Senegal is dreamy, but Goree itself is a dream. Designated as one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, Gorée is an ironic cocktail of pain and beauty. Tourists and locals alike throng this Island of pastel-colored houses to soak up the sun and sample fresh fish delicacies. You may have seen pictures of Île de Gorée in the background of photos of the Obama family, Stevie Wonder, even Nelson Mandela.
All around are tell-tale signs of its gruesome past in which it was one of the most heavily utilized slave-trading ports in West Africa. It has been estimated that millions of enslaved people passed through the chambers of Gorée before they met their fate across the Atlantic ocean. To date, Gorée’s slave quarters are preserved and maintained in their original form leaving each guest to experience a lingering sense of anguish on every visit. This island should be an integral part of anyone’s travels through Senegal.
Île de Gorée is easy to get to from Dakar. A ferry runs every one or two hours from the gare maritime (passenger port) in Dakar to Gorée and is about a 15-minute boat ride. The first ferry leaves Dakar at 7 am and the last ferry leaves Gorée at midnight (after 1am on Saturdays).
Bus or Taxi to Ferry Building in downtown Dakar: 200 – 1500CFA (Cost will depend on your location).
Roundtrip ferry ticket: 5200CFA for foreigners, 2700CFA for non-Senegalese Africans, and 1500CFA for Senegalese Africans.
Lunch: 10,000CFA for the day.
WHAT TO DO
House of Slaves (Maison des Esclaves). This “house” was the last station for slaves, where they were held captive under the most inhumane conditions before being brought over the Atlantic sea. The famous Door of No Return where ailing slaves are thrown into the sea is here as well as the horrendous cells that can barely fit a dwarf where slaves were kept. In 1962, the building was opened as a memorial site and museum of Atlantic Slave Trade.
Visit a Gallery: There are several talented artists that have galleries throughout the island, I would highly recommend exploring a few if art is your thing. You get to watch a live demonstration as the artists make artworks from sand gotten from various desserts and volcanic sites across the world.
Climb to the Castle: After exploring the island, climb to the top of the castle of Île de Gorée for a phenomenal view of the island and the sea around.
Take a dip: The beaches in Senegal are super clean, and the water is a refreshing shade of blue that pulls you in. It’s salt water so remember to keep your eyes closed inside it.
THINGS TO KNOW
Identification: You’ll be required to present a valid means of identification before you can purchase a ticket to get on the boat.
House of Slaves is closed between noon and 2.30 pm, so don’t plan to visit around that time.