It is not a mistake that Saint Louis Island featured among the “100 places to remember before they disappear” during an outdoor exhibition in Copenhagen in 2009. The exhibition featured 100 photographs from 100 different places around the world that are threatened by climate change. Luckily, prior to that year, i.e. in 2000, the UNESCO had listed Saint Louis as one of the World Heritage Sites, meaning that the site would be preserved as it is for generations yet unborn. Join us in exploring Saint Louis incredible sites.

Saint Louis Island is not popular for its skyscrapers—it barely has any anyway! Rather, its history, with links to West Africa’s past and present, coupled with its nice and serene beaches as well as its renowned international jazz festival place it on global map, making it a destination of choice for travelers seeking to nestle in a calm environment and reveler who love the good tune of jazz music.


French traders founded Saint-Louis on the uninhabited island of Ndar in 1659. Named after King Louis XIV, it served as the capital of French West Africa for nearly three centuries, exporting slaves, ivory, gold, hides, gum Arabic and later groundnuts to Atlantic merchants. Relics of this page of the Island’s past still stand till date, and serve as a crash course in the first-hand history of the town.

Saint Louis—or Ndar as it is called in Wolof, is on North-western Coast of Senegal at the mouth of Senegal River. Get into this city and you’ll meet a town teeming with bold colours; walls saturated in reds, yellows, and greens, providing a stunning background for the beautiful people who live there.

To explore this Island, begin in the northern quarter where some of its oldest structures are located. Notable among these structures (most of which are remnants of French colonial architectural style) is the slave storehouse. Anyway, being one of the most characteristically French colonial destinations in West Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site should tell you that there is hardly a point that lack attraction.


Among Saint Louis’ numerous natural attractions/sites are the National Park of the Langue de Barbarie, the National Park of the Birds of Djoudj, the Fauna Reserve of Gueumbeul, beaches like that of the Langue de Barbarie, the colonial waterworks at Makhana, the palace of Baron Roger at Richard-Toll, the Maka-Diama dam, and various hunting lodges on the south side of the Senegal River.

Let me take you through some of these incredible sites:

The National Park of the Langue de Barbarie occupies the southern point of the thin, sandy peninsula called Langue de Barbarie, the estuary of the Senegal River. The 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres) park hosts, and is home to an abundant variety of bird species—especially thousands of water birds, such as cormorants, brushes, pink flamingos, pelicans, herons, and ducks; and tortoises.


The Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, which is located 60 kilometres northeast of Saint Louis, is the world’s third ornithological park. This park occupies over 120 square kilometres and includes part of the river, as well as lakes, basins, and marshes. About three million migrating birds of 400 species visit it each year, the most visible of which are pelicans and flamingos.


Located at a dozen kilometres south of the city of Saint-Louis, the Fauna Reserve of Gueumbeul shelters birds and various endangered species such as the Dama Gazelle, the Patas monkey, and the African Spurred Tortoise.

For interesting contact with history, visit the Saint Louis’ Research Centre and Documentation Museum of Senegal. Here, you will get interesting panoramas of Senegal’s history and ethnic movements over the years. A tour will also take you through expositions of traditional clothes, musical instruments, among others.


Other interesting and attractive monuments and edifices in the city include the Governor’s Palace, the Gouvernance, the site of the town’s administrative offices and the Pont Faidherbe (i.e. the Faidherbe Bridge that connects the island to the Langue de Barbarie) named after a former French governor of the centre of town—Louis Faidherbe. The impressive metallic structure had linked Saint Louis to the eastern mainland since 1899. No one else but Gustave Eiffel designed this sole access bridge to central Saint Louis!



You can also explore colonial-era hotels, the historic airport at Dakar-Bango on the mainland, the Grande Mosquée, and the Gaol and Servatius bridges that connect the island to the continent.


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Michael Alvin

Michael Alvin

Creative Writer
Michael Alvin is a lawyer and a UNESCO certified journalist. At Afro Tourism, he blends creativity with his training in telling moving stories about his personal experience on his various trips across Africa.
Michael Alvin
Michael Alvin
Michael Alvin

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