I love big cities, and always enjoy returning to Hong Kong, New York, and Sydney—among many others. But what about those unknown gems that are off the beaten tourist path… those obscure places just waiting to be explored by real travelers?
Our “Mini City Guides” are here to uncover those gems, and we’re looking to our favorite explorers—AONC readers—to give us the inside scoop.
Which accessibly obscure city would you like to share?
Toubacouta. It’s in the Fatick Region of Senegal, West Africa.
What makes it unique?
Ancient trees, lovely people, great fresh food, and the peace and quiet of being next to the water. This small (6,000 person) resort town sits on the Sine-Saloum delta (where dolphins, sea horses, manatees, and other fish find home or pass through during the season). It’s big enough to find something new every day, and small enough where in a week many people will be calling you by name during your stay.
What makes it special to you?
I’ve spent the last two years as a Peace Corps volunteer living 11km from this town. People are different than the rest of Senegal. Quiet, relaxed, with absolute hospitality (teranga, the wolof word for hospitality, is Senegal’s middle name) and because it’s a bit out of the way, it’s never overrun by tourists.
What’s the best place to grab a bite to eat or drink?
There are small restaurants that the locals will go to for breakfast, lunch and dinner (Restaurant Pam, Adama Sy’s). Chez Boom has a French-trained chef and offers a seasonal menu with fresh fish, and a selection of wine and beer. The two hotels and handful of campgrounds (Senegalese KOA, one room cabin/hut with simple amenities that is easier on the wallet) also offer great food and beverages.
Where can you kick your feet up with a great cup of coffee?
Here the idea of American style coffee doesn’t exist. Senegalese style cafe touba (think dark and sweet spiced coffee) can be purchased on the street from many vendors. Attaya (a sweet, strong green tea) is usually brewed in the afternoon to evenings while hanging out and talking with friends, and is offered to any friendly face passing by. Be warned—attaya can take a few hours for the three rounds you’re expected to consume, and you might not sleep for a while after drinking it.
Are there any festivities that can’t be missed?
Senegalese love parties and to have fun whenever they can. Senegalese wrestling happens from October to May almost every weekend in the area. Make sure to get some attaya, matches start at 10pm and go until 1-2am Thursday, Friday, Saturdays during the season.
What’s the best time to visit?
There is no bad time, just the best time to see what suits your interests or wallet. Birds start migration before the rainy season in May and continue until August making there to nesting grounds. Wrestling and cold season are October through February. The thirty varietals of mangoes and fresh roasted cashews are ready in May and finish in July.
Rainy season typically starts in July and ends in early October. This is when you can sometimes find the best deals, but bring long sleeves and pants to help with mosquitoes and bugs.
What’s the best way to get around town?
From Dakar you will need to take a car (most hotels offer transportation from the airport) and once here most things in town are walking distance away. To travel to larger markets, or to do a lion walk at Fatala reserve, you can easily find public transportation by using a bit of French.
Any other areas around that can’t be missed?
If coming from Dakar or from Gambia’s capital in Banjul, once you’re in this haven, you won’t want to leave. It’s the perfect place to relax, listen and watch the birds, see the brightly dressed locals and have some wonderfully fresh fish. All senses will be awakened here in all good ways.
Thanks to Megan for sharing her experience of the peace and tranquility of Toubacouta. More Mini City Guides are on the way!