Senegal: To Kanel and Back
The second attempt was a successful, if hot and dusty, 13 hour trip to Matam in eastern Senegal. On the way we got the first of three flat tires during the trip- the paved road is basically a series of giant pot-holes much of the way, and cars weave between them, coming at each other and missing by inches, driving off the paved road onto the dirt road that borders and continuing at high speed. Every car carries 2 or 3 spare tires. Huge herds of goats, sheep and cows graze everywhere and often stand in the road, we had to nudge the car through them countless times every hour. It was amazing to see how the desert tansformed with the rains; what had been a few scrubby trees in the red sand last January were now lush trees in a sea of grasses, crops of sorghum and melons, with the flood plain of the Senegal River clearly in view (the actual river is normally out of sight from the road). Dashboard view: Koran and prayer beads, dust, small towns, lots of goats and donkey carts!
Once we reached Matam, an air-conditioned room and a cold shower was an absolute slice of heaven. We were also treated to wonderful meals and hospitality by Commandant Seck and his family- he oversees the dams and irrigation for the Matam area and has been extremely interested to help manatees from getting trapped by the dams. He was the person who donated use of a tractor and trailer last January so we could tasnsport the stranded manatees back to the main Senegal River.
Sunrise at Kanel
Heading out in a tippy canoe with all our gear, the air still and hot
Tomas shows the guys how to use the VHF receiver.
Scanning, scanning, scanning…
People from the village were swimming and washing their animals in the flooded plain
This is the Navel Dam in November 2008 near the height of the dry season (photo courtesy of P. Fernandez de Larrinoa)
This is the Navel Dam last week, with water level 9 meters higher
This was the Navel manatee rescue site last January. Note the cliff edge in the foreground.
We tried listening for the signal the following two evenings at Navel, but we didn’t hear it again. I hoped she was heading south and that maybe we would hear the signal from the Kanel side during our boat surveys, but the area was too huge and our ability to cover it too limited. However, it was still great to hear the tag at all, to know she’s still in the general vicinity of Matam and that the VHF portion of the tag is working.