One of the most popular holiday destinations in West Africa, Senegal offers visitors golden sand beaches, a mild climate and an authentic atmosphere. Despite more than 400 miles of coastline, the snorkeling conditions are overall poor due to a rough ocean and very unreliable underwater visibility. However, a few sheltered sites, mainly in the Dakar region, make it possible to snorkel when sea conditions are good. You will spot on the shallow rocky beds many species of fish, in particular parrotfish, surgeonfish, seabream, damselfish and wrasse.
Snorkeling in Senegal is very limited. A considerable length of the country’s coasts is exposed to the waves and currents of the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in cold and often choppy waters. In addition, snorkelers will have to deal with variable visibility, particularly near the Senegal, the Gambia, the Saloum and the Casamance deltas, where the underwater visibility is nearly zero.
It is in the areas away from the estuaries, where there is not too much sediment floating in the water, that most of the snorkeling spots in Senegal are located. The Dakar region, at the tip of the Cap-Vert Peninsula, is the most distant from the rivers and therefore the most suitable for snorkeling.
Only 550 yards north of the Pointe des Almadies, the westernmost point of the African continent, Ngor Island offers some of the best snorkeling in Dakar. You will find on the south shore of the island has several rocky areas, very sheltered, which can be snorkeled.
When the conditions of calm sea and good underwater visibility are met, you can also snorkel directly from Pointe des Almadies, at Club Med Beach and Pointe des Almadies Beach, both well-sheltered areas.
A little further south, you can snorkel from Mamelles Beach along the cliffs that extend to the south, below the Mamelles Lighthouse. This spot, as well as the nearby Ouakam Beach, is, however, rarely snorkeled due to limited underwater visibility. The conditions are pretty much the same at Plage du Terrou-Bi, opposite the Terrou-Bi Hotel, where the area is sheltered by rock breakwaters.
For some of the best snorkeling in the area, head to Ile de Gorée, off the port of Dakar. This tiny island far from the coast has clearer waters than the mainland. On its east coast, a small bay, which is accessed via Petite Plage de Gorée, allows you to discover the local underwater life.
Outside the Cap-Vert Peninsula, there are almost no snorkeling spots, except in the region of Saly, about 62 miles south of the capital. Here, there are no rocks, but long sandy beaches lined with coconut trees where you can explore the seabed when there are no waves.
You will have the choice between wide-open beaches, like that of the Lamantin Beach Resort and Spa, and others that are sheltered by breakwaters, like the Saly Hotel & Hotel Club Les Filaos. The sandy beds are poor, and you will rarely see fish.
Because there are so few good spots, snorkeling is not a popular activity in Senegal, so ask for local advice before entering the water, and use a diving flag so you will be seen by the many fishing boats.
Since the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean have not allowed corals to develop at shallow depths in Senegal, the country’s seabed is mainly sandy and rocky, covered with various types of algae. The underwater life of Senegal remains very interesting, however, because it is located at the crossroads of two underwater “worlds”.
In fact, you will spot in the shallows fish species from the Mediterranean and Europe (such as the zebra seabream, the two-banded seabream and the salema porgy). At the same time you will see West African fish, such as the Atlantic rainbow wrasse, the Guinean parrotfish, and the four-banded butterflyfish, which are rarely seen elsewhere. Turtle sightings are also frequent in the Dakar region.
Senegal enjoys a mild and sunny dry season from November to May, with daytime temperatures around 77°F/25°C, and a warmer and wetter rainy season from June to October, with an average air temperature of 86°F/30°C.
The water temperature drops below 68°F/20°C from February to March, and can rise to 86°F/30°C during the wet season. Avoid the rainiest months, however, as the rivers drain huge amounts of sediment into the Ocean, dropping the underwater visibility to nearly zero.
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Shallow rocky beds with fish and urchins
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