The decaffeinated Niokolo Koba National Park. Niokolo Koba is possibly the best national park in Senegal, where the endangered species such as leopards, elephants (I'm afraid there are none left), lions, hippos, giant elands (the largest antelope in the world) and especially Warthogs (Pumba, inThe Lion King), baboons and monkeys, many monkeys, in an area that covers about 900,000 hectares.
Niokolo Koba National Park
And why do we say the decaffeinated Niokolo Koba National Park ?. Because although in Senegal they try to compare the safaris in this area with those in East Africa as Kenya or Tanzania, this does not reach the sole of the shoes. For those who know that area, Niokolo Koba could be a disappointment, for those who do not, it is a pleasant visit through a landscape, in rainy season, green, very green, as if you were in the middle of a jungle, but with "scarce" animals. In the rainy season it is very difficult to see animals, it is true that seeing baboons, monkeys, warthogs and antelopes is quite easy, but seeing cheetahs or lions is rather an impossible mission, but if it is possible to see them in dry season, but not in the same proportions as in East Africa.
We left Dakar at 6 in the morning leaving the other Senegal, Senegal of kaos and traffic and maybe prosperity. We take the road N1 in the direction Kaolack - Tambacounda to sleep in Wassadou, a beautiful camp located on the banks of the gambia river. The N1 is paved on the entire route, but except for the section of Fattick - Kaolac, the road is in perfect condition, nothing to do with the roads of the east of Casamance, curiously they are “paved” but to travel you need a 4X4 ... Anyway Sometimes, seeing a dirt road is like seeing an oasis in the desert.
Along the way it is possible to see baobabs forests, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful trees on the planet, in addition to some Ceiba and a multitude of villages, nothing to do with Dakar.
On the way to Tambacounda
In Tambacounda We buy supplies and throw gasoline at one of the few gas stations in the area, since from this dusty city to the south, Kédougou, where the Country Bassari is, there is no other and and hardly any commerce. In Tambacounda it is possible to sleep, there are hotels both at the entrance from Kaolac and at the exit towards the south, but unless you arrive at night the best experience is to sleep in the national park, because the atmosphere surrounding a park like this, with the Noises of the night, you don't live it every day.
After 9 hours driving we arrive at WassadouTwo days were waiting for us with the idea of seeing the national park and the Gambia River. Wassadou is a small town with an idyllic camp outside, with several cabins and the occasional family of monkeys. Arriving is not easy, just before entering the town, past a bridge, we had to turn right on a dirt road for several kilometers. At first we thought we were lost, there is hardly any signaling, and in this one we crossed several families of baboons that left us a little bewildered, and although it seemed that we were going to the end of the world, no, after 10 min we arrived at the camp from Wassadou.
To go Niokolo Koba you are required to be accompanied by a guide and of course, bring a 4×4. If you do not carry one, you can rent it at the Wassadou camp for 116,000 XOF, a small robbery of € 176, for a group of 4. If you take a car, the thing changes, you just have to pay the services of a guide.
Entrance to Niokolo Koba
The next morning we leave at 6 in the morning towards the entrance of the park, located 35 minutes from Wassadou. How we went for free, at the entrance of the park we were required to hire the services of a guide, a good way to discover hidden places in the park.
© OpenStreetMap contributorsDownload
To be August, the month where many travel guides say that the park is closed, the park of course was open and also empty, we were the only tourists in the entire national park. Sometimes travel guides expand the traveler, and in this case they "got it right".
Niokolo Koba tracks
Upon entering the park we could see that the grass of the park was excessively high, bad news in order to see animals. As we entered we could see the occasional antelope and dozens of baboons in a bamboo forest, but the park's slopes were so flooded, that every time we had to cross a puddle, or rather a lake, we had to stop and Check the depth of it. We were in the rainy season so we were not surprised, one more adventure.
After 2 hours we arrive at lion camp, a dirty camp but an ideal place to camp, especially in the dry season. Here when it rains it really rains and the nights are usually quite copious, so sleeping in the rainy season in the store can make you spend an unforgettable night and a morning with big dark circles. Right there, there was a pack of Warthogs grazing at ease, as if our visit was not with them.
Shortly after, on a track with holes as if there had been a meteor shower we reached Simenti, next to the Gambia river. Of course, the place seemed desolate, and that is supposed to be a hotel in the dry season, but if it is, I'm afraid it needs good workmanship, since the rains and humidity have left it almost in ruins. There we were talking with some Germans who were on a scientific expedition and with a park guard, who we asked if we could rent a kayak to see hippos. Both the price, about € 25, and the flow of the river made us think it was not such a good idea, so we gave up. Seeing hippos in the rainy season is like playing the lottery and having a fat touch…
Therefore, we decided to stop on our way to eat. We decided to take refuge from the scorching sun under the roof of a collapsed outdoor dining room at the hotel. While we were eating our luxurious delicacy, a classic serrano ham sandwich, some monkeys watched us hoping to taste something, that except for a few crumbs they were left wanting. Shortly after we resume the march with the hope of seeing some Lion, the king of the park.
Actually, we didn't see lions or elephants, and that the latter is great :), but I'm afraid it's extinct in the region. Lions are easier to see, but in the dry season. Sometimes, on the road that crosses the park to the Country Bassari it is possible to see them first thing in the morning, although with the progress and with the transit of trucks that come from Mali in the medium term it can become something unusual or simply unfeasible, such as is to see elephants in Niokolo Koba.
In the afternoon, once back at the camp we rent a boat To see birds and hippos. We barely saw the first and we didn't even see the latter closely, but at least we had the illusion of knowing that we were marching to a place as enigmatic as the Country Bassari, but this is another trip and it's another story. Javier Blanquer
When to go?
It depends. In Senegal there are two seasons, the dry and the rainy. The dry season runs from November to June, and is the best time to see animals. In the rainy season it is more complicated and for example to see hippos or lions is practically impossible mission. On the other hand, the landscapes are much more colorful.
Facing the roads, in the rainy season the park roads are mud traps but passable. In the dry season, the vegetation is much scarcer but the roads are easy to travel.
How to get?
From Dakar on the N1 it takes about 9 or 10 hours to the park entrance. It can be reached by taxi from the savannah, but it may take about 14 hours to make the same route.
What to wear
A good camera with a good lens of course. If you go to the park in a group, bring a cushion, since the vans or cars that go to the park are not comfortable at all. The best, go in your own car.
Where to sleep?
There are several options. InTambacounda There are several hotels but these are located 2 hours from the park. For quality / price, since they are usually quite expensive, we recommend the hotel that is at the entrance of the town next to the gas station. Outside the park is Wassadou, our choice, since it is located in an incredible place next to the Gambia River. For the more adventurous there is the option of camping in the park interiorBut beware, there is no service there, not even water, so all you need is what you need to bring from outside.
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