Joal-Fadiout rests on the Petite Cote 35 km south of Mbour. The largest artisanal fishing port in West Africa resides here and provides a spectacular sight for the way fishing was done before modern machinery. While the city is usually referred to as just Joal, Fadiout is a unique and special part of the city. It is an island made primarily of sea shells and is home to most of the local Sereers and Catholics. Lastly, Joal-Fadiout is home to Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, in whom the city takes much pride.
The tourist season starts in November and goes until around April as the weather during that time is dry and pleasant. From May to October, the weather is typically hotter and once the rains start in July, very humid. Because Joal is on the coast, there is usually a pleasant breeze all the time which makes Joal cooler than most places in Senegal.
When departing from Dakar with your own vehicle, taking the route national from Dakar to Mbour, then from Mbour to Joal is very straight forward and on good roads.
Using public transport, from Dakar, the best way is taking a sept-places in garage pompiere for 2,100 CFA straight to Joal. If leaving from Mbour, the sept-places ride will cost 750 CFA. Luggage is not included with the price and will need to be haggled for. Usually large and heavy bags will cost 500-750 CFA each from Dakar to Joal.
Joal is a long town that hugs the coast. Walking the width of the town takes no more than 10-15 minutes while walking from end to end would take around an hour. The main road in Joal is where everything can be found and taxi's called "klando's" can be flagged down on the road and taken anywhere along that road for 100 CFA. The klando route is the fishing port to Fadiout on the main road. If one would like to go to a special destination, most klando drivers are more than happy to negotiate a price to go there.
In Joal there are a couple very interesting things to see. First, upon entering Joal, there is the artisanal fishing port which is a magnificent sight during the mornings and evenings when most boats bring in their catches. The organized chaos makes for an interesting visit along with the ability to purchase different types of fresh fish. The best hours to visit are around 09:00 and 18:00 when fishermen are coming back.
Another sight is the house where Leopold Senghor grew up in. As Senghor is revered for being the first president who set a tone for stability, it is a great visit to make. The house contains a bit of history as to what Joal was like during the colonial times and a family history of the Senghor family.
Fadiout is the main attraction in Joal where tour operators in Senegal stop on their circuits. It is recommended to take a tour as the guides are professional, but it can be done alone. First off it has a large, well built bridge leading to the city and another to their cemetery. The island itself is build primarily on sea shells from years and years of harvesting. The cemetery also is covered in sea shells and is a unique visit as Muslims and Christians are buried near each other which is a rare occurrence in the world. Fadiout also has some granaries that are kept between the cemetery and the city that is now unused, but is now a World Heritage site.
Lastly, just outside of Joal, towards Palmarin, is the grand baobab that is rumored to be the biggest in Senegal. It's quite large and can even be crawled inside though watch out for the bats.
Eat and drink
There are many places to eat in Joal from street sandwiches and rice shacks to hotel restaurants. Most local places can be found walking down the main road in Joal where there will be a “Resto” or “Fastfood” sign painted on the place. For places to eat that are well equipped and frequented more often by tourists are:
- Le Finio This restaurant is inside the hotel which is near the bridge that leads to Fadiout on the southside of town. It is frequented most often by visiting tourists and makes great food. A normal meal will cost around 3,000 CFA not including drinks. Tel: +221 33.957.61.12
- Diam Rekk Part of the hotel and located right behind the Total gas station on the southern part of town, it's one of the best places to eat. It is frequented the most by educated locals due to its great environment and non-tourist prices plus their hamburgers and schwarma’s are excellent. A meal here can cost around 1,000 to 2,000 CFA depending on what one orders. Tel: +221 33.957.61.30
- Le Murex on Fadiout next to the bridge that leads to the cemetery. It’s one of the local favorites for the Sereers. A meal will usually cost 2,500 CFA for fish or pork and 3,000 CFA for chicken plates.
Tel: +221 77.437.72.73
- La Taverne du Pecheur Another great restaurant in Joal, this one is right next to the bridge leading to Fadiout, overlooking the mangroves and Fadiout. It’s a tourist favorite and is the only place that offers pizza’s which can even be delivered anywhere in Joal –Fadiout or Mbodiene for an additional fee. It has a charming atmosphere, great food and has the largest menu in Joal. Meals here will run around 3,000 CFA for their main plates and 3,700 CFA for pizzas. Tel: +221 33.957.68.43
- Le Thiouraye This small lodge is placed in a quieter, older part of town right across from the mangroves. The place has 3 available rooms with bathrooms thatcome with fans or can be upgraded to air conditioning. A small eating area situated right next to the mangroves is a perfect place for those who would like to spend some relaxed time next to nature. A shop can also be opened to browse some artisanal goods, allowing one to skip the hassles of street vendors. Breakfast, lunch and/or dinner can be added to the room for an additional fee. For those who are on a budget or want a place a less western, this is the place. Rooms start at: single 10,000 CFA, double - 15,000 CFA, triple - 20,000 CFA. Meals are around 3,000 CFA per person. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel : +221 33.958.29.46 or +221 77.515.60.64
- Le Paletuvier The only hotel on Fadiout makes this place hard to beat for those that want to experience Fadiout. This place is on the edge of the island facing the mangroves making for a pleasant place on the shell island. There are a variety of services available with their restaurant, bar and tours of the mangroves with even a lunch included if needed. Each room comes with fans and breakfast and additional meals can be added to the room. This place is perfect for those who want to experience Fadiout and enjoy the hospitality of the Sereers. Rooms start at 7,500 CFA per person. Meals cost around 3,000 CFA. Mangrove tour: 10,000 CFA for 1 to 4 people without lunch. Tel: +221 33.957.62.05
- Diam Rekk The Diam Rekk or “Peace Only”, is a great place to eat and spend the night. It’s a local favorite and also a place for ex-patriots who come through the area as the bar and restaurant is excellent. Rooms are available with fans or A/C and bathrooms come standard. The hotel is situated towards the southern part of town but near the street so for those who want to wander around, town, this is a good spot. Rooms, up to 2 people, start at 12,500 CFA with fans, or 20,000 CFA with A/C. Meals cost 1,000 to 2,000 CFA. Tel: +221 33.957.61.30
- Le Finio This hotel is near the bridge that goes across to Fadiout. This place is popular for tourists who come through Joal and is a great place to eat or have a drink. There are many rooms available that come with bathrooms and fans. They have several amenities available for tourists and even a small conference area for a quick meeting. The staff is professional, friendly and is well acquainted with tourists. The Agence de Tourism for guided tours of Fadiout is right next door so if Fadiout is your main interest, le Finio is a great hotel to choose. Rooms start at: small – 6,500 CFA per person, large – 9,500 CFA per person. Meals cost around 2,800 CFA. Tel: +221 33.957.61.12
- Joal Lodge This trendy lodge is fantastic for travelers wanting a smaller but well kept place to stay. It has single, double and quadruple rooms available with A/C and bathrooms being standard. Along with a restaurant, there is a small pool area on the ground floor and a sun bathing deck on top of the restaurant that also has a shower to cool off if the sun is too hot. The hotel is designed spectacularly with white sea shells to walk on instead of dirt. As a bonus, breakfast comes with the room and additional meals can be added if need be. This lodge is perfect for those who want to spend leisurely days at a small hotel in Joal, next to the beach. Rooms start at: single: 20,000 CFA, double: 25,000 CFA, quadruple: 35,000 CFA E-mail: email@example.com. Tel: +221 33.954.82.48 or +221 77.590.79.09
- Hotel de la Plage [dead link] on the quieter southern side of town right on the beach, this hotel has great rooms, a pool, bar and a restaurant. There are several room combinations that can hold 2-5 people comfortably and private bathrooms. Fans and breakfast are also included and it’s possible to add additional meals. For beach walkers, walking south along the beach is clean and hassle free. Peaceful, relaxing and comfortable are three words that can describe this place. Rooms start at: double 25,000 CFA, triple 28,000 CFA, suite: 42,000 CFA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel : +221 33.957.66.77 Fax : +221 33.957.66.78
- Laguna Beach Club This 4-star beachside resort is outside of Joal, near the small town of Mbodiene. It is full modern resort with most amenities one could expect from a western facility. They offer tours going into Joal-Fadiout along with visiting interesting areas nearby. Whether an all inclusive vacation resort is the goal or to hold a seminar outside of Dakar while needing projectors, internet and TVs, this would be the choice. To reserve a room or inquire about pricing, one can e-mail Laguna Beach directly or through their website. E-mail: email@example.com. Tel: +221 33.957.88.11 or +221 33.957.88.02 Fax +221 33.957.88.21
The Senegalese are a very friendly and hospitable group of people. In order to continue receiving their hospital, please follow the actions listed below.
- Always greet and ask how their day is going.
- Never use your left hand to shake hands or give something to someone. By doing so, you would be showing a lack of respect towards the locals.
- Never tell a Senegalese that he/she is lying even if they are.
- Always ask for permission before taking pictures of the locals.
As a tourist, you will be asked by many people to give out money, and even if you want to, please do not give out money! By giving the locals money, you would be making the locals dependent on foreign aid instead of them working for themselves for their own livelihood. The reason the locals in Senegal always ask tourists for money is because the tourists had done so in the past. In order to break the cycle, tourists should stop giving out money.
If you really want to donate something to the community, please go to the local schools and give school supplies to the principal who will then distribute the supplies appropriately.
If heading south towards the Gambia, sept-place leave Joal's garage regularly to Mbour for CFA 750. Mbour's garage is decently sized and offers plenty of direct connections, including to "Banjul". These actually only go to the border at Karang. After crossing on foot you must take a Gambian shared taxi from the border to the ferry terminal in Barra (50 dalasi) and then the ferry across to Banjul (25 dalasi). Be very careful when changing your CFA/euros at the border, they may quote you a very good rate but then give you large amounts of 50-dalasi notes. With the way they count them out you can very easily find yourself short-changed significantly!