Goree Island (or Île de Gorée) is just 2 miles offshore Dakar in Senegal. It’s in a bay to the east of the town, so it is protected from major swells.
The island was originally built up as a trading port by the Dutch in the 17th century. It became infamous for its (limited) role in the African slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its role as a major slavery port has been overplayed, but a number of ships did take on slaves to the Americas from there.
President Obama famously went there as part of his Africa trip in 2013.
Despite its grim history, the island is actually very pretty! Many of the historic buildings have been beautifully restored and are now restaurants and hotels. In fact it is a good way to avoid the hassle of downtown Dakar if you visit the island for a night or two.
The ferry ride from Dakar Port takes just 20 minutes and costs 5,000 CFA francs (about $8) for the return trip. The ferry can get really crowded as local schools literally send their entire student bodies on day trips to the island. The ferry ride is very scenic and as the island comes closer you can start to distinguish the old fort area, the rocky hill and the historic buildings of the main town area.
There is an additional park entrance fee that you need to pay when arriving, but it’s just 500 CFA francs ($1). Only ‘non- Africans’ need to pay a park fee – you might have guessed that already.
Like downtown Dakar, you will be approached and harassed by nearly everyone on the island. If you are ‘non-African’, it seems you are free to be hunted through the streets. Now there are no obvious robberies or suchlike going on, but it’s a hassle when everyone wants to make sure that you are not passing up on the ‘amazing items for sale’ that are on offer. No restaurant can afford to not have touts and no guide ‘can afford’ to not yell their services at you when you step off the ferry.
My first order of business was to leave the maelstrom of crowds on the ferry and ‘hide’ in the small alleys.
After that, I ascended the hill which bears a WWII cannon that was once actually used. It’s still in great condition.
There are a number of great views from the northern shore of the island.
Once back into the main town, I tried to use the back alley to minimize the annoyances a bit. This paid off two-fold, since some of these houses are beautifully restored and some just look pretty in their old age.
I spent about 3 hours on the island, which I think is a sensible time frame. Depending on the weather, it might be a good idea to have your visit include the sunset, which I can imagine to be really pretty.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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