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Mar Lodj

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Mar Lodj

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Mar Lodj is a rural community in Central Senegal. It belongs to the district of Fimela, in the Fatick administrative region.

Understand[edit]

Sunrise over the island's many palm trees

Mar Lodj (also spelled Mar Lothie) is the name of an island in the Saloum delta, as well as the largest village on the island.

Peacefully protected near the mouth of the Sine-Saloum delta, half a day’s drive and a short pirogue ride from the commotion and noise of Dakar, the island of Mar Lodj is a calm and refreshing sanctuary. The local population, the perennially friendly and laidback Sérères, live in the island’s three villages of Mar Lodj, Mar Soulou, and Mar Fafaco, as well as on the quaint island-within-an-island of Mar Wandié. Mar Lodj, the largest, has a population of about 2000 and is the only village on the island to be predominantly Catholic. Some ten campements and lodges spread along the island’s beaches provide a range of accommodations.

Climate[edit]

Baobab over Mar Lodj

The travel season in Mar Lodj (and Senegal more generally) corresponds with the dry season, beginning in mid-October and continuing to early-June. This time of year is characterized by relatively little rainfall, lower humidity and milder temperatures. Temperatures range in the mid to high seventies. June through October constitute the wet season and see increased rainfall and rising temperatures, typically peaking in August and September.

Get in[edit]

Travel to Mar Lodj can be organized through lodging establishments, by private car or through public transit options. The most common access point for Mar Lodj is the village of Ndangane Sambou; from there, the island is a short pirogue ride away. Wait around for the public shuttle boat (250FCFA) or hire a private one.

To reach the embarkation village of Ndangane Sambou from Dakar, take the highway N1 south through Mbour and then continue south on the Joal route. After Joal the road changes from asphalt to a red bush-road; the quality of the road after Joal is poor and can become impassable during the rainy season without a 4x4. Follow the signs in Samba Dia directing you to Fimela; continue past Ndangane Campement to the "docks" at Ndangane Sambou.

Alternatively, take N1 (direction Kaolack) through Mbour to the Croisement Ndiosmone (between the towns of Thiadiaye and Tattaguine). Take the Route Ndiosmone-Djoffior-Ndangane south past Ndangane Campement to Ndangane Sambou. The Route Ndiosmone-Djoffior-Ndangane is horribly potholed asphalt; the red bush-road from Joal is preferable during the dry season.

An easy public transportation option exists as well. Catch the Ndangane Sambou mini-bus from the BEAUX MARAICHERS GARE ROUTIERE DE DAKAR in Pikine (the large bus station just outside of Dakar) (1900 FCFA per person + 500 FCFA max per bag). Make sure to arrive at the garage in the morning to be sure to catch the afternoon public shuttle boat once in Ndangane. As of August, 2019, a weekday bus leaves at noon each day, but be sure to arrive an hour early to secure a spot.

Get around[edit]

Within Mar Lodj The distance between most of the lodging establishments on Mar Lodj and the village itself is fairly small; it is easy to walk or rent a horse-drawn cart. Taking a horse-drawn cart is the best option to reach the other villages on the island, which are in general farther away.

See[edit][add listing]

One of the many species birders might encounter on Mar Lodj or while touring the surrounding mangrove channels

The best way to explore and learn about the Sérères of Mar Lodj is from one of the local guides who, unfortunately at the time of writing, aren’t very organized or visible. Your campement should be able to put you in touch with one, or the guides are easy to find at the artisan ateliers where they sell their sand paintings in the village. Any tour of the village of Mar Lodj will include a visit to

  • the modern Catholic church, with architecture inspired by the shape of a traditional round hut, and its pretty black Madonna statue
  • the Mosque, towering over the town’s central square
  • the Arbres Sacres (holy trees), three different intertwined trees believed to represent the peaceful coexistence of Mar Lodj’s three religions
  • the TamTam telephonique (telephone drum), which was traditionally used to communicate important news (weddings, deaths, emergencies) to other villages on the island
  • the village’s central square, which houses a small daily market and occasional big events like village meetings or the annual wrestling competitions (see below)
  • the Women’s Artisanal Market, on the salt-flat between the village and the campements, providing a venue to buy all your souvenirs for friends back home (be prepared to chat and bargain!)

Ask to visit the boulangerie, too, where Mbaye uses a giant mud oven to make traditional village bread (it’s delicious and your campement will probably serve it!)

Horse-and-carriage visits to Mar Soulou, Mar Farfako and Mar Wandie (by pirogue for the latter) are available and can give you a broader understanding of life on Mar Lodj, from the “floating” millet-storage huts to the fishing culture of Mar Wandie.

Traditional Wrestling

Two wrestlers grapple during the annual Lutte competition

No visit to Senegal is complete without experiencing the sights and sounds of a traditional wrestling match, known in Sérère as Njom. Although today traditional wrestling is a national phenomenon in Senegal, it is rooted in Sérère tradition. Every Sérère village still regularly holds organized tournaments and supports their own local champions. Mar Lodj’s annual wrestling competitions are held during a weekend in January. Each village will have its own 3-day competition; call your accommodations provider for exact dates and special lutte events.

Do[edit][add listing]

Fishing Mar Lodj and the Sine-Saloum delta are famous for the incredible fishing available among the mangrove-lined channels. Fish from the banks or hire a pirogue to take you out into the hidden mangrove channels.

Many campements also arrange kayak trips, charette or horse-back tours, nature walks, etc.

Buy[edit][add listing]

The national currency of Senegal is the CFA Franc. Along with the CFA, some locals also accept Euros. One Euro is permanently fixed at 650CFA, making the conversion simple.

The Grouppe Sassang is an NGO-initiated collection of three small businesses working to empower women in Mar Lodj by creating a small source of revenue in a sustainable manner. MarTex offers beautiful hand-designed and hand-dyed clothing and cloths. Mar Delices offers artisanally produced honey and locally-sourced fruit juices and jams. MarFoods offers whole chickens and dried or pickled shellfish items.

Individual artisans-cum-guides are also popular in Mar Lodj. A number of workshop-huts house their creative sand-art tableaux throughout the village. These artists create scenes of typical Mar Lodj imagery using un-dyed sand with glue made from baobab sap, both found naturally on the island.

The Mar Lodj women's artisanal market is located in an enclosure on the salt flat between the village and the river. Some hotels also offer their own souvenir shops. Souvenirs available for sale include handmade cloth dolls; wooden crafts; bead necklaces or other jewelry (some handmade).

Eat[edit][add listing]

For those looking for a good meal while on Mar Lodj, each campement has its own restaurant, usually serving up a variation of local fare. Going beyond your own accommodations’ restaurant can add a little variety to your trip. Most places prepare a set meal for the day (no menus here), but will try to accommodate dinners’ preferences when possible. Just be sure to call beforehand to check availability as most campements are only staffed and supplied if they are expecting clients (many products have to be transported from the main land in advance). Another option is the free-standing restaurant Black + White Chez Marie, located just off the salt flat to the north of the Women’s Antiquary Market. The advice to call ahead stands for this place as well; the restaurant is rarely open during the off-season or when no clients are expected.


Drink[edit][add listing]

All hotel restaurants sell a limited selection of wine, beer and spirits. A few general shops ("boutiques") do as well.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Le Limboko, Mar Lodj, Sassang, +221 33 949 34 98 (), [1]. The rooms at auberge Le Limboko are tidy, basic and comfortable. In any case you’ll be enticed to spend most of your time in the campement’s airy two-storied common room and restaurant/bar. Built with shells and local materials where possible, the beautifully painted space provides the ideal setting to watch stunning sunsets over the mangrove-lined channels of the Saloum delta. The staff at the auberge Le Limboko are friendly and welcoming, and Limboko’s owner, Amadou “Thomas” Alpha Ba, a knowledgeable former guide, is multilingual and can chat easily in English and German. (14.0504,-16.686627) edit
  • Campement Essamaye, Mar Lodj, Fandimadior, +221 33 930 90 06 (), [2]. The unique style of Campement Essamaye’s traditional impluvium house mimics buildings in the owner’s native Casamance region. The campement has ten comfortable rooms around a central courtyard (communal toilet/shower block) and plenty of space for tent-camping. Closer to Mar Fafako than Mar Lodj, you’re more likely to run into locals than other tourists (if anyone at all), giving a very authentic feel to your visit. Excursions can be organized (hiking, kayaking, fishing) and the adventurous might even find themselves persuaded to book an extended tour down to the Casamance with the owner, Xavier Diatta. (14.067052,-16.665856) edit


  • La Nouvelle Vague, Mar Lodj, Sassang, +221 77 634 07 29 (), [3]. The Nouvelle Vague offers a warm family ambiance in a setting great for small groups with service that’s hard to find elsewhere in Senegal. The accommodations are private straw-roof huts, offering tropical comfort and views of the delta from the terrace. Lagoon and ocean-fishing excursions are available. Locally-owed. (14.044642,-16.686121) edit


  • Kooniguy, Mar Lodj, Sassang, +33 66 033 23 07 (France) (), [4]. The usual straw-hut campement gets a French touch at Kooniguy, giving this place an aura of class and luxury. From the beautifully manicured grounds surrounding the enticing pool, you can take in the lovely delta view and relax in Kooniguy’s exclusivity. Not to miss here is the food: deliciously indulgent, taking local ingredients to a refined and gourmet level. (14.036204,-16.690403) edit


  • Le Farakaba Campement Touristique, Mar Lodj, Sassang, +221 77 564 68 83. This locally-owned campement is known for its hospitable environment and reasonable pricing. Iba and Awa have created a welcoming spot with pleasant rooms and tasty food. (14.045467,-16.686326) edit


  • Hakuna Matata, Mar Lodj, Marignane, +221 77 326 06 85, [5]. Set on the far southern arms of the island, Hakuna Matata is the fisherman’s paradise in a fisherman’s paradise. The spacious grounds are the ideal embarkation point for excellent fishing throughout the delta. Here you’ll find private huts and communal shower blocks; the inviting bar and restaurant offer a great meeting place among the campement’s vast grounds. (14.015323,-16.696261) edit


  • Cap Marignane, Mar Lodj, Marignane, +221 77 564 68 83, [6]. With views across the expanse of the Saloum River, Cap Marignane is the perfect place to launch your exploration of the delta (on fishing tours or kayaking, perhaps) as well as a refreshing sanctuary to return to afterwards. A number of lovely rooms, some accessible by low wooden bridges over a crowd of submerged crab holes, are a calm respite from the sun and surf. Enjoy a drink beachside before heading to the restaurant, a colorfully painted and airy spot where you’ll taste delicious local cuisine. (14.015615,-16.695145) edit


  • Mbind Jam, Mar Lodj, Sassang, +221 77 564 7327. The family atmosphere at Mbind Jamm compliments the simplicity of the campement and highlights the hospitality Sérères are known for. Enjoy the dining area right on the water, where you can watch the ebb and flow of inter-island pirogue transit and fishing boats. (14.048846,-16.686679) edit


  • Bazouk du Saloum, Mar Lodj, Sassang, +221 33 949 34 98 (), [7]. On Bazouk’s lush grounds, a sense of quiet and privacy reigns. With a number of individual bungalows opening right onto the water, you’ll feel like the delta flows before you for your private enjoyment. A few different-sized options (huts and bungalows) are available. (14.047007,-16.686519) edit
  • Campement Fouta Toro, Ndagane, +221 77 369 82 70 (), [8]. USD $14 in low season. Eight ornately decorated thatched-roof huts encircle a common area, resembling the structure of a traditional village in the region. The rooms are all equipped with a double bed, mosquito nets, a dresser, an office desk, shower/sink/toilet, and outlets. A large thatched-roof hut serves as dining room/bar and meals can be ordered on site, including large portions of traditional Senegalese dishes like Thiebu dieune and Mafé (peanut stew with beef, fish, or chicken over rice) for CFA 2,500/person per meal. The fridge is stocked with jus bissap, bouye, and others. Breakfast can be ordered each morning for CFA 1,500 and includes coffee, tea, fruits, bread and jams. The host, Saer, is a super friendly former professional soccer player who uses some of the proceeds gained from the business to support local people in need. The breeze from the ocean river provides a relaxed, rural feel, while still being .5 km away from Ndagane's main strip. The water, with a dock, sailboats, and plenty of shallow, warm water is just 100 steps away. Saer, who speaks French, Wolof, and English, can accommodate any need that may arise - setting up tours to the Mar Lodj village by pirogue, coordinating horse-drawn carriage rides to the nearby Foret de Samba Dia, planning and budgeting meals, and coordinating transport between Ndagane and Dakar by taxi or bus. He is also very connected to the community, and stops to greet everyone and anyone when walking through town. Wifi and electricity are constant and reliable. A paradise and a great deal for budget travelers. Easiest way to book is via Air BNB. (14.0752554,-16.6943958) edit

Contact[edit]

Thomas Amadou Alpha Ba, owner of the campement Le Limboko, is also the vice president of the Association for the Promotion of Tourism in the Sine-Saloum Region and an excellent source of information for visitors, whether at his campement or another. +221 77 429 9908


Get out[edit]

Leaving Mar Lodj via Public Transport Mini-buses leave Ndangane-Sambou every morning for Dakar (1900 FCFA per person + 500 FCFA max per bag). You will have to be flexible on the exact departure time as cars leave when they fill up. For destinations other than Dakar, get off at the Mbour garage and continue your travel from there. Make sure to arrange an early pirogue departure from your campement to arrive in Ndangane-Sambou to catch the morning buses.

Heading to Other Parts of the Sine Saloum Visits to other parts of the Sine Saloum Delta - including many of its beautiful uninhabited islands (such as Pointe de Sangomar or Isle aux Oiseaux) and the villages further upriver – can be arranged through your accommodations provider. Many pirogues leave for tours from Ndangane-Campement, but will pass through Mar Lodj if arranged by your campement. Create category

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