The Niokolo-Koba National Park is located in south-eastern Senegal and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Placed between the Gambia River and the border of Guinea, Niokolo National Park stretches itself over 9,130 square kilometers, roughly the same size as Connecticut.
As the staff photographer for Semester at Sea, I was assigned to go on a safari to the Bandia Reserve as well as the Niokolo National Park. A 3 day safari in Africa, sign me up! I joined the students on a bus in Dakar, Senegal and off we went on our 12 hour bus ride to the reserve. A few hours in we stopped at the Bandia Reserve and went on a 2 hour safari seeing zebras, monkeys, giraffes, hogs, ostrich and antelopes.
Our spirits were high having witnessed some amazing animals in a short safari ride. We were ready for Niokolo National Park, but knew we had a long, hot ride ahead of us.
We made it to the Niokolo National Park around 11 pm. Exhausted and sore from sitting all day, we ate a late dinner and got some sleep for our early morning safari. We spent the day off-roading around the park in modified Toyota pickup trucks with seats built into the truck beds keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife. Throughout the day we saw baboons, a leopard (caged), wild hogs and spider monkeys. Most of the wildlife had moved deeper into the park in pursuit of fresh water and food, but the students kept their spirits high just happy to be on this amazing adventure. After a long day in the sun, we ate dinner and headed to bed knowing that we had a 12 hour drive back to the MV World Odyssey the next day.
An early start and all day to get back to the ship, we made our long journey back to the MV World Odyssey. A few hours into our journey back our bus got a flat tire right in front of a village and school. What started out as stressful became one of the highlights of the trip. The community came out to assist with the flat tire, all while the children heading to school hung around and interacted with us.
After a 12 hour bus ride and a flat tire, we made it back to the ship in Senegal ready for some much needed A/C and a cold shower.
Although the safari didn't go perfectly as planned, these mishaps lead to a memorable and amazing experience. Sometimes the unknown can be the most fun part of traveling.