Wondering how to get to Ngor Island in Dakar, Senegal? I visited it on my recent trip to Dakar – here’s all you need to know.
From Dakar’s Ngor Beach, you can see Ngor Island in detail.
The tropical island sits around a kilometre from the mainland; so reaching it should be effortless, right?
Right! (Kind of). I’m sitting in my hotel on Ngor Beach writing this up, having ventured to Ngor Island today.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting to Ngor Island!
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How to get to Ngor Island: two boat options
“The cheapest way is swimming!” a local joked with us on the beach when we went to enquire about transport to Ngor Island.
In all seriousness, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this – we went diving around Ngor Island and the currents were strong.
Boats leave Ngor Beach frequently to reach Ngor Island.
Choose from a traditional pirogue boat or a smaller vessel.
The pirogue boats are Senegal’s famous colourful fishing boats while the other boats are your bog standard engine-powered boats.
While the pirogue might seem the more enticing option, in reality they’re very difficult to get into and out of and are crammed full of people.
The standard boats have a step up to get into them and usually leave with far fewer people.
However, the pirogue boats are 1000 XOF for a return trip (around $1.60), whereas the standard boats are 2000 XOF (around $3.20).
How to take the pirogue boats
To take the pirogue boats, walk past La Cabane du Pêcheur and look out for a pile of orange lifejackets on the other side of the beach.
Walk towards these, and you should see someone selling tickets – they’ll have a book of them.
Take your ticket to where the lifejackets are – someone there will take the ticket and give you a lifejacket in return.
Then, head to the boat – or ask where to wait if it’s not there – and fill in.
There was a small platform on this beach, so it wasn’t too challenging to get in – but take care if you have electronics. My partner and I took turns holding them while the other one got in.
The boats leave when they’re full, but in our experience it didn’t take too long (around five minutes). You’ll need to fill the boat from the back.
Once the boat was full up, you’ll set sail! It takes a matter of minutes to reach the island.
Once you arrive, leave your lifejacket on the boat and hop off however best you can(it’s a fairly long drop, but at least the sand’s soft!).
I’d recommend wearing shorts, a shorter skirt or something you can roll up to your knees, as you’ll end up knee deep in the sea at some point in all this – my trousers were soaked!
Getting back from Ngor Island to the mainland
Our ticket had been taken from us on Ngor Beach, but we didn’t seem to need it for the return journey.
The boat approached, and we grabbed a lifejacket and climbed in.
The only issue was, there wasn’t a platform to give us that little bit of height here!
Now, I’m a 5ft3 woman, and the sides of the boat are extremely high.
I very much struggled to get into the boat (my partner was holding all of our electronics, and I cared much more about them staying dry than me, so he couldn’t even help me!).
In the end, a kind local gave me a leg up and, arms flailing, I ungracefully rolled into the boat.
My partner wasn’t much more glamorous than me – he’s 6ft4, but managed to nearly capsize the boat when he jumped up onto the side!
Needless to say, the locals all found us very amusing!
The other boat option
If you fancy a more graceful way to travel to Ngor Island, I’d recommend splashing out on the extra 1000 XOF for a boat with step access!
You’ll still need to wade in the water, but it looked a lot easier to get on.
The only other negative of this boat is that I don’t think it leaves as often. We didn’t have the option to take it when we walked down to the beach.
But ask around – there are plenty of locals and people who work on the boats who’ll help. If you don’t speak French, some can speak enough English to help.
Is Ngor Island worth visiting?
Whichever way you do it, it’s well worth making the short journey over to Ngor Island.
Street art decorates the buildings and palm trees sway in the breeze.
We walked over to the other side of the island, where the rocks descend into the Atlantic Ocean and enjoyed the peace and quiet – a rarity in hectic Dakar.
We then mooched down to the beach, where a small local restaurant served us Thieboudienne, the national dish of Senegal.
It’s traditionally made with fish, but as I’m veggie I asked for it without (which despite a little initial confusion, they were happy to do!).
Just a note for any veggies, I think it was still cooked in fish stock, which I’m ok with when travelling (it’s difficult to completely avoid some animal products), but I know not all people are!
Ngor Island is also a popular spot for surfing (it’s near the Westernmost point of mainland Africa!) and scuba diving (we did a day with Nautilus Diving – blog post to come).
Where to stay on Ngor Beach
We stayed for four nights at La Cabane du Pêcheur on Ngor Beach, with a wonderful view of the island.
It’s a small guesthouse with eight bedrooms and a popular attached seafood restaurant and bar.
The restaurant serves delectable fish dishes (I didn’t try any, but my partner did when we dined there for two nights of our stay) and incredible mozzarella and pesto ravioli (which I had both nights – probably the best pasta I’ve ever had outside Italy!). Dishes are on the pricier side, but they are worth it!
The rooms had AC and comfortable beds, and the showers were hot (although in Dakar’s heat, I often wanted a cool shower!).
The only quirky thing about the rooms was that the shower/ toilet area didn’t actually have a door, just a wall sectioning them off. It didn’t bother us too much but some might find it strange.
Are you ready to visit Ngor Island?
Ngor Island Dakar is a refreshing change of pace from the capital.
While there’s not a huge amount to do per se, you can enjoy the beach, get a flavour of local life and explore the outdoor art gallery of the island’s street art.
While Goree Island is much more popular (and well worth visiting), I’d also recommend adding Ngor to your Senegal itinerary – and hopefully this guide has shown you how to get there!