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Treasure Island (Île de Ngor)

Ngor island beachAsk Valentina and Diego where they want to go on a Saturday morning and they'll have no trouble at all answering: Treasure Island! Smart kids: that's where I want to go, too.
They call it Treasure Island; I call it the Île de Ngor, or Ngor Island. It's minutes away from our home, yet "far enough" from home to make it a worthy trip — you really, truly feel away from it all. First, to get there, you take a little wooden pirogue across the strait to the island. Pirogues leave every few minutes or so, and cost a little more than two bucks. Not bad! Button up your life preserver, which they helpfully provide. You may actually do a little bouncing, if the wind's up. And at sunset, the ride home across glassy waters almost feels like a booze cruise, except in this Muslim nation there's no hope of them serving you a cocktail on board. On the lee side, there's still water that's safe and fun for kids, and umbrellas and beach chairs lined up against the water's edge. It's a Senegalese crowd used to tourists – even Senegalese tourists – but that doesn't mean they're jaded. Last time I was there a local brewed up a pot of hot Senegalese tea (attaya) and offered me a cup. Very cool! Those without kids and kick back and read a book; the sun doesn't rise over the top of the coconut palms until around 11AM and until then, the shady spots are lovely. Those of us with kids wind up digging holes, building castles, splashing around, and of course, looking for treasure (haven't found any yet, but we'll keep trying). The island is far too small to handle vehicles, so it's quiet. And foot trails lead across the center and past small homes and their gardens to the backside, which faces the Atlantic. No sandy beaches and gentle waves here! It's the side facing the open sea, and its rocky, battered cliffs lead down to heavy surf and a whole lot of sea urchins. That heavy surf is perhaps the treasure. In the 70's, a surf movie by the name of Endless Summer showed friends traveling the world looking for perfect waves. Their travels took them even to far off, exotic Senegal, where they found a fantastic "right" peeling off the ridge leading from this very island. A small trail leads through hedges of bougainvillea until the sea lies before you, and the wave is impressive. Too impressive for me, actually — my surfing skills require I still stay clear of this thumper, and there are a couple of submerged rocks that keep novices honest (or crack their skulls). The little yellow sign explains the wave's history and the movie. Not a bad little escape from reality. Maybe I shouldn't tell you about it, and keep the secret for myself ...


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