Trip Tips: Music, beaches and 'fromagers' in Senegal's Casamance
By Carolyn Cohn
ZIGUNICHOR, Senegal (Reuters) - A mix of locals and music fans were watching silently or dancing, framed by the branches of the giant "fromager" tree that marks the center of the Senegalese village of Diembering, as hip-hop band Tirailleurs started to sing about me.
Or at least apparently they did - if only I could understand their Wolof language.
Tirailleurs were performing at the four-day Festival des Rizieres, an annual celebration of hip-hop and reggae in the southern Casamance region of the West African country.
Tourism in this lush region, slightly cut off from Senegal's bustling capital Dakar by Gambia, which slices through the middle of the country, has suffered from a decades-old separatist conflict, now largely dormant.
Ebola has taken a further toll on the tourist industry, even though the West African country only had one case of the virus, and has been Ebola-free since October.
Travel from Dakar to Ziguinchor, the capital of the Casamance, has also been challenging, involving either a twice-weekly overnight ferry down the coast and up the lazy Casamance river, a short hop on Senegal Airlines' one working airplane or a bumpy road trip via Gambia in a "sept place" - seven-passenger taxi.
But new ferries introduced earlier this year have upped the boat ride frequency to four times a week, while the end of the tourist visa requirement from this month will also make travel cheaper and easier to this francophone country.