Kid-Friendly Kayak Camping!
Three dads and four kids drove down to Saloum on a Saturday and spent the night in the mangroves, returning to Dakar the next day. We left around noon, stopped for pizza, kudu burgers, and monkey-dodging at Bandia, and arrived at Palmarin Diakhanour around 4:30pm for our rendezvous with Pierre, our guide and host. He explained that food, water, tents, and bedding were already set up at the site, and that we should only bring what we needed in the way of clothes and toiletries. We still brought some sleeping bags, and those who did were glad for the warmth, but even those who used the provided sleeping bags were fine. If you like you can bring your own sleeping pad and bag, but keep in mind that there isn’t much room to transport extra gear in the kayaks.
We were distributed as follows: one adult and one child in each of three double kayaks, with the fourth child and Pierre in another double that was towing a single with some gear. We weren’t sure what we’d need and ended up leaving a bunch of stuff in the cars. We probably should have left those two pillows as well.
You are kayaking in a tidal estuary, and Pierre times the departure with the tide so that the current carries you gently to the campsite and then gently back to the cars. There is a bit of wrangling through 1 or 2 corridors in the mangroves, but all in all it is very easy, non-technical paddling made easier by the lack of wind and waves among the trees. You can make it even easier by giving the kids squirt guns instead of paddles so they can battle each other instead of spending the whole time dragging the boat to the right. And it will entertain the many herons, kingfishers, and other birds you will see.
After less than an hour you round the bend and there is Laurent prepping the campsite on a high sand bar under a small acacia tree. Everyone gets a clean two-person tent with bedding, and we had two small collapsible picnic tables with stools seating eight for meals, with a cooler full of our choice of drinks. There is another tall booth-shaped tent set up as a toilet/changing station. There was no-one around us, nor any sign of human habitation except for faraway church bells the next morning. A dinner of sautéed shrimp, fish brochettes, and bread was prepared while the kids played in the sand/mud/fire, Pierre showed us how to splash phosphorescence in the water, we watched big crabs roaming the shallows, then many marshmallows were roasted and one by one we went to bed. There were no bugs, either in the evening or morning, but Pierre warned us that when the full-ish moon rose the biters would come and sure enough those who stayed up got immediately driven into the tents. Served them right.
We had a quiet night broken only by a jackal serenade, woke up to a breakfast of baguettes and butter, hot drinks, and a hunting owl. Pierre only has hot water, but if you bring oatmeal, boiled eggs, and peanut butter you can make yourself a fine breakfast. We spent a lazy morning wandering around the flats spotting birds, playing too close to the fire, and watching the tide come in, which it does so fast you can watch the water flow up the bank. Pierre and Laurent expertly broke down the campsite and Laurent headed back on his own while we followed Pierre on a slightly different route that took us to a surprise stop that you can experience for yourself.
Back to the staging area and the kids splashed around while the boats were put away, then we walked the short distance back to the cars, made use of Pierre’s nearby shower to rinse off, happily paid and promised a return, and got on the road to Dakar. We took a slight detour to Joal Fadiouth, birthplace of Senegal’s first president, for lunch and wandering along the bridge that connects the village to the mainland, and were back home two and a half hours later.
How to get there (JAN2017, Thibaut Williams)
Take the peage out of town until the end of the road at Sindia
Exit the peage, take a left at the T, and follow signs to Mbour
Explain to children what the “Busted Kittens” bumper sticker on the car in front of you going 20mph might mean
4km to shell station intersection take right to Mbour
Pass Bandia on left (we stopped for lunch)
Through Mbour to big roundabout (in Mbour)
Straight through roundabout
Less than 1km after, take dogleg right and then left (all main road) headed towards Joal
Soon after look for left off of paved road at weathered yellow sign DEVIATION
Two blocks take right to run parallel to paved road
After 100 yds or so take left across salt pan smoked fish hellscape, if you get back into town you missed it
Go through hellscape to nice raised paved road, turn left and go 12km or so, first town is Samba Dia
At market turn right on only paved road to the right, there may be signs to Palmarin
Call the guy to let him know to come wait for you at the roadside
Another 12km or so pass through first Palmarin (Ngallou) then 2km after look for guy with dreadlocks waving before another village called Palmarin (Diakhanour)
Pierre Diogoye Sarr
+221 77 535 5011
25,000CFA per adult, 15,000CFA per kid.