Heartlands of West Africa

Heartlands of West Africa

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 23 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Day 1 – Bissau

Arrive in Bissau and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel Azalai or similar

Day 2 – Malinke region - Gabu

Morning drive to a small village in the Malinke region. The Malinke are descendants of the ancient empire of Mali and we visit a community of ‘griots’ – traditional musicians and story tellers who play an important part in conserving the traditions of West Africa. We learn about their history and customs, and witness a traditional griot performance. Overnight simple hotel in Gabu. (BLD)

Days 3-4 – Gabu – Labe – Coyah

A small track takes us to the border of Guinea, crossing the Fouta Djalon, an area inhabited by Malinke and Fulani tribes, and we stop in villages where the arrival of western visitors is a rare event. We visit isolated villages, composed of large clay houses decorated with bas relief, high conical roofs with several layers of straw. Overnight tourist class hotels (day 3 – Labe, day 4 – Coyah) (BLD)

Days 5-6 – Lungi - Bunce Island – Tasso Island

Drive through a region of forests and lagoons, to the border with Sierra Leone. In the Lungi region we take a boat to visit the islands of Bunce and Tasso to discover wild beaches, remote fishing villages and a fort dating back to the time of the slave trade. Overnight simple hotels. (BLD)

Day 7 – Freetown

Arrive in Freetown and spend the day visiting its lively markets, seeing examples of old colonial architecture, and heading out to its beaches. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BLD)

Day 8 – Banana Islands - Tacugama

Travel the archipelago of the Banana Islands, with its stunning beaches and fishing villages. We then return to the mainland head to Tacugama or return to our hotel in Freetown. (BLD)

Day 9 – Tacugama - Kenema

Spend the morning at Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, home to a large number of chimps that have either been orphaned or rescued from captivity, and are in the process of re-acclimatising to community life. Afterwards head to Kenema, the diamond capital of Sierra Leone. Overnight simple hotel. (BLD)

Day 10 – Kenema – Bo

Explore the Kenema region, meeting diamond panners and learning how this precious stone has played an important – and all too often tragic – role in the country’s history. We then continue to the town of Bo, in the west of the country. Overnight Dohas Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 11 – Robertsport

Drive to the border with Liberia – expect bumpy and difficult tracks at times as we drive through the rainforest. We then head to Robertsport, founded by freed Afro-American slaves in the 19th century. Overnight Nana’s Lodge. (BLD)

Day 12 - Monrovia

Spend the morning exploring Roberstport, then continue to Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. We visit the National Museum and the impressive Masonic Temple of Liberia, that has played an important part in Liberian history over the years. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BLD)

Days 13-14 – To Danane

Drive through the north east of Liberia to reach the border with Ivory Coast. The rainforest here is known for its liana bridges, made from living vines and an astonishing example of ‘tribal technology’. We visit these bridges and then drive to remote villages to meet the Guere and Dan people. We spend a full day exploring their complex cultures and customs and seeing impressive mask dances. One night simple guesthouse, one night Hotel Les Cascades or similar. (BLD)

Day 15 - Man

Today is a full day discovering masks and magic traditions. We drive to remote villages in the forest to see the Guere ethnic group. We will see the powerful Dan Guere Mask dances, and, if we are lucky, the rare ‘jugglers’ performance. We return to our hotel. Overnight Hotel Les Cascades or similar (BLD)

Day 16 – Yamoussoukro

Drive to Yamoussoukro, once just a village but now Cote d’Ivoire’s bizarre administrative capital. Yamoussoukro is dominated by the gigantic Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, reputedly the largest Christian place of worship on earth, and we spend time exploring this vast complex. Overnight Hotel President or similar. (BLD)

Day 17 – Abdijan

Head to Abidjan, the country’s capital and a modern and glitzy contrast to the trip so far. Spend the rest of the day exploring the city, with a boat trip through the lagoon, a visit to its lively market and the National Museum to gain an insight into the different ethnic groups that live here. Overnight Hotel Azalai or similar. (BLD)

Days 18-19 – Grand Bassam – Axim – Elmina

Drive to the city of Grand Bassam with its old colonial buildings and atmosphere of yesteryear, to explore and learn about the history of the country. From here cross into Ghana and visit the coastal town of Axim, with its 16<sup>th</sup> century Portuguese fort. The following day we drive to the fishing town of Elmina, best known for St George’s Castle, the oldest European building in Africa and once used as holding centre for slaves. In the town itself we explore the old quarter with its unique Posuban shrines, made by the traditional ‘asafo’ societies which were once responsible for local defence. Overnight Axim Resort (Day 18) and Anomabu Resort (Day 19) or similar. (BLD)

Day 20 – Accra

Continue to Accra, visiting the National Museum and the old quarter of Jamestown, as well as the quarter where craftsmen design flamboyant coffins for the deceased – a uniquely Ghanaian experience. Overnight Accra City Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 21 – Lome

We cross the border into Togo and head to Lome, the only African city to have been colonised by the French, British and Germans. Explore the city including its central markets and the fascinating – if rather gruesome – fetish market, where animal parts are sold for use in traditional medicines. Travel to a remote and hidden village, where we witness a voodoo ceremony – unique to this part of the world, and sure to be one of the highlights of your trip. Overnight Hotel Onomo or similar. (BLD)

Day 22 - Ouidah

Meet with the ‘Celestial Church’, a uniquely Togolese phenomenon which belnds aspects of voodoo and Christianity. We then cross into Benin and witness a dance of the Egun masks, a powerful secret society that are both revered and feared in Benin. From here we continue to the coastal town of Ouidah, a stronghold of voodoo and once an important slave port. Overnight Hotel Casa del Papa or similar. (BLD)

Day 23 – Ouidah – Ganvie - Cotonou

We visit the python temple, where snakes are venerated as representations of gods, the old Portuguese fort and finally head to the beach and the sombre ‘Gate of No Return’, the point from which slaves left Africa for the New World. In the afternoon we head out onto Lake Nokwe to visit Ganvie, the largest stilt village in Africa situated in the middle of the water. Continue to Cotonou where the tour ends – day use rooms are available to freshen up before your transfer to the airport to fly home. (BL)

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