The Réserve de Bandia is only 18km north of Saly so the next morning we headed north in my LandCruiser for a mini-Safari. At the park we paid 10,000 CFA each, 10,000 CFA for my truck, and 4,000 CFA for a guide to show us around the park. Surprisingly this was my first “Safari” in Africa even though I have visited 17 African countries and traveled thousands of miles back and forth across the continent. This was a low budget and quick Safari, but not bad.
The only carnivores in the Park are a couple hyenas kept in a zoo-like enclosure and the well-fed crocs in the pond next to the Reception area and restaurant. Driving around for our two hour safari we saw about a dozen giraffes of all sizes, scores of monkeys, at least a hundred antelope-cheval, 15-20 warthogs, 10 or so zebras, herds of water buffalos, flocks of ostriches, and two white rhinos. We stayed in the car for the most part except when the guide told us to get out 20ft from the female rhino to take a picture. She told us to be very quiet and not make any sudden movements, but remained in the car to take the picture.
The other place where we dismounted the trusty Landcruiser was at a giant Baobab tree in the middle of the park. Legend has it that the bodies of deceased Griots were interred in the openings of the giant Baobab trees until forbidden by President Senghor in the 1960s. The ban on the traditional practice that had taken place for as long as the people could remember caused a great drought that lasted six years and was only appeased when the massive tree was fed again. The Baobab tree in the park still has human skulls and bones visible in its dark hollows.
We ate lunch on an old McDonalds picnic table and watched the monkeys steal bread from children. Sneaky crocodiles would try to get close to the monkeys as they pretended to bask in the sun and giant iguanas or komodo dragons roamed the pathways near the bathrooms.
For the price and proximity to Dakar I would recommend the Bandia for those on a quick visit to Senegal. Niokolo Koba National Park, located another five hours east of Bandia, offers a much larger park and features a couple lions. However there isn’t much in the way of large animals left in Senegal or West Africa as the locals ate them. Most of the animals at Bandia and Niokolo Koba are imports from other parks on the continent.