The Sine-Saloum Delta in Senegal offers a nice respite from the dusty streets of Dakar and the extreme heat of Saint-Louis. Consisting mostly of mangrove swamps, the delta encompasses 24,000 sq. kms. and has been dedicated as a UNESCO Heritage site for its wealth of wildlife and pristine waters. It's a great way to get out into nature and meet the indigenous Serer people who inhabit the area.
One of my favorite spots is Toubakouta, a steamy, 6-hour slog from Dakar on mainly pothole-ridden streets. You can also get there by pirogue in 3 hours, which I did on my return trip.
Once in town, you soon realize you are far away from any sense of city life. Time inches along and there's not much to do except walk and bike through town, watch boys play foosball and chat with the locals - probably my favorite thing to do. One afternoon, I was fortunate enough to witness a wrestling match, a favorite Senegalese pastime.
I also ventured to nearby Sokone for market day, traveling by local bus, which is an experience in itself. Jam-packed in a rickety old van, the only white person aboard, the ride is the true way to experience local life.
A true highlight was a 3-day trip to Keur Bamboung, an ecotourism spot that has been designed with local materials and functions on solar panels. I arrived via mule-driven cart and I slept under a mosquito net. My days were spent kayaking through the calm waters, learning about mangroves, eating oysters, and visiting the local Serer village.