When at Gorée…do as the Goréans? I don’t know about that part. But I do know that we picked up some pretty helpful dos and don’ts from friends before heading over to Senegal’s most famous island.
Do bring your Senegalese residency card/récipissé. You’ll need it in order to get the 1,500cfa (about $3) rate for the ferry over, rather than the 5,000cfa (about $10) tourist rate.
Don’t pass up an opportunity to use a (relatively) clean bathroom when you stop in somewhere for a meal, snack or drink.
Do go on a Sunday afternoon. Aim for leaving Dakar on the mid-afternoon ferry in order to miss the heat and the crowds. You can take the evening or night ferry back.
Don’t bring a rushed attitude. The ferry actually left/arrived on time (much to my surprise), but beyind that things at Gorée move at a pretty slow pace. This includes the service at restaurants.
Do visit the Maison des Esclaves (house of slaves).
Don’t expect it to be up to the standards of an American museum… and then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find!
Do take a moment to stand in the ‘Door of no return’, part of the memorial to the slave trade.
Standing in the doorway looking out at the ocean, the Atlantic gently lapping at the rocks below, I imagined the ships leaving. The people shackled inside must have known they would never see their homes and families again. The sense of loss must have been excruciating.
— Simon Robinson, “Through The Door of No Return“
Do be firm with the vendors. Are you sure you don’t want a necklace / shoe shine / wrap skirt / tour guide / frozen bissap / wooden statue? If you’re really not interested, tell them so politely (“Beneen yoon, serin bi”) and then keep going.
OR… take the advice Wrenn gave us: “Hire everyone who offers to be your guide. Eventually the entire island population will be distracted by fighting over guiding you, and you can sneak away.” 🙂
Do bring sunblock and a hat. The day we went, the thermometer was reading over 100°. And considering you’ll want to walk and explore a lot, sun proctection is a good idea.
Do know that the island has been visited by President Bill Clinton and President George Bush. (It’s also been featured in Season 6 of ‘The Amazing Race’ and is mentioned in Akon’s song ‘Senegal’.)
Do enjoy the break from Dakar’s busy streets. It’s a great escape, just a 20-minute ferry ride away.