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Mar Lodj

Sine Saloum, Senegal

Across the creek, about 20 minutes from Ndangane by pirogue, Mar Lodj is one of the largest islands in the delta, extending over about 150 sq km (60 sq miles), and it supports a population of 5,000 spread across four villages, of which the largest are Mar Fafako and Mar Lothie. Like much of the delta, Mar Lodj isn’t noted for its altitudinal vari­ation – the highest point isn’t even 10 metres (30ft) above sea level – but its cover of moist woodland and savannah supports an exceptionally varied birdlife, as do the channels that enclose it.

Peacefully protected near the mouth of the Sine-Saloum delta, half a day’s drive and a short pirogue ride from the commotion and noise of Dakar, the island of Mar Lodj is a calm and refreshing sanctuary. The local population, the perennially friendly and laidback Sérères, live in the island’s three villages of Mar Lodj, Mar Soulou, and Mar Fafaco, as well as on the quaint island-within-an-island of Mar Wandié. Mar Lodj, the largest, has a population of about 2000 and is the only village on the island to be predominantly Catholic. Some ten campements and lodges spread along the island’s beaches provide a range of accommodations.

A row of likeable but little-used campements lines the island’s shore, their aura of remote rusticity enhanced by the island’s lack of electricity (they are powered by generators or solar panels, but it’s a good idea to bring a torch). A popular landmark on Mar Lodj is a heavily buttressed fromager (kapok) tree whose trunk has become intertwined with those of an African mahogany and a borassus palm – locals have claimed this particularity as symbolic of the peaceful coexistence of the island’s Muslim, Christian and animist populations.

Travel to Mar Lodj can be organized through lodging establishments, by private car or through public transit options. The most common access point for Mar Lodj is the village of Ndangane Sambou; from there, the island is a short pirogue ride away. Wait around for the public shuttle boat or hire a private one.

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