I have been to Ile de Goree (Goree Island) twice.
Ile de Goree was a slave-trading center. Today the island is a memorial, UNESCO World Heritage Site and place to check out on a visit to Dakar.
The first time I went there I was with Claudia, an Australian who was also a new resident of Dakar then. It was a Sunday and an artist gave us a tour. I was with Papy and Boubacar on my second visit to the island in October. Papy is an environmentalist and amateur photographer from Bargny, a town about an hour from Dakar. Boubacar is a Nigerien architect who studied in Senegal and Togo. Papy, Boubacar and I went to Goree to work on a photography project (read: take photos of each other :)).
Both trips were memorable and allowed me to see the appeal of this historical and cultural hotspot of Dakar. In this post I share three reasons to visit Ile de Goree on your next trip to Senegal.
Three reasons to visit Ile de Goree/ Goree Island in Senegal
It is part of world history
After Portuguese settlers inhabitted the island in the 1400s, Dutch people came in the 16th century and named it “Goede Reede.” The island’s current name is derived from it though the French and British colonized (and fought each other for) it later.
Most people know or have heard of Goree because of the House of Slaves (Maison des Esclaves in French). Home of the ‘door of no return’ — the passage from which hundreds of slaves allegedly got on ships that took them away from their homeland forever – the pinkish-red House of Slaves was built in the 1780s by an Afro-French family. It is said that 100-300 men, women and children were kept in the spaces on the lower level of the House at any given time during the transatlantic slave trade. Later, peanuts, rubber and spices were transported through the House.
There are also museums, forts and remnants from the world wars (such as bunkers and canons) to check out on Ile de Goree.
It is a colorful and vibrant place
Somewhat in spite of this dark history, Goree is a colorful and vibrant place. As there are no vehicles on the island, it is a treat to walk in the streets and see colorful walls, doors, window frames, flowers, and art. Papy, Boubacar and I enjoyed our time in this setting and took many photos as you can see below.
It is the home of talented creatives
There are talented creatives among the 2000 people who live in Goree. Working from various places including old war bunkers, these artists turned Goree into a cultural and artistic hotspot. Paintings line the streets while other works hang in trees. Some artists use recycled materials or pieces of fabric, and others are best known for their sand art bottles. Women also sell jewelry pieces and natural raffia hand fans. Though colors schemes, sizes and prices vary greatly, there is a common theme among all these pieces of art and crafts: they celebrate African history, culture and creativity.
There are also talented musicians on the island.
Consider the following information if you plan to visit Ile de Goree/ Goree Island:
Travelers to Goree should catch a ferry from the Port Autonome de Dakar. If coming in public transport, it helps to say that you are going to the “debarcadaire de Goree.”
There is a ferry from Dakar from 6:15am to 11:30pm Monday-Fridays and until 12:45am on Saturdays. The trip takes about 20 minutes and the ferry can accommodate 200-300 people. The last ferry leaves Goree at 11pm Monday-Thursday, at midnight Fridays and Sundays, and at 1 am Saturdays. I suggest planning to leave well before the last ferry, however, because you don’t want to risk being stranded on the island without a place to stay.
You can find more information here (change the language of the website from French to English by selecting the ‘EN’ option in the top right corner of the page).
The ferry ticket costs 1500F for Senegalese residents (with evidence) and 5000F CFA for those who are not residents. There is a 500F fee to pay upon arrival on the island. You must pay it all with cash.
(If you have been to Goree -) What are some other reasons to visit the island?
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Papy Diogal (@thepapydjo on Instagram) and I took the photos on this page. Please ask for permission to use them if you would like to do so.