Saloum Delta National Park, Senegal
GPS: 13.805566959961, -16.757223112739
Located between the Senegalese Petite Côte and The Gambia, the Saloum Delta National Park forms a labyrinth of meanders and natural islands surrounded by mangroves. Its fabulous delta was born from the confluence of the Saloum river and its main affluent, the Sine. Of great ecological value, the Saloum Delta National Park is sometimes nicknamed the Amazon of Senegal for its innumerable seaways of salt water called bolongs (natural waterways).
Endowed with an area of 760 km², the wet and protected areas of the Saloum delta attract thousands of migratory birds on the East Atlantic Flyway including many erratic species. With the Banc d’Arguin National Park (Mauritania) and the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary north of Saint-Louis (Senegal), the Saloum Delta National Park is naturally one of the most important ornithological sites in West Africa. It consists of a natural environment with an enchanting frame with its 200 islands or islets, its bolongs, its sandbanks, its bays, its lagoons, its mud flats, its vast mangrove areas, its tropical forests bathed by water and the powerful rays of the sun. The presence of shellfish (tumulus of shells produced under the era of former pre-colonial kingdoms as burial) testifies to a very ancient human occupation in the region. In the Middle Ages, this part of Senegal is dominated by two Serer kingdoms (the Sine and the Saloum). After having long resisted Muslims from Northern Africa (including the Almoravid dynasty in the 11th century), they were integrated into the Jolof Empire. This great territory extends from Mauritania to the basins of the Senegal and Gambia rivers (Senegambian zone) in the 16th century. The two Serer kingdoms regain their independence but the growing influence of European settlers (Portuguese, Dutch, French and British) in Senegal and the development of the slave trade will upset the established order.
Due to its situation between the Atlantic Ocean and the Saloum lagoons, the Saloum Delta National Park forms a unique ecosystem worldwide and one of the richest in Africa. Its mangrove areas, nestled between land and sea, are particularly prolific in biomass and turn out to a natural refuge for around a hundred fish species. Certain beaches serve as a place of laying for several species of turtles (green sea, luth and loggerhead sea). Inhabited mainly by the Serer and Niominka people (the latter live in the Saloum islands), this magnificent Senegalese region is the epicentre of a fascinating culture, with great human traditions. It is also the heart of artisanal fishing activity and the centre of the peanut basin in Senegal. The wild lands of the Saloum Delta National Park, under the influence of the ocean environment, are today strongly threatened by deforestation, increased salinity of water, scarcity of fresh water, erosion coastal and the effects of climate change.