It is impossible to oversell Saly Portudal, West Africa’s biggest beach resort and most popular tourist destination. It is an incredible mix of everything you would want in a holiday and much more than even very opulent, well-travelled people would imagine. Saly, as it is fondly called by the natives and tourists alike, is almost like getting to paradise and finding it a lot more pleasurable than your wildest dreams.
The wonder of Saly resides in the shock of finding the most beautiful and exquisite of pleasures – spas, restaurants, lily-white beaches, sprawling architectural wonders, breath-taking stretches of greenery and rows of flowers etc. right in the middle of an African village. Saly is like creating the splendour of those £10,000 Caribbean holiday packages for Western millionaires in a place like Badagry but for less than a tenth of the cost. It is a perfect blend of the heritage of Africa and the best modern luxury hospitality has to offer. So, sitting in a room (some of which are half the size of a football field) in one of the posher hotels, surrounded by mirrors, furniture, doors etc. designed by the most skilled African master artists, you feel like Emperor Mansa Musa, the richest man who ever lived, or his Queen.
Saly Portudal sits along the stretch of coast known as the Petite Côte region. It is a mini-city carved out of M’Bour, a sleepy, decaying town of 650,000 people, comparable to backwaters like Ede in Nigeria’s Southwest or Okija in the Southeast. The drive from M’Bour to Saly is only less than 5 minutes but it is like arriving a lush green Banana Island on a seafront encircled by palm trees in the twinkle of an eye from Odogunyan, in Ikorodu.
Saly has its own separate administration and mayor, which is like an independent local government and chairman, of business, for business and by business, i.e. the business of tourism. Its main aim is to keep growing investment into Saly, making it safe and clean and with tip-top infrastructure, thus keeping visitors coming from all over the world. Many rich Europeans live in Saly for 2-3 months in a year, especially when it is winter in Europe. Saly was originally a Portuguese trading post, previously known as Porto de Ale, which was modified to Portudal, and ultimately Saly Portudal. The resort was officially created on February 24, 1984 on a previously vacant parcel of land close to the former trading post. The opening of Saly was a turning point for Senegalese tourism.
WHERE TO STAY
There are no high-rise multi-room hotels. Available accommodation is mostly a collection of either bungalows or one-storey buildings with 2-5 rooms rented out to single occupants or families. They usually have a lounge area with television and a kitchen. WiFi is standard. The building and the interior, including furnishing and fittings, are invariably of very high quality. So is environment – everywhere is calm and serene with beautiful trees and flowers. You are always a mere 2-minute walk from your room to a calm “private beach” (the seafront is never crowded because almost everywhere is a seafront) and the waters and breeze of the Atlantic. Many of the residences also have swimming pools. The more expensive hotels (average price ₦100,000 per day) have 24-hour restaurants, barbeque and bars. They also have things like daily live bands and entertainment acts as well as offers such as kids swimming pool.
SOME HIGH-END HOTELS
RHINO RESORT HOTEL AND SPA
A 5-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, the Rhino Resort Hotel and Spa is just 3 km from Saly Golf Course. Each room has a private balcony that affords you a view of the gardens. You can enjoy a variety of local and continental dishes at any of the seven restaurants or simply enjoy a drink at the bar.
Some Celebrity Guests at Rhino Resort Hotel and Spa:
Lamantin Beach Resort & SPA
Hotel Lamantin is quite unique – it offers rooms and guest houses that are African thatched-roofed huts but are very roomy and have all the comforts of modern hotels anywhere in the world. One of Senegal’s leading hotels, it is a 5-star rated establishment.
OTHER HIGH-END HOTELS
N60,222 per night [1-bedroom suite]
N46,438 per night [Standard double room]
LE SALY HOTEL & HOTEL CLUB FILAOS
N61,015 per night [Club double room]
SAFARI VILLAGE, SALY
N67,000 per night [Single bedroom]
RÉSIDENCE LES AMAZONES
N61,000 per night [Single bedroom, 1 double bed]
N24,486 per night [Deluxe Double Room]
LE CLOS DES PAPILLONS
N29,996 per night [Family Suite]
NGN 73,322 per night [One-bedroom, double bed]
VILLA KEUR KOBA
N88,598 per night [One bedroom, 2 single beds]
GETTING TO SALY PORTUDAL
There are no direct flights so Saly. But it is only a 41-minute drive from Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar, the Senegalese capital.
- From Lagos (Murtala Muhammed International Airport) to Dakar (Blaise Diagne International) – N169,000 (Return Ticket)
- From Abuja (Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport) to Dakar (Blaise Diagne International) – N230,000 (Return Ticket)
- From London (Heathrow Airport) to Dakar (Blaise Diagne International) – N330,000 (Return Ticket
Traveling from Dakar to Saly
There are different means of transport available. Shuttle services that convey tourists from Dakar Airport to Saly Portudal are available. The trip lasts approximately 90 minutes. Pequinze, a car rental with driver (minivan, 4 × 4 or minibus 9 seats), offers the Dakar airport transfer service to your hotel in Saly. You can also book and compare prices online. Plan to visit this destination for your next vacation – you have seen how easy it is to get there.
THINGS TO DO IN SALY
This is great fun. You can rent and ride on the beach. Or take it to do your shopping around Saly.
You can learn to ride.
The Artisan Village
The artisan village to the north of the city is worth visiting. There, you get to see and buy various ornaments made by hand using local materials and even dead matter from the sea. From shell necklaces, bracelets, statuettes and other items of African themes, you will most definitely be spoiled for choice – there are loads of very attractive functional fashion and household items and sophisticated but inexpensive artworks that would add a lot class to your sitting room or office.
Reserve De Bandia
Covering 3,500 hectares, Reserve De Bandia affords you the opportunity to see a varied species of wildlife roaming free. Many of these animals are native to Senegal with others shipped in from South Africa. Within the one-hour drive around the park, you can enjoy a variety of local and intercontinental dishes at the cozy restaurant within the premises. There is also a playground for toddlers and preteens. There is a shop where you can buy different stuff, but this shopping may come at additional costs relative to what obtains in the regular markets. Visiting Bandia is definitely one of the activities you should not miss when you visit Saly Portudal.
Sited in the baobab forest, Accrobaobab Adventure offers a series of physical drills for thrill seekers. Some of the activities at the Accrobaobab Adventure include tree-climbing and other outdoor leisure activities. This space can cater to 300 people per day in hourly batches.
This series of activities is open to tourist groups, corporate groups and random individuals. You can talk to your hotel to help organise your Accrobaobab Adventure.
Le Senegal selon Modou
If you want to discover every pleasure in Saly Portudal and other high-quality tourist destinations in Senegal, it is definitely worth hiring Le Senegal selon Modou. Their half-day excursion that takes off from Saly and Somone is thoroughly exciting. You get to spend quality time with the locals, chat with them and even participate in some of their daily activities as you desire. This will provide incredible shots for your library, the ones you would cherish forever.
Established in 2006 by Laure and Laurent, a French couple, Esprit Evasion was created by the duo to share their African experience in the Teranga region with tourists. The focal point of this experience is driving the quad.
You should absolutely head to the Esprit Evasion and drive a quad. This adventurous ride takes you through the baobab forests, Rogniers, Lagoons and Mangroves, giant termite mounds, as well as across the territories of the different ethnic groups that populate the regions. By the time you are done, you’d be feeling like a real son of the soil! The quad ride is available to anyone from age 18 up with a Driver’s License. You and your friends may want to organise your own fast and furious car race in the Senegalese jungle. Amateur drivers are not allowed to handle the quad. As a driver, you are fully responsible for the custody and conduct of the quad throughout the rent period and may also be charged for damages in the course of driving.
SOME LOCAL FOODS
Ostensibly the official national dish of Senegal, Thiéboudienne was invented by famous nineteenth-century cook, Penda Mbaye. The Thiéboudienne is so delicious that Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigerian Information Minister, candidly admitted to Richard Quest that the taste beats the Nigerian jollof rice. The key ingredients for this delicacy are fresh fish, dried fish, rice, tomatoes, garlic, onion and chilli. This yummy combination is usually served with a variety of vegetables like pumpkin, cassava, eggplant and carrot.
You definitely have to try this delicacy native to the Casamance region. Chicken Yassa is largely chicken marinated in a rich combination of lime juice, onions, peanut, and vinegar grilled over a wood fire and then cooked over low heat in its marinade. It’s usually served with white rice. If you’re not a huge fan of rice, you may keep your portion very small or skip the rice part altogether.
Rice base topped with a pasty peanut sauce with loads of meat and veggie condiments, Mafe was borrowed from Mali and adapted as a Senegalese cuisine.