Located at the very south-eastern region of Senegal, between The Gambia and Guinea Bissau, Casamance gives the impression of a picture-postcard luscious Africa contrasting with the rest of the Sahelian country.
Orchards, palm groves, deep forests, mangroves and huge beaches cover the region where life is centred on the river and its various bolong and lagoons.
It consists of Basse Casamance (Lower Casamance) (Ziguinchor Region) and Haute Casamance (Upper Casamance) (Kolda Region). Ziguinchor is its largest town.
The Casamance was subject to both French and Portuguese colonial efforts before a border was negotiated in 1888 between the French colony of Senegal and Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) to the south. Portugal lost possession of Casamance, then the commercial hub of its colony. Casamance, to this day, has preserved the local variant of Kriol known as Ziguinchor Creole, and the members of the deep-rooted Creole community carry Portuguese surnames like Da Silva, Carvalho and Fonseca.
The Casamance has average rainfall greater than the rest of Senegal.
Lower Casamance, in the west, is the area that sees the most tourists and is probably the most visited. Charming villages emerge from the luscious vegetation, splendid oil palms, giant kapok trees, various types of bamboo, sapodilla trees with their delicate fruit as well as magnificent beaches lined with coconut trees from Cape Skirring to Abene, the islands and the bolong : a true African garden of Eden.
Middle and Upper Casamance, the area located between the Casamance River and The Gambia, is less populated and favourable to hunting ; it is also a paradise for big-game anglers (skate,
mulloway, threadfin, umbra up to 50 kilos in weight).
Inhabitants have preserved their originality and their tradition without making it quaint.
The Jola, the majority ethnic group in Casamance, are very attached to their animist customs even if the influence of Islam is very much present.
Stop for a chat and the most troubling secrets of Africa will be unveiled. Fruit of this shared experience, you might be invited to their festivities and initiation
ceremonies that take place in May and June, a particularly original type of ritual.
Off the beaten track, you will be able to discover typical towns : Diouloulou and the road to the beaches, Baila, with its kapok trees and its oval huts, Tobor and the Foret des Kalounayes or even Bignona and its pottery market.
Casamance River : This 320 km-long river shelters a multitude of birds and luscious vegetation. It can be navigated to Ziguinchor, and has thus given its name as well as its prosperity to the region. The latter owes it its fertile orchards, its prolific rice fields, and its halieutic resources.
Elinkine : Located at the far end of the estuary, this village is a real crossroads for various navigable paths, offering the prospect of numerous dugout excursions through winding belong, sounds dodging in and out in between the land creating a multitude of small islands.
Karabane island : The islands was the first French trading post in Casamance, is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, and is stamped with marks from the past the ruins of its old fort, its Breton-looking church, and its cemetery where Capitaine Protet, founder of Dakar, was buried according to his last wishes, standing and facing the shore in memory of his bitter combat against the Jola. The island conceals sumptuous and heavenly beaches, still little known by the public.
Ziguinchor : Once a hub of the slave trade, the regional capital is a dynamic town with a large commercial and agricultural centre and now represents one of the major tourist towns in Senegal.
Far from the bustling rhythm of Dakar, you soon come to enjoy the old-fashioned charm of the most "African" town in Senegal, with its coloured stands, the colonnade houses of its colonial quarters, evoking the trading post atmosphere of by-gone centuries.
Take the time to wander round the craft village and picturesque market at Saint Maur des Fossés or to chat with a boatman who would be more than happy to take you for a ride.
The building for the French Cultural Centre, with its richly coloured interior decoration inspired by traditional motifs, is also worth a look.
Cape Skirring and the backcountry : Many consider the beach at Cape Skirring the most beautiful beach in the entire country. The Cape remains a mythical place, offering all of the temptations of calm and sensorial delight (golf, surf casting, trolling in a dugout, bush safari, etc...).
In harmony with the environment, the resort will unveil its splendid gardens and sumptuous hotels, which can but enhance it.
Abené : Located on the northern coast of Casamance, Abené is a beach resort, waiting to become a "nature village" hotspot.
Djembering : A village of fishermen, who remain loyal to initiation rites and rice pounding, to the rhythm of the tam-tams, Djembering has retained all of its African wisdom.
Oussouye : Geographic crossroads of lower Casamance, Oussouye is the centre of a region steeped in animism and organised into miniscule kingdoms.
Various festivities are held, in particular after harvests and before the children start school. It is also the venue for Senegalese wrestling competitions.
Village of excellence where basket makers and potters will astound you with their rare dexterity; the clay for the pottery is moreover a local composition made with silt and ground shells.
Mlomp : The storied huts in this village are unique, a veritable architectural prowess. Under their thatched roofs, these huts look like palaces with carved columns, loggias, stairs, and painted walls.
The village has a museum dedicated to animist traditions; if you would like to learn about this religion, the curator will be more than happy to tell you about his beliefs.
Enampore and Seleki : Two villages separated by 3 km but allied by Casamance traditional housing in the shape of huts with impluviums, a visually aesthetic and intelligent architecture.
These are large round buildings with two thatched roofs, one of which is in the shape of a funnel, once allowing the reservoir placed under the central opening to be filled.
The population of these villages lives from palm tree sap, which, once fermented, is transformed into palm wine. One palm tree can produce up to 100 litres of sap per month.
The women work in the rice fields : they can be recognised thanks to their large-brimmed hats protecting them from the sun.
Kolda : County town of Upper Casamance, this town of nearly 60,000 inhabitants conceals many vestiges to discover : the site of Queen Sona, the ruins of the castles of the Mandinka kings, the site where the Fula's revolt against the Mandinka began.
Kolda is also the ideal place to use as base for touring Eastern Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.