The holiday hotspot with direct UK flights and 32C heat in winter – with no time difference to adjust to

“WHEN we receive guests at home, we are happy, and so are we with tourists in Senegal,” says our tour guide Sougi.

And that warm welcome came to us this winter, when travel giant TUI launched the first direct flights from the UK to West Africa in more than a decade.

There are miles of untouched, pale yellow sand along tranquil Pointe Sarene, with palm-shaded sunbeds and umbrellas galore

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There are miles of untouched, pale yellow sand along tranquil Pointe Sarene, with palm-shaded sunbeds and umbrellas galorePhoto credit: Shutterstock
If there's one excursion not to be missed, it's a visit to Goree Island, which was once one of the largest slave trading centers on the coast of Africa

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If there’s one excursion not to be missed, it’s a visit to Goree Island, which was once one of the largest slave trading centers on the coast of AfricaCredit: Alamy
A trip to Africa would be nothing without wildlife viewing

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A trip to Africa would be nothing without wildlife viewingPhoto credit: Shutterstock
You would expect the island to be a celebratory destination, but it's the opposite, with a vibrancy in the people we met

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You would expect the island to be a celebratory destination, but it’s the opposite, with a vibrancy in the people we metCredit: COLLECT

With 32C heat and no time difference to get used to, I was delighted to be one of the first on the inaugural flight that headed to the all-inclusive 5H RIU Baobab – a full-frills resort that ex just £816 a week for one week starts.

There are four pools, including one with a swim-up bar (expect frozen cocktails and DJ sets every day), as well as an on-site water park with five slides.

You won’t have to fight for a spot on the beach either.
There are miles of untouched, pale yellow sand along tranquil Pointe Sarene, with palm-shaded sunbeds and umbrellas galore.

The hotel caters for everything from fried chicken and chips at the poolside cafe to the extensive buffet restaurant, which serves everything from pizza and pasta to local Senegalese cuisine.

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Be bold and try thieboudienne, the country’s rice and fish dish. It’s so salty and delicious you won’t be able to stop with just one scoop.

One perk of the resort is its three specialty restaurants, all of which are included in the package, though they must be booked in advance.

There’s Veneto for fine Italian dining, Doryaki for sushi and pasta, and Grill for BBQ fans.

The only difficulty is saying no to the wine, which is almost constantly being poured by the attentive staff.

They also make a mean mojito. beer fan? Then the local La Gazelle will be a treat too.

And when the sun goes down, the entertainment really begins, with live music and dance performances every night. In the Aduna nightclub you can party until the early hours.

The warm Senegalese hospitality can be felt not only inside the hotel but also outside, especially on a trip to a local family’s home in a nearby village.

We arrived at their front door while children approached us and were greeted like old friends. We were given sleeping babies to hold and taught how to pound grain with massive pestles that made my arm muscles burn.

My lack of rhythm was also evident when I was invited to dance with a combination of arm swings and twerks, only for the locals to howl with laughter at my very clumsy British attempt.

This community spirit continued at Jardin d’ebene, a small artisan factory selling locally made jam and ice cream.

It is run by ex-Parisian Huong Thach and her team.

After a brief four-day visit five years ago, Huong fell in love with the country and quit her marketing job in France to build her home from scratch.

She told me: “I feel so at home here. The people are nice and you say hello to everyone, even if you don’t know them.”

mangrove trees

Your employees are also your neighbors and live only a few houses away. Their handmade hibiscus ice cream was so rich my tongue tingled from the sweetness, while their soursop jam (a fruit I’ve been assured is the next big superfood) made its way back to my hotel room.

While it can be tempting to while away the days at the resort’s pool, the hotel offers all manner of day trips that will tempt even the most reluctant guests.

A trip to Africa would be nothing without wildlife viewing. Try the Bandia Reserve, ideal for first-time safari visitors to see giraffes, zebras and rhinos.

Or hop on a boat down the Saloum Delta River, a Unesco World Heritage Site with thousands of acres of wildlife, while listening to the clatter of oyster shells hidden in the mangrove trees.

But if there’s one excursion not to be missed, it’s a visit to Goree Island, which was once one of the largest slave trading centers on the coast of Africa.

It is estimated that at least tens of thousands were brought to the island between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Upon arrival, the picturesque island almost hides its sad history with its colorful colonial houses built under the rules of the Dutch, Portuguese and French.

After Senegal’s independence from France in 1960, only 1,200 people live in Goree.

There are no cars, just local vendors in their brightly printed boubou outfits on every street corner. Friendly vendors at the craft market will tempt you into their wares at a ‘good price’ while the young men peddle their kashaka instruments and shake the beans to a percussive beat.

But the most visited spot on the island is the Maison des Esclaves, the last remaining slave house and now a museum. Past visitors include Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

It makes for a sobering journey, especially the Door of No Return, which shows the final point at which the slaves are taken to the boats, leaving their loved ones on the island forever.

You would expect the island to be a celebratory destination, but it’s the opposite, with a vibrancy in the people we met.

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Our tour guide explained, “We try to forget it because we can’t go on living with anger.” That sense of community and kindness is something that’s so easy to forget when leading a busy life at home.

As I waved goodbye to everyone at RIU Baobab, I decided to be my first port of call back home to spend time with friends and family – having too often taken that luxury for granted.

Go there: Senegal

GETTING THERE/STAY: TUI is offering seven all-inclusive nights at the 5H Riu Baobab from £816pp including flights departing Gatwick on 9th January 2023 and transfers. Based on two people sharing a double room with balcony or terrace. See tui.com.

OUT & ABOUT: Tui offers excursions from £27 pp. The Saloum Delta Day Trip costs £65 per adult/£33 per child; Bandia Reserve is £56 per adult/£28 per child; The day trip to Goree Island and Dakar costs £65 per adult/£33 per child; and the Treasures and Flavors of Senegal is £27 per adult/£14 per child. See tui.com.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/travel/20478268/holiday-hotspot-direct-uk-flights-32c-heat-winter/ The holiday hotspot with direct UK flights and 32C heat in winter – with no time difference to adjust to

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