One click and I land on Goree, an island off Dakar (Senegal).
I am at the mercy of Alioune Diane. He is today's guide and leads me and 64 other participants through the island's UNESCO World Heritage Site. More precisely: Alioune holds the camera of his cell phone on what he thinks is worth seeing and tells what he knows about it.
In this situation, I realize what furthermore distinguishes virtual travel from local travel: Here we are dependent on what someone else shows us.
I confess: I don't like that much. I prefer to walk around myself and decide what I want to look at and for how long.
Free virtual tours with Heygo
But that's the game on Heygo. Guides on site offer their tours and even cooking classes. You can simply join at the given time. The offer is free, but the guides are happy to receive tips.
In the chat I can talk with other participants and ask Alioune questions. I notice that he has offered the tour more than once before. It's certainly not easy to hold the camera still, talk about it, and also respond to the chat.
"Door of no return" on Goree: a symbol of the slave trade
We start at the fort, built by colonial England. The building looks great, I love the colors of the walls glowing against the bright blue sky.
The place itself, however, does not host happy stories. Slave trade was conducted from here. In chat we are silent affected. Alioune shows us the "door of no return" from where people were shipped to the New World.
Later I read that boats cannot dock at the site. Nevertheless: the "door" is a strong symbol for the inglorious past of the colonial powers.
Alioune leads us through a small museum where chains and torture tools are exhibited. It leads us past photos documenting visits by top politicians, including Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.
Then we leave the fort.
Dreaming away in real time thanks to virtual tours
Slowly I get used to not having to do anything at all. Alioune leads us super.
He approaches other tourists and asks them for us where they are from (Gambia). He shows us the house of Blaise Diagne, the first black man to be elected as a representative in the French National Assembly. That was 1914. Alioune encourages street musicians to sing for us, tips them.
I relax into the atmosphere, looking at baobab trees and palm trees, stray cats, the ocean and the view of Dakar.
Finally, Alioune takes us to an art gallery for sand paintings. The artists studied at the Dakar School of Art. Their materials: sand of different colors, from different places and countries such as the Saloum Delta, the Sahara, Mauritania and Mali.
Alioune takes the opportunity to remind us: this sand is like people – we are all the same, but shine in different colors.