Sokone is a town in the Fatick administrative region of Central Senegal.
Sokone is a tranquil town on the Southeastern Sine-Saloum Delta amid the mangroves. Located on the road from Kaolack to Banjul, just 50km south of Kaolack and 66km north of Banjul, it is an ideal place to stop and relax when traveling between the two larger cities. During the colonial period, the town was a peanut port and the old warehouses can still be seen around town along with a large number of peanut fields in the surrounding country side. Along with peanuts, millet, cashews, and many fruits and vegetables are grown. Agriculture and fishing continue to be the main economic activities in the area. The dominant ethnic group in the area is the Sereer people, followed by the Wolof, Pulaars, and Mandinkas. Wolof and Sereer are the most commonly heard languages, but many people in the town speak French as well.
The travel season in Sokone and most of Senegal is between the drier months of November through May. This time of year is characterized with little rainfall, low humidity and mild temperatures. During this period, the migratory birds of Europe come to Senegal for nesting, giving the tourist the perfect opportunity for bird observation. The months of June through October see increased rainfall and rising temperatures peaking around August through October.
Travel to Sokone can be arranged through the hotel/campement or one can use private or public transportation.
For those taking private transportation from Dakar, take the N1 through Mbour to Kaolack. In Kaolack turn right onto the Trans-Gambian Highway. Immediately after exiting Kaolack, turn right on the N5 (Kaolack-Banjul Road). Sokone is about 50 km from Kaolack and it is the second large town on the Kaolack-Banjul Road. If using public transportation to get from Dakar to Sokone, take a sept place (3,150 cfa) to Kaolack from Garage Pompiers. These vehicles go to Garage Dakar in Kaolack, so it is necessary to take a taxi from Garage Dakar to Garage Nioro. From Garage Nioro, take a sept place (1,100 cfa) to Sokone. Another option is to take the bus directly to Sokone It leaves from Rue 1, Medina, behind the RTS office at 8:30 AM every day except Sunday. The price is 3,000 cfa.
It's possible to get to anywhere in Sokone by walking, but motorcycle taxis and donkey or horse drawn carts are also available to rent for travel within Sokone or to the outlying villages and sites.
Sokone has a range of activities that will satisfy those who want adventure, a cultural experience, or just relaxation. Every Wednesday there's a weekly market or looma which draws in people from the surrounding villages and animates the quiet town. To cool off take a swim among the mangroves in the salty delta river or relax in the shade and learn to make Senegalese tea with your hosts. See the list below for more activities and sites for tourists to enjoy at Sokone:
- Baumbougar: This ancient baobab tree is near the village of Baumbougar, a short charette ride from Sokone.
- Ndiafe Ndiafe: Take a charette out to this village which is about two kilometers from Sokone. This ancient village is the original village in the area and Sokone as well as many of the surrounding villages are descendants of Ndiafe Ndiafe. Spend the day learning about the culture and history of the village and region and visit the sacred baobab.
- Visit one of the other neighboring villages: Rent a charette and visit one of the many villages around Sokone to experience life in a Wolof or Sereer village. Visitors will receive a warm welcome due to the strong tradition of teranga (hospitality) throughout Senegal.
- Ndef Lang: A women's training center that works with the Catholic Mission in town. Many women and girls attend training classes here to learn skills such as sewing, embroidery, cloth dying, and jam/juice making so that they have a means to augment the income of their family. Visit the center and spend the afternoon talking to the women who will also be willing to let visitors participate in the activity of the day. Don't forget to buy some of the delicious jam or juice before leaving.
- Take a pirgoue to the islands: Rent a pirogue and spend the day on the water, gliding through the mangroves. Then visit the island communities, where the people will very happily show you around. Or visit the shell or bird islands, which are both very appropriately named.
- Rent a pirogue and go fishing: Take advantage of the proximity of the river and go fishing. There are a couple of hotels/campements that specialize in fishing expeditions. See the section on lodging below. But if you choose to stay at a different campement, the manager will be happy to help make arrangements.
- Learn how cashews are locally processed: Sokone is located in the peanut basin but there are also an abundance of cashew trees. A new women's group was recently formed to process cashews. Spend the morning or day with the women to learn the lengthy process for getting cashews ready to eat and buy some delicious cashews for a snack.
- Traditional Sereer Wrestling: One of Senegal's most popular sports, all visitors should take the opportunity to see this spectacle if possible. Tradition, mysticism, and theatrics prior to each match are just as important as the match itself and are very elaborate. Sokone has a wrestling arena but there are also smaller matches arranged in an open area of town sometimes. Talk to the campement/hotel manager when making reservations to see if there will be a tournament coinciding with your stay.
At the looma, one can find almost anything; fruits and vegetables, cloth, jewelry, and much more. There are also a few men who sell carved wooden figures at the looma. They don't have stands but they wander around with their bags of carvings so keep an eye out for them and be ready to bargin. Bartering is part of the culture and is expected by most vendors who don't have permanent structures in the market. For those who don't visit on looma day, which is Wednesday, there are a couple of options for buying souvenirs and gifts for those back home:
- The Handicapped Association: A short walk from the market, one is unlikely to find the Handicap Center unless they know to look for it. But it is worth the walk to visit their boutique which sells bags, clothing, tie dye cloth, and an assortment of other handicrafts. The Center was created to provide training for the handicapped population of Sokone so that they can earn a living. In order to provide financing for the center and make the classes afordable, they've created a boutique which sells some of the products they are teaching their members to make.
- Ndef Lang: This training center for women and girls, which is located a couple of blocks behind the garage, sells clothing, embroidered and tie dyed goods, and juice and jams from local fruits and vegetables. If one wants to have traditional clothing made, Ndef Lang provides quick service at a reasonable price.
- Ismael's Boutique: This small straw structure across from the Caiman Hotel doesn't look like it has much; but when one walks in, they are greeted by a wide array of beautiful wooden figurines, masks, and key chains as well as paintings. This store has a wider selection of goods than the artisans at the looma and friendly customer service.
- Afric-Art: A recently opened store located in the main market, they currently have jewelry, postcards, shoes, and traditional drums. With a convenient location, friendly staff, and expanding stock, this store is another good option for for finding mementos of one's visit.
The national currency of Senegal is the CFA Franc. The CFA is pegged to the Euro, so it is permanently fixed at 650 CFA to 1 Euro.
There are a couple of restaurants to choose from if you choose not to eat at your lodging establishment. There are also a number of dibiteries and sandwich stands that cater to locals.
- Restaurant Jokkoo: Located just off the main road as one enters the town from Kaolack, this is a popular restaurant with locals and tourists alike because they offer a delicious meal at a low price. The menu includes traditional Senegalese dishes like ceeb u jen and yassa as well as sandwiches.
- Handicapped Association: Newly opened, this intimate restaurant is located in the Centre for the Handicapped. They serve traditional Senegalese meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a low price.
- Le Cailcedrait: This restaurant is located on the main road at the entrance of town coming from Kaolack. They cater more to tourists than to locals and have items on their menu such as hamburgers and pizza as well as Senegalese plates. They also serve beer and liquor. The prices are little more expensive than some of the other restaurants in town, but still very reasonable because they have a wider selection and a more upscale atmosphere.
- Ker Rose: Overlooking the river, this is the perfect place to have dinner and watch the sunset over the water. The restaurant is located just past the market before the land bridge to Mbouldiame.
There are a number of lodging options within Sokone and just outside the town limits that cater to different types of tourists. The staffs at all of these establishments are willing to help arrange activities and outings for their guests.
- Les Calaos du Saloum, ☎ . This campment, found just outside of the Sokone, overlooks the Sine Saloum river and mangroves. An ideal place to relax and be cooled by the river breezes with an idyllic view. But the town is also a short walk or charette ride away or talk to the manager to arrange a fishing trip, kayaking, or other activities. There are three cabins which can hold up to two people and another two are being constructed. All the rooms have a private bathroom with a shower and a western toilet and are furnished with mosquito nets and fans.
- L'Auberge du Delta. A quiet, unassuming campement located within the town just a short walk from the river. If one wants to explore the town and get to know the locals, this is the place to stay because the owner will be more than happy to help arrange visits to local groups and establishments. This campement has three cabins, each with a western bathrooms and mosquito nets and fans.
- Fadidi Niombato, ☎ . Located across the river from Sokone, this campement partners with local villages to allow tourists to experience village life while sharing some of the profits with the villages for community projects. There are 18 rooms with private western bathrooms, a bar/restaurant, and a conference room.
- Le Caiman, ☎ . This hotel located on the main road at the edge of town arranges nature and cultural excursions in Sokone as well as the wider region. They also specialize in arranging fishing and hunting expeditions. The campus consists of 17 rooms, with fans or air conditioning, a restaurant, and a pool.
- Les Barricudas. This campement is located outside of Sokone, on the edge of the river. This campment is geared towards hunting, fishing, and other out door activities. But they can also arrange cultural visits to nearby villages for those who are interested. The campment consists of five cabins as well as a bar/restaurant and a pool.
- Campement Touristique de Badoudou, ☎ . This campement is located about seven kilometers from Sokone, just outside the village of Badoudou. Nestled between the brousse and the river, it's the perfect place to relax or explore nature. There is a bar/restaurant and hall along with the numerous rooms.
- Touris Jokkoo. For those who really want to experience the Senegalese culture and get to know the locals, GIE Touris Jokkoo arranges home stays with local families. Tourists spend the night with a family and eat some of their meals with their hosts. During the day Jokkoo arranges outings such as pirogue trips, visits to the sacred baobab, and many other activities as requested by the visitors. Tourists are provided with a private room equipped with a mosquito net in a family's compound.
Once your visit is finished and it is time to leave Sokone, go to the garage to catch a car out of town. If you are returning to Dakar, take a car to Kaolack (1,200 CFA). Then from Kaolack, continue on to Dakar. Another option if you are going to Dakar is to take the horaire. It is a bus that leaves Sokone every night at 11:00 PM and goes straight to Dakar. You will need to purchase a ticket a couple of hours before the bus leaves in order to reserve a seat. Ask your lodge about buying a ticket if you would like to take the horaire.
If you are not returning to Dakar but continuing your trip through Senegal, you should return to Kaolack unless you are heading South to Toubacouta or Banjul. Once you have reached Kaolack you can find a car that is going to your next destination. If you are heading South or east, you will find a car at Garage Nioro (the garage that you will arrive at from Sokone) but if you are going North or West, you will need to take a taxi (200 cfa) to Garage Dakar.
If you're next stop is South of Sokone, in the direction of Banjul, you can go to the garage and take a car that is going to Karang (1,000 cfa) or catch a ndiagen-ndiaye on the side of the national highway.
Or you can go by pirogue if your next destination is one of the islands or Palmarin. Discuss this option with your lodge and be prepared to negotiate and pay a lot for taking a boat.