Cap Manuel's Abandoned Bunker – Dakar, Senegal - Atlas Obscura

First person account from Atlas Obscura user La Tortue Noire:

“The man shakes his head and puts his arm in front of his eyes. The answer is clear, he doesn’t want me to take a close picture of him. I don’t know his name, we don’t understand each other. He seems to be living there, half fisherman maybe, half homeless. All his stuff is laying on the floor in colored plastic bags. Fish bake in the sun. The heat is so strong you can nearly touch it in the air.

We are in an abandoned bunker built on top of a high cliff at Cap Manuel, south of Dakar, Senegal. The place is called “the cave” by locals (“la caverne”, in French).

I found the bunker randomly, saw it in the distance. To go there you need to walk across bushes and take care not to slip on the red dust. The cliff being very close, I recommend paying attention to where you walk. Falling down here would be tragic, and the waves are so strong I guess no one but the hawks circling in the sky would ever know.”

Dakar is built on a arrow of land, pointing West, and nowhere else on the African continent can you walk further into the Atlantic. My intention reaching Cap Manuel was to stare at the ocean, straight ahead, but to the South, not to the West and the Americas. Cap Manuel is a very particular place indeed as there is no land in front of you before you reach Antartica, 6,000 miles behind the horizon (9800 km). I wanted to take a look at this immensity. And when I got there, I saw the bunker.

I first set foot on the roof. The view down the cliff is tremendous. The wind blows so hard I find it dangerous to stand on the ledge very long; there is no protection here. The waves rush onto the rocks, the noise is astounding. It seems that the roof is quite accurately facing South, it’s like a plane runway ready for take-off.

I spent a few minutes there, staring at the horizon (and rehydrating after the walk in the sun), thrilled by the view and the remote place. Then I saw the stairs going down into the bunker. While I was inside, four or five young men stopped by, bringing the man in the bunker more plastic bags. No words were exchanged. They stared at me, surprised, but did not ask anything. I have no clue what this was all about.

But I know that the man there lives in the sky. The platform in front of the bunker, where the sentinels probably stood, is now his own balcony on top of the cliff. Does he know, when he looks at the ocean every day, how far the next piece of land is?”

Know Before You Go

An easy walk from downtown Dakar. About 40 minutes from the Place de l’Independance (remember to bring water, there’s nothing there), down the Route de la Corniche. If you prefer, any cab will bring you there. Your goal is the Red Lighthouse of Cap Manuel (and not the White Lighthouse of Dakar). Then, just get closer to the sea and look for the bunker (and be careful not to slip).

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March 1, 2011

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