IVORY COAST, GHANA, TOGO AND BENIN
Starting from Abidjan the economical capital of Ivory Coast discovering Grand Bassam and his unique colonial architecture, witness the highest concentration of ancient trade and slave castles, with Elmina the oldest castle of Gold Coast. Discover the African origins of Voodoo: secrete initiations, drums and trance rituals still practiced in the largest stilt village of the continent.
The itinerary, part of the Grand Expedition cross West Africa will be adventurous and enjoyable. Transport in in comfortable air-conditioned minibuses, 4WD vehicles and boats on lagoons.
Accommodations: in the capitals, 4 stars hotels with possibility to upgrade to 5 stars. In the inland the best available: mainly new 3 stars hotels with self-contain and air-conditioned rooms.
To complete the expedition we can arrange, on request, an extension to Nigerian capital: speed boat navigation to join Lagos via the lagoon. With is 21 million inhabitants, Lagos is the largest metropolis south of Sahara, a terrific melting-pot of contemporary Africa.
Day 1: ARRIVAL TO ABIDJAN Ivory Coast
Transfer from the airport to the comfortable hotel where we will spent two nights.
Day 2: ABIDJAN, SKYSCRAPERS AND LAGOONS Ivory Coast
Motorway departure for Abidjan that we will reach late morning. Beyond the lagoon, the “plateau” (the City District) is growing very fast, not horizontally as in most African towns but vertically, with its large modern buildings and skyscrapers. 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. Chaotic traffic is the negative result of the fast-economic development of this country that after the civil war has some time reached the 6% of the GDP.
Day 3: GRAND BASSAM Ivory Coast
Drive to Grand Bassam: old Town built on a sand bank between the lagoon and the ocean. It was the former 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 history and culture. Continuation in direction East to the small town of Aboisso.
Day 4: GOLD COAST Ivory Coast / Ghana
Early departure, drive to the Ghana border. In Axim visit fort St Antonio built by the Portuguese in 1515 at 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. More than 80 fortifications where built by Europeans during three centuries, to trade in gold, ivory and slaves. The name of this region, from the first Portuguese navigator that discover it navigators in 15th century to the independence in 1957 was named Gold Coast from the abundance of the gold traded. Evening arrival at Anomabu Beach resort where we will spend two nights. Air-Conditioned self -bungalows near the ocean. 31decemberv Gala dinner, in the African joyful stile.
Day 5: ELMINA UNIQUE ATMOSPHERE Ghana
Full day dedicated to discovering ancient slave trade castles and syncretic animistic shrines. After a stop at Cape Coast we will visit Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in Africa. Sao Jorge da Mina was erected by the Portuguese in 1482. At different times the castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. The castle we visit today is the result of successive extension works and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Facing the castle, the fishing harbour with hundreds of colourful and large fishing wooden canoes. In the old town and neighbours, we will discover the Posuban, shrines of the “Asafo companies” where the Asafo “warriors” still pour libations. The alleys in the old town have a unique atmosphere, bringing us back long time before the colonial era when Elmina was the first place of fix exchanges between Europeans and Sub Sahara Africa.
Day 6: ACCRA “THE CAPITAL” Ghana
The capital of Ghana has maintained its special identity despite the fast-paced development currently underway in this intriguing African vibe. We explore the old of James Town area, inhabited by the local population known as the Ga. Our tour ends with the visit of a workshop where they specialize in building fantasy coffins. These special handcrafted coffins can take on any shape: fruit, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. the only limit being imagination! Optional, swinging Accra: evening at one of the more typical music club in town.
Day 7: LOME, COSMOPOLITAN AND STYLISH CAPITAL Ghana / Togo
Morning drive to Togo border.
Lome, the vibrant capital of Togo, is the only African city which has been ruled a ruled by Germans, British and French and has attract traders from different African countries. It is also one of the rare capitals in the world bordering another nation. These elements have developed a unique lifestyle of its inhabitants, of is multi facet cuisine and is the architecture. Lome is a meeting point for people, trade and cultures, a cosmopolitan, but still in human size capital. We will visit: the central market with its famous “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 Africa, where we can find an eclectic assortment of all the necessary ingredients for love potions and magical concoctions.
Day 8: VOODOO Togo / Benin
Voodoo is the main religion in the coastal area of Togo and Benin and authentic ceremonies are common: the frenetic rhythm of drums and the chants of the adepts “call” the Voodoo spirits who takes possession of some participants. The possessed falls into a deep trance: eyes rolling 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 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.
Day 9: OUIDAH, AFRO-BRASILIAN CULTURE Benin
Between lagoons and ocean, we will discover Zangbeto cult. Zangbeto Mask Is very tall and covered with coloured straw. It represents wild, non-human spirits (the forces of nature and of the night that inhabited the Earth before human). The mask wearers belong to a secret society and keep their identity hidden as the non-initiated cannot know who they are. 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 cleaning 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 to become one of the main slave ports. We the start visit following the “slave road” to the beach, the point of “no return” where slaves were shipped to the “new world”. Ouidah enjoys a rare Afro-Brazilian architecture, where the python temple faces the Catholic Cathedral. The laid-back attitude of the locals blends in harmoniously with the thunder of the distant waves and the rhythm of the drums – a timeless atmosphere well described by Bruce Chatwin in his book “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 and the transatlantic slave trade and the links that this trade have created between Guinea Gulf countries and the Caribbean.
Day 10: THE STILTS VILLAGE Benin
Drive for miles on the fisherman track between endless yellow beaches, tall palm trees straw 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.
UNIQUE DEPARTURES: This itinerary is part of Sahara & West Africa Grand Expedition from Marrakech to Dakar and Cotonou.
EXPEDITION LEADER: Alberto Nicheli, TransAfrica founder, has been travelling in West Africa since 1975. He has led more than a hundred expeditions in West Africa and sixty-four Sahara expeditions, including solo crossing of the desert, ethnological research on Tuareg and rock art. He has organized the logistics of a documentary film for Discovery Channel on the Caravans of the Niger and has assisted in numerous research projects on West Africa with Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith from National Geographic, as well as in different television programs on West Africa. He has an expertise in Tribal Art and security in West Africa.
EXPLORATORY ITINERARY: This itinerary is an expedition; participants must be flexible and ready to enjoy the unique encounters but also some unexpected situations that are part of the “African Experience”.
Ivory Coast: single entry visa required. It is possible to obtain a pre-visa in few days at https://snedai.com/visa-biometrique The pre-visa will be easily transformed in visa at the arrival to Abidjan airport immigration office.
Togo: visa available at the border, please confirm with us before.
Benin, E-Visa: www.evisa.gouv.bj/en/
Ghana: Single entry visa required. The visa must be obtained at the competent embassy of the country of residency.
VACCINATIONS: Yellow fever – compulsory; malaria prophylaxis highly recommended. Cholera now don’t request, please check prior departure.
LUGGAGE: due to the exploratory itinerary, please to be contained in 20 kg (45 Lbs.) suggested duffle bags.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: Not included. Mandatory for medical assistance, repatriation, material and physical damages.
TRANSPORT: minibuses and 4×4 vehicles, boats.
MEALS: lunches: cold meals (picnics or sandwiches and fruit) or at restaurants. Dinners: at the hotel restaurants (pre-select menu). Included one bottle of water each day during the visits.
NOTICE: The itinerary is designed to discover fascinating places, where the visit of a foreigner remains an exceptional event. Participants need to be cooperative, tolerant and flexible to fully enjoy their tour and appreciate the unique nature, as well as the spontaneous hospitality of the local populations, African magic and mystery, its metaphysics, ceremonies, life philosophies and religious beliefs that people are willing to share with us.
Itineraries, visits and overnight accommodations are subject to change or modification by the organizer due to force majeure and can be modified or adapted to local conditions.