I've got 3 weeks off work in November and I'm hoping to book a cheap flight to Banjul, then travel independently from The Gambia into Senegal, and then book a flight from Dakar to the Cape Verde islands.
If anyone has done this, I'd really appreciate some advice - how to get from Banjul to Dakar (overland), how much a flight to Cape Verde would cost if booked locally (I've seen flights for around £270 on the net, but I can't afford this), the best / cheapest way to island-hop in Cape Verde etc.
I'm on a really tight budget, so if that ends up being too expensive, Plan B is to see which other countries I can get to from The Gambia / Senegal by bus - so again, if anyone has travelled around W. Africa by bus from Banjul / Dakar, any hints, tips and suggestions would be fantastic!
Cheap air travel hasn't really arrived in Africa yet, so my guess is that the cheapest flights you can find here are as good as it's going to get.
Road travel in this region can be very slow, sometimes frustrating and journey times can be very long (eg Dakar to Tambacounda, which is still in Senegal is about 10hours). So as you have 3 weeks, I'd suggest sticking to just Senegal and the Gambia. However, if you really want to try and visit somewhere else, and want to avoid flying, you'll be limited to the countries neighbouring Senegal. So that's Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
In theory there is a train that runs from Dakar to Bamako in Mali. However, it's unreliable at best. The general advice is that if you want the experience by all means take the train, but if you actually want to get somewhere take the bus. If you decide on Mali, you're probably best heading to Tambacounda and from there getiing a bus to Kayes. I've not done this route personally, so can't advise on costs or frequency.
Re Banjul to Dakar -again I can't give you specifics, but I don't think you'll have a problem. If memory serves correctly there are direct routes. Failing that, look for a bus to Kaolack, where you can change for Dakar. Kaolack is a transport hub, so would also be best if you want to stop to see somewhere on the way to Dakar, as you should be able to find transport from there.
When travelling to / from Dakar, take into account the appalling traffic there. It's on a peninsula, so there's only one main route in and out and it gets very congested. This can easily add an hour or more to journey times. The best way to beat it is to set off from Dakar as early as possible, or perhaps take an overnight bus.
When travelling within Senegal, you also have the option of the Sept-places taxis. These are basically shared taxis with 7 passenger places. They leave when they're full. They're more expensive than buses, but are considered the most comfortable method of longer distance travel. Dakar to Mbour is about CFA1,400 (about GBP2.00).
Hope this of some help.