Senegal, the most westerly country on the African continent, is called the land of Teranga which means welcoming land in Wolof. You will quickly feel the smiling and colorful welcome of the people there. With a population of more than 14 million inhabitants and more than 20 ethnic groups spread across its small territory 4 times smaller than France, it is easy to combine a trip to discover its history and its cultures, as well as its terrestrial and underwater environment. Few people know it but Scuba Diving in Senegal is a great experience.
Despite its 700 km of coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the dives sites of Senegal are all on the coast around Dakar, capital of the country. Rocky sites are close enough to the ancient volcanic activity that has shaped its seabed, providing unique geological sites and diverse habitats for marine life. The first reaction of divers who discover the diving sites of Senegal is usually the surprise to see so much diversity! You will see a mix of tropical fish and Mediterranean fish, changing with the seasons. Night dives provide a show for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the dark, with the phosphorescent plankton that illuminate the ocean like a starry sky.
You will be able to dive pleasantly almost all the year, January, February and March being for the most courageous and the least chilly. Water remains most of the year, above 20 ° C. All sites are reached by boat.
The best diving areas
N’Gor – Almadies
Twenty dive sites on the north facade of the Cape Verde peninsula are located on rocky bottoms, ranging from 8 to 28 meters deep, the vast majority in the 12 to 20 meters area. This is the area where there is the greatest chance of observing Green Turtles, with a head often appearing on the surface when navigating to the sites.
From the island of N’Gor to the tip of the Almadies, the seabed is characterized by a succession of inter-connected drop offs by sandy strips or rocks. You can see Seiches camouflaged in the sand and large stingrays, torpedo or tiger stripes placed directly on it and fully visible; for the lucky guitar strings let themselves be observed. Approaching the Almadies Reef, an underwater cliff 12 to 24 meters deep stretches from east to west and has intrusions giving way to volcanic blocks, sometimes stacked on top of each other. These round rocks can reach diameters of 2 to 3 meters creating resting areas for marine life, especially for nurse sharks. The sites are populated by a remarkable diversity of fish damselflies, angelfish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, spotted groupers, flute fish and trumpets, etc.. Moray eels and diodons are always there. The most observant divers will also be able to observe small nudibranchs flushed out by their clutches. 5 types of starfish will delight underwater image takers.
The tip of the Almadies is the westernmost point of the African continent. A confluence of currents makes it a very productive place for aquatic fauna but also more technical for diving. The sites in this area are usually reserved for experienced divers wishing to dive to a depth of about 40 meters. Novice divers will, however, be able to discover this area in calm weather, diving on the 14 to 20 meters depth. Depending on the season, it is possible to see schools of pelagic species, such as red carp or jacks taking advantage of the abundance of food. On the facade south of the Almadies Point reef, the sites usually have less relief but full of life. It is especially in this sector that Octopuses, Balistes and Stock Exchanges are observed. A deeper site maximum 30 meters allows to observe beautiful Gorgonians in different colors. Night dives in this area are bursting with life. They allow to discover an unnoticed fauna during the day dives. Between the fish that sleep on the bottom, the moray eels that are hunting, the octopuses that move in search of their food there are always great discoveries. It is also during these dives that are more often seen lobsters, cicadas, crabs and shrimps.
Îles de la Madeleine National Park
The Îles de la Madeleine National Park, created in 1976, is located 3 kilometers off Dakar. These uninhabited islands are a sanctuary for marine birds where you can see Cormorants and Northern Gannets. The main island Îles de la Madeleine or Serpents Island and the small island Lougne and its islets to the south offer a grandiose geological spectacle of basaltic prisms. Scuba diving in the Madeleine National Park in Senegal is prohibited within the park boundaries, however, all around, some wrecks of trawlers between 18 and 40 meters will delight divers.
Plateau of Seminol
One of the most unusual sites is located off the Îles de Madeleine: the plateau of Séminal, where basaltic organs are erected. These eroded, sometimes broken, promontories stretches across 25 to 40 meters of parallel stripes, testifying the ancient magmatic activity. You will observe moray eels, fish surgeons, large stingrays, and may be surprised by the passage of a school of pelagic fish Serioles, Jackfish, Mackerel. This is a site for experienced divers because of its depth and strong currents.
Wreck diving in Senegal
Dozens of wrecks are spread around the peninsula of Cape Verde, the Magdalen Islands, the island of Gorée to the cemetery of wrecks of Mbao. In the early 1980s, the Senegalese government initiated a program to both protect marine resources from trawling and increase the productivity of sandy bottoms. Outdated boats, mostly trawlers, have been sunk and still rest on the bottom. An abundance of fish is usually visible. For the lucky ones the amazing antennae can be seen during these dives. Located at depths of 10 meters to 40 meters, these wrecks will be accessible to all levels of divers depending on current and visibility conditions. They will be the shelter for many species that come to find refuges in their bowels. The wreck of Tacoma near the island of Goree and the Red Star Russian trawler a hundred meters long are among the best diving sites in Senegal.
When to go diving in Senegal?
The tropical climate of Senegal is tempered by the trade winds, and the temperature of the water makes it possible to dive pleasantly almost all the year. It is divided in 2 periods; the dry season from October to June and the rainy season from late June to early October.
The ideal time to dive in Senegal is from April to December, with the warm blue waters of the counter-equatorial current settling in May. The months of January to March are much more agitated because of the wind and the temperature of the water is much cooler 14 ° C due to coastal upwellings.
- The visibility usually vary from 8 to 10 m but can go up to 25 to 30 m depending on the wind and currents.
- The current and the bottom swell, can make the dives more physical in winter January to March.
- Difficulties: The wind is sometimes strong in winter, which makes the conditions more uncertain in this period. Wind and waves can make surface conditions difficult especially for those who are seasick!. It is usually possible to move to dive sites suitable for all levels of divers, depending on the direction of the winds.
- The temperature of the water is rather hot in summer, 27 ° C, and about 14 ° C in winter.
What to see during your dives?
The waters are rich in fish and the divers will discover a fauna of a great diversity being composed of tropical fish and Mediterranean fish. You should be able to dive with nurse sharks. It habits the waters of Senegal mostly in summer, generally from July to November. It hides under the slabs of rock deposited on the sand. You will see them on the Baila diving site. The large stingrays, which can exceed 1.5 meters wingspan, appear when the water is cooler, from December to April. You will certainly see moray eels on each of your dives, they are ubiquitous on all sites. If you are lucky, turtles can be seen during your dives, mostly from January to April, the green turtle is the most common. You could also, according to the seasons, observe barracudas, solitary or in large shoals . But of course, you will also see dorades, sars, trevallies, red carp, amberjacks and thiof, which will be a reward of more. Sea urchins tiaras are ubiquitous on the sites, they are a good incentive to control your buoyancy. During night dives you should be able to see lobsters, cicadas, crabs, cuttlefish, octopus as they become more active at night.
When navigating to the sites, you may also have the chance to see schools of dolphins. We also see more and more whales migrating south in September and October, or when they return to the north in April, but this is still rare.