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As part of my internship here at TPG, one of the last assignments was to redeem Etihad miles on a partner carrier to travel somewhere off the beaten path. My destination: Dakar, Senegal. When I learned that I’d be traveling to Senegal, I wasn’t sure what to think, considering it’s not a destination that was high on my list of places I wanted to go or, frankly, a country that I knew anything about.

After booking my flights to and from Dakar, I immediately wondered what I’d do with my four days in Senegal. I visited the ‘usual suspects’ of travel sites, including TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, to help me plan a trip, however I found both sites to be frustrating — there’s too much unreliable information on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet tries to sell you tours that are too pricey and generic. So, it was time for Plan B.

Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is a coastal city in West Africa.
Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is a coastal city in West Africa.

I decided to browse Instagram because the app had recently updated its search feature to help you discover places and happenings around you, wherever you are. If you search a city in the ‘Places’ tab within Instagram’s search function, the app will aggregate popular posts from the area in one feed, allowing you to discover all there is to do in a given place.

One of the first things I discovered when I searched for Dakar was the hotel I ended up staying at — the Radisson Blu Dakar, Sea Plaza. The hotel seemed to be a hit with locals and foreigners alike, and I was immediately captivated by the views from its seaside infinity pool.

The views from the infinity pool at the Radisson Blu never failed to amaze me.
The views from the infinity pool at the Radisson Blu never failed to amaze me.

Next, I turned to finding things to see and do while I was exploring the city. One of the most popular attractions seemed to be the African Renaissance Monument, an enormous — taller than the Statue of Liberty and the tallest in Africa — and controversial (it was constructed by a North Korean company) sculpture commemorating the triumph of African societies overcoming colonialism and oppression at the hands of others.

#senegal #dakar #africanrenaissancemonument ??

A photo posted by Klára Ufii (@ufii) on

Another popular spot I discovered was the Mosque of the Divinity (Mosquée De La Divinité), one of two main mosques in the city. Its beautiful seaside location helps you realize its significance.

Another fascinating location kept popping up as well — a gorgeous lake named Lac Rose (The Pink Lake). The lake turns a bright pink color due to the combination of a specific type of algae that’s found in the lake and the high salt content of the water. While it’s located about 20 miles outside the center of Dakar, people’s posts from the lake were aggregated into the same feed as posts I saw when I did a location search for the city.

I visited the Pink Lake during the rainy season, so it wasn
I visited the Pink Lake during the rainy season, so it wasn’t as vibrant — but I could still detect a pink hue on the water.

After compiling a list of things I wanted to see and do, I made a call to the Citi Prestige concierge to arrange a tour with a local guide who would take me to the places on my list as well as to some unique spots that I could have only visited with a local. The concierge arranged everything, including a pick-up and drop-off time, and set me up with an amazing local guide from whom I learned so much about the city.

One of the most fascinating places he brought me to was a beachside fish market in the nearby town of Yoff. Fishermen would go out in the morning in brightly colored boats and bring their catch to people back on the shore who would then clean and prepare the fish for immediate consumption.

Visiting a fish market on the beach was a unique and memorable experience.
Visiting a fish market on the beach was a unique and memorable experience.

Ultimately, Instagram ended up saving the day, helping me find attractions and activities throughout the region. The location search feature is useful for places that are new and different, but it can also come in handy when you’re visiting huge, touristy cities such as New York, London or Paris. You’ll be able to find unique (and picturesque) bars, restaurants, museums, galleries and more fun places to make even the world’s most visited cities feel new once again.

Have you used the Instagram search feature to help plan a vacation?

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