect job of illustrating your words.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on Simonseeks guides by rating and commenting.

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You're right, Jeanette. The opening deserved better. Hope I've fixed it.