Lodge de Niassam in Saloum Delta Senegal, gives its guests a unique experience with great consideration for its paradisiacal surroundings
First night in paradise we awoke early by roaring hyenas and softly wind sweeping across the lagoon, right in from the Atlantic. An hour later we lay in bed and looked beyond the lagoon through the large windows facing the water. From the bed we saw a huge belt that rolled over the sea just 30 meters from the cottage. What the heck is this, we thought and tried to clear our eyes from the sleepiness. In the dim morning light we could distinguish individuals in the 100-meter flock of grazing pelicans who picked up stuff from the bottom of the lagoon. It all happened in almost perfect silence. It was a magical experience that was not less magical as the sun peeked over the horizon and pelicans relieved in packs.
Lodge de Niassam is situated 4 hours drive south of Dakar in Joal-Fadiouth district. Saloum Delta in Senegal is a National Park and became a Heritage Site in 2011 because of its marine ecosystem and cultural landscape with traditional fisheries, shellfish harvesting and salt extraction. The national park was established in 1976 and covers 760 km2, while the World Heritage Area is larger and covers the entire 1458 km2.
Straight on the edge of the park is Lodge des collines de Niassam on a shells knock facing the lagoon and mangrove forest. The French owners, Sylvie and Jean-Pierre Gaborit have turned away from the mighty Atlantic and sought refuge among the stoic Baobab trees. They built up Lodge Niassam during one year, 12 years ago. Boys from nearby villages joined the building crew and today many of them are still employed. We quickly noticed how tight-knit staff was and how proud they were over the place. The service here is excellent.
We arrived to Niassam with a taxi from Dakar and the ride down was an adventure in itself. After passing a sleepy village where we could see the waves from the Atlantic Ocean roll onto the beach, the landscape opened up. It was completely flat with grey white plains that stretched toward a rim of palms and Baobab trees in the horizon. The landscape looked like dry seabed. Our taxi driver Massen, drove of the bumpy country road and out into the terrain for some off-road driving. The plain was covered with salt and much of the area is being flooded for long periods each year. In half an hour we flew over the vast plain before we took off on a small road on an embankment of sand and shells. On one side was the turquoise Atlantic Ocean and on the other we saw a bay wavy around islands and peninsulas with palms, shrubs and majestic Baobab trees. On the beach lay pirogues, the traditional and colorful long boats used for fishing here in Senegal, side by side.
Lodge de Niassam`s reception building appeared under a huge baobab tree and we understood at once that we had come to a small paradise. We were received in French and quickly gained understanding that lunch was served right now. The restaurant is well located so you can enjoy views over the flat landscape with waterways that meanders around sand and shells beaches. The horizon is a green tongue of land that jut out into what can be perceived as a lake, but it is actually a huge river delta. It was time for food and drinks. The food was as tasty as the view was breathtaking. We had eaten a lot of good seafood in Dakar, but here they took cooking to new heights. A skilled chef prepared food in an African / French way that made every meal a joyful experience.
Breakfast and dinner are included and lunch offered at a reasonable price. Our first lunch consisted of octopus with perfect tenderness and onion sauce to go with. To this came wheat buns or closest profiteroles with olives. Grated raw carrot with papaya, apple juice and balsamic was served as well. Olive Pure, also called tapenda, consisted of both green and black olives. Everything tasted wonderful, in paradise even carrot taste super. For dessert we got sorbet with lemon, perfect in this climate.
This must be Senegal’s most original accommodation and among some of the world’s most unique lodges. You can stay in a tree hut in a Baobab tree or in a hut on stilts out in the lagoon. Some larger family cabins are built up as large, round beehives and common to all the cabins clustered naturally into the beautiful landscape. The philosophy here is that Nature is your friend. The lodge is built with the aim to have the least possible negative impact on surrounding nature, but at the same time give guests a sense of luxury, peace and harmony.
Jean-Pierre tells us that they have solar panels and generators as he is showing us around among the staff’s houses and workshops. 20-22 employees take care of guests and the also additionally use local guides when guests want out on a trip. Niassam lodge also cultivate their own vegetables and herbs and other food are mostly purchased locally.
Tourists, who visit places off the beaten track and want unique experiences in areas without infrastructure, must accept that luxury is not quite what we are used to. At the Lodge Niassam you must decide at dinnertime when you want hot water the next morning. Have you agreed at 8.00 am, then that is the time they will come with a bucket of boiling water that you can mix with cold water and pour over you. If you don’t mind to shower in cold water the bathrooms are nice and have running cold water, shower and flushing toilets.
The cabins are beautifully furnished and not two are alike. They are all positioned so that one gets the maximum privacy. We stayed in a hut on stilts on the beach at the island opposite the restaurant house and had our own private veranda overlooking the lagoon. From the bed we could see beyond the flat landscape and had a panoramic view of jumping fish and eager birds hunting.
Lodge de Niassam has 4 huts on stilts in the lagoon, 4 cottages in Baobab trees and 4 cottages on the ground. The reception building is large and inviting with a large collection of books. The restaurant is overlooking the lagoon and plains where you can enjoy your morning coffee as the sun rises and color the sky red. Right in the middle of the facilities a small swimming pool is located with shady sunbathing areas. Baobab trees also provide shade and flowering shrubs everywhere gives a lush appearance.
You can enroll in many different activities like a trip with a traditional pirogue into the mangrove forest; horseback rides or rides by donkey and cart. You can go hiking on your own, wade across the lagoon or stroll to nearby villages. Staff at the Lodge Niassam will help you with what ever!
Read about our trip with a traditional pirogue into the mangrove forest: Saloum delta National Park, Senegal
We were recommended the Lodge Niassam by our hostess in Dakar and we recommend this place on with pleasure. We paid the whole stay our selves and were not sponsored in any way.