Senegal and Nigeria stoke World Cup hopes and #AfriTravel wanderlust

2018-06-25 16:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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Globe map focusing on western africa

Senegal and Nigeria are making Africans proud in the FIFA World Cup, but what should travellers know if they want to visit? (Photo: iStock)

Senegal and Nigeria are making Africans very excited for the FIFA World Cup - with both teams having a good chance of making it to the Round of 16 - but what should you know if you want to show your support with a visit?

The Super Eagles and the Lions of Teranga have one more match to go before the next round of matches, and at the moment both are in the top two in their respective blocks, with only Croatia and Japan ahead of them. 

This week they will be taking on Latin America, with Nigeria set to play Argentina on 26 June at 20:00, while Senegal will try to beat Colombia on 28 June at 16:00. Check Sport24 all fixture details

But if their World Cup victories has got your interest peaked in finding out more about their countries, here are some goal-tastic reasons why you should take a trip across the mother continent to see why these West African countries are giving the continent something to cheer about.

SEE: #WorldCup: SA bars to drown your sorrows in or celebrate victory

Senegal

The original home of the iconic Dakar Rally, Senegal has a lot to offer visitors - from nature to culture to a rich and dark history of the Atlantic slave trade.

While travellers should be aware of some health and safety risks accompanying a visit to Senegal, it shouldn't put you off a once-in-a-lifetime adventure off the beaten track in West Africa. And it's visa-free!

Click here to read more about Senegal in our Quick Guide.

Top attractions in Senegal

  • Lake Retba

Check out how weird nature can be at Senegal's rose pink lake. Close to the Atlantic Sea, Lake Retba, or Lac Rose, has a very high salt content, and in the dry season, when it is at its pinkest, its salt content can be higher than the Dead Sea!

It's quite safe to swim in the lake, and you can watch locals harvest the salt from its bottom. It's about an hour away from the capital of Dakar.

SEE: Surf up the coast of Africa: Bashing stereotypes one wave at a time

  • Saloum Delta National Park

Serving as an important birding area, the Saloum Delta is a sinewy maze of mangroves and saltwater rivers, the area where the Saloum River meets the Atlantic Sea. Besides the birds, spotted hyenas, warthogs and the red colobus monkey also make their home here.

Similar to the Okavango Delta, the best way to see the park is by boat, which can be organised through the various lodges that dot the banks of the river, like the Fathala Wildlife Reserve which has a large population of giant eland.

  • Niokolo-Koba National Park

This is Senegal's main national park, a World Heritage Site abundant with wildlife including buffaloes, eland, elephants, lions and chimpanzees along the Gambia River. 

Although there is no entry fee for the park, it's advised to hire a guide due to the sheer size of the park. You can stay at Wassadou, where they offer traditional village accommodation, and they can organise all transport arrangements for you to and within in the park.

SEE: #AfriTravel: Long-delayed work begins on key rail line in West Africa

  • Saint-Louis Jazz Festival

Music-lovers can partake in one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world that is spread throughout the Senegalese coastal city in an open-air forum. It takes place around April and May every year and welcomes the world's best to this cultural extravaganza.

The city itself is an architectural marvel of colonial design, and is spread from the mainland to the island of N'Dar in the river, where the Old Town of Saint-Louis is found, to the Langue de Barbarie - a thin sandy peninsula.

  • Gorée Island

Just off the coast from Dakar lies Île de Gorée, a small car-less island known for its museums and once being an important centre for the Atlantic slave trade that's only a 20-minute ferry away from the capital.

On the island is the Maison des Esclaves - or House of Slaves - a museum dedicated to the African slaves who saw their homeland here for the last time before being shipped off to other parts in the world. It was built in 1776 and was used to separate, torment and house slaves.

PICS: Artefacts of slavery from SA shock in Smithsonian museum

Nigeria

The country, rich in natural landscapes, wildlife and culture is a must see for South African travellers.

From the sites like the iconic Nike Art Gallery to a familiarly titled Zuma Rock the country has a range of things to see and experience.

Click here to read more about Nigeria in our Quick Guide.

Top attractions in Nigeria:

  • Nike Art Gallery

Situated in four Nigerian cities: Lagos and Abuja being the most prominent with Oshogbo and Ogidi. The art galleries are owned by local Nike Davies-Okundaye. The Lagos gallery is housed in a five-storey building, while the Abuja one sits in a single storey clay building with an intricate external design. It boasts a collection of about 8 000 diverse artworks from various Nigerian artists. 

SEE: #AfriTravel: How to get around in Nigeria using public transport 

  • Kajuru Castle

Located in its titular city, Kajuru, this luxury villa was built from 1981 until its opening in 1989. It fit well into the medieval style architecture of the city at the time. It is built with metre thick granite stone, complete with turrets, armoury and a dungeon, this castle is ersatz Bavarian Castle.

  • Zuma Rock

This rock might seem reminiscent of our former president, but is actually located in the west Niger State of Nigeria. It is a large monolith, an igneous intrusion composed of gabbro and granodiorite. Rising a spectacular 725 metres immediately west of Nigeria's capital Abuja, along the main road from Abuja to Kaduna off Madala, it is sometimes referred to as the "Gateway to Abuja from Suleja". 

SEE: Travelling to Lagos? Google it!

  • Kano City Walls

Located in the Kano State of North West Nigeria, the 14-kilometre radius earth structure has associated sites that are made up of features like: Dala Hills, Kurmi Market and Emir's Palace. Dala Hill was the place of the first settlement in Kano city and it formed the nucleus for the peopling of the rest of the city and was the foundation of its economic and political development. The site bears testimony to local craftsmanship and ingenuity as is evidenced in the materials used for the construction of the walls and palace. 

  • Yankari Game Reserve

This large wildlife park is located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in northeastern Nigeria. It covers an area of about 2 244 square kilometres and houses several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its location in the heartland of the West African savanna makes it a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Yankari was originally created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991.

SEE: Nigeria bets on 'Africa's best kept secret' to lure tourists