After finishing up the necropsies and a very productive meeting with the local Water and Forestry Dept., we left Matam very early in the morning last Tuesday and headed north back up the road that eventually leads to Dakar. After about 2 hours we left the main road and headed off east on a sand track. We brought a guide with us who knew the area where we were headed because he grew up in one of the villages, otherwise it would've been unwise to drive off the only real road into such an immense and remote desert. There are no signs and many tracks through the brush, so you really need to know where you're going. Acacia bushes are everywhere and have huge spines that can easily puncture tires. So few outsiders ever venture to this area that people run in terror from the sight of a car (it literally might as well be a space ship), and teenage girls are afraid because they've never seen a white person before.
Here's a map of one month worth of manatee locations from 2009. This manatee moved directly to this small area (only a couple miles wide) as soon as he was released, and stayed here for 4 months. The thin strip of grey in the center is the river during the dry season, the larger grey areas around it are flood zones (Map courtesy of CBD-Habitat).