Senegal’s Year-Round Climate
Senegal boasts a consistently warm climate throughout the year, with daytime temperatures rarely falling below 20°C. Instead of categorizing it as hot or cold, it’s more useful to consider Senegal in terms of its wet and dry seasons. Here, we’ll provide you with insights into Senegal’s climate, attractions, and activities to help you plan your West African adventure with confidence.
January: Enjoyable Winter Sun
January marks a transition from December in Senegal. While the daytime temperature remains pleasant at 22°C (72°F), coastal winds and rooftop bars might necessitate a jacket for evening outings. It’s an ideal time for outdoor activities without worrying about sweltering temperatures. Please note that fireworks are prohibited from December 28 to January 15.
February: Mild and Tranquil
February in Senegal offers consistently mild temperatures, with little variation. Occasionally, dust smog from the Sahara may affect visibility, giving the atmosphere a hazy, orange hue. This isn’t the best time for climbing the African Renaissance Monument in Dakar or wearing white attire (unless you like rust-colored smudges). However, February is generally fresh and calm, making it perfect for exploring Senegal’s interior, where the coastal breeze doesn’t reach. Niokolo-Koba National Park in southeast Senegal, open officially from December 15 to April 30, is a must-visit, providing opportunities to observe African wildlife, including hippos, crocodiles, antelopes, elephants, and warthogs.
March: Paradoxical Weather
March presents a paradox in Senegal, with rising outside temperatures and a drop in water temperature. In most of Senegal, wearing full-length wetsuits is essential for extended periods in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the southern region of Casamance is an exception. March is an excellent month to explore Casamance’s lush greenery and enjoy its coastal hotspots like Cap-Skirring, which boasts pristine white sandy beaches.
April: Eventful Month
April can be quite busy in Senegal, with Easter often coinciding with Senegal’s Independence Day on April 4. Expect grand celebrations, including military parades in major towns. Towards the end of April or the beginning of May, Saint-Louis, the former French colonial capital in the north, hosts an international jazz festival that attracts artists and visitors from around the world. It’s wise to book accommodation in advance during this period. If time allows, consider extending your stay to explore the northern river region, which played a significant role in Senegal’s history.
May: Surfing and Art Extravaganza
May serves as an indicator of whether the year will be hot or exceptionally hot. This is when the surfing community typically switches to short-sleeved wetsuits, and there’s a vibrant atmosphere with May kicking off with Labor Day and Christian festivals like the Ascension and Pentecost. Every two years, Dakar becomes a hub of color and creativity in May, hosting the Biennale, Africa’s largest contemporary art show. Thousands of artists showcase their work across various locations in the city.
June: Coastal Retreat
June arrives with temperatures in the 30s in Senegal. Air conditioning becomes a necessity, and humidity levels rise. To make the most of this month, explore the coastal delights Senegal has to offer. The Petite Côte is a prime destination, dotted with charming villages and towns along the coastline. Saly is the largest and most developed, offering a wide range of hotels, restaurants, and activities. Other options include the lagoon at Somone, the quaint village of Popenguine, or the surf spot of Toubab Dialao, all of which provide fantastic beachside getaways.
July: Onset of the Rainy Season
July marks the beginning of the rainy season in most of Senegal, which brings increased humidity, slower roads, and a higher risk of flooding. Inland attractions, such as Niokolo-Koba National Park, often close during this period. Additionally, stagnant water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. While coastal cities generally have a low risk of malaria (locals and expats rarely take medication), travelers should take extra precautions during these rainy months, especially if venturing away from the coast. However, July also means low tourist numbers, translating to cost-effective flights and accommodations, as well as more space for travelers. If you don’t mind some humidity, it’s a great time to visit Dakar and explore its rich cultural offerings at a lower cost.
August: Rainiest Month
August is the rainiest month in Senegal, with rainfall often occurring in short, intense bursts lasting two to three hours, rather than constant drizzle throughout the day. As a result, days can still be enjoyable, albeit hot and humid. August also hosts several national holidays, including the Christian festival of Assumption on August 15, the Muslim festival of Tabaski towards the end of the month, and le Fête du Tirailleur Sénégalais on August 23, a celebration of the Senegalese squadron of the French Colonial Army that fought in both World Wars.
September: Hot and Humid
September continues to be hot and humid in Senegal, requiring frequent changes of clothing. However, it’s also the wet season, which corresponds to some of the best sport fishing opportunities in the Atlantic. September is an excellent time to target big game fish like tuna and blue marlin that migrate along coastal currents. With ocean temperatures akin to a lukewarm bath, consider enjoying activities like surfing, scuba diving, kitesurfing, jet skiing, or even flyboarding (water jet packs) in your bathing suit.
October: Peak Heat and Beach Bliss
October is the hottest month in most of Senegal, with temperatures rarely dipping below 34°C (93°F). Given the late rainy season, it’s also a period of high humidity. Travelers should carefully consider their activities, opting for beach relaxation on Dakar’s golden shores. Beach bars and restaurants line the coast, especially along Almadies’ Petite Corniche, where you can enjoy the entire day without needing to move. Evenings remain hot, but it’s advisable to cover your legs at night to avoid mosquitoes, favoring loose-fitting pants over skinny jeans.
November: Blissful Sunshine
November welcomes perpetual sunshine and a warm yet refreshing ocean. As previously mentioned, Senegal’s climate often remains consistent until one day in November when humidity abruptly vanishes. It’s a truly blissful experience. The Petite Côte region comes alive with the return of European homeowners and the possibility of three national holidays, including All Saint’s Day on November 1, the Grand Magal of Touba, and the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. In 2017, the inaugural Dakar music festival took place in November, featuring international electronic DJs. If this trend continues, November could become an annual music extravaganza. At this point, you won’t need long trousers or a jumper, so pack light to avoid baggage fees and have more spending money for your sun-filled adventure.
December: Christmas in Dakar
In December, Dakar celebrates Christmas, albeit in a more subdued manner compared to other regions. Expat-dominated areas may decorate palm trees, and you might come across roadside vendors selling tinsel. Occasional carol services are available, and Dakar hosts African Culture and Fashion Week between Christmas and New Year. With sunny days, dry roads, and slightly cooler evenings, December is an ideal time to escape the Dakar-Petite Côte area for a few days. The Sine-Saloum delta, a three-hour drive away, is a spectacular destination with its expansive waterways, diverse birdlife, and abundant fishing opportunities. Enjoying a cocktail at an eco-lodge feels particularly delightful in December.
When to Avoid and Travel Tips
While Senegal is a year-round gem, some travelers prefer to avoid the humid rainy season from July to September. Additionally, during Ramadan, it’s essential to be respectful of those fasting and be aware that some bars and restaurants may not operate normally. Senegal observes six Christian and six Muslim holidays, but these often change dates from year to year. For most travelers, national holidays primarily affect public transportation schedules, but taxis remain readily available.