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Senegal: African Manatee and Turtle Conservation

Join us for this one-of-a kind opportunity to see iconic and rare African wildlife through the eyes of local conservationists.

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  • Enjoy excellent wildlife viewing with chances to see African manatees, endemic turtles and tortoises, giraffes, white rhinos, antelopes, & more.
  • Guided by our partners from African Aquatic Conservation Fund, you will gain unique insight into biology and conservation in West Africa.
  • Your participation in this trip supports conservation of the wildlife you’ll observe.

Our unique West African adventure takes you along the coast of Senegal, visiting national parks, protected areas, and private wildlife conservation breeding centers. Led by our partners at the African Aquatic Conservation Fund, this expedition offers not only excellent wildlife viewing, but also an opportunity to see and learn about conservation in Senegal first-hand.

>> Read our 2017 Senegal trip report here.

Combining both land- and boat-based wildlife observation, we will search for the elusive African manatee, learn about efforts to save endemic turtles and tortoises, and visit world heritage wetlands. On land we’ll see giraffes, white rhinos, antelopes, and more.

This one of a kind journey lets you experience iconic and rare African wildlife, guided by biologists who work every day to conserve it.

Trip Dates & Cost

2018: Mar 1–12 SOLD OUT. From $4,795 per person.* Group size limit: 8

2019: Mar 1–12. From $4,795 per person.* Group size limit: 8

* Trip price does not include international airfare. There is a single supplement fee of $960. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

"What a great trip!!! Can not recommend this enough and Lucy and Tomas were some of the best tour leaders I have been with!”

- Cheryl A., 2017 traveler

"The trip exceeded our expectations. Lucy and Tomas are excellent guides, besides their talents in their respective fields. It was a great thrill to see African manatees at Pointe St. Georges, endemic Derby's eland at Bandia Reserve, large groups of Pink Flamingos, White Pelicans, and even Black Crowned Cranes at Djoudj National Park, and a vibrant culture throughout the country. The photographic possibilities were endless. Senegal is clearly not well-known to U.S. travelers, but it should be. We are glad that Oceanic Society was able to help develop this trip and we encourage other travelers to experience the magic that can be found in Senegal!”

- Andy & Paula Holman, 2017 travelers


Lucy Keith Diagne holds a PhD from the University of Florida and along with her husband, Tomas Diagne, is the founder of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund. Lucy has studied marine mammals for 30 years, and for 19 of those years she has studied manatees. In 2017, Lucy was named a Pew Marine Fellow. Now in her eleventh year in Africa, Lucy's research and conservation projects for African manatees include studies of distribution, population genetics, feeding ecology, and development of alternative livelihoods for manatee hunters. Lucy is based in Saly, Senegal.

Tomas Diagne is an African turtle specialist who has been working to save threatened and endangered turtle species throughout West Africa for the past 22 years. He co-founded and built the Village des Tortues in Rufisque, Senegal, and in 2009 he began building the African Chelonian Institute in order to expand turtle research, captive breeding, re-introduction to the wild, conservation and education to all African species. Tomas is also a co-founder of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund.


Day 1: Arrive in Dakar, Senegal
Arrive in Dakar, Senegal and check in to your hotel. Relax at the hotel and enjoy pool and beach time. Late afternoon/evening cocktail hour and presentation from Lucy Keith Diagne & Tomas Diagne about their manatee and turtle conservation work, as well as overview of the trip plan.

Day 2: Dakar & Bandia Game Reserve
In the morning visit African Chelonian Institute's turtle breeding facility to see the turtles and learn about African turtle conservation. After lunch, visit nearby Bandia Game Reserve where we'll see giraffes, zebras, white rhinos, buffalo, ostriches, hyenas, two species of eland, lots of antelope & bird species, crocodiles, and two species of monkeys. Return to the hotel in time for dinner.

Day 3: Dakar - Geumbel Reserve, St. Louis, Richard-Toll
After an early start, drive north to St. Louis and enjoy a private guided tour of Geumbel Reserve, a breeding facility for endemic Senegal antelopes (oryx, addax, Dorcas gazelle). Have lunch in St. Louis and walk around old town to see colonial era buildings, a natural history museum, and visit shops. In the afternoon drive to Richard-Toll and check in to Hotel Gite d'Etape on the banks of the Senegal River.

Day 4: Tocc Tocc Community Reserve
In the early morning, drive to nearby Tocc Tocc Community Natural Reserve on Lac de Guiers. Tocc Tocc is a reserve that our guide Tomas Diagne helped to start with the local community over 10 years ago, and in 2013 it was declared Senegal’s 5th Ramsar Site (world heritage wetlands). Lucy and Tomas both work in the reserve to monitor and study manatee and turtle populations. We will take a guided boat tour of the reserve in local canoes, which includes a stop at an observation tower. We will see many species of water birds (egrets, herons, lapwings, jacanas, African fish eagle, bee-eaters, ducks, etc.), and hopefully we will also see African manatees, Adanson’s mud turtle, and water monitor lizards. Enjoy a Senegalese lunch at a traditional village, Toleu, that is part of the reserve, followed by a discussion with the Tocc Tocc reserve's leaders and rangers before returning to the hotel in time for dinner.

Day 5: Djoudj National Park
In the morning we drive to Djoudj, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world. Spend the day touring the park (driving to bird blinds and a 1 hour boat tour to a pelican breeding colony, with lots of other wildlife viewing along the way). Expect to see over 25,000 flamingoes, numerous duck species in the thousands, pelicans, warthogs, Patas (red) monkeys, and monitor lizards. If lucky we’ll see bustards and other rarer winter migratory birds (see website above for other bird listings). Manatees are reported in the park, but are very hard to see.

Day 6: Dakar, Iles de la Madeleine National Park - Ziguinchor
In the morning we drive back to Dakar and spend the afternoon visiting Iles de la Madeleine, the smallest national park in the world and a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sarpan, the largest of the islands, is home to an extremely rare subspecies of Red-billed Tropicbird, which can be seen nesting. The uninhabited island has spectacular basalt cliffs and fantastic dwarf baobab trees shaped by the wind (one is over 400 years old). There is a hiking trail around the island with gorgeous views of the island and Dakar, some climbing on rocky paths, and a natural swimming hole at the center of the island. After lunch, board the overnight ferry from Dakar to Ziguinchor.

Day 7: Cap Skirring - Casamance RIver (Ziguinchor)
Wake up on the ferry and go to the top decks to watch the bottlenose dolphins leaping in the ship’s wake and birds (flamingoes, pelicans) along the shoreline as the ferry eases up the Casamance River. Breakfast on board, ferry docks at 10:00 am. We'll drive to Cap Skirring, a picturesque coastal village, have lunch, and swim in the ocean.

Day 8: Eilinkine - Point St. George (Ziguinchor)
In the morning we'll drive to nearby Elinkine, a picturesque coastal village where we will be picked up by boat and taken on a tour of the mangroves, then to Point St. George for manatee viewing (or vice versa, depending on timing of morning tide). African manatees come to drink at a freshwater spring at Pt. St. George each day at low tide, and can be viewed from an observation tower next to the spring. Zoom lenses required for photos! We'll spend the day at Pt. St. George, and return to our hotel in time for dinner.

Day 9-10: Ziguinchor
Enjoy a morning walk around Ziguinchor; we may take a boat trip on the Casamance River, visit a mangrove reforestation project, and/or return to Pt. St. George for additional manatee viewing depending on the interests of the group.

Day 11: Ziguinchor - Dakar
Board the ferry back to Dakar and enjoy the scenery as we make our way back down the Casamance River, as well as opportunities for pelagic birding during the oceanic portion of the trip. Dinner and overnight on the ferry.

Day 12: Dakar, Ile de Goree - Fly home (evening)
The ferry arrives in Dakar at 7:00am. After breakfast in Dakar, we will visit Ile de Goree, an island reached by a ~15 minute ferry ride. Goree was a strategic colonial site used by the Portuguese and French. It’s now inhabited by several thousand people and is a tourist destination, with old colonial buildings and the Maison des Esclaves (Slave House) where slaves were shipped to the New World (most people take the tour). There are no cars on the island so it’s an easy place to walk around. There’s also an old fort, many restaurants and shops, and a nice walkway to the top of the island, for more nice views of Dakar (a different side of the peninsula from Iles des Madeleine). After lunch on Ile de Goree we will return to Dakar in time for sunset, farewell cocktails, and dinner. At night catch your flight home (all international flights leave at night).


Throughout the majority of the trip, participants will stay in double-occupancy rooms in comfortable hotels. Two nights will be spent in cabins on board the overnight ferry from Dakar to Ziguinchor. Contact us for detailed accommodations information.

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