Goree or Île de Gorée is one of the major tourist attractions of Senegal. Its basically an island located two kilometers from the Dakar Port and one needs to take a short ride on a ferry to reach the island. Though this is relatively a small island but people do live here and there is a thriving local community who of course depend heavily on tourism for their survival. Goree is classified as one of the districts within Dakar city.
A visit to this island was always in my list of must to do when visiting Senegal so from the very beginning I started looking out for opportunities to check it out. The day I reached Dakar I did not have any other activity planned so I just reached my hotel kept my luggage and was out to visit this tiny yet significant island.
Just outside my hotel I met the first taxi driver and deployed all my best linguistic ability to explain to him that I wanted to go to Goree. Unfortunately he could not understand anything and after few minutes of explanation I gave up. It is then that I happen to meet Pape, a friendly French speaking Taxi driver who could understand few words of English. After initial rounds of negotiation I agreed to pay him 7,000 CFA (INR 700) for a pick and drop to the Dakar port. We used the calculator in our mobile phone to negotiate since we both could not understand the numerical.
As a suggestion I would always recommend any traveler to have a good rapport with your taxi driver since you never know he can be your biggest asset. I usually prefer to sit next to the taxi driver since I get a good view for photography and also can have a good conversation with the taxi driver.
It took around thirty minutes to reach Dakar port and to my surprise the roads were well paved and relatively empty.
On reaching the port I could see the ferry ready for departure and hurried to the ticket counter. The ticket counter has clear signboard indicating the price for a return ticket. If you are a Senegalese citizen you pay around 2,700 CFA but if you are a tourist you need to pay 5,200 CFA for a return journey. I made a quick purchase of a return ticket and ran to the jetty to catch the ferry. The ferry had already started its departure and the last bit I had to jump to reach the decks.
I could see many school children on board and on inquiry I came to know that they were all going for a school trip to Goree. It seems that Goree is a very popular destination for school trips as it gives a rich history about the past.
Goree Island is situated behind to Cape Vert Peninsula which is the Western most point of the African continent. It’s relatively a small land mass measuring 900 metres/3,000 feet in length and 350 meter es/1,165 feet. You can easily walk around the entire island within few hours.
The ferry ride was smooth and the clean blue Atlantic water stole my heat. The water was so clear that I could see the fishes swimming around the ferry. All around I could see huge gigantic container ships emptying there cargo at Dakar Port. It took around twenty five minutes to reach the island, the ride was quite enjoyable as you can see the entire Dakar skyline at the distance.
On reach the Goree Island the local authorities guided us to the ticket counter where we had to pat 500 CFA as island tax. The money collected is used for maintenance of the old buildings in the island. There were swarms of guides ready to take you around but since I had already done my research so I skipped the guide part.
The beauty of Goree Island are its building which were constructed during the second half of the 18th Century. These buildings are a perfect example of French colonial style architecture and creates a patterns of color throughout the Island.
Goree Island was one of the centerpiece of the 17th century slave trade in Western Africa though there are some historians who debate this. Historians often claim St. Louis to be the main hub for slave trade in Africa. Goree was also used as a major port for exporting ivory, peanuts etc. thus even before the French the Portuguese and the Dutch were in these islands creating settlements.
This island however is most famous for House of Slaves (Maison des esclaves) which many claim to be one of the main building in the island used for salve trade. Other attractions include Cinquez House, Estrees Fort, Maritime Museum, Military Battery, Public Garden, St. Charles Church and Castet.
The main charm of the island are its buildings and these are best enjoyed by walking around so take enough time in your hand to look around. You can buy souvenirs but ensure you bargain a lot, usually its half of what they ask.
Keep the ferry timings in mind so that you need not wait much at the harbor. You can also relax in some of the restaurants that line the harbor with a grilled fish and can of soda.
Next I will be back with a blog on House of Slaves which is one of the prime attractions of Goree Island. Till then have fun and a happy reading…