Day 1: Arrive in Dakar. Today we arrive in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.
Day 2 Dakar and Goree Island. This morning we take a tour of Dakar, the westernmost point on the African continent. Dakar is a dynamic and modern urban center with a strong French colonial flavour. Our city tour shows us the Independence Square, the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral and the Grand Mosque. We also visit the Dakar IFAN Museum with a rich ethnographic collection of masks, statues and other artifacts from all over West Africa. We finally drive around the Corniche for scenic views of the rugged Atlantic coastline.
At midday we take a short ferry ride to the nearby island of Goree. Discovered by the Portuguese, the island was disputed in the following 450 years between the Dutch, the British and the French and changed hands many times. Goree is a World Heritage site (UNESCO) and is infamous for being one of the main gathering and embarkation points for millions of enslaved Africans who were crammed into ships and sent to the Americas.Overnight in Dakar. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 3: Dakar - Saint-Louis. We reach Saint-Louis at the end of the afternoon driving along a road bordered by large and impressive baobab trees. The city of Saint-Louis is situated on an island at the mouth of the Senegal River and like the island of Goree is recognized as a World Heritage Site. Overnight in Saint-Louis. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 4: Saint-Louis - Djoudj National Bird Park - Saint-Louis. Heading out early this morning, we drive to the Walo Delta of the Senegal River, a vast area of marshes and wetlands. This river has its source in the Fouta Djalon Mountains of Guinee (where the great Niger River also rises) and marks the border between Senegal and its northern neighbour, Mauritania. Our destination this morning is the Djouj National Park, considered one of the most important bird sanctuaries on the planet.
Situated on a major migratory route, this park is a paradise for bird enthusiasts and was awarded World Heritage status and a World Biosphere Reserve. Some of the world's greatest concentrations of white pelicans and other migratory birds can be seen here. We board a motorized boat and cruise along the splendid waterways to observe the immensely rich birdlife. Various ethnic groups live along the Senegal River, notably Fulas, Tuculors and Moors.
In the afternoon we return to Saint-Louis for our city tour. We visit the Provincial Museum, the Faidherbe Square, the Central Mosque, and pass by the old Slave Market, a gum Arabic warehouse and countless colonial buildings painted in flaking pastels. At the height of the French period some 4,000 French nationals lived here. We finally drive through the lively fishing community of Guet Ndar and its huge wholesale fish market.Overnight in Saint-Louis. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 5: Saint-Louis - Dakar, Senegal - Bamako, Mali. Today we drive back to Dakar and connect with our flight to Bamako, the capital of Mali. Mali is all about history and people. This land is a cradle of African civilization, the birthplace of the powerful empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, home of the fabled trans-Sahara trading centers of Djenne, Mopti and Tombouctou where Muslim North Africa meet tribal black Africa. Today Mali is home to numerous and colourful ethnic groups like the Bambaras, Bozos, Dogons, Fulanis, Touaregs and others.Overnight in Bamako. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 6: Bamako - Tombouctou: Town Tour. We have an early breakfast today before our scheduled flight to Tombouctou (Timbuktu). The city rose from the hostile desert as a shimmering mirage of hundreds of mud buildings: mosques, caravanserais, trading houses and Koran schools. At its height Tombouctou had more than 100,000 inhabitants and became not only an important place of commerce but also a seat of learning and religion. The city was fiercely Islamic, and the fact that all non-Muslims were totally banned from entering only added to its mystique. It wasn't until 1828 that the first European, disguised as an Arab, entered the city to return alive and tell his story to the world.
Upon arrival we conduct a tour that includes the three historical mosques: Djinguereber, Sankore & Sidi Aya, the regional museum, a private traditional residence and an Islamic library. We also walk by the residences of the first three European explorers (Gordon Laing, Rene Caille & Heinrich Barth), the Central Market and the Centre Artisanal. We return to our hotel.
*Note: Due to limited availability on internal flights within Mali, we may have to re-order our overnight points closer to departure date. Overall sightseeing content and highlights will remain as per the original; only their sequence may vary. We will advise of any such changes just prior to departure.Overnight in Tombouctou. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 7: Tombouctou - Mopti: Town Tour. This morning we fly to Mopti (one hour), a vital port of the Niger inland river delta. Mopti is built on several interconnected islands and located at the confluence of the Bani and Niger rivers. On arrival we have a walking tour of the city. We visit the Fula quarter, explore the vast Public Market, walk all the way to the Central Mosque through the colourful old town and spend some free time at the Craft Centre.Overnight in Mopti. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 8: Mopti - Djenne - Mopti. Today we have an excursion to Djenne, one of the most amazing places on the continent. Here we find what is perhaps the greatest symbol of Sub-Saharan Africa and the architectural jewel of Mali. We admire the Great Mosque, the largest mud building in the world, and tour the various historical sites of the medieval town. Generation after generation, every year before the rain season, a guild of skilled master-builders, the Baris, have ensured Djenne's architectural integrity by resurfacing the mud walls with a new coating of 'banko.' Our visit coincides with the bustling weekly market day.Return to Mopti.Overnight in Mopti. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 9: Mopti. Niger River Trip. After breakfast, we set out upon a river journey along the mighty River Niger. Our vessel, called a "Pinasse", a modern version of the traditional Pirogue river boat, motorised canoe like craft with comfortable cushioned seats, sun-shades and basic toilet facilities. Setting off along the river we pass fishing villages of the Fulani and Bozo people and numerous pirogues carrying a variety of goods as well as fishermen reaping the bounty of this flowing lifeblood of the region. There may be a chance to spot hippos on this section of the river.The delta also contains large populations of a variety of bird species including ibis, fish eagles, kingfishers and cormorants. We meet our vehicles in Kona and return to Mopti.Overnight in Mopti. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 10: Mopti - Dogon Country - Sangha. Today we enter the land of the Dogons, from Mopti we first drive to Songho and visit the village and the nearby circumcision cave and its rock paintings. We then have an excursion to Teli and we explore an ancient Tellem (pre-Dogon) archeological site before contimuing to Ende where we will enjoy lunch and some free time. These three villages exhibit the components of a traditional Dogon community like the Toguna: the meeting place of the elders, the sacred baobabs and the typical granaries with their conical straw roofs sitting on raised legs to protect the grain from vermin. All the different buildings were built with rock, mud bricks and interlocking stone walls. Overnight in Sangha. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 11: Dogon Country. After an early breakfast, we drive to the very edge of the Bandiagara Escarpment to discover some of the most beautiful Dogon villages. We will hike down the cliff (you can optionally drive down) from the natural cave tunnel of Bongo all the way to the village of Banani. From there we'll drive to the community of Tireli with a photo-stop at Ireli and a brief visit at the sacred crocodile pond of Amani. Later we participate in a Dogon traditional village dance ceremony, featuring a spectacular array of ritual masks, vigorous drumming and costumed dancers, some of them performing on stilts. We will enjoy this cultural presentation in the company of the entire community, from children to village elders. It will be one of the greatest moments of your West African odyssey. We return by road to Bandiagara where we spend the night. Overnight in Bandiagara. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 12: Bandiagara, Mali - Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. Today is a long transit day as we travel from Mali to Burkina Faso. From Bandiagara we drive first to the town of San then across the border to Bobo-Dioulasso. Despite being Burkina Faso's second largest city, Bobo is remarkably friendly and laidback. The southern part of Burkina offers a beautiful landscape of savannah and forest and is home to the most colourful tribal groups in the country: Bobos, Senoufos, Bwas and Lobis. Overnight in Bobo-Dioulasso. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 13: Bobo-Dioulasso - Banfora. We begin our day with a brief sightseeing tour of Bobo-Dioulasso: the Provincial Museum, the public market, the Grande Mosquee and the old quarter of Kibidwe. We then travel south through sugarcane fields to Banfora and in the afternoon we see the refreshing Kerfiguela Falls and some strange rock formations: the Domes of Fabedougou. The region of Banfora is lush and well forested in sharp contrast with the arid lands we've travelled so far.Overnight in Banfora. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 14: Banfora - Gaoua. From Banfora, our itinerary takes us deeper into rural Burkina first to the atmospheric archaeological ruins of Loropeni and then to Gaoua, the capital of the Poni province and the cultural center of the Lobi homeland, arguably one of the best preserved tribal areas of West Africa. Due to their past war-like practices, their secret societies and their fierce independent nature, the Lobis have retained much of their way of life. Today is market day and after a tour of the Provincial Museum, we push deeper into remote bush to approach authentic communities, meet extended family units, and enter their traditional fortress-compounds.Overnight in Gaoua. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 15: Gaoua - Ouagadougou. From Gaoua we travel northeast to the national capital, Ouagadougou, home of the Mossi people, the dominant ethnic group in the country. The road travels through remote areas where wild elephants are still found. On arrival we conduct a city tour of Ouaga: the Cathedral, Revolution Square, Independence Boulevard, and the Presidential Palace. Overnight in Ouagadougou. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 16: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso - Tamale, Ghana. Today we leave friendly Burkina Faso for Ghana, former British Colony and the only English speaking country in our West African journey. From Ouaga, we drive south through the Gurunsi countryside, an area rich in tribal culture. After the land border crossing formalities, we enter Ghana and experience right away a different cultural feeling.
We make a brief stop at the border town of Paga, home to the Kassena people, one of the various Gurunsi tribes now divided by colonial heritage, language and national identity. After a visit to the sacred crocodiles, a totemic animal revered by the Kassenas, we drive to the town of Navrongo. Navrongo was in the early 20th century an advanced bush missionary outpost. French Canadian missionaries developed one of the earliest mission schools in Northern Ghana and built with the help of the locals the first church in the region.
Kassena men erected the building using ancestral mud building techniques and the women decorated the chapel in the traditional Kassena style. The Navrongo church is now part of the tentative list of World Heritage UNESCO sites and of the most beautiful examples of religious missionary buildings in Africa with its ;ve style bas-reliefs of biblical scenes, its murals depicting rural life and its seductive Sudanese banco architecture. After our lunch in the market town of Bolgatanga, we continue to Tamale to spend the night. Overnight in Tamale. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 17: Tamale - Kumasi. Our drive today will take us into a different Africa as we travel from the Sahelian grasslands to the Guinean rainforest, an amazing and very drastic change change in climate, vegetation, scenery, and agriculture. We'll go from brown to green Africa, from savannah to jungle, from dry to wet clime. En route to Kumasi, the cultural capital of the Ashanti people, we'll stop at the beautiful Kintampo Waterfalls, set in deep canyon, travel to the farming market of the same name, and have lunch in the provincial capital of Techiman before entering Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti. Overnight in Kumasi. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 18: Kumasi Area. Kumasi comes as a shock, being the most dynamic marketplace in WA and the second largest city in Ghana with a population of almost three million. It is a vibrant commercial center, visited by traders from all over. Kumasi has quite a collection of British colonial buildings and it is the heart of the Ashanti culture. We'll spend the day in and around Kumasi, taking in the Royal Palace and Museum, some of the craft villages of the surrounding lush countryside, and the ancient Ejisu Ashanti Shrine, a World Heritage Site. We'll see the weaving of the famous Kente cloth, the making of the Adinkra, a type of fabric worn at funerals, and prized for its intricate hand printed symbols, and the work of woodcarvers --stools, fertility figures, drums, etc. Overnight in Kumasi. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 19: Kumasi - Elmina. This morning we drive all the way down from the green Ashanti Highlands to the superb Atlantic coast of Ghana. After the gold mining center of Obuasi, home to the Anglo-Ashanti mines, the ones that gave the former colony of Gold Coast its name, we reach the old town of Elmina, the oldest permanent European settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa. When the Portuguese landed in Elmina they were offered a lot of gold by the local Fanti people and wrongfully thought that the gold mines were nearby. The fishing village became know as Elmina, or "The Mine."
Successively occupied by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, Elmina has remained to this day a busy fishing community with a unique legacy of colonial buildings, that includes its famous fort, an important shipping point in the tragic African slave trade. The afternoon will be at leisure with time for R&R and to enjoy the beach, the sun, the ocean and the shade of the coconut trees. Overnight in Elmina. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 20: Elmina - Kakum National Park - Cape Coast Castle - Accra. Before leaving Elmina this morning, we will proceed to Fort St George for a view and exterior photos. Our preferred fort for actually visiting is Cape Coast Castle, one of our stops later this afternoon. Our next destination is Kakum National Park, a large stretch of tropical rainforest home to one of the rare canopy walks in Africa. We enjoy a 30 meter-high walkway that links large emergent old growth trees above the forest canopy.
From Kakum we drive down to Cape Coast to visit the Cape Coast Castle. Once a base for the slave trade, the castle continues to be a silent witness to the suffering of Africa. The whole tour is extremely poignant and crystallizes the African experience of slavery, partition, colonialism, racism, emancipation and human rights. On to Accra, the large and vibrant capital of Ghana. Formed by the merger of the British Gold Coast and part of the German Togoland, English-speaking Ghana was the first country in colonial Africa to achieve independence in 1957. Overnight in Accra. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 21: Accra, Ghana - Lome, Togo. We have a morning tour of Accra: Kwame Nkrumah Memorial, Independence Square and National Museum before leaving Ghana for Togo. We follow the coastal Volta Region dotted with Ewe villages, tranquil lagoons and tropical vegetation before we reach Togo and the capital Lome. After lunch we will have a scenic drive of Lome: market area, public buildings, main boulevards plus a visit of the National Museum. Overnight in Lome. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 22: Lome, Togo - Ouidah, Benin - Cotonou. This morning we drive along the scenic Togo Lagoon from Lome to the colonial town of Aneho, capital of the former German Togoland. After entering Benin, we drive to Ouidah, an important historical center and the cradle of the Voodoo religion. Ouidah offers a calm and relaxed atmosphere with its colonial buildings and it tropical atmosphere. Our Ouidah tour will include the Temple of Pythons and the Sacred forest, both important Voodoo Shrines as well as the Portuguese Fort now housing the History Museum.
The exhibit focuses on the slave trade and Benin consequent cultural links with the Caribean and the Americas. From the city center, we retrace part of the infamous slave route, passing a former slave market and numerous shrines and memorials erected by the African Diaspora of the New World. We travel all the way to the ocean and the Door of No Return. After lunch we drive to Cotonou, the commercial capital of Benin. Overnight in Cotonou. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 23: Cotonou - Abomey - Cotonou. When the French landed on the shores of the Slave Coast they faced a formidable force: the Kingdom of Dahomey. Like the Ashantis of Ghana the Dahomeys were a people on the rise. Young, ambitious and aggressive, they sought control of the slave trade and rose to power in the region. Abomey still retain many remainders of its glorious past, and is now a World Heritage Site. We will tour two of the former palaces transformed into museums. Worth admiring are the works of artists and craftsmen who have carried on the traditions of their glorious ancestors. We return to Cotonou to meet a voodoo priest and witness first hand the faith of his followers in a ceremony marked by percussions, chants and devotion. Overnight in Cotonou. Meal plan: Breakfast and dinner.
Day 24: Cotonou - Ganvie - Cotonou - Depart. One of the highlights of any trip to West Africa is Ganvie, the African Venice. In ancient times people took refuge on Lake Nokoue from the attacks of the feared Dahomey warriors who were forbidden by a deep belief to fight on water. The Ganvie people over time developed this unique lake culture and way of life which have made them famous. Our boat cruise takes us along tranquil waterways and fish farms to the lake community of Ganvie. We discover these curious built-on-stilts dwellings, small floating markets and different aspects of the local daily life. Returning to "terra firma", we pay a visit to the Abomey-Calavi fetish market, the most authentic in the region and meet one of the officiating fetish priests before returning to Cotonou. In the afternoon, before your evening departure flight from Cotonou*, you willl have some free time at the vast Craft Market.
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Africa Senegal Mali Ghana Local Culture Cultural Journey National Parks
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