In the heart of the Casamance, the regional capital of Ziguinchor, Senegal, is a pleasant, friendly town with wide avenues, beautiful gardens and straw-roofed homes. Situated 165 mi/260 km south of Dakar, it's a good base from which to see some of the villages in the forests, go mountain biking and hiking, or take canoe rides along the mangroves to visit villages and bird-nesting islands. The town offers great value for accommodations and has some wonderful French and African restaurants.

From Ziguinchor, one can easily access some laid-back beachfront towns, such as Kafountine or Abene. It's rough going by road from Dakar, but given the frequent, inexpensive flights there from the capital, there's no need to. Before visiting Ziguinchor, travelers should inquire about the current safety of the surrounding Casamance region, which has a history of rebel activity, though things have been peaceful in recent years.

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