While away your day at the pool

Nestling on Senegal’s Petite Côte, Lamantin Beach Resort is something of an oasis in this sun-scorched corner of West Africa. It’s also an ideal base from which to dip a toe into this charismatic country, writes Gavin Haines.

First impressions

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to get your head around the weather in Senegal. Between October and May, it’s the dry season. Then you have the wet season, between June and September, during which it doesn’t rain, it pours. The dust turns to mud and overnight Senegal’s parched vegetation is transformed into verdant flora. It’s greener than England, so I’m told.

I find that impossible to believe as I drive through dusty villages along the Petite Côte to reach Lamantin Beach Hotel, a 5-star fusion of French refinement and African architecture which is just the tonic after a sticky car journey. Sensing my fatigue, a gorgeous receptionist with a friendly smile pours me a glass of ice-cold water and hands me a damp flannel, which has been chilling in the refrigerator. Things start well. And they get even better when I catch a glimpse of the pool, which shimmers in the midday sun – I long to swim and sip beer by the water, but first I let the charming receptionist check me in.

Ideal for...

Couples or families looking for guaranteed weather and a base from which to explore Senegal.

The room

Lamantin’s 145 rooms are housed in cottages which have been constructed the traditional way using mud and straw. Scattered around a verdant garden, where geckos abound, these chalets (which have one room upstairs and one room downstairs) are painted in a rich, earth-red hue and sit underneath neatly cropped thatched roofs; they are simple, but striking. The African theme continues inside, where I discover beautiful, beamed ceilings, ornate handmade furniture and walls adorned with Senegalese art and craftwork. My cavernous room is dominated by a king-sized bed, which sends me into a deep sleep later that night (or was it the wine?).

Le Lamantin suiteLe Lamantin's modest looking huts belie luxurious suites
Le Lamantin
There’s also a large desk and a comfortable seating area, which quickly becomes a dumping ground for my luggage. The bathroom has a shower, a bath and his and her basins. The way the light reflects off the red walls is flattering, managing to make even an exhausted hack look healthy. Naturally there’s air conditioning, a large plasma TV, super-fast broadband and a hairdryer. You can also make use of the minibar, but my small balcony only offers views of the next building, so I head to the pool instead.

Best room?

Had I been feeling extravagant I could have upgraded to a deluxe suite with sea views. There are five of these at Lamantin and each one boasts two double beds, bigger bathrooms, open-plan lounges and large balconies overlooking the Atlantic.

Le Lamantin spaTreat yourself to a massage in the hotel spa
Le Lamantin

Eating and drinking

Overlooking the marina (yes, Lamantin has its own marina), La Terrace Du Port is my favourite spot to dine at the hotel. Scattered between coconut palms, the dining tables are waited on by smiling Senegalese staff, who are well versed in the art of gastronomy.

A former French colony, Senegalese cuisine has long been influenced by Europe and you can expect to taste the results of this fusion at the hotel’s à la carte buffet. The selection changes daily, but the choice is always vast; there’s locally caught fish, barbecued meats, Senegalese marinades and delicate Mediterranean salads. Then there’s the dessert table, which is like something out of a Parisian patisserie, while the wine list takes you around the world.

Breakfast continues the French theme; cooked meats, cheeses, breads, freshly baked croissants and crêpes made to order dominate plates in Les Paletuviers restaurant. It’s here that I discover the delights of baobab jam – so much so that I buy four jars to take home with me.


Lamantin has a pool, private beach and a shop selling souvenirs, which are significantly more expensive than you’ll find outside the resort. There is also a fitness centre and spa, which offers a range of treatments.

Le Lamantin beachIt doesn't get much more luxurious than a private beach
Le Lamantin

Room for improvement

My only bugbear is that the chairs at La Terrace Du Port restaurant are a bit low, making you feel like you are stretching up to the table. There’s also the small matter of trashy Euro pop music, which is likely to drown out your conversation if you have a late dinner.

Out and about

If you like drinking and dancing, the nearby resort of Saly has a selection of bars and nightclubs of varying repute. You can also pick up some great souvenirs at the town’s Marché Artisanal. A day trip to Dakar is feasible – visitors should take the ferry from the Senegalese capital to UNESCO-listed Gorée Island, the beauty of which belies its harrowing history as a slaving station.

Further south are the twin villages of Joal and Fadiout. The former has one of the dirtiest beaches I’ve ever seen and is scarcely worth visiting, but Fadiout is a stunning island made entirely of seashells and surrounded by lush mangroves, best explored on a pirogue with a local guide.


Lamantin Beach Resort & Spa, Saly Nord, Senegal
Tel: (221) 3395 70777.
Website: www.lelamantin.com
Rooms start at €90pp (per night, half-board). The Senegal Experience offers seven-night packages from £1,287pp, based on two sharing. Price includes return flights from London Heathrow plus transfers.

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