IN MOROCCO AND THE WESTERN SAHARA PROVINCE, MAURITANIA, SENEGAL AND CASAMANCE, GAMBIA, GUINEA BISSAU AND BIJAGOS ARCHIPELAGO, GUINEA CONAKRY, SIERRA LEONE, LIBERIA, IVORY COAST, GHANA, TOGO AND BENIN.
EXPERIENCE a “Grand Expedition” that cross the Sahara from north to south and reach savannas, forests, coasts and islands in the Gulf of Guinea. We will traverse the main natural, cultural and religious environments of the African continent.
The itinerary starts in Marrakech, mythical caravan terminal, to reaches the Western Sahara (now Moroccan Saharan Provinces) and its virgin sands. A region forbidden for decades to travellers, where we are proud to be the pioneers. On the southern part of our Sahara crossing we discover the remote oasis of Mauritania. In Senegal the landscape will change from desert to Savannah. Cap d’Almadine is the western point of the African continent. Driving south the landscape will change again, this time from savannah to forest. The Casamance’s sacred dancing masks will be the sign that with the change of natural environment also the cultural and religious environment has change, from Islam to traditional animism. In Guinea Bissau, we enjoy a three days-sailing to Bijagos Archipelago. Return to the mainland to participate at a “tribal concert” performed by the Griots: descendants of musicians and story-tellers lineages dating back from the 12th century. We will go through remotes forests and mountains where the arrival of foreigners is a rare event. In the les known corners of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia we will cross rivers onboard of barges, walk on liana bridges to the isolated villages, houses of “Bird-Men” initiates and be received by traditional chiefs sitting in council with notables and elders. A hidden trail bring us to diamonds diggers sites. Along the coast of the Guinea Gulf, we travel between pristine shores and islands. In Ghana we discover the Ashanti ethnic group in the time of traditional ceremonies, visit pristine beaches and ancient slave trade castles. In Togo and Benin the focus will be on the African origins of Voodoo: drums, trances, rituals.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience: during this multifaced expedition we will also interact with the “contemporary metropolitan Africa”, strolling in the intense city-life of Dakar, Freetown, Monrovia, Abidjan and Accra, feel the exciting mix of urban culture, encountering young artists, discover graffiti, live music, and experiencing fusion cuisine.
CLIMATE: The departure dates has been chosen to experience the best climate. Late autumn (and spring) are the right seasons to travel through the Sahara; climate is mild and pleasant: nights are cool but not cold and days are warm but not hot.
Winter (and early spring) are the coolest times of the dry season in Sub-Saharan West African.
COMFORT is a must to fully enjoy a long travel experience out of the beaten tracks.
Transports: modern air-conditioned 4×4 vehicles will be the main transport in deserts and forests, we might drive on modern minibus on some asphalt roads.
Overnights: always in comfortable hotels, four stars (****) hotels in the capitals, two nights in fix camps: large tents with beds, facilities and restaurant. The accommodations have been chosen prioritizing comfort, typical architectural style, food quality, friendly service, and scenic locations. In the remotes areas of the Western Sahara, we will enjoy two nights in our mobile camp, with modern tents, installed over rush mattings, equipped with mosquito nets, portable beds, and chairs. A comfortable restaurant-tent will be set for dinner. A tent will be dedicated to “facilities”. An enjoyable camp experience under the stars of the desert is a must of a “Sahara experience”.
SAFETY is our main concern. The expedition is based on our long experience of the area and is led by knowledgeable expedition leaders. The itinerary is safe, our local network constantly monitors it thanks to a permanent presence in the field providing updated information.
OR JOIN US FOR ONE OF THE 25 POSSIBLE LEGS OF THE EXPEDITION:
1) THE SAHARA: 3 options, from 12 to 20 days itineraries crossing the largest desert on earth, experience wild ranges of dunes, oasis and nomadic encampments.
2) SAHARA & WEST AFRICA: 6 options, from 14 to 54 days itineraries. From the Sahara crossing to savannahs and forests, discovering the greatest variety of landscape and peoples.
3) WEST AFRICA: 16 options, from 6 to 37 days itineraries. Savannah and forests unknown rituals, tribes and cultures in the more intriguing Sub-Saharan regions.
- THE SAHARA: Choose between 3 different options, from 12 to 20 days.
12 days MARRAKECH – DAKHLA. Price from: 2992 €
Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Dakhla November 30th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Dakhla April 20th, 2023. End in Marrakech May 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 18th, 2023. End in Dakhla November 29th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
20 days MARRAKECH – NOUAKCHOTT. Price from: 5359 €
Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Nouakchott, evening December 8th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Nouakchott April 12th, 2023. End in Marrakech May 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 18th, 2023. End in Nouakchott, evening December 7th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
15 days TAN TAN – NOUAKCHOTT. Price from: 3594 €
Start in Tan-Tan November 24th, 2022. End in Nouakchott evening December 8th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start Nouakchott April 12th, 2023. End in Tan Tan, in the evening April 26th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Tan-Tan November 23rd, 2023. End in Nouakchott, evening December 7th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
- SAHARA & WEST AFRICA: Choose between 6 different options, from 14 to 54 days
14/15 days DAKHLA – DAKAR. Price from: 4194€
(14 days) Start in Dakhla November 29th, 2022. End in Dakar December 12th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
(15 Days) Start in Dakar April 7th, 2023. End in Dakhla April 21st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
(14 Days) Start in Dakhla November 28th, 2023. End in Dakar December 11th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
24/25 days MARRAKECH – DAKAR. Price from: 6457 €
(24 Days) Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Dakar December 12th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
(25 Days) Start in Dakar April 7th, 2023. End in Marrakech May 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
(24 Days) Starts in Marrakech November 18th, 2023. End in Dakar December 11th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
54 days MARRAKECH – ACCRA. Price from: 13942 €
Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Accra January 11th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Accra March 9th, 2023. End in Marrakech May 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 18th, 2023. End in Accra January 10th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
50 days MARRAKECH – ABIDJAN. Price from: 12949 €
Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Abidjan January 7th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Abidjan March 13th, 2023. End in Marrakech May 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 18th, 2023. End in Abidjan January 6th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
42 days MARRAKECH – MONROVIA. Price from: 10913 €
Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Monrovia December 30th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Monrovia March 21st, 2023. End in Marrakech May 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 18th, 2023. End in Monrovia December 29th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
31 days MARRAKECH – BIJAGOS. Price from: 9091 €
Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Bissau December 19th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau April 1st, 2023. End in Marrakech May 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 18th, 2023. End in Bissau December 18th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
- WEST AFRICA: Choose between 16 different options: from 6 to 37 days
37 days DAKAR – COTONOU. Price from: 9546€
Start in Dakar December 10th, 2022. End in Cotonou January 15th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Cotonou March 5th, 2023. End in Dakar April 10th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Dakar December 9th, 2023. End in Cotonou January 14th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
29 days DAKAR – ABIDJAN. Price from: 7535 €
Start in Dakar December 10th, 2022. End in Abidjan January 7th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Abidjan March 13th, 2023. End in Dakar April 10th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Starts in Dakar December 9th, 2023. End in Abidjan January 6th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
21 days DAKAR – MONROVIA. Price from: 5996 €
Start in Dakar December 10th, 2022. End in Monrovia December 30th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Monrovia March 21st, 2023. End in Dakar April 10th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Dakar December 9th, 2023. End in Monrovia December 29th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
10 days DAKAR – BIJAGOS. Price from: 2580 €
Start in Dakar December 10th, 2022. End in Bissau December 19th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau April 1st, 2023. End in Dakar April 10th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Dakar December 9th, 2023. End in Bissau December 18th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
31 days BIJAGOS ARCHIPELAGO – COTONOU. Price from: 8134 €
Start in Bissau December 16th, 2022. End in Cotonou January 15th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Cotonou March 5th, 2023. End Bissau evening of April 4th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau December 15th, 2023. End in Cotonou January 14th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
28 days BISSAU – COTONOU. Price from: 7347 €
Start in Bissau December 19th, 2022. End in Cotonou January 15th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Cotonou March 5th, 2023. End in Bissau the evening of April 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau December 18th, 2023. End in Cotonou January 14th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
23 days BIJAGOS ARCHIPELAGO – ABIDJAN. Price from: 5974 €
Start in Bissau December 16th, 2022. End in Abidjan January 7th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Abidjan March 13th, 2023. End in Bissau the evening of April 4th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau December 15th, 2023. End in Abidjan January 6th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
20 days BISSAU – ABIDJAN. Price from: 5173 €
Start in Bissau December 19th, 2022. End in Abidjan January 7th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Abidjan March 13th, 2023. End in Bissau, evening of April 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau December 18th, 2023. End in Abidjan January 6th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
15 days BIJAGOS ARCHIPELAGO – MONROVIA. Price from: 3883 €
Start in Bissau December 16th, 2022. End in Monrovia December 30th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Monrovia March 21st, 2023. End in Bissau evening of April 4th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau December 15th, 2023. End in Monrovia December 29th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
12 days BISSAU – MONROVIA. Price from: 3196 €
Start in Bissau December 19th, 2022. End in Monrovia December 30th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Monrovia March 21st, 2023. End in Bissau evening of April 1st, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Bissau December 18th, 2023. End in Monrovia December 29th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
22 days FREETOWN – COTONOU. Price from: 5876 €
Start in Freetown December 25th, 2022. End in Cotonou January 15th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Cotonou March 5th, 2023. End Freetown, March 26th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Freetown December 24th, 2023. End in Cotonou January 14th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
18 days FREETOWN – ACCRA. Price from: 4944 €
Start in Freetown December 25th, 2022. End in Accra January 11th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Accra March 9th, 2023. End in Freetown March 26th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Freetown December 24th, 2023. End in Accra January 10th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
14 days FREETOWN – ABIDJAN. Price from: 3675 €
Start in Freetown December 25th, 2022. End in Abidjan January 7th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Abidjan, March 13th , 2023. End in Freetown March 26th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Freetown December 24th, 2023. End in Abidjan January 6th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
6 days FREETOWN – MONROVIA. Price from: 1988 €
Start in Freetown December 25th, 2022. End in Monrovia December 30th, 2022. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Monrovia March 21st, 2023. End in Freetown March 26th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Freetown December 24th, 2023. End in Monrovia December 29th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
14 days MONROVIA – ACCRA. Price from: 3644 €
Start in Monrovia December 29th, 2022. End in Accra January 11th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Accra March 9th, 2023. End in Monrovia evening of March 22nd, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Monrovia December 28th, 2023. End in Accra January 10th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
11 days ABIDJAN – COTONOU. Price from: 2838 €
Start in Abidjan January 5th, 2023. End in Cotonou January 15th, 2023. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Start in Cotonou March 5th, 2023. End in Abidjan March 15th, 2023. SOUTH-NORTH ITINERARY
Start in Abidjan January 4th, 2024. End in Cotonou January 14th, 2024. NORTH-SOUTH ITINERARY
Day 1: MARRAKECH Morocco
Individual arrival. A Taxi from the airport to the hotel costs 20 Euro or 25 USD.
Meeting at 8 PM at Novotel and overnight. (Four stars ****) international standard, in the heart of Marrakech.
Day 2: HIGH ATLAS Morocco
We will leave the main road to discover the least frequented Berber villages in the High Atlas Range and join the gems diggers in quest of Amethyst, Tourmaline…. With their help we will be able to find our own gems… Our itinerary cross Tizi-n- Tichka pass at 7460 ft. In the southern side of the Atlas.
Arrival in Ouarzazate, large oasis at the edge of the desert. Dinner and overnight in an international hotel, Wi-Fi.
Day 3: ROCK ART OF OUADI DRAA Morocco
Our way will follow the first part of the Ouadi (river) Draa. This important river with is floods has created on his side a miles large strip of vegetation with a continuous of palm grove hiding vegetables gardens that goes south following the river for hundreds miles in the desert, a long unique oasis with two millions and two hundred thousand dates Palm trees. Visit of a site with hundreds of graffiti depicting hunters, warriors, hors raiders and wildlife; silent witness of peoples living in these regions thousands of years ago, before the desertification. Lunch in a restaurant at the charming oasis of Zagora, our itinerary will continue along the Draa valley to Mhamid. South east of Mhamid the water of the river will vanish in the desert. Dinner and overnight at the comfortable hotel Pacha in the oasis, air-conditioned Self-contain rooms, Wi-Fi. Or similar. Mhamid is the last permanent outpost before the total desert.
Day 4: DUNES AND FOSSILES Morocco
From Mhamid, the Sahara adventure starts; our 4×4 driving out of any tracks will cross a region of high dunes the Erg Chegaga that we will be able to cross in the middle.
After we reach Iriki dry Salt Lake and a site where each of us will be able to find his own fossils.
Dinner and overnight at Bab Rimal the best hotel in the region. Air-conditioned self-contain bungalows, swimming pool, Wi-Fi. Or similar.
Day 5: THE OASIS TRAIL Morocco
On the road again, to cross a region of spectacular scenery, rocky mountains and large oasis.
We will live the road to discover how, for centuries, the water is shared between the different gardens in the palm grove. An ancient water hourglass still mark the time of irrigation for each garden.
Walk in the oasis to discover this green miracle surrounded by an arid environment. Lunch in a local restaurant, evening arrival at the best hotel in the region. Borji Biramane, air-conditioned self contain bungalow, swimming pool, Wi-Fi
Day 6: CARAVAN TERMINALS & ANCIEN FORTS Morocco
In the rarely visited region of Assa we will discover the same ancient Arabo-Berber stone architecture that we will see again thousand miles south on the other side of Sahara in Chinguetti and Ouadane oasis of Mauritania, that in the ancient time where linked with Assa by a caravan route that we will partially try to retrace.
The small town of Guelmim, is an ancient caravan terminal. Here we will search for the remains of the ancient Trans-Sahara trade…
From this point onward, the itinerary will some time follow one of the fishiest coasts on earth and the “fling route” of the paleo-artic birds that migrate from north Europe and Russia to winter in Africa every year during this season. The migratory birds travelling as us from north to south will be a refrain for our itinerary as far as to the Bijagos archipelago in Guinea Bissau.
A spectacular ghost military fort still “guards” the former borders between the French protectorate of Morocco and the Spanish Sahara, the scouting of the fort will make us feel like being on the set of an old French Foreign Legion movie. Evening arrival at the charming and comfortable Ksar Tafnidilt hotel, built using local material in a beautiful Saharan architecture. The hotel is managed by our friends, Guy and Magali, a French couple. Magali is a desert expert; she won the “Rally des Gazelle,” the most challenging off-road competition reserved to female teams. Ksar Tafnidilt is a meeting point for passionate Sahara travellers, that exchange here the last news on tracks condition, border formalities and more. The hotel will be our base for two nights. Self-contain air-conditioned rooms.
Day 7: ESTUARIES AND DESERT Morocco
Once left Tafnidilt, we cross a steep range of dunes to reach the Dra estuary region, visited only by brave travellers who dares to find their way on the sandy tracks between the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. Here, we will discover tiny temporary settlements of fishermen, ghost colonial military posts, dunes and camels in a virgin landscape, and if lucky, we drive for miles on a wild beach between high dunes and ocean.
We live the coastline, following a riverbed (Ouadi) in a large canyon: the only possible path between tall dunes, cliffs and ocean.
Evening return to our comfortable base, the Ksar Tafnidilt hotel.
Day 8: DUNES AND LAGOONS Morocco
From Tan-Tan, the road follows an exciting itinerary through a crag on the edge between Sahara and Ocean… The Naila salt lagoon, separated from the ocean by rows of dunes, with an estuary on the sea, is the largest Salt Lake in Morocco (100 square Km). Protected area of great natural beauty is an important resting point on the birds’ migratory way, it can host up to 20.000 individuals as flamingos, cormorants, gulls, herons…
We will board local fisherman boats to explore this emerald water enclosed in a wide frame of yellow dunes and brown escarpments.
Late afternoon arrival at the tiny town of Tarfaya on the Juby Cape, less than 100 km away from the Canary Islands. Tarfaya is a former “Aeropostale” base, pioneered airmail from Europe to Africa and Latin America. Interesting museum and the remains of colonial Spanish architecture. In Tarfaya, Saint Exupéry the famous aviator and writer, author of “Le petit prince” was familiar.
Hotel Casamar, self-contain, air-conditioned rooms, Wi-Fi
Days 9 & 10: WESTERN SAHARA: THE FORBIDDEN TRACK Morocco
In Laayoune we will meet our local guide, a nomad from a Sahrawi tribe who will lead us through a three-day off-road expedition crossing the Western Sahara from north to south. The former Spanish Sahara colony has been the site of a long war between the Polisario Armed Front and the Moroccan army. Nowadays, it is part of Morocco. Since the second half of the seventies, due to this long “sand war,” this region has been off-limits to travellers. Until today no peace treaty has been signed, but it is decades there is no fights in the region we cross. We are proud to be the “first” to bring intrepid travellers to the vast, sandy regions of Saguia El Hamra, Tiris Zemmour and to the spectacular Rio de Oro sea-look. In this Saharan expedition, we will cross large dunes to discover wells frequented by long lines of camels belonging to the legendary Reguibat nomads. Days 9 and 10 camp under the stars in the immensity of the Sahara. Our mobile camp, that follow on a specific assistance 4×4 vehicle, is comfortable: large tents over rush matting, camping beds and chairs. Restaurant tent, with tables, chairs. Toilet tent.
Day 11: FROM THE DESERT TO THE OCEAN Morocoo
Morning continuation of our Trans-Saharan expedition. In the afternoon, a road will bring us to the ocean.
Arrival at Hotel Buena Vista ****, facing the ocean, will be our base for two nights.
Day 12: RIO DE ORO Morocco
The astonishing beauty of Dakhla peninsula landscape makes of it a unique place. The Rio de Oro is a 25-mile long sea loch between cliffs and dunes. Pastel colours paint the scenery: the blue ocean, yellow sand, emerald seaweed fields and dark rocks. Experience a unique event: during the high tide the ocean will flood the desert: a white dune and rook hills will become temporary islands.
The small town of Dakhla was founded by Spanish navigators in 1502 as “Villa Cisneros.” Visit to the colourful fishing harbour, lunch in an oyster farm. Driving along the shore to discover where the waves lap the sand dunes. Dinner in a typical restaurant. Overnight return to our four stars hotel.
Day 13: BORDER: LINES IN THE SANSD Morocco – Mauritania
Our way run on the spectacular cliff between the desert and the ocean. We follow the only open road going south. A signboard indicates that we are “on” the Tropic of Cancer. At Guerguerat military post we will cross the southern border post of Morocco, the only open route between Maghreb and Black Africa a sensible site. The boundary is a theoretical line in the desert that “divides the sand from the sand”, on the other side, the military post of Mauritania. Evening arrival to Nouadhibou. Comfortable El Medina or Hotel Sahel, ****.
Days 14 & 15: SAHARA EXPLORATION Mauritania
Visit on Nouadhibou on the spectacular “Golf du levrier”. Market and time to buy Ouguiya the local currency. In the afternoon drive south and overnight in Chami. Next morning, thanks to the experience of our staff, we will make or own way tracing an unmarked path in the sand ocean of Inchiri region, one of the least known parts of Mauritanian desert. To cross long ranges of dunes, we will decrease the tire pressure, GPS, maps, compass will assist our land-navigation in an untouched geological universe. Day 14 dinner and overnight at the new Hotel Iouik at Chami, day 15 dinner and overnight at Sahara hotel all recent hotel with air-conditioned self-contain rooms.
Day 16: ADRAR: DUNES AND MOUNTAINS Mauritania
An absolute “out of any track” itinerary will find the way through high dunes. Erg Amatlich is one of the most beautiful dune ranges in Mauritania The Sahara can make travellers to feel like to be the first person on a planet. We will be able to discover traces of thousands of years old human presence as stone tools and shards of potteries. When some rare graze will appear, we will discover some nomadic settlements. These human encounters, after the deep silence of the Sahara, are intense. We will enter in the scenic landscape the Adrar massif: valleys, high mountains, yellow sand dunes, peaks of dark and red rock. We will visit remotes oasis and tiny adobe villages.
Evening arrival to Chinguetti. Dinner and overnight at La Gueila, cosy guest house built in traditional Mauritanian style that will be our base for three nights, (or private comfortable residence). Air-conditioned rooms, hot water, Wi-Fi. Fine restaurant, local specialities with a French touch.
Day 17: CHINGUETTI, THE OASIS Mauritania
Chinguetti stone citadel dates back to the 13th century and is a cross-point of different trans-Saharan routes linking the Mediterranean coasts to Black Africa. The atmosphere of the old stone town, the architecture, some ancient manuscript collections from the Middle-ages and the oasis with their “green miracles” of palm trees and gardens surrounded by the immensity of the Sahara are the special highlights of Chinguetti. Large chains of yellow dunes are the western boundary of the town that “fights” not to be covered by the sand.
The main Mosque and the stone minaret: Chinguetti mosque is the second oldest still operating in the entire Muslim world.
We will spend the whole day in the magical atmosphere of this desert cittadel, which is considered the jewel of Mauritanian oasis, discovering two ancient manuscript collection, including Ould Habott, the largest in Mauritania. Return to our cosy guest house.
Day 18: OUADANE, THE REMOTEST Mauritania
We will drive to Ouadane in an absolute “out of any tracks” itinerary that follows a Ouadi (dry creek), discovering tiny oasis hidden in the high dunes. Entire day experience Ouadane the remotest oasis in Mauritania, an outpost in the emptiness of the desert. Ouadane was founded in 1147, while most of it felt into ruin, some of its stone houses, perched on a rocky hill, surrounded by the immensity of Sahara, are still inhabited. Back in time, this town was an important caravan trading point. Trading was so flourishing that, in 1487, Portuguese built a fortified counter in the region.
Return to our comfortable base in Chinguetti. Dinner and overnight at “La Gueila” (or private residence). Air-conditioned rooms, hot water, Wi-Fi
Day 19: GREEN OASIS Mauritania
The landscape will never cease to amaze us. Leaving the main track, we will reach a region of spectacular mountains, gorges and canyons. Infinite space dominated by the ochre of the earth and the blue sky. At the horizon the ruins of Fort Saganne, built to set the namesake film: Fort Saganne.
The Agrour site, located at the top of the Amogjar pass, hide prehistoric cave paintings featuring bovids, hunters and herders.
After a short visit of Atar marked we join Azougui, the ruins of what has been the capital of an Almoravid kingdom in the 11th century. The Almoravid, called in the Arab word “ Al -Murabitun” where a Muslim warriors puritan and radical brotherhood originated from nomadic tribes from the north of actual Mauritania. Between 11th and 12th century Almoravid looted the Ghana Empire , founded Marrakech, conquered Morocco, part of Algeria and the southern part of Spain.
Terjit, is one of the most particular and lush oases of Mauritania. After walking through a dense palm grove protected by a gorge and following a tiny stream, we discover a vast rock shelter where spring water flows. An unexpected atmosphere disconnected from time and from the harshness of the desert.
Dinner and overnight: Hotel Sahara or similar. New hotel with air-conditioned ensuite rooms, hot water.
Day 20: NOUKCHOTT Mauritania
From the desert to the ocean, from Sahara to black Africa.
As resume of Mauritanian history and culture, visit of the interesting National Museum which displays archeology, artifacts, costumes and textiles from prehistory to the present days. Unique the pictures taken during excavations of Aoudaghost, the northern trading town and better conserved site of the legendary Ghana Empire. Ghana was the oldest Empire and Kingdom known in Black Africa. Dated from the 6th century, the empire was in the actual southern east of Mauritania. At that time from Aoudaghost, starts the caravan carrying gold to North Africa and passing by Ouadane and Assa that we had discovered during our Sahara crossing. Lunch in a trendy restaurant, known for the “catch of the day”, other meals other than fish are available. Hundreds of colorful pirogues lined the beach on Nouakchott fishing harbour will leave us amazed. Our eyes, accustomed to sand and dunes, will be reflected in tumultuous waters, in which wind, waves, brightly painted pirogues and sub-Saharan (mainly Senegalese) fishermen selling the abundant catches to the market. Mauritania processes more than 1,800,000 tons of fish each year. Dinner and overnight at Azalai, four stars, international standard hotel.
Day 21: DJOUDJ NATIONAL PARK Mauritania – Senegal
Early morning departure in direction south to Senegalese. The natural border between Mauritania and Senegal is the Senegal River a natural boundary between desert and savannah. We will cross the river on a mobile bridge and move into a unique wet land between Sahara and Sahel.
The Djoudj National Park, declared a World Heritage Site, is a green oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands. This “humid paradise” is the best habitat and nesting site of over a million migratory and sedentary birds.
Totally surrounded by an arid landscape the protected wetland habitat attract migratory birds, more than 400 species live temporarily in this unique bird sanctuary. We will enjoy a boat excursion to visit an island with an astonishing concentration of pelicans.
Arrival in the evening to Saint Louis. Dinner and overnight at “Hotel de la Poste”, a historical hotel built in 1850 was the base of the “Aeropostale” (airmail pioneer operation) pilots. Totally restored, it has conserved one of the best “hold colonial atmosphere” in town.
Day 22: SAINT LOUIS: COLONIAL AND AFRICAN CITADELS Senegal
In the morning, visit of Saint Louis, the first capital of the French colonies in West Africa AOF (Afrique Occidental Francais), a charming old town, situated on two twin islands: the colonial and the local, the two located between Senegal River and the ocean. The best way to roam the narrow streets of Saint Louis is on board of a calash, like the locals do! A walk will complete the discovery of the fisherman quarters. We will leave Saint Louis to reach Lampoul dunes. Dinner and overnight at Ecolodge Lampoul, in fancy fix camp, comfortable en-suite tents with beds. Dinner at the restaurant on the high part of the dunes, live drumming after dinner.
Day 23: FROM “THE” FISHERMAN VILLAGE TO GOREE ISLAND Senegal
Spectacular drive to discover the largest fisherman village in Senegal, more than 4500 wooden pirogues came to the shore with the catch of the day… We will leave our vehicles for a less intrusive, and fun local transport, a donkey chariot, ideal way to approach the fisherman selling their catch to the women, the queens of the market. We will familiarize with the artisans craving the large pirogues, the painters decorating them with bright colours and the “local saint” for final magical blessing before sailing….
Lac Rose, localy known as Lac Retba, is a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes. Due to the high concentration of salt, the lake often shimmers in pink, swimming in the lake gives the sensation of floating. More than 600 people collect salt from the water in an artisanal way. Arrival to Dakar, ferry to Gorée Island. The right time to enjoy Gorée atmosphere is at sunset when all tourists are gone and, in the morning, before the crowd arrives. In Gorée island, slaves were crammed, waiting to be shipped to the Americas, entirely restored, the island still bears witness of those times. Nowadays, its breezy climate, history and ancient architecture, together with nice restaurants and boutiques, make Gorée an interesting and trendy destination for local and foreign visitors.
Dinner in a typical restaurant and overnight at “Maison Municipal” or similar. A comfortable Guest house in an ancient, restored building.
Day 24: DAKAR METROPOLIS Senegal
Before the crowd arrive, we will live the island on the ferry to Dakar. Dakar became an important centre of the political, artistic and intellectual “renouveau” during the independence time and it is still the liveliest metropolis in the French-speaking West Africa. In the “Musée des Civilisations Noires”, we can admire great collections of Tribal Art, textiles, and contemporary local art. Discover “Plateau” district, the Presidential Palace, a typical market. Lunch at the “fishing club restaurant” known for the best catch of the day (vegetarian and other meals available) . The totally restored Dakar-Bamako railway station, a great case of Art-Déco architecture dating from French colonial times, meeting with young artist specialized in the Graffiti ( street art) that has made Dakar a centre of contemporary metropolitan culture. Visit to galleries and handicraft markets. Overnight at the Le Djoloff Boutique hotel, a balanced mix of traditional African furniture and modern comfort. Or similar.
Day 25: RIVER HARBOUR Senegal
We head to Kaolack town, in a region of salt pounds. Lunch in a restaurant. Kaolack, situated on Saloum River is an important port for exporting peanuts and salt from Senegal and nearest countries and a large traditional market.
Dinner and Overnight at the comfortable air-conditioned bungalows of Relais de Kaolak or Kabacoto Safari Lodge, facing a lake and lagoons ***, or similar.
Day 26: GAMBIA, BETWEEN ARCHEOLOGY AND CONTEMPORANEITY Senegal – Gambia
Early departure heading to the region between the north bank of Gambia River and Senegal, which has hosted one of the largest megalithic civilisations on earth . Sine Ngayene is the richest megalithic site with 1102 erected stones. We cross the border with The Gambia, a tiny country surrounded by Senegal and experience a “very local” ferry crossing of the large Gambia River estuary to reach Banjul, the capital of the country. Visit to the centre and to the national museum. Optional: evening live music in town.
Dinner and overnight at Atlantic Hotel or Kairaba Beach hotel ****, swimming pool.
Day 27: DANCING MASK Gambia – Casamance ( Senegal)
Morning, brief but intense guided bird watching experience.
Arrival at Casamance border, the southern region of Senegal. The natural environment will gradually change from savannah to forest.
In the late afternoon, we will attend the ritual dances of Diola sacred masks. The masks belong to a secret society and the identity of the dancers is not revealed; it is said that the mask is animated by the spirits. Drums, dances and a colourful crowd will enliven the tiny village in the shade of larges kapok trees.
Late arrival, dinner and overnight at the comfortable Kadiandoumange hotel ***, located on the bank of Casamance river, swimming pool. Hotel Kadiandoumange is an interesting example of local managed charming hotel. Or similar.
Day 28: ANCESTORS CULT Senegal – Guinea Bissau
Crossing the Guinea Bissau border we pas from French speaking country to a Portuguese (Lusitano) spiking Africa and enter the region of the Manjaco ethnic group. In tiny villages hidden in the forest we discover sculptured wooden poles called “Pecab” representing the spirits of their ancestors, the “Pecab” are kept in sanctuaries known as “Cab Balugun”. After asking for the permission to the elders, we will have the opportunity to see different generations and styles of sacred wooden sculptures: one of the last chances to enjoy tribal art in its original cultural context: the village. Arrival at Bissau .Dinner and overnight at Azalai Hotel ****. Or similar
Day 29: BIJAGOS SACRED ARCHIPELAGO: THE GHOST CAPITAL Guinea Bissau
Experience a three days spectacular navigation on a speedboat to discover the Bijagos Archipelago, its fascinating nature and isolated tribes. The Archipelago, composed by 88 islands and islets, is located at an average of 40 miles from the coastline. Bijagos is a “geographical jewel”.
Bissau and when the Portuguese left, native people came to squat this town. The town is now falling apart, partly invaded by tropical vegetation. Bolama, which has been built according to the model of a «Castrum Romane» (roman citadel), is now a mix of straight large avenues, sunny and lethargic empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens and falling apart Neo-Palladian administrative buildings. In the shade of the columns of the former governor palace, goats graze peacefully; although inhabited, this town enjoys a fairy-tale atmosphere of a ghost town.
Dinner and overnight at Ponta Anchaca Resort **** in comfortable air-conditioned wooden bungalows, hidden in the vegetation and facing the ocean. Restaurant on stilts with refined French and tropical cuisine. This fine lodge will be our base for two nights.
Day 30: VACA BRUTO DANCING CEREMONY Guinea Bissau
Short navigation to discover Bubaque island, the “capital” of Bijagos Archipelago, its market and the tiny museum.
Afternoon: due to the remoteness and the deep rootedness of the locals to their traditions, the Bijagos people have been little influenced by the external world. Life in the villages is characterized by initiations rites and secret ceremonies. In some villages, the young men must go through a seven-year initiation rite living in a “convent” with no contact with women. In Bijagos Archipelago life is still ruled by the “cycle of seasons”. During the long dry season the major ceremonies take place. Vaca Bruto (wild bull) is the most spectacular mask of the islands, the dancers convey a realistic presence by bowing and facing the ground. The mask’s eyes made out of frosted glass, real horns, leather ears and a rope through the nostril provide the mask with a real aspect of an untamed animal which represents a man in full possession of his physical strength but still with an immature behaviour, as he has not yet undergone the final initiations. All the villagers attend this fascinating ceremony.
Retour to Ponta Anchaca Resort **** comfortable air-conditioned wooden bungalows, hidden in the vegetation and facing the ocean. Restaurant on stilts with refined French and tropical cuisine.
Day 31: ISLANDER LIFE Guinea Bissau.
Morning relax at Ponta Anchaca wild beaches and swimming pool, or walking excursion in the island.
Afternoon navigation to Bissau.
On request (not included) Early morning departure for an excursion to Orango Island in search of a residual fauna of Hippos that has acclimatised with the life on islands. Mainly living is fresh-water swamps, some time they could swim in the ocean. Local guide will lead the visitors, the encounter with the hippos is not always granted. Arrived in Bissau a vehicle will be waiting for us for a brief city tour. Bissau is a tiny but intriguing capital, interesting the old Portuguese architecture and a huge fort, a reminder of the slave trade era. Overnight hotel Azalai, international standard ****
Day 32: GRIOT: THE AFRICAN TROBADORS Guinea Bissau
Early morning departure. After lunch, we leave the main road for a small village in the Malinké region.
The Malinké are the descendants of the ancient Mali Empire and are spread on the current territory of Mali, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. Griots are musicians and story tellers lineages dating back to the 13th century. The village we visit is known for the Griot families that have maintained these traditions from the time of the Empire. Well-known also for their skills in producing musical instruments, they will perform a concert. Arrival at Gabu. Dinner and overnight at the hotel Karsa ***, air-conditioned self-contained rooms.
Day 33: THE LARGEST MOUNTAIN MASSIF Guinea Bissau – Guinea Conakry
An old and manually pulled barge will allow us to cross Rio Corubal, the natural border between the two Guineas to join the small border posts of Guinea Conakry in a region inhabited by the Malinké and the Fulla (Peul) tribes. Stopover in smole villages where the arrival of foreigners is a rare event.
After reaching a larger road, we will start our exploration of the Fouta Djalon massif; its fresh and salubrious climate made it the preferred holiday-place by the French during the colonial era. Considered the most spectacular area of Guinea, thanks to the mountains, plateau, savannah and deep valleys, the Fouta Djalon is considered the “water reservoir” of West Africa. As a matter of fact, 3 rivers that give name to four nations: Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Gambia, have their offspring in Guinea. This territory is inhabited by the Fulla (also called Peul), famous for their beauty and their skills as the main stockbreeders of Zebu cows in West Africa. We will visit isolated villages, with large clay houses decorated with bas relief, high conical roofs with several layers of straw. Evening arrival to Labe and overnight at the basic but comfortable and clean Hotel Tata, self-contain bungalows with A/C.
Day 34: FOUTA DJALON Guinea Conakry
Full day dedicated discovering the Fouta Djalon, en environment where mountains meet savannah and deep valley with forest. The highest waterfalls in West Africa are framed by the forest, in a pristine landscape. After having been introduced by our connections to the elders, presenting traditional gifts as cola nuts, we will have the honour to be received by chiefs and dignitaries siting in council. In a very large clay round hut with a decorated grass roof, dressed in traditional costumes the descendant of one of the oldest Fulla Kingdom will tell us the history of their people and accept to answer our questions about the origins of their tribe and the traditional rules still practiced.
Arrival at Dalaba at 1200 m. ( 3900 Ft.) altitude. Dinner and overnight at a new and comfortable hotel, Safitel ***. Air-conditioned self-contain rooms.
Day 35: AFRICAN BAS-RELIEF Guinea Conakry
Visit Dalaba, a small and pleasant town. The “casa a palabra” (the house of word) with fine adobe bas-relief is in a pure Fulla (Peul) architectonical style. Here the chiefs used to gather to meet the colonial administrators. Visit to the villa built by the colonial governor and later used by the first president of independent Guinea. The leader of the independence was Sekou Touré, one of the most radical anti-colonialists African politician; he refused any cooperation with the French and created strong ties with the Soviet Union and a personal friendship with Ceausescu. Some villas used by the ministers and by the guests of Sekou Touré are reminiscences of that time. In a today ruined villa, Miriam Makeba met and married Stokley Carmichael, an exile from the US who was among the inspirators of Black Panthers armed wing. We will live Dalaba following the southern slope of the massif to reach Mamou, a trading town, visit to the market.
Hotel Balys , or similar. Basic comfort Air-conditioned Self-contain rooms.
Days 36 and 37: MASKS IN THE FOREST Guinea – Sierra Leone
A tiny track join a border with a remote area of Sierra Leone, crossing rivers in the forest, using old manually pulled barges. Arrival at the village of Kamakwie. In a region, where foreigners are rare, if lucky, we will assist to traditional sacred masks dances. Evening of day 37 arrival at Free Town.
Next day drive heading to Freetown peninsula.
Day 36 Dinner and overnight at the White House hotel or similar, (built by a local that live in the USA in the shape inspired to the White House) Basic comfort, self-contain rooms.
Day 37 Dinner and overnight in Freetown at the comfortable Swiss Hotel ****, international standard.
Day 38: FREETOWN, A LONG STORY Sierra Leone
Freetown origins: in 1786 the first three hundred and eighty freed African slaves arrived in Sierra Leone from America where they have fought in the independence war on the side of the British. After having lost the war the British sent them to Sierra Leone and created the first freed slave settlements. Few months after their arrival, the newcomers were starving, got new and unknown diseases and fight with the locals, who hardly stand them. Few years after during a Napoleonic war, Freetown that was displaying the British flag has been attacked by seven vessels of the French navy and destroyed. Few survivors escape on the pirogues sent by… the slave’s traders.
From 1807, due to the abolition of the slave trade by the British Empire, the ships of the slave’s traders caught by the British navy freed the slaves in Sierra Leone.
In 1808 Freetown became the capital of the first British colony in tropical Africa. At that time the Krio peoples, or ex slaves, were more than 50.000, creating an elite who put pressure on the administration for a better education. In 1845 was built Fourah Bay the first University in West Africa. During Colonial time Freetown was known as the “Athens of West Africa”.
Afternoon drive along the coast at the slopes of the Freetown peninsula mountains… only the yellow of the beaches divide the green of the forest from the blue of the ocean. The country has been named after these mountains, the Sierra (mountains) of lion. A local boat will bring us to Banana island. Dinner and overnight at the cozy Bafa Lodge that will be our base for two nights: fix tents hidden in the forest facing the ocean. Fine cuisine based on the catch of the day (other meals available, ask in advance).
Day 39: BANANA ISLAND Sierra Leone
Full day circumnavigating, exploring and walking to discover a pristine paradise: mountains, large primary forests, villages and remote beaches. For the more actives a half day walk to hike in the forest or continue the circumnavigation of the island. Lunch picnic, dinner and overnight return to our base: Bafa Lodge fix camp.
Day 40: BUNDO: FEMALE MASKS Sierra Leone
Brief navigation, to join our 4WD vehicles and departure in direction north east.
In most parts of Africa, the masks are male’s prerogative, however among the Mende people and neighbours populations the masks Bundo are a female’s domain and they have crucial role in girls puberty rites. In a tiny village we will experience the exit of these masks, an event that calls for the participation of a colourful crowd. Dinner, overnight at hotel Dohas, comfortable en-suite rooms with A/C, or similar.
Day 41: RAW DIAMONDS Sierra Leone – Liberia
Diamond seeking is addictive as gambling and the possibility of finding a “fortune” become true just for the few most lucky. Diamonds have played an important role in the past civil war. The quantity and quality of “stones” still to find is important. We will follow a track to reach a village with huts made by clay and straw. After greeting the chief, some villagers will take us to the site where we can meet the diamonds’ seekers in action. A villager will explain us the technics of artisanal mining and “sand washing”. A spectacular road in the forest will bring us to the Mano River and to the border with Liberia. After the formalities, we will continue to reach Monrovia in the evening. Diner and overnight at the comfortable Cape Hotel **** international standard, at Mamba Point, in the best area of Monrovia. Or similar
Day 42: “LIBERIA”: THE LAND OF FREEMEN Liberia
Liberia is the only African country which has never been either a colony or a protectorate; Liberia was founded by Krio, freed slaves who came back to Africa from the USA and for this reason was named “Liberia”. Krio are 5% of the population and they are the main actors of the economy and politics, they are considered the creator of the Nation and of the modern economy . 80% of the population speaks the local Krio language, a sort of American-English “Pidgin”.Our ocean-view hotel is the right starting point to have an interesting walking-visit of town. Freemasonry had a great impact on the history of Liberia and Krio culture, visit of the Grand Masonic Temple imposing building, and if will be lucky, meeting with the Grand Master. A symbol of Monrovia is what left of the Ducor Palace Hotel, inaugurated in 1960 was one of the first five stars in Africa. Located on a rocky hill in the highest point of Monrovia, dominate the whole town and the gulf. The hotel hosted social events and parties of the African elites at the effervescent time of independence. In the large swimming pool facing the ocean Idi Amin used to swim caring his gun at the belt while his friend Miriam Makeba was singing. After the civil war the building was looted several times, the hotel is now abandoned and closed, but seeking the right permission, we may be able to visit it. In 2008 the government made a deal with Ghaddafi to rebuild it, however the project, as many other Libyan development projects in Africa, never came to conclusion thanks to the war that Europe and America made to overthrow Ghaddafi. The building of the National Museum his himself a display of Krio traditional architecture, within we discover a large collection of ancient masks and ritual objects. The visit includes a photographic show about the civil war which took place between 1989 and 2003. Old colonial buildings, stone Krio churches will be also part of this intriguing town visit.
Lunch and departure for Gbarnga. Dinner and overnight at Passion 2 Hotel ***, or similar.
Day 43: AFRICAN WILD FORESTS Liberia – Guinea Conakry
Early morning departure for a day of driving to the northern part of Liberia and to the greatest forest region of Guinea Conakry. Crossed the border, we will continue through larges rubber plantation (hevea) to reach Nzerekore and Macenta in a hilly and luxuriant landscape. After dinner we leave the hotel to join a village and participate to a spectacular event: the masks will leave the forest and dance at the light of a large fire….
Dinner and overnight at the comfortable and new Hotel Macenta *** fully air-conditioned, self -contain rooms, swimming pool. Or similar.
Day 44: BIRD MEN, TOMA MASKS & LIANA BRIDGE Guinea Conakry
A small track in the lush vegetation will bring us to a remote village to assist at one of the most spectacular and less known sacred dances of West African forests: the dance of the Bird Men. The Bird Men have their face painted in Kaolin and are totally dressed in feathers, they belong to a special initiatory community, that has secretly passed from father to son over the centuries. The Bird Men are believed to hold magical powers that can make them invisible, they are the best messengers during tribal wars, able to cross the enemy lines. Tom-tom drummers and all the village will participate to the event.
This region hides many secrets. The liana bridges are masterpieces of a unique “tribal technology” and can measure up to 70 m. They are built exclusively with vegetal materials, as wood and lianas, without the use of nails or rope nor other materials external to the forest. Only the initiated can harvest the lianas and woods and they leave them in the forest, it is believed that a powerful spirit will build the bridge overnight. To guarantee the secrecy of this “magical technology”, during the preparation of a new bridge, neither women nor not initiated are allowed in the forest. Arrival to Nzerekore after an intense day. Dinner and Overnight at hotel Bethanie, self-contain air-conditioned rooms.
Day 45: PRIMATES Guinea Conakry – Ivory Coast
Early morning heading to Bossou village in time for a walk to discover a forest, where a group of chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes) lives. The inhabitants consider them the reincarnation of their ancestors and therefore hunting them is a taboo. The chimpanzee are constantly monitored by the researchers and therefore they are easy to approach.
The track will bring us to a remote border with Ivory Coast. When mountain Tonkpi, with its pic, comes into view, we will be close to our destination.
The small town of Man, surrounded by 18 green mountains is the capital of the We, Dan and Guéré ethnic groups, known for their masks, considered among the masterpieces of African art.
We will spend two nights at hotel Les Cascades, air-conditioned self-contain rooms ***, swimming pool, located on the hills. Or Similar.
Day 46: DAN MASKS Ivory Coast
Full day discovering the Man region. In a nearby village, masks will emerge from the forest. According to the cosmogony of Dan people, there is a supreme god that creates the world and communicates with humans only through its intermediaries: the masks. During the masks’ dance, the distance between the humans and the spirits disappears, the cosmic and the social orders are restored, and gratitude is expressed to the gods and the ancestors. Dan Masks are one of the finest African masks known for the balance of his shapes. Man’s market is an important market where villagers come from the region and from the neighbours countries. It will be possible to find a large choice of handicraft and, with a bit of luck, authentic masks and traditional objects.
Dinner and overnight, return to hotel Les Cascades, air-conditioned self-contain rooms ***, swimming-pool. Or similar.
Day 47: MAGICAL TRADITIONS Ivory Coast
Full day dedicated to experience vibrant tribal culture and magic traditions.
Only 4×4 vehicles can drive to remote villages in the forest to encounter the Guere ethnic group, where the arrival of foreigners is a rare event. We will discover the powerful Guéré Mask dances, if Dan’s masks are considered among the more refined examples of beauty and aesthetic, Guéré masks are known for the powerful and rough aspect.
If lucky we will witnes the rare “Jugglers” performances. Girls initiatory juggling is an ancient tradition, now vanishing, we have discovered one of the last villages where it is still practiced.
Return to the main road and reach the town of Daloa in the evening. Diner and overnight at Hotel La Grace, self-contain airconditioned rooms ***, or similar.
Day 48: CATHEDRAL IN THE SAVANNAH Ivory Coast
Day of driving southbound . We continue our journey across coffee and cocoa plantations, dotted only by small villages. Ivory Coast is the world’s main cocoa producer, the second is Ghana and together they represent more than half of the world cocoa production.
In a village of the Guro tribe, we attend the Zaouli dancing masks. The Zaouli mask, was probably inspired by a girl named “Djela Lou Zaouli”, however[AN1] , the stories on the origins of the mask are varied and each mask can have its own symbolic history. The uniqueness of Zaouli dance is the fine and sophisticated movement of the legs and the fits.
In the afternoon, arrival to Yamoussoukro, the country’s formal capital since 1983 and the native village of Houphouët-Boigny, the first President of the Ivory Coast. Here the Ivorian dream of the 1970s and 1980s has come true, the dream of a country that, despite its shortage of major natural resources, has built up the most flourishing economy of French speaking West Africa.
We visit the Basilica of the Virgin of Peace, inspired by St Peter’s in Rome is the largest Christian building on earth, the high colourful glass windows are unique. In the city, we see wide boulevards where the few cars try to avoid big potholes, Zebus and chickens, huge government buildings, the lofty hotels up to 14 floors high and even an artificial lake inhabited by crocodiles, everything has an abandoned look.
Dinner and overnight at the comfortable Royal Hotel, swimming pool, *** air-conditioned self-contain rooms, or similar.
Day 49: ABIDJAN, SKYSCRAPERS AND LAGOONS Ivory Coast
We drive on the only highway of the country to reach Abidjan in late morning. Beyond the lagoon, the “plateau” (the City District) is growing very fast, while most of the African cities grow horizontally, Abidjan grows vertically. Not much land is available and the little available must be continually recovered from the waters of the Ebrié Lagoon. The modern City District is defined to the west by the harbour and its endless queues of people waiting for a public boat, and to the east by the silhouette of Saints Peter & Paul Cathedral. The chaotic traffic is a negative result of the fast-economic development of this country, that after the civil war has, some years, reached a 6% growth of the GDP . Visit of this modern and colorful African metropolis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpvcvYRQbhA
Hotel Azalai **** international standard.
Day 50: GRAND BASSAM Ivory Coast
Short drive to Grand Bassam: old town built on a sand bank between the lagoon and the ocean. It was the first capital of the French Ivory Coast colony and now a maritime leisure resort for the Abidjanese. Thanks to its calm avenues shaded by tall trees, large bougainvillea and well-preserved colonial buildings, Grand Bassam has a magic atmosphere. The old post office is a jewel of colonial architecture. The Costume Museum, in the former governor’s palace, with its large outer staircase is a true architectural gem and its unique collection of tribal costumes, masks, ornaments and ethnographic photographs gives an interesting perception of the country’s history and culture. In late afternoon we will reach the small town of Aboisso.
Dinner and overnight at Hotel le Rochè***, self-contain airconditioned rooms, or similar.
Day 51: GOLD COAST Ivory Coast – Ghana
Early departure for the border with Ghana. Once in Axim, we will visit St Antonio fort, built by the Portuguese in 1515 on a bay near the estuary of Ankobra River, in a region rich in gold. The coast of Ghana is unique in whole Africa for the concentration of ancient castles and forts. Over three centuries, more than 80 fortifications were built by the Europeans, to trade mainly gold, ivory and slaves. The abundance of gold led the first Portuguese navigators, who discovered this region in the 15th century, to name it Gold Coast, this name was changed to Ghana at the independence in 1957. Evening arrival to Anomabu Beach resort, where we will spend two nights. Air-Conditioned self -contain bungalows near the ocean.
Day 52: ELMINA’S UNIQUE ATMOSPHERE Ghana
Full day dedicated to discover ancient slave trade castles and animistic shrines.
After a stop at Cape Coast, we will visit Elmina Castle, the oldest and largest European building in Africa, erected by the Portuguese in 1482. Over the centuries the castle has been ruled by Portuguese, Dutch and British and now days by Ghana. This large building has been used as a fortified warehouse to trade gold, ivory and slaves with the local tribes. Nowadays ,the castle is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The fishing harbour facing the castle, hosts hundreds of colourful wooden pirogues.
In the old town we discover the Posuban, shrines of the “Asafo companies” where the Asafo “warriors” still pour libations.
Old town alleys have a unique atmosphere, bringing us back to a time before the colonial era, when Elmina was the main place of exchanges between Europe and Sub Sahara Africa.
Dinner and overnight: return to Anomabu Beach Resort bungalows, or similar.
Day 53: ASHANTI Ghana
Late morning arrival in Kumasi, the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti were one of the most powerful nations in Africa until the end of 19th century, when the British annexed Ashanti Kingdom to the Gold Coast colony. With more than one and half million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling city with a fantastic central market, one of the largest in Africa. Every type of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable.
The visit includes the Ashanti Cultural Centre: a rich collection of Ashanti artifacts housed in an interesting reproduction of an Ashanti ancient house. In the afternoon we participate – if available – to a traditional Ashanti funeral, attended by mourners wearing bright red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration: the deceased spirit is believed to return to his family and through this ceremonies becomes an ancestor spirit that protects his peoples. Relatives and friends gather and celebrate his return. Dinner and overnight at Miklin Hotel, air-conditioned self-contain rooms.
Day 54: ACCRA “THE CAPITAL” Ghana
Arrive in Accra early afternoon. The capital of Ghana has maintained its special identity despite the fast-paced development currently underway in this African large metropolis. We explore James Tow neighbourhoods, inhabited by the autochthonous population known as the Ga. Our tour ends with the visit to a workshop specialized in carving “fantasy coffins”. These special handcrafted coffins can take on any shape: fruits, animals, fishes, cars, airplanes…. the only limit being the imagination! Dinner and overnight in the town at Osu central district at the comfortable La Villa boutique hotel. Self-contain air-conditioned rooms, or similar. Optional, Accra vibes: evening at one of the typical music bars in town.
Day 55: LOME: COSMOPOLITAN AND STYLISH HUMAN SIZE CAPITAL Ghana – Togo
Morning departure to the Togo border. Lome It is one of the rare capitals situated at the border of the country, the only African town which has been ruled successively by Germans, British and French and has attract an important community of traders from different African countries and as far as from Brazil. These elements and influences has developed a unique lifestyle, cuisine and architecture. Lome is still our days a meeting point for people, trade and cultures. We will visit: the central market with the “Nana Benz”, women who control the market of the expensive “pagne” (colourful cloths) sold all over West Africa, the colonial buildings and the largest “fetish market” in whole African continent, where we can find an eclectic assortment of all the necessary ingredients for love potions, magical concoctions and Voodoo incantation.
Evening, optional, music bars in town.
Overnight at Hotel Sarakawa ****, located in a 25 hectares park , facing the beach, surrounded by coconut trees shading gardens and an Olympic swimming pool.
Day 56: VOODOO Togo -Benin
Voodoo is the main religion in the coastal areas of Togo and Benin, authentic ceremonies are practiced by the numerous adepts. The frenetic rhythm of drums and the chants of the initiates “call” the spirits which will manifest by possessing some participants that falls into a deep trance: the eyes roll back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain. Sakpata, Heviosso, Mami Water are just some of the Voodoo divinities who can manifest… Surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will understand what local people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our Voodoo shrine we become Gods!”.
Border with Benin and arrival to the small town of Grand Popo. Dinner and overnight at the charming Auberge de Gran Popo, ocean-front ancient colonial building totally restored. Self-contain rooms. Or similar.
Day 57: OUIDAH, AFRO-BRASILIAN CULTURE Benin
Between lagoons and ocean, we will discover Zangbeto cult. Zangbeto mask is very tall and covered in coloured straw.
It represents wild, non-human spirits (the forces of nature that inhabited the Earth before human). The mask wearers belong to a secret society and keep their identity hidden. When Zangbeto dances is an event for the village. Its performance guarantees protection against bad spirits and witchcraft. The spinning movement of the mask symbolizes the spiritual purification of the village and Zangbeto also performs « miracles » to prove it powers.Drive to Ouidah, this small town was conquered by the Dahomey Kingdom during the 18th century and become is main slave shipping port. We start the visit following the “slave road” to the shore, “the door of no return” where slaves were shipped to the Americas. Ouidah enjoys a rare Afro-Brazilian architecture, as a unique mixt of cultures where the python temple faces the Catholic Cathedral. The laid-back attitude of the locals blends with the thunder of the distant waves and the rhythm of the drums – a timeless atmosphere described by Bruce Chatwin in his novel “The Vice-Roy of Ouidah”. On foot we visit the Python Temple and the Portuguese Fort, now a small but interesting museum on the history of Ouidah, the transatlantic slave trade and the links that the trade has created between West Africa costal countries and the Caribbean Voodoo culture .
Dinner and Overnight at the comfortable Hotel Casa del Papa **** resort, or similar. Scenic ocean front bungalows, wild beaches, swimming pool. (Air-conditioned bungalows en suite).
Day 58: THE STILTS VILLAGE Benin
Drive for miles on the fisherman track between endless beaches, tall palm trees, grass-huts and colourful pirogues. We will leave our vehicles and cross Lake Nokwe on a motorized boat to reach Ganvié, the largest and most beautiful African village on stilts. The approximately 25,000 inhabitants are part of the Tofinou ethnic group and build their wooden houses on teak stilts. Breeding fish with an ancient tribal technology is their main activity. Ganvié has managed to preserve its traditions and environment despite the long-lasting human presence in a closed setting; and the lake is not over-fished. Daily life unfolds in the dugout canoes that adults and children row with ease using brightly coloured paddles. From these canoes men fishing, women expose goods at the “floating market”, children go to school and play, in Ganvie children are said to learn to swim first than to walk.
Day room available in Cotonou and transfer to the airport. End of our services.
ON REQUEST: EXTENTION TO LAGOS IN NIGERIA or PRE-EXTENTION IN MOROCCO