Sahara to the Heartlands of West Africa

Overland from the Sahara to the Heartlands of West Africa – a 57 day Small Group Tour from £14,245 per person.


Join this astonishing expedition across the Sahara and deep into West Africa. A truly authentic experience that takes in Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Experience local authentic cultures: the most isolated Berber villages in the high Sarhro Mountains, and cave-dwelling families. Meet the legendary Reguibat and Saharawi nomads of the still untamed Western Sahara, currently part of Morocco. The Moorish nomads and camel herders, to fishermen living at the edge of the desert on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In the south visit sacred forests where animistic traditional religions are still practiced, witness fetish and shrines in remote villages, tribal kings, dancing masks and initiations in the sacred Archipelago.

We will meet “timeless” men and women and visit historical sites such as Marrakech, Dakhla the ancient capital of Rio de Oro, Saint Louis, first capital of the former French West African Colonies, Dakar, the most cosmopolitan West African metropolis, Goré the slave-trade island, Bolama a forgotten capital in the forest.

In Guinea-Bissau we sail to the Bijagos Islands, where local customs are at their  strongest and unusual wildlife dwells, then return to the mainland to travel through the lands of the Fulani, stopping in small villages and explore the stunning highlands of the Fouta Djalon range. In Guinea we see mask dances of ancient secret societies, the incredible ‘living bridges’ of the rainforest, and chimpanzees.

Moving on to Sierra Leone we stay on lush tropical islands and discover delightful fishing villages, gorgeous beaches and the troubling history of the slave trade. From here we head to the diamond belt of Sierra Leone, meeting those who seek their fortune and learning how diamonds have played such a fateful role in the country’s history. In Liberia we explore the heritage of this unusual country, founded by freed Afro-American slaves in the 19th century and quite different to others in the region.

Ivory Coast offers us the opportunity to witness the incredible ‘living bridges’ of the rainforest and see the amazing mask dances of the Dan and Guere people, as well as the rather bizarre ‘cathedral in the forest’ – the vast and opulent basilica at Yamoussoukro. As we return to the coast we travel through old colonial settlements dotted with European forts and charming colonial buildings, on our way to Accra. Our final two countries, Togo and Benin, are home to the followers of voodoo and we have excellent opportunities to learn about this much misunderstood religion, seeing traditional ceremonies and dances that are among the most fascinating spectacles in West Africa.

This is an exploratory tour that often travels through remote parts of West Africa, allowing you to see a number of different countries in a short space of time, and where the visit of a ‘foreigner’ is often an exceptional event. Perfect for those that are big on ambition but short on time, this trip delves into the magic and mystery of an ever-enchanting region. West Africa rarely fails to cast a spell on those who visit.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour style

Pioneer

Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.

Itinerary.

Upon arrival in Marrakech transfer to hotel accommodation in the heart of the city. Overnight in a comfortable hotel. No meals nor guided arrangements are included today.

Leaving Marrakech, we drive towards the High Atlas mountain range, gaining spectacular views towards the 2,093m Tizi n Test pass. We stop at Aït Benhaddou, a beautiful adobe ksar (fortified village) which is still partially inhabited and sits on the ancient caravan route linking Marrakech with the Sahara. The surrounding area has been the setting for many famous movies, including David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia. In the evening we arrive at Ouarzazate, a large oasis town known as ‘the gate to the desert’, and another place with cinematic connections through its use as a location in HBO blockbuster, Game of Thrones. Overnight in a comfortable hotel. (BLD)

Today we explore little-visited regions of Jebel Sahro, following a remote track that climbs rocky valleys through a breathtaking landscape of mountains and desert. The goal is to reach a tiny village in a ‘secret valley’, hidden in a narrow depression and invisible to the surrounding highlands. This remarkable green miracle has an oasis, a stream and waterfalls. We arrive at Zagora Oasis in the evening. Overnight in a comfortable hotel. (BLD)

From Mhamid, where the Sahara begins, our 4WD enters a region of large dunes called Erg Chegaga. Crossing the dune sea, we reach the spectacular landscape of Iriqui saltwater lake, known for its fossil deposits, and continue towards Icht. Day 4 – Overnight in a comfortable fixed camp with beds, restaurant and facilities; Day 5 – Overnight in a comfortable hotel.  (BLD)

Travelling in a landscape of mountains, valleys and large palm-fringed oases, the road leads to Guelmim. Here we discover the vestiges of the ancient trans-Sahara camel caravan trade. Our route, in common with migratory birds, primarily follows the coast. We visit a ghostly military fort which still ‘guards’ the former border between the French protectorate of Morocco and Spanish Sahara. The surroundings feel like the set of a desert classic, a detachment of the French Foreign Legion just about to march into the frame. Later, in the afternoon we arrive at the comfortable Ksar Tafnidilt hotel, built using local materials in a beautiful Saharan style. The hotel is managed by our friends, Guy and Magali, a French couple. Magali is a desert expert, she won the 2,500km ‘Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles’ a gruelling off-piste vehicle rally reserved for female teams. Ksar Tifnidit is a meeting point for passionate Sahara travellers. Overnight at Ksar Tifnidit. (BLD)

This morning we leave Ksar Tifnidit, crossing a steep range of dunes into the region of the Dra estuary, an area visited only by the most intrepid travellers. Between the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean there are no paved roads. Along the way we find tiny temporary settlements of fishermen, abandoned colonial military posts, dunes… and camels. Leaving the coastline, we navigate our way along a dry riverbed at the base of a large canyon, the only possible path between high dunes, cliffs and the ocean. Later, we return to our hotel. Overnight at Ksar Tifnidit. (BLD)

Heading south, from the town of Tan-Tan the road again shadows steep cliffs plunging from the desert to the Atlantic Ocean. We visit the Naila lagoon, separated from the ocean by rows of dunes. It is the largest salt lake in Morocco and a protected area of great natural beauty with prolific migratory birdlife. In late afternoon we expect to arrive in the small town of Tarfaya on the Juby Cape, as the crow flies, less than 100 km from the Canary Islands. Tarfaya is a former ‘Aeropostale’ base, a system that pioneered airmail transport from Europe to Africa and Latin America. Overnight in Hotel Casamar or similar. (BLD)

Crossing into Western Sahara, at Laayoune we meet our guide, a Sahrawi nomad who will lead us on three days of a real desert expedition. Former Spanish Sahara has witnessed a long war between the Polisario Front and the Moroccan army. Morocco currently occupies a large western slice of Western Sahara, effectively annexing the territory, while areas to the east are controlled by the Polisario Front. Since the second half of the seventies, due to this long ‘sand war’, the region has been off-limits. No peace treaty has been signed, but a cease-fire in effect since 1991 is respected. We are among the first to bring intrepid travellers to the vast, sandy regions of Saguia El Hamra and Tiris Gharbia. In this true Saharan expedition, we cross large dunes and get off-the-beaten-track to discover wells frequented by camel caravans of the legendary Reguibat nomads.  Overnights on Days 9 and 10 will be wild camping. (BLD)

Our off-piste trans-Saharan expedition traverses a region of dunes, wells and the camps of nomadic camel herders. Later in the afternoon, we join a road that takes us closer to the ocean, in the evening arriving at a comfortable ocean front hotel in Dakhla, our base for two nights. Overnight Hotel Doumss or similar. (BLD)

The exceptional beauty of the Dakhla peninsula make it a truly special place. Lately it’s become a hotspot for kite surfers, ideal water and wind conditions drawing a regular migration of enthusiasts from Europe and beyond.  Outside the town at Rio de Oro a 40km sea loch lies between cliffs and dunes. Here the landscape is spectacular, characterised by the intense blue of the ocean, banks of yellow sand, and green seaweed fields, while the brown rocks and white dunes form an island during high tide. The town of Dakhla itself was founded by Spanish navigators in 1502, then known as Villa Cisneros, and remains an intriguing crossroads of cultures. We visit the fishing harbour and have lunch at an oyster farm before driving along the shore. Later we return to our ocean front hotel in Dakhla. Overnight Hotel Doumss or similar. (BLD)

Our journey continues, and a much-photographed sign soon indicates we’re crossing the Tropic of Cancer. Following the cliffs, only a very few vehicles populate this remote ‘highway’ heading south to Mauritania, the only open border from the Maghreb into West Africa. Arriving at the border, an isolated military post in the desert, we complete formalities and cross a few miles of no man’s land. This hinterland is strewn with hundreds of abandoned vehicles, their carcasses littering the desert. There used to be a minefield here, which has apparently been cleared. However, it’s best to follow recent tracks in the sand. Mad Max territory for sure. Beyond the wasteland lies a Mauritanian military post, and more bureaucracy. By the evening we’ll have arrived in Nouadhibou, terminus for the immense iron ore trains arriving from Choum. Overnight Hotel El Medina or similar. (BLD)

The next two days will be spent exploring the desert. Thanks to the experience of our staff and local guide, we’ll blaze our own trail, tracing an unmarked path in the sand known only to the people of the Inchiri region. This is one of the lesser-known parts of the Mauritanian desert – which is saying something. Here we’re unlikely to encounter people, but we will discover traces of ancient human presence, stone tools and pottery remains thousands of years old. Overnights mobile camp. (BLD)

The landscapes of Mauritania’s deserts and mountains are remarkable; valleys, high mountains, yellow dunes with peaks of red rock, and lost adobe villages at night lit only by the moon. We explore Amatlich Erg surely one of the most beautiful dune ranges in the region. Crossing the Adrar Mountains, we follow the Amorag track through a landscape of gorges and highlands. In the evening we arrive in the ancient caravan trading centre and holy site of Chinguetti where we’ll spend three nights. Overnight at La Gueila Guesthouse or similar. (BLD)

Chinguetti was once the capital of the Moorish Empire, and parts of the old stone town are still inhabited. Among the sandy back streets, a ramshackle library contains fascinating ancient manuscripts detailing astronomical observations and mathematical calculations. Just ask if you want to have a look. The town’s Ksar, made of white stone with five towers, is a remarkable example of Arabo-Berber architecture and well worth a visit. We spend the day amid the atmospheric old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered the best preserved of Mauritania’s oasis settlements. Overnight at La Gueila Guesthouse or similar. (BLD)

Today we discover Ouadane, the most remote oasis settlement in Mauritania. Founded in 1147 and now mostly in ruins, some of the stone houses are still inhabited. This was an important caravan trading point between Maghreb and sub-Saharan. Afterwards we return to Chinguetti taking a route that follows the wadi (dry creek). Overnight at La Gueila Guesthouse or similar. (BLD)

Early in the morning we continue through the desert to Nouakchott ‘the place of winds’, capital of Mauritania. Overnight Halima Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Today we depart for Senegal, heading for the border post at the natural frontier with Mauritania, the Senegal River. We cross over on a mobile bridge, almost immediately moving into a more humid climate between desert and dry savannah. The Djoudj National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands. It’s an important habitat for over a million migratory and resident birds. A boat excursion allows us to experience the rich birdlife, in particular an island with an astonishing concentration of pelicans. Later, we arrive at the historic city of Saint-Louis. Dinner and overnight accommodation are at the at Hotel de la Poste, an historical hotel built in 1850 to accommodate ‘Aeropostale’ pilots. Sympathetically restored, it has the best old colonial atmosphere in town. (BLD)

Today we take a morning tour of Saint-Louis, a charming colonial old town and the first capital of all the French colonies in West Africa. The best way to navigate the narrow streets is to follow the local example and hop aboard an open, horse-drawn calash. In the late morning we leave the city and head south, driving over 100km along the beach, crossing dune ranges, to reach the desert of Lompoul and our overnight stop. Overnight in a fixed camp. (BLD)

Today head further south to Lac Rose, also known as Lac Retba, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes. The water is ten times saltier than the ocean and often shimmers under the sun in shades of pink. Here, more than 600 people still collect salt the traditional way. Later we visit the largest fishing village in Senegal, where more than 4,500 pirogues land their catch each day. Arriving into Dakar, our first stop is the ‘village des arts’, composed of more than fifty workshops occupied by contemporary artists. We will meet some of the artists and see their works, ranging from painting, sculpture and pottery to photography and film.  Afterwards we leave our vehicles at the port and board a ferry to Ile de Gorée. Gorée has a dark history. Along with other deep-water ports, it was a transhipment point where slaves loaded into ships and transported to the plantations of the Americas, never to see Africa again. Some restored buildings remain to bear witness to this trade in human misery. However, today Ile de Gorée’s breezy climate and ancient architecture, together with good restaurants and boutiques, attract visitors from Dakar and beyond. Overnight at Maison Municipal Guesthouse or similar. (BLD)

After a leisurely breakfast, we continue our tour of Gorée with a visit to the interesting local museum including historical and pre-historical artefacts. We return to Dakar in time for lunch. The afternoon is left at leisure for you to relax or take a stroll in town. In the evening, we will go to a club to enjoy some live music and lively vibes. Overnight Le Djoloff Boutique Hotel or similar. (BLD)

We are taking today a city tour of Dakar, which became an important centre of the political, artistic and intellectual “renouveau” during the independence time. Our visit includes the “Musée des Civilisations Noires”, where we can admire great collections of Tribal Art, textiles, and contemporary local art, and then see the ‘Plateau’ district, the Presidential Palace and a typical market. Overnight at Le Djoloff Boutique Hotel, or similar. (BLD)

Leaving Dakar behind, we drive to Kaolack, and important port for exporting peanuts and salt from Senegal and nearest countries. Overnight at Hotel Le Relais de Kaolak, or similar. (BLD)

This morning we break for the border with Gambia, crossing the Gambia River on a very rustic ferry. We have lunch in Banjul and visit the town centre and its surprisingly interesting National Museum. Overnight at Atlantic Hotel, or similar. (BLD)

This morning we take brief guided birdwatching walk before departing for the border with Casamance, the southern region of Senegal. In the afternoon we have the chance to observe the sacred mask dances of the Diola people, rarely seen by foreigners. The mask belongs to a secret society and the identity of dancers is not revealed. The dances are colourful and an authentic West African experience. It’s said the mask is animated by the spirits. Overnight Kadianoumange Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Crossing the border into Guinea-Bissau, we enter a region inhabited by the Manjaco ethnic group. We visit tiny villages hidden in the forest to witness carved wooden poles called ‘pecab’, representing spirits of the ancestors, in a sanctuary known as the ‘Cab Balugun’. After gaining permission from the villagers, we see other different generations and styles of sacred wooden sculptures. This encounter is one of the last chances to appreciate tribal art in its original cultural context. Overnight Hotel Azalai or similar. (BLD)

Today we start a three-day sailing adventure that will take us to discover the Bijagos Archipelago, its’ fascinating nature and isolated ethnic peoples. The Bijagos Archipelago is composed of 88 small and large islands located at an average of 40 miles away from the mainland. Bolama was the former capital of the Portuguese Guinea from 1871. In 1941 the capital was moved to Bissau and when the Portuguese left, native people came to live in this town which is now falling apart, partly invaded by tropical vegetation. Bolama, which has been built according to the style of a «Castrum Romane» (roman citadel), is now a good mix of straight large avenues, sunny and lethargic empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens and 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. The next two nights are spent at Ponta Anchaca Resort or similar. (BLD)

We take a short crossing this morning to Bubaque island, the “capital” of Bijagos Archipelago to visit its market and tiny museum. In the afternoon, we hope to experience a mask dance, the most spectacular of which is a helmet wooden mask called Vaca Bruto (wild bull). With eyes of frosted glass, real horns, leather ears and a rope through the nostril, the masks are animated by the bucking of the dancers. All the villagers attend this fascinating ceremony. Overnight at Ponta Anchaca Resort, or similar. (BLD)

This morning is left at leisure for you to relax at Ponta Anchaca wild beaches, or if you wish you can take an optional excursion to Orango Island, which is part of the Parque Natural do Grupo das Ilhas de Orango. The island is covered by a savannah and is known for the presence of unique saltwater hippos. From October to the first part of February it is possible to follow their tracks; however, as they move around the island searching for saltwater ponds, the local guides can lose their tracks for days. After lunch, we leave the islands behind and return to the mainland. On arrival in Bissau we have time for a quick look around the city with its colonial Portuguese architecture and huge fort. Overnight at Hotel Azalai, or similar. (BLD)

 

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, at Karsa Hotel or similar (BLD)

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 – in Labe at the basic but comfortable and clean Hotel Tata; day 4 – in Coyah at Hotel Safitel). (BLD)

Explore the small town of Dalaba, with its interesting ‘casa a palabra’, a finely decorated building used for local chiefs. We also visit the villa of Guinea’s first president, Sekou Toure, and then continue to the market town of Mamou. Overnight Hotel Balys or similar. (BLD)

Drive to the border with Sierra Leone, where we stop at the village of Kamakwie to see traditional mask dances. From here continue to Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. Overnight White House Hotel (Day 34) and Swiss Hotel (Day 35 – Freetown), or similar. (BLD)

Explore Freetown visiting its lively markets and seeing examples of old colonial architecture, and heading out to its beaches. From here travel the archipelago of the Banana Islands, with its stunning beaches and fishing villages. Overnight Bafa Lodge or similar. (BLD)

We continue our journey to meet the Mende people for who, masks are a female’s domain and woman play a crucial role in the initiation rites. We reach a tiny village where we assist at the exit of these Bundo masks, a particularly colourful event. We then continue to the town of Bo, in the west of the country. Overnight at Dohas Hotel or similar. (BLD)

We spend the morning learning about the process of diamond mining, as we join some villagers who show us their craft. From here we continue to the border with Liberia, and from here drive to Monrovia. Overnight Cape Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Spend the morning exploring 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. From here drive to Gbarnga for the night. Overnight Passion Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Drive through northern Liberia and back into Guinea, to a lush region of thick forests and remote villages. We see mask dances while here, including one of the ‘bird men, dressed in feathers and with their faces painted white with kaolin. This is a secret society, and its members are believed to have powers that make them invisible. We also see the impressive bridges made of living vines, believed to be built by spirits during the course of just one night. Overnight Hotel Macenta (Day 41) and Hotel Bethanie (Day 42), or similar. (BLD)

Head to the small village of Bossou and explore the forest, home to a group of chimpanzees. Constantly monitored by researchers, they are relatively easy to approach. From here we cross into Ivory Coast and drive to the town of Man. Overnight Hotel Les Cascades or similar. (BLD)

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)

Venture into the forest to reach some of the more isolated settlements of the Guere people. Here we will see their mask dances and if lucky, a dance of the ‘jongleurs’, a rare performance involving initiated women with white painted faces, and considerable acrobatic prowess! Continue to Daloa for the night. Overnight Hotel La Grace or similar. (BLD)

This morning we see a ceremony of the Zaouli dancing masks, a tradition of the Guro people. From here 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 Royal or similar. (BLD)

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)

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. Continue to Aboisso for the night. Overnight Hotel La Roche or similar. (BLD)

Cross into Ghana and drive to Axim. Here we stop at the 16th century Portuguese fort, one of many early European fortifications dotted along this coast. After exploring the fort, drive east to Anomabu. Overnighgt Anomabu Beach Resort or similar. (BLD)

We visit 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 Anomabu Beach Resort or similar. (BLD)

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 Villa Boutique Hotel or similar. (BLD)

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. Overnight Hotel Onomo or similar. (BLD)

This morning 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. Then, meet with the ‘Celestial Church’, a uniquely Togolese phenomenon which blends aspects of voodoo and Christianity. We then cross into Benin and head to the small town of Grand Popo, on the coast. Overnight Auberge de Grand Popo or similar. (BLD)

We cross into Benin where we witness the Zangbeto dances. Its performance guarantees protection against bad spirits and witchcraft. The Zangbeto mask is very tall and covered in coloured straw. The spinning movement of the mask symbolizes the spiritual cleaning of the village and Zangbeto also performs « miracles » to prove it powers. 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)

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)

Dates & Price.

Sahara to the Heartlands of West Africa

Marrakech to Cotonou (57 days)

20 Nov 2021 to 15 Jan 2022 – £14,245 / Single Supplement – £1,755

19 Nov 2022 to 15 Jan 2023 – £14,245 / Single Supplement – £1,755

Call us to book your place

Cotonou to Marrakech (57 days – reverse itinerary)

This tour also operates in the reverse direction from Cotonou to Marrakech: 5 Mar 2022 to 30 Apr 2022

Please contact us for details and an itinerary


Can’t make the whole thing? Then shorter options of this incredible tour are available:

Marrakech to Dakar (22 Days) – call for prices

Marrakech to Nouakchott (19 Days) – call for prices

Marrakech to Dakhla (12 Days) – call for prices

Laayoune to Nouakchott (12 Days) – call for prices

Dakhla to Bissau (21 Days) – call for prices

Nouakchott to Bissau (13 Days) – call for prices

Dakar to Cotonou (35 days) – call for prices

Bissau to Cotonou (27 days) – call for prices

Bissau to Monrovia (12 days) – call for prices

Freetown to Cotonou (21 days) – call for prices


Tour Notes

Single Supplement from £1,755 for the full 57 day tour.

Return flights from London to Marrakech and returning from Cotonou start at £800. Contact us for a quotation.

We include airport transfers in the price of your tour if you are arriving on the first day and leaving on the last day of the advertised itinerary. These will be provided by our local representative or on occasions by the hotel used for the first and last nights of the tour. When the transfer is provided by the hotel this will often be via a shared shuttle bus operated by the hotel. If you are planning to arrive before the start date, and/or leave after the end date of the tour, Undiscovered Destinations can arrange private transfers at an additional cost. Please check with us at the time of booking.

Please note that if you have arranged extra pre and/or post tour accommodation, either through Undiscovered Destinations or directly with the hotel or an agent, airport transfers are not included in the price of your tour. Please contact us if you would like Undiscovered Destinations to arrange private airport transfers at an additional cost.

Mapped itinerary.

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For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44 (0)191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers provided on a shared or private basis depending on location. On occasions the transfer will be operated by a hotel shuttle bus (*please see notes below
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • All accommodation
  • Services of English-speaking guide / tour leader
  • Full board from Breakfast on Day 2 to Lunch on Day 57
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Note – Airport Transfers

We include airport transfers in the price of your tour if you are arriving on the first day and leaving on the last day of the advertised itinerary. These will be provided by our local representative or on occasions by the hotel used for the first and last nights of the tour. When the transfer is provided by the hotel this will often be via a shared shuttle bus operated by the hotel. If you are planning to arrive before the start date, and/or leave after the end date of the tour, Undiscovered Destinations can arrange private transfers at an additional cost. Please check with us at the time of booking.

Please note that if you have arranged extra pre and/or post tour accommodation, either through Undiscovered Destinations or directly with the hotel or an agent, airport transfers are not included in the price of your tour. Please contact us if you would like Undiscovered Destinations to arrange private airport transfers at an additional cost.

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Any airport taxes
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas (contact us for details)
  • Additional drinks
  • Items of personal nature
  • Tips (Discretionary)

A very enjoyable time. Our guide Francesca was excellent, she was on top of all the arrangements. I was really impressed. The itinerary was great and really saw unusual and interesting things every day. Particularly loved the Bijagos Islands, at the full moon saw green turtles nesting, laying eggs and babies hatching and running to the sea.

Pamela Stubing, USA