When you think surfing, Senegal is not a country that springs to mind. But after a recent Cap Skirring surfing holiday in Senegal, it’s now a country that’s on my surf map. This review of Marejada surf camp is after five days at their surf school on the West African coast. I found unique waves, empty waters and superb hospitality.
Marejada surf school was originally set up in Asturias, Spain, where they still run a school and camp. But a few years ago, founder Ricardo set off on an expedition to establish a new site in a more exotic location.
Central America seemed to be calling but then a chance phone call from a friend in Senegal changed everything. And as my review of Marejada surf camp Senegal points out, it turned out to be a very good decision.
Located in the southern part of Senegal, beneath the Gambia, Marejada is in the Casamance region. Famed for being the most beautiful part of the country, a Cap Skirring surfing holiday in Senegal gives you a chance to see the country in a different way.
The landscape is dominated by bird-filled wetlands and an incredible, almost endless stretch of sandy coastline. The palm-fringed beaches seem to go on forever in both directions. Disappearing off into the relative unknown of Guinea Bissau to the south and Gambia to the north.
The camp is located just outside Cap Skirring, Senegal’s most popular tourist destination. But don’t expect whitewashed hotels and lobster-red tourists.
While there’s more tourism here than in other parts of Senegal, the beaches are still mostly empty. An aging Cub Med is the only one big resort. Most of the accommodation options are in the form of small, family run lodges.
Marejada surf camp is located just a couple of kilometres down the road in the village of Kabrousse. Other than the camp, a couple of cafes and a few local shops, there’s not much else of note in Kabrousse.
Goats, chickens and cows mill about. And a steady stream of people go about their business on the road. But that’s all part of the charm of a Cap Skirring surfing holiday in Senegal.
It feels like a genuine, working Senegalese village. People stop to say good morning or afternoon, and ask if you’re having a good day. There’s no hassle or hard sell. Just incredibly warm and welcoming people who seem genuinely pleased that you’re having a nice time. It’s utterly refreshing.
And, if you do want to head into Cap to hit the bars and clubs, then you can flag down any of the passing cabs or cars. It costs about 50p each way.
Cap is also a fishing town, with hundreds of colourfully painted fishing boats lined up along the sand. Behind the boats, palm-roofed smokehouse stretch off into the distance and cows wander along the beach. It’s a pretty incredible sight.
The Marejada surf camp accommodation consists of several charming roundhouses, with thatched roofs. It’s set slightly back from the road in the centre of Kabrousse. So you get a bit of quiet as well as being in the heart of the action.
There’s a well-stocked bar and restaurant where you eat your meals, all of which is open to the public. So there’s a steady stream of locals and visitors popping in. Plus there is regular music and entertainment nights.
The roundhouses are spacious but fairly basic. But then having spent a few weeks travelling around this part of Africa, basic is pretty much as good as it gets. And besides, you really don’t need anything else.
A lockable door (probably not needed in all honesty), comfy bed, clean bathroom – all the boxes are ticked. And each has a little veranda and hammock area where you can sit, read and hang out.
Surfing in this part of Senegal has two main advantages. Firstly, the unique waves. And secondly – and this is the real clincher – there’s virtually nobody else in the water. In five days on this Cap Skirring surfing holiday in Senegal we only saw one other surfer, and they weren’t even in the water, just walking around with a board.
It’s sure to catch on, and plenty of the local youngsters seem to be developing an interest – they sit on the rocks to watch every day. But for now, you’ve got the waves pretty much to yourself. No localism, no line ups. It’s just you against the waves.
The wave in front of the Club Med (near to the centre of Cap Skirring) is pretty incredible. It breaks on the point and then washes in across the bay. Which means it’s possible to just keep going. For up to a minute and a half.
Don’t believe me, check out the video of instructor and Marejada founder Ricardo riding it all the way in. I might not be a surfing expert, but riding the same wave for 90 seconds is not normal, right?
When the tide at Club Med isn’t ideal, there are other spots along the coast you can try. A personal favourite was at the next bay along, known as Boukot.
It’s another point break, not as long as Club Med but with the advantage of being in a stunning spot. No lodges, no restaurants, no nothing. Just ocean, sand and palm trees. And the drive in the pick-up along the beach at sunset is a special memory to take away.
Now, of course, the surfing is the main attraction. But I have to admit, that at any given moment eating is never far from the top of my list of things to do. Which turned out to be very lucky for me, as the full board option at Marejada includes three full meals a day.
Breakfast is simple but hearty. Bread, butter, jam, chocolate spread (a Senegalese favourite it would seem). Washed down with tea, coffee and juice. But lunch is where it gets interesting.
After a few hours on the waves, you’re ready for an energy boost. And that’s what you get with a three-course meal. Starters of prawns, salads, grilled aubergines – different every day. The main course is more often than not fish, freshly caught that morning, with chips, potatoes, salad and more. Then a pudding of fruit salad, crepes or ice cream.
It’s the same again at dinner. Three more courses, more fresh fish (including a local speciality known as ‘lotte’, or butterfish in English) or steak, chicken or whatever else the chef whips up.
There are veggie options available too but in this part of the world, you probably won’t get the same kind of variety as back home. And it’s best to let them know in advance if you have any special requirements.
There is an airport in Cap Skirring but it is small and mostly operates charter and internal flights. Ziguinchor is the nearest city, and again there’s an airport here, with a bigger choice of flights.
From the city you can arrange a private transfer or taxi, or simply hop in the back of one of the sept-place (seven-seat) bush taxis. That’s definitely the cheapest option, but expect conditions to be cramped. Or you can make your way overland from Banjul in the Gambia.
Having never been to West Africa before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Cap Skirring surfing holiday in Senegal. Some things were exactly as I imagined: hectic markets, spectacular sunsets, crumbling infrastructure. But on the whole, it is the surprise elements I took away: the incredible warmth of the people, the waves that seem to go on forever and the great eating.
If you’re tired of heading to the same surf spots every year. If waiting in the line up or having wave after wave stolen from under your nose is starting to grate. Then maybe it’s time to try something new. And maybe that is surfing in Senegal.
If this review of Marejada surf camp has you planning a Cap Skirring surfing holiday in Senegal then find out more here: www.escuelamarejada.com/senegal/en/