A Change of Plans and a Day at the Beach: l’île de N’gor

I had planned for Saturday to be the day I went to the fabric market to purchase the fabric I would have made into clothes while I stay in Dakar. But when I woke to a text message from Brenda asking if I wanted to join her, Larson, Janis, and Ben for a day on the beach, I quickly changed my mind and responded with a resounding, “Yes!” We agreed to meet at the “launching beach” at 11:30am.

For most people staying in Dakar, the taxi to N’gor should be between 1,000 – 3,000 CFA depending on your location in the city. My apartment is in the middle of the businesses and residences west of the airport, which is approximately a 15 minute taxi ride to the northern part of the peninsula where the “launching beach” is. Once we arrived in the parking lot, people immediately started asking us if we wanted tickets, etc. for the island. We thanked them and walked past them, finding Brenda et al. on the beach waiting for us to arrive.

The tickets for a round-trip boat ride to the island are 500 CFA. You can see the island immediately, as it is quite close to the shore of Dakar. My translator even said that sometimes people will swim it instead of taking the boat – not me. Boat, please.

As you can see, the island is clearly visible behind us. And we didn’t take those nice-looking boats. Ours were made of wood. 

Where you purchase the tickets.
More boats – do you see how clear the water looks? 

The way to get over to the island is by wooden boats with motors attached to the end. The boat men made sure we all had life vests first, though. Then, we waded into the ocean (take off your shoes – wear sandals or flipflops to make your life easier) and climbed into the boat. The seats are actually planks of wood spaced about 1 1/2 feet apart along the inside of the boat, so prepare to get cozy with the neighbors!

I must mention that there was a Senegalese couple on the boat sitting directly in front of me and the woman was in a traditional-style, lime green Senegalese dress without the hair wrap. She had to be assisted onto the boat, but got her skirt wet just like everyone else. I can’t imagine how hot she must have been – the fabric didn’t look very breathable. But she looked fabulous!

The boat ride itself didn’t take more than 5 minutes, and we were hopping out onto the beach and handing over our life vests. Of course, immediately someone walked up and tried to start selling us things, but we put on our shoes and left the beach to explore. We walked inland toward a special cliff area they had seen on their trip 2 days prior.

View of the Dakar coast from the island. Isn’t all of that blue just amazing? 
The architecture on the island was varied, some of it in the colonial style, some more of the makeshift style I had seen on the mainland. In some cases, the houses looked abandoned, but there were also many interesting doors. 
Corridor with a narrow view of the ocean.
The sun was shining more brightly as midday approached, and we climbed a bit higher on the paths through the island town. The walk wasn’t particularly difficult, and only took about 7 minutes from the beach (if that).
CHECK OUT THAT VIEW. It was the most beautiful think I’ve seen since coming to Dakar, and I was so happy Brenda and Larson took us there. 
A jewelry seller had followed us all the way from the beach and tried to sell me a bikini MADE OF OUT BEADS which were “special” which meant “aphrodisiac.” We all laughed hysterically, especially since it was my first time seeing it and Brenda, Janis, Ben and Larson didn’t let me in on the surprise of what she wanted to sell me. It was quite funny (and I turned bright red). 
After taking in the view, we decided to go to the beach and rent mats to lie down on for the day before the beach got to busy and all of the seats were taken. The students from the UMKC Study Abroad program also joined us, and spent time nearby at the restaurants/cafes eating, drinking, and spending time in the water.  
Once we settled into our spot (4 chairs with mats, 2 mats in the sand, all pairs of seating with a dedicated umbrella), it was time to get in the water. Annddd…. I forgot my bathing suit. I wasn’t really sure what the protocol was for beaches, and I left it at the flat. Oh well. Also, the umbrellas are absolutely necessary for a day on the beach in Senegal. The sun is VERY hot there, and even with sunscreen you will get color from wading or swimming in the water. 
I ended up tucking my skirt up a bit and wearing my “under top” or whatever it’s called to wade into the water. It was crisp and clear – perfect for the warm day. 

That massive white building on the mountain behind me is a lighthouse. We drove past it in the taxi, and apparently you can take tours of it. It is also very close to the national sculpture monument that Dakar is famous for:

After a while, the women who owned the “cafe” next to our chairs walked over with a bowl of freshly caught fish and asked if we wanted to order lunch. We each chose our preferred fish, and waited quite some time for our lunch to be ready. I wish that I could have taken a picture of the fish we were choosing from, but it’s hard to take pictures here without building report with the person involved.

NOTE: If you are someone who is always in a hurry, Senegal will quickly cure you (or drive you insane – you pick). There is something here called “Senegalese Time,” which is whatever pace people decide it is. We ordered our lunch around 12:30pm, and I think we ended up eating sometime around 2pm.

The food was AMAZING. I’ve never had such fresh fish, and it was blackened nicely from being cooked on her open fire grill not 5 yards from where we were relaxing.

Pro tip: They cook the WHOLE FISH here. Beware of bones, and be patient about navigating them during your meal. 
The meal consisted of rice, onion two ways (onion is INCREDIBLY popular here and I haven’t figured out why), frites, salad, and baguette (not pictured – it’s served in a basket).
She was also nice enough to make fried chicken for Greg, who is allergic to fish. 
Of course, all good things must come to an end, so we packed up around 4pm and headed back to the mainland because Brenda et al. had to pack for their journey to Toubacouta with the students. 
I have already decided that I want to come here for my birthday (ON FRIDAY) to relax. I cannot think of a better way to spend the day, so prepare for a part 2 update about the island later this week! I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

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