Kafountine, Senegal

Escape, relax and learn to play
the 
kora in our idyllic rural compound

November through to April every year

We welcome guests throughout our winter season for a tailor made, all-inclusive holiday.  People come to learn the kora, but others come just to experience an unusual yet relaxing holiday.

A Kora Holiday is the perfect get-away from the cold, from as little as one week up to several months to soak up West African music and culture. Play as much or as little of the kora as you like.

Or ‘Just a Holiday’  We have increasing numbers of guests who simply want to enjoy a holiday in a beautiful location. They enjoy being part of an interesting community in a different culture, with that essential quality of being able to really relax as everything is taken care of.  Either go into town to shop, browse the colourful market, have some clothes tailor-made, try your hand at a local craft or simply stroll to the beach along sandy tropical paths.
Kora Holiday Prices
Non-kora holiday prices
Kafountine & Things to Do
Tuition
Transport
Accommodation
Food
Facilities

Kora Holiday Prices

  • 490€ per week
  • A non-playing kora partner or friend sharing the room is charged at 120€ per week.

This includes:

  • kora tuition
  • loan of a kora
  • private room
  • all meals and hot drinks

We offer discounts and work-exchange to music students and those on low-incomes who wish to study the kora. Please get in touch if this applies to you, places are limited.

Non-kora holiday prices

One person, one room

  • 220 per week
Two people sharing a room
  • 340€ per week
This includes:
  • private room all meals and hot drinks

Kafountine & Things to Do

We are situated a 20 minute leisurely walk to a beautiful, deserted beach or the vibrant and bustling fishing port community.  We can provide you with plenty of opportunities to explore its markets, local shops and river or bird watching trips.  Live music events, festivals and carnivals are dotted throughout the winter season: Abene Festival starts 26th December for a week, and Kafountine Carnival usually starts on the second Friday of February for 10 days.

Our place is almost 7 hectares of bush, now recognised as a Forest Reserve, on the outskirts of this small town on the coast of southern Senegal, just below the Gambia.  The aim has been to preserve and also regenerate the wild bush. We have built an observation tower and a wildlife pond where any keen birdwatchers spend hours.

The Casamance has a host of wonderful wildlife, outstanding natural beauty and a friendly laid-back local culture and lovely fresh local food making this area a real haven.

Want to be active and learn something other than kora? We now have Moussa Camara a batik artist on site most days and he can work with absolute beginners or those with experience.  You can go kayaking in the mangroves with Adam and myself (any excuse and we’re there!). There are sand-painting artists in the village very happy to teach you the art and our good friend Elhadj, tailor extraordinaire, will even help you make a skirt or simple dress.   All craftspeople are paid direct, usually for around 15 euros a day.

For a taste of Kafountine life, browse these beautiful online photo books created by friend and resident Trevor Pollard.
Kafountine – A Portrait (2012)
Kafountine – Another Portrait (2018)

Tuition

All levels of ability welcome, from absolute beginners to experienced players. Adam has been playing and teaching the kora for over 20 years and is very experienced and patient.  Lessons are adapted to your ability and your aims, with teaching conducted in the morning leaving your afternoons free for practice, relaxing or exploring the area

Truly custom make your own kora experience; either immerse yourself in an intensive kora retreat or take the laid back approach with a gentle introductory holiday.

Transport

We have separated out the cost of airport transfers as some people come to us direct and also because the cost can be shared.  Most people however are collected from Banjul airport by our good friend Ansumane and we arrange this for you.  The cost is 60 euros per trip, each way and is shared between the number of people being collected.

Late flights mean spending a night at Ansumane’s home  in The Gambia as the border closes at night. He only charges 5€ per person for the simple private room with private toilet and shower facilities.

 

Accommodation

There is a range of accommodation, all private rooms:

There are three double rooms in the main guest house.  Two have an ensuite shower room and compost toilet added at the back, so open to the air but private.  There is no extra charge for these rooms, but they are booked on a first come, first served basis. An incentive for early booking!  The third room is larger and lighter and can accommodate an extra single bed if required; it uses the shared shower and toilet block.

There is a small garden room with it’s own verandah.  It is as the estate agents say ‘bijou!’  Tiny but very sweet.  There is no extra charge for this little house as it uses the shared shower and toilet block.

We also have two lovely eco-lodges, each tucked away in its own private garden.  Both lodges are light and airy, and have private outdoor showers and aroma-free (!) compost toilets.  Each has tea and coffee making facilities, its own water ‘canari’ store and a hammock.  They are simple one-roomed houses with a double bed.  One has been built with woven bamboo walls and the second with pampalan, the stems of the huge ronier palm leaves.  Both have thatched roofs.  Supplement is 100€ per week.

All bedding and towels provided and all beds have mosquito nets.

Food

Breakfast
Fruit, bread, spreads and porridge are regular fare, with a lot of the fruit grown on our land.  Tea and Coffee.

Lunch
A variety of traditional Senegalese dishes cooked on site by our lovely cook, Jida.   Eaten communally, no menu.  Mostly fish and rice, very occasionally chicken if the sea is rough and there’s been no fishing! Vegetarian option if required and advised in advance.

Dinner
A light meal often pasta, salads or if you’re lucky homemade chips

All drinking water is drawn directly from our well and is clean and fresh, though bottled water is readily available in town for those who prefer it.

Facilities

  • Wifi is now available on site, though not at the houses, so you can remain blissfully disconnected if you prefer.
  • Solar power enables the charging of phones, cameras etc. There is no power in any of the rooms.  We supply you with rechargeable lights.
  • Bikes are usually available to borrow

Lots more advice or information is available so please do contact us for any queries regarding anything from the area, flights, health, money or local culture etc..

Blog from the Bush  –  Annie Menter

Five days in and my head and my heart have become attuned to life back in the bush. A shift in thought processes, a slowing down and reconfiguring of my days. Connections that have lain dormant between annual visits start to resurface. A walk into town throws up new images as well as familiar faces and known landmarks – greetings with strangers are exchanged always with a welcoming smile. I lie in bed musing on what needs to be done before the heat of the day forces us into the shade to consider our options. The night orchestra of cicadas steps away from centre stage and the sound waves are taken over by myriad bird songs, competing for air time- I begin to recognise a few – the double whistle of the Gonolek, the gentle murmur of the Laughing Dove, the chattering banter of the Bulbuls and the cheerful notes of the Paradise Flycatcher. With the wind in the right direction this jam session is underpinned by the drone of the Atlantic heading up the beach a mile away.

Visitors arrive. Malang the painter hoping to sell a few canvases but happy to chat and hang out. Monsieur La Crevette, his bicycle laden with juicy prawns for supper. Buba arranging a river trip through the mangroves deep into the heart of the Casamance. Gida brings warm baguettes for breakfast, while Moussa organises a visit to Ousman the aluminium smelter on the other side of town. Simon and I are keen to document the process of how the ubiquitous cooking pots and ladles are made. A shopping trip to the market produces pawpaw, bananas, aubergines, tomatoes, freshly made peanut butter, fragrant honey and dangerously hot red and yellow chilli peppers as well as bags of hibiscus flowers and baobab fruit for life saving drinks in the heat of the day.  A lunch of spicy fish and rice and lazy conversation around the communal bowl sends us straight to our beds for an afternoon siesta, then a leisurely game of boules in the ‘keno clearing’ before heading to the beach around 4pm.

The sandy path though the bush to the beach is imprinted on my brain. Past the palm wine tapper perched precariously beneath the palm fronds gathering the potent sap, past women with impossibly heavy head loads, a family of four balanced circus style on one bicycle, the children chanting ‘toubab, toubab’ at the sight of me, a donkey cart over laden with wood for the fish smokery. Frothy pink branches of bougainvillea beckon us down the final stretch of path before it opens out onto an empty beach, apart from the odd cow gazing out to sea and a few roaming dogs. The expectation of being immersed in the warm waves that are rolling into shore is almost too much and I head straight out towards the sinking sun. A pirogue glides silently across the horizon like a child’s boat in a shadow puppet show. I swim as hard as I can then turn to float on my back, the sky above a blue backdrop for an osprey heading inland grasping its fish tea, a pied kingfisher hovers before plunging headlong into the water and the terns show off their aerial skills as they dip and dive a few feet away.

Up the beach at his make shift Baobab Bar, Kofi is waiting with freshly squeezed mandarin juice and coconut milk and we easily pick up the conversation started 12 months ago.

Walking back to the compound, the bush turns to deep green and then black throwing up dramatic outlines against a blushing sky – evening rushes in and with it comes the inevitable cicada sound-scape and the smell of wood smoke as stoves are lit and families gather. Someone is drumming and a taxi’s sound system blasts out a mix of classic Marley and Senegalese rap. We turn the corner and the blast of the passing taxi is replaced by a sweet kora melody laid over with the percussive clatter of supper preparations. Time for a cooling shower gazing up at a now night sky pocked with stars ….. for now this is home.

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