Khadija, our European Solidarity Corps volunteer, was one of the virtual tourists of the virtual journey into the “Landscape of the Year” Senegal/The Gambia from 20th January-3rd February 2021 organised by Naturefriends International. She spent two exciting weeks and many experiences and encounters in an interesting region. 108 people from 9 countries were participating in this virtual journey. 

Mamadou Mbodji, Deputy Secretary General of Naturefriends Senegal and Ingeborg Pint, Africa expert and long-time tour guide of Naturefriends International (NFI) guided virtual tourists through Senegal and Gambia. Like in the past trips to the Landscape of the Year, coordinators and participants were always supported by board members of the Senegalese Naturefriends and by representatives of the Naturefriends from the region.  

Isatou Ceesay, a real power woman, Muhammed Kebbeh, one of our companions, Musa Foon, Mrs. Aja Babung Sidibeh, Omar Jammeh, director of JUST ACT, Isatou Foon, one of the members of JUST ACT, Cheikh Diakhaté, President of Naturefriends Koungheul and regional coordinator of the Landscape of the Year, and other honourable people welcomed us with their interviews, quotations, or kind words and guided us through the virtual tour.

Photo: Peter Backof

Virtual tourists were provided by email detailed information about The Gambia, Senegal and Kankurang tradition and the festival, the work of Naturefriends Koungheul, the important role of local radio in Africa, the history of Janjanbureh, sustainable tourism in the Landscape of the Year, Interviews with people, who are related to the journey, and other short thematic articles, and links to background information. They also had a chance to watch to 2 films that were shot on the occasion of the last trip by Claudia Lenius, Frankfurt/Main (Germany) and by Christian Berneron, Annie Jumel, Éveline Gaborit, Monique Wintz, Arlette Navarro and Christian Dupouy (Naturefriends Colombes, France) in January 2020.

Strand in Dakar (Photo: Jens Herbst)

Virtual tourists received daily information about the stages of their journey with photos and links. They had a chance to “travel” the centre of Dakar, the historical buildings from the French colonial period, railway station, Chamber of commerce, Historic lighthouse, Beach in Dakar, from where trains used to depart for Bamako (Mali) in the past, airport, Naturefriends house “Maison des Amis de la Nature Alioune Diagne Mbor“ in Petit Mbao near Dakar. Alioune Diagne Mbor, after whom the house is named and who died in 2016, was the long-standing president of ASAN, who worked with great commitment to set up a Landscape of the Year in Africa. 

Naturfreunde-Haus (Photo: Rainer Kulla)

Senegal is located at the westernmost point of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Continent of Africa, Europe and America. It is at an intersection of great maritime and aerial routes. 

“On the bus”, Mamadou Diallo, Secretary General of ASAN and Mamadou Mbodji, Deputy Secretary General welcomed the group, virtually. 

“Travellers” passed through the lively historically important town of Rufisque and many villages until Kaolack, the centre of peanut cultivation and Salt marshes near Fatick, the northern bank of the Gambia River. Island in the Gambia River where Janjanbureh is located (Janjanbureh is a large village (about 3,700 inhabitants), everything is within walking distance), the Gambian center of the Landscape of the Year. On the way towards Janjanbureh they visited the “Women’s Initiative Gambia“ in Njaw, afterwards checked in at Baobolong Camp.

Photo: Jens Herbst

Virtual travellers continued towards the Kankurang Centre next to the Kankurang Festival square, after it reached the Triangle Park with the Freedom Tree, where the history of Janjanbureh was briefly shown on information boards. There was the afternoon hike for virtual travellers, on a route of the „Baobab River Hiking Trails“ project, which was initiated by the German Naturefriend Gernot Henn.

Shops at the roadside (Photo: Caludia Lenius)

“Travellers” visited Yorobelekunda, where fruit trees had been planted with the local people in 2020. Next item on the programme was a visit to the Kunkilling Forest Park, located on the southern bank of the Gambia River, about 5 km upstream from Janjanbureh. Here virtual travellers hike to the banks of the Gambia River. Afterwards, they went back to the northern shore of the Gambia River and on to Wassu, Kuntaur and River Gambia National Park, 40 kilometres downstream from Janjanbureh. “Travellers” returned to Senegal at the border crossing at Maka Gouye, which consists of three districts, named after the ethnic groups living there: Maka Gouye Wolof, Maka Gouye Toucouleur and Maka Gouye Peulh, and arrived in Koungheul, the Senegalese centre of the Landscape of the Year, and checked in at Campement Le Bambouck, about 4 km outside the city.

Photo: Claudia Lenius

The virtual journey continued also by passing the local radio station: Radio Koungheul FM and visiting the CEM – Collège d’Enseignement Moyen (secondary school) – of Koumbidja Socé, The Naturefriends House and Environmental Education Centre in Petit Mbao near the capital Dakar, which was inaugurated in January 2004. 

People who attended this virtual journey travelled to the village of Petit Mbao, in  the coast, a village near Petit Mbao and “Forest of Mbao”

On return, “travellers” were also welcomed by locals with tam-tam and dance, and met the “Women of Kamb”.

Photo: Gernot Henn
Khadija Aliyeva:

“I always wanted to visit the sites, meet its population and get the information about their living conditions, and even volunteer in an African country. 

I am pleased that thanks to the “Landscape of the Year” I became familiar with the diverse populations of Senegal and the Gambia and with the cultural diversity of the two countries.

We received daily information about the stages of our journey with short thematic articles, photos and links. This was a good-thinking mode for presenting these countries, their history, inhabitants, African traditions and hospitality to people, who are interested in, even under these special circumstances.”

Photo: Mamadou Mbodji

“I am interested not only in sightseeing but also in the life of the people, problems of the region and the invisible side of the iceberg.  

I wish we would see and learn about the rich fauna and flora, species of monkeys, hippos, warthogs, and antelopes of the region, enjoy breakfast and lunch with local people in reality. 

I believe I will have an opportunity to be in the Naturefriends House in Dakar, taste Poulet Yassa (chicken in onion sauce), plant trees, visit families, participate in festivals and visit rivers, and enjoy the view of the Atlantic Ocean and the skyline of Dakar.”

Photo: Mamadou Mbodji

“I hope that there will soon be a real journey to the “Landscape of the Year” again. I am looking forward to seeing  information pillars, where there are explanations about the history of the village and its sights, the countries’ environment and our African friends again.

And that’s great, I also got the chance to get the contacts of responsible people from those countries. It will be helpful to get more information, which I need. I would like to thank Ingeborg Pint, Mamadou Mbodji, Omar Jammeh and others for their kind “travel” guidance.”

Market hall (Photo: Dieter Peiflo)