Saga Tours of Mali — West Africa Adventure Travel
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Experience Mali's river, escarpment, sahel and desert ecosystems
– see the interactions of traditional populations in their natural environments
– plant trees to produce fruit, shade, and to combat desertification — leave a positive impact on your trip to Mali !
12 days / 8 nights hotel, 3 nights camping
[option to upgrade to 11 nights hotel, no camping]
Every tour is private, scheduled on dates of your choice, beginning on a Saturday and ending on a Wednesday in Bamako, MALI; there are no fixed-date group departures.
Contact us for prices. Groups of any size are welcome. Be sure to specify the month/year of travel, and how many persons are in your partyprices are digressive, so a better value per person for a party of four than a party of two, etc.
Regretfully this tour is temporarily unavailable as-is, due to security issues in Timbuktu.
A modified version can be implemented, excluding Timbuktu.
Day 1 Saturday: Arrival in Bamako, MALI
International flight arrives in Bamako in the evening; our staff will meet you in the Arrivals hall of Bamako airport, and provide your hotel transfer; overnight in Bamako (Hotel Mande, or similar).
Day 2 Sunday: Bamako - Djenne (570 km; ~7½hrs)
Breakfast, then we depart Bamako at 9h00 AM, beginning our ecotour with a scenic drive through the heartland of Mali, to Djenne; with sight-seeing en-route. Overnight in Djenne (Hotel Campement, or similar).
Day 3 Monday: Djenne - Mopti (130 km; ~1½hr)
Djenne was one of the first commercial centers of the Sahel region: it was the meeting place of the nomads from the Sahara, the local farmers and cattle herders, and the fishermen from the inland delta of the Niger.
Today is the weekly market day, and after exploring the market we will stroll the ancient alleys and narrow streets, and see the oldest house in Djenne, dating from the XIIth century. We will visit the tomb of the young girl sacrificed to appease the spirits; and we will also see the magnificent Great Mosque, the world's largest mud brick architecture—originally constructed in the XIIIth century, this is one of Unesco's World Heritage sites. We will visit the Djenne museum as we depart Djenne, and drive onward to Mopti for overnight (Hotel Ya Pas de Probleme, or similar).
Day 4 Tuesday: Mopti - Timbuktu (380 km; ~5½hrs)
This morning we have our Mopti city tour: Mopti is called "the Venice of Mali" because it is surrounded by the waters of the Niger and the Bani rivers; see the Komoguel mosque, the fishing port (see pirogues being made by hand), and the bustling market where many of Mali's ethnic groups come to trade: Bambara, Bobo, Bozo, Dogon, Fulani, Tuareg and Songhay. Along the waterfront note the cargoes of salt slabs just arrived from the northern salt mines, or smoked fish to ship south; see young boys bathing sheep in the river before taking them to market.
Around 9h30 AM, we will depart Mopti for an interesting drive across the Sahel ecosystem, to the legendary city of Timbuktu, gateway to the Sahara Desert. Observe the limited but robust vegetation adapted to this harsh climate; along the way, we may see desert nomad families travelling with their camels and goat herds; ferry-crossing and onward to our hotel, for overnight in Timbuktu (Hotel du Desert, or similar).
Day 5 Wednesday: Timbuktu - Sahara Desert
NB: due to security concerns we do not go deep into the desert.
Today we visit the legendary and historical city of Timbuktu. In its glory-days, Timbuktu attracted Muslim scholars from the entire Arab world; we will visit the ancient mosques and former universities, the museum and the Ahmed Baba Institute archives of ancient Islamic manuscripts, the explorers' houses, and the market which receives the azalaïs, the salt caravans from the desert—at one time salt was literally worth its weight in gold. We will visit a dune reclamation project and plant some trees to combat desertification.
Lunchtime break, then in the afternoon we depart on our camel caravan into the Sahara Desert to visit a Tuareg camp on the dunes; the Tuareg people are known as the Princes of the desert, or the Blue Men of the desert (for the blue tinge on their skin from their indigo-dyed clothing). Enjoy dinner and tea on the dunes, and overnight camping with your Tuareg hosts, the Princes of the Desert.
with Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 Thursday: Timbuktu - Dogon country (500 km; ~7½hrs)
This morning we return to Timbuktu, and onward drive across the Sahel, all the way to Mali's fascinating Dogon country; overnight in Sangha, on the edge of the Bandiagara escarpment (Hotel Campement Guina, or similar).
with Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 Friday: Dogon Country
Early breakfast, then we begin our foot-trek to visit Dogon villages along the Bandiagara escarpment, another Unesco World Heritage site. The Dogon tribe originated in the south of Mali, which they fled to preserve their animist religion from the spread of Islam. When they arrived at the Bandiagara cliffs, they found the Tellem people occupying grottos carved in the face of the cliff. They eventually displaced the Tellem people, and used the grottos to bury their dead—funerary rites are an important part of the Dogon culture.
On our trek we will see many examples of the classic traditional Dogon architecture (square houses and circular granaries, made of stone and mud-bricks) and contemporary fetishism. Our trek will be tailored for our group, according to the trekkers' ability and desire to walk and climb; in the afternoon we will visit a traditional medicine research center. Option to witness a traditional Dogon mask dance in a village. Overnight camping in a Dogon village.
with Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8 Saturday: Dogon country - Mopti (120 km; ~2hrs)
This morning we will plant mango trees in a Dogon village, for food and shade; in the afternoon we will return to Mopti for overnight (Hotel Ya Pas de Probleme, or similar).
with Breakfast, Lunch
Day 9 Sunday: Mopti / Niger River
Today we will have a relaxing full day's sailing excursion on the Niger River, by private river boat. We will visit Bozo fishing villages and nomadic Fulani camps along the shore; observe the large variety of Mali's birds, and perhaps see hippos in the river (do not approach—hippos are dangerous). Overnight camping on the river bank.
with Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10 Monday: Mopti - Teriyabugu - Segou (450 km; ~6hrs)
This morning ends our sailing excursion, and we drive to Teriyabugu village to see a remarkable rural sustainable development project founded in the 1980's, featuring farming, small-animal husbandry, bee-keeping, tree-farming, solar-energy production, biogas and biofuel production. After our visit, we continue onward to Segou for overnight (Hotel Independance, or similar).
Day 11 Tuesday: Segou - Bamako (235 km; ~3hrs)
This morning we visit Segou, Mali's former colonial capital, with its interesting mix of traditional and colonial architecture. We will visit the Kasobane boutique with its high-end traditional and contemporary textile art; we will stop by the Nieleni cooperative, which makes hand-woven high-quality wool rugs, and visit another women's cooperative that makes traditional millet beer. Then renjoy a relaxing stroll through the traditional pottery market on the waterfront.
After lunch we depart Segou for Sekoro village, which was the original Segou and former capital of the Bambara kingdom. We will meet the village chief, who is a descendant of the King Biton Coulibaly. Then onward drive to Bamako, with the rest of day at leisure. Overnight in Bamako (Hotel Mande, or similar).
Day 12 Wednesday: Bamako - final departure
And lastly, we visit Bamako: we get a magnificent over-view of this sprawling city from Point G, with a visit of the ancient grottos and rock paintings. Then on to the National Museum (see www.mnm-mali.org), with its impressive collections of textiles from the 11th to the 20th century; ancient Bamanan, Dogon and Senoufo sculptures; terracotta objects from archeological sites; and contemporary African paintings and sculptures. In the dry season (most of the year), we will visit visit Bamako's "submersible bridge", which is passable only in the dry season, a remarkable local adaptation to the flooding cycles of the river. In the afternoon we will visit the city market, the artisans' village, the recycling market and the fetish market for traditional medicine. In the evening, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
1 km ~ 0.6 mile; driving times are approximate, depending on local conditions and stops
NB: Hotels subject to availability; on this ecotour we select simple hotels rather than our usual, more upscale hotels; see
proposed hotels description.
Upgrade to all-hotel accommodations/no-camping is also available—please specify if you prefer the no-camping option.
Tour package includes:
- 8 nights hotel, double occupancy
- 3 nights camping; bring your sleeping bags, other camping material is provided
- day-room in Bamako on the final day
- 11 breakfasts (B), 3 lunches (L), 4 dinners (D)
- private ground transportation by 4x4 vehicle, with driver and fuel
- full-day sailing excursion on the Niger River by private river boat
- excursion into the Sahara Desert by camel caravan, to visit a Tuareg camp on the dunes
- trees to plant in Timbuktu and Dogon country
- experienced English-speaking guide throughout
- airport transfers upon arrival and departure in Bamako
- all hotel taxes and local tourism taxes
- all excursion, site visit and entry fees as per tour program
Tour package does not include: international airfare to/from Bamako; Mali visas; non-specified meals, drinks/bottled water; sleeping bags; optional Dogon mask dance; tips and personal expenses.
Option: traditional Dogon mask dance performed in a village — upon request
NB: Posted itineraries are subject to change, and quoted prices are accordingly subject to change; itineraries and prices are locked-in when a tour is booked.
Please note: Saga Tours does not handle international air reservations and ticketing.
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