There's no mistaking the French influence in Senegal, Africa. You'll hear French spoken nearly everywhere in the country, and you'll see its colonial heritage in the wide boulevards and stylish elegance of downtown Dakar, Senegal's capital, which still claims a large French population, as well as in Saint Louis, the first French settlement in Africa.

But the hospitality and warmth of the Senegalese are unmistakably African. Senegal's combination of comfortable climate, good food, vibrant culture and friendly people make it an ideal introduction to West Africa.

Though you're not guaranteed to see big game as in the parks of East Africa, the country does claim one of the best wildlife parks in the region in the vast Niokolo-Koba National Park. On the downside, prices are relatively steep—this is not a destination for budget travelers. And although facilities for tourists who travel Senegal are quite well-developed, so are the tricks of hustlers and con artists that lurk in tourist areas.

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