The dives in Senegal and especially in Dakar would certainly deserve to be more widely known and explored.
Indeed, just a few hours flying from Europe are nuggets of scuba diving spots lost in the open ocean off the Senegalese shore.
Before choosing the right time to go to Senegal, it is useful to learn about its climate. Indeed, here the most marked seasons are the dry season (November to June) with sometimes a wind of sand (harmattan) and the rainy season (July to October) punctuated by sometimes heavy rains but which marks the Return of lush vegetation. It is therefore important to plan your visit. It is probably the period from November to May that offers the best conditions to get there.
Senegal is above all Africa and the immensity of experiences that can be realized. Meeting of a population of course but also expeditions to sites inscribed on the World Heritage of UNESCO such as the islands of Gore and Saint-Louis, the delta of the Saloum, the national park of the Djoudj or the rite of initiation Mandingo (Casamance) Kankourang. Other discoveries such as the Retba Lake, the fishing village of Mbour or the learning of the Kora will obviously make you happy.
Arriving in Dakar, the African atmosphere takes us directly: the colors, the scents and the sounds mix in a joyous hubbub that immediately disorient the uninitiated as much as the heavy heat of the rainy season can surprise them.
Time to get to his hotel and acclimate to the temperatures of the place, it is time to dive in the incredible depths of this part of the ocean.
After a quick check of the diving equipment it is the beginning of a new adventure. From a thermal insulation point of view, a 3mm suit is generally sufficient from June to November, but it may be necessary to use a semi-dry from December to April. All that remains is to adjust your mask and take out the camera to start the adventure.
Not less than fifty diving sites are listed near the Senegalese capital, but it is particularly the Mbao boat cemetery that we decided to explore.
Initiated in the early 1980s, a government program helped sink boats on sandy bottoms. The aim of the project was, on one hand, to prevent trawling in coastal areas and, on the other, to create artificial reefs for the development of underwater life (which was also enjoyed by divers).
One of the pearls of this program is the creation of the largest artificial reef on the Senegalese coast, the Mbao wreck cemetery, three kilometers from the village of the same name. A real underwater treasure, this site was created from ships for scrap yards. Very quickly, it became a refuge for fauna and flora and a place rich of an incredible biodiversity. Algae, anemones, mussels and barnacle have long colonized these wrecks, which have become important spawning areas for pelagic fish and those living on sandy bottoms.
For divers, it is a real pleasure to be able to pass from one wreck to the other and to follow this long artificial reef rich in scrap and underwater life. Spread over several tens of meters, this collection of wrecks is a vast place of amusement for divers exploring the underwater depths.
At a depth not exceeding 10 m, diving at the Mbao Wreck Cemetery is accessible to divers of all levels.
As of fauna, you can cross groupers, surgeons fish, angelfish, parrot fish, butterflyfish but also moray eels or schools of damselfish. If you like the bigger ones, you will not be disappointed to see stingrays, barracudas, jacks and with a little luck it is not impossible to cross turtles, eagle rays or even nurse sharks. It would even appear that manta rays may sometimes venture to this point.
Although the richness of biodiversity is evident and very present on this site, it is nevertheless endangered today because the Mbao wreck cemetery also constitutes an important deposit of scrap metal, copper and bronze which attracts many people since the explosion of iron and copper prices. Indeed, the inhabitants dive on the wrecks to recover and resell the materials destroying little by little this impressive artificial reef. While divers are sorry for these illegal metal recovery actions, it is mainly the local fishermen who are impacted. As fish, have begun to desert the reef for some time, it becomes more difficult to fill their nets and the fishermen of Mbao must resolve to go further off.
Fortunately, initiatives such as the development of protected fishing areas are being undertaken to raise awareness as the entire community is affected. Haidar el Ali, former owner of OCEANIUM dive club and former minister of the nature protection is one of the biggest player for this initiative.
Meanwhile, discovering the Mbao cemetery and perhaps discovering Yets in the white sand remains an original experience in this ocean still full of wonders.
If the site of Mbao Wreck Cemetery is an interesting spot to discover, there are a multitude of other spots to discover in Dakar. Among other things, we can point to:
– The island of Madeleine: despite a maximum depth of 21m the site is reserved for experienced divers mainly because of its difficult access, its complex environment (arches, cracks, …) and specially to currents that can be violent.
– Wreck of the Tacoma: a real site for all. The depth varies from 7 to 17m. The wreck lays on a sandy bottom and still has a quite recognizable shape, even if it is very crushed. Diving on the Tacoma is a real pleasure because it allows divers of all levels to observe a very rich fauna representative of this part of the ocean. It is also a site where it is possible to see “the big one”. During the dives, it is very common to find many giant stingrays resting on the sand.
– Russian trawler “red star”: magnificent wreck of almost 100m long, entirely laid on its flank to a depth of 32 m.
The wreck, sunk in 2005 is extremely rich in fauna and allows observation of its structure: castle in place, enormous propellers, … caution to the holds that are accessible but dangerous. Here it is certainly the general atmosphere very special of this “ghost” boat that seems to come from nowhere to offer little by little to our sight that is the most impressive. Diving for experienced divers (depth and current).
Discovering the seabed of Dakar is an experience that will undoubtedly make wonderful memories to be confronted in the evening around a brazier by eating grilled fish with the fishermen while sipping a tasty Gazelle (local beer).
So, ready to go on an adventure?
…What a great day 😃