Saga Tours of Mali — West Africa Adventure Travel
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Sandama Tour – 16 days
Mali · Burkina Faso · Ghana · Togo · Benin
A fascinating West African journey
15 nights hotel; no camping
Every tour is private, scheduled on dates of your choice, beginning on a Saturday in Bamako, MALI and ending on a Sunday in Cotonou, BENIN; 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.
*** Alternatively, Mali can be omitted; tour can start in Ouagadougou and end in Cotonou for a total of 10-11 days.
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 (Grand Hotel, or similar).
Day 2 Sunday: Bamako – Segou (235 km: ~3hrs)
Begin your West African journey with a city tour of Bamako, Mali's vibrant capital city: over-view of this sprawling city from Point G. 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 afternoon we will visit the artisans' village, then we will drive through the heartland of Mali to Segou. Overnight in Segou (Hotel Independance, or similar).
Day 3 Monday: Segou – Djenne – Mopti / Niger river(465 km; ~5½hrs)
8h00 AM departure (or earlier) for our onward drive to Djenne, ancient sister-city of Timbuktu, to arrive in time to see the large and colorful weekly market. 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.
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. 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 drive to Mopti and end our day with a relaxing sunset sail on the Niger River by private river boat. Overnight in Mopti (Hotel Kanaga, or similar).
Day 4 Tuesday: Mopti – Dogon country (120 km; ~2hrs)
This morning we have our city tour of Mopti, called the Venice of Mali because it is surrounded by the waters of the Niger and the Bani rivers. We will 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.
Then, we will depart Mopti for Mali's fascinating Dogon country.
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.
We will drive to and visit Songo village, renowned for its rock paintings and circumcision grotto; traditional circumcision ceremonies are held here every three years; the rock paintings are historical representations of noble Dogon families. We continue to Sangha, a large agglomeration of 10 distinct Dogon villages–some animist, some Islamic; we will see some beautiful examples of the unique Dogon architecture and fetishes. Overnight in Sangha (Hotel Campement Guina, or similar).
Day 5 Wednesday: Dogon country
7h00 AM breakfast, then we descend the escarpment, and visit several of the cliff villages: Banani (note the ancient Tellem cave dwellings in the cliff face), Ireli, Amani (visit the sanctuary of sacred crocodiles, totem animal of the Dogon people); and Tireli village, where we may (optionally) witness a fascinating traditional Dogon mask dance—this is an authentic reproduction of a traditional funerary rite, where the masks ask the spirit of the deceased person to depart the village, and rejoin the ancestors. Overnight in Sangha (Hotel Campement Guina, or similar).
Day 6 Thursday: Dogon country – Ouahigouya, BURKINA FASO (140 km; ~3hrs)
This morning we will visit Madougou village on the Senou plain, then depart Dogon country and Mali, driving through picturesque villages and cross into Burkina Faso. We arrive in Ouahigouya and check into our hotel; then tour Ouahigouya, capital of the old Yatenga kingdom. We will visit the historic Yatenga Naba's compound (Naba = "King") and Naba Kango's tomb—Naba Kango was one of the most fearsome of the Mossi rulers; he died violently in 1787. Overnight in Ouahigouya (Hotel Amitie, or similar).
Day 7 Friday: Ouahigouya - Ouagadougou (190 km; ~2hrs)
Onward drive to Ouagadougou; check into our hotel, then explore Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital city. We will visit the Grand Market and the National Museum, with its interesting collection of regional clothing, masks, household utensils and ancestral statues; also visit the Music Museum if it has reopened (closed for renovations), and the crafts markets at the Artisans' Center, where we will find basketry, batik fabrics, wooden statues and masks, jewelry, leatherwork and bronze castings.
If time permits, in the afternoon we take an excursion to the Parc Urbain Bangr-Weoogo—with its crocodile lagoons, a mini-zoo, and well-tended gardens, it makes a nice respite from the city. Overnight in Ouagadougou (Hotel Silmande, or similar).
Day 8 Saturday: Ouagadougou - Tiebele - Tamale, GHANA (495 km; ~6hrs)
Today we depart Burkina Faso and francophone Africa, for anglophone Ghana. En-route we will visit Tiebele village, in Gourounsi country. We will visit the Royal Court of Tiebele, and see the interesting fortress-like houses of the Kassena people. The houses are of various shapes and sizes depending on the status of the occupants, and they are beautifully decorated with geometric patterns on the walls. They are constructed of mud and feature flat roofs for sleeping in the hot weather; the houses are painted by the women, with local red, blue, white and black pigments. We resume our journey to the Ghana border, and onward to Tamale for overnight (Gariba Lodge, or similar).
Day 9 Sunday: Tamale - Kumasi (390 km; ~4½hrs)
We will visit the large central market in Tamale to see the gonja cloth weavers at work, and browse through the fetish section to get a look at some 'interesting' items for sale. Then we continue our drive through the countryside to Kumasi, in Ashanti country, with a visit to the Baobeng-Fiema monkey sanctuary en-route. Overnight in Kumasi (Hotel Georgia, or similar).
Day 10 Monday: Kumasi / Ashanti country
Today we isit Kumasi and Ahsanti country: we start at the National Cultural Center, the Manhyia Palace, and the Kejetia market, the largest market in West Africa–a kaleidescope of sight and sound.
In the afternoon, as time permits, we will we will visit Ashanti villages on the outskirts of Kumasi: Ejisu village and the cultural sites: Yaa Asantwaa Museum, and Besease traditional shrine; and also Bonwire village, to see authentic Ghanaian kente cloth being made. Return to Kumasi for overnight (Hotel Georgia, or similar).
Day 11 Tuesday: Kumasi - Kakum - Elmina (240 km; ~3½hrs)
Today we drive to Kakum National Park, a rainforest preserve inhabited by some 100 different species of mammals, including forest elephants and giant forest hogs, as well as many types of antelopes, monkeys and birds. The main attraction at Kakum is the 350 meter long canopy walk, varying between 28-40 meters high—this is not recommended for the acrophobic! After the park if time permits, we can visit Monkey Forest animal sanctuary. Then we continue to Elmina for overnight (Elmina Beach Resort, or similar).
Day 12 Wednesday: Elmina / Cape Coast - Accra (165 km; ~2½hrs)
In Elmina, we begin with a walking tour of St. George's Castle, and a stroll to St. Jago Hill for a panoramic overview of historic Elmina. Then onward to Cape Coast, which was the first capital of Britain's Gold Coast colony. By the late 17th century, Cape Coast had grown from a small fishing village to one of the most important trading ports along the coast; and through the 18th century, the local economy was driven by its role as the heart of the transatlantic slave trade. We will visit the historic old town section, and the notorious Cape Coast Castle, former bastion of the Atlantic slave trade, with three large slave dungeons accessible only from the seaward side of the fort, and the Door of no Return. Cape Coast Castle is now a Unesco World Heritage site. We will drive to Accra for overnight (Novotel Accra, or similar).
Day 13 Thursday: Accra - Lome, TOGO (200 km; ~2½hrs)
This morning we will tour Accra, including the National Museum, the Cultural Centre, and the Nkrumah Mausoleum. Then onward to Lome, Togo for an afternoon city: we will visit the National Museum, the Lome central market, the artisans' village and the Akodessewa fetish market. Overnight in Lome (Hotel Ibis Centre, or similar).
Day 14 Friday: Lome - Ouidah (110 km; ~1½hr) - Cotonou, BENIN (40 km; ~¾hr)
And onward to Benin! We will drive across the border to Ouidah, an important traditional religious center and ancient slave depot, which sent thousands of slaves to the new world. We will visit the Museum in the old Portuguese fort, the Temple of Pythons, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Kpasse sacred forest; we will trace the route of the famous "Slave Road" which leads to the slavery memorial of Zoungbodji. Then we continue onward to Cotonou for overnight (Hotel du Lac, or similar).
Day 15 Saturday: Cotonou - Abomey (one-way 135 km; ~3hrs) - Cotonou
07h00 AM breakfst, then we depart on our excursion to Abomey, former capital of the Danhomey kingdom. We will visit the Royal Palace and Museum, site of the the ancient palaces of the twelve kings of Abomey (Unesco World Heritage site), who reigned from 1620 through 1900. We will visit the artisans' center, renowned for traditional tapestries and bronze castings, formerly reserved for the royal court only. In the afternoon, we can explore the Dahomey Trail with its unrestored palaces and fetish temples. Then return to and overnight in Cotonou (Hotel du Lac, or similar).
Day 16 Sunday: Cotonou/Ganvie - final departure
Today we will visit colorful Cotonou, including the huge Dantokpa market, the second largest in West Africa (after Kumasi in Ghana), and the large artisans' center, where artisans can be seen working their crafts.
In the afternoon we will take a pirogue excursion to visit Ganvie fishing village, built on stilts over the lagoon waters of Lake Nokoue. This village was created in the 18th century by the Tofinu people, to escape the slave-raids of their neighbors; women sell fish, fruits and vegetables from their canoes, and fish-farming is practiced within enclosures of trees and branches that surround the village. We return to Cotonou for hotel check-out; transfer to the airport for final departure.
1 km ~ 0.6 mile; distances are approximate
Driving times are approximate, depending on local conditions, stops, and border crossings
NB: Hotels subject to availability; see
proposed hotels description.
The tour with these hotels is our default "Better" standard (3-4* hotels where available).
Upgrade to "Best" standard (4-5* hotels where available) is also possible.
NB: in rural areas there is little choice of accommodations, and we utilize the same "best available" hotels for all tour standards.
Tour package includes:
- 15 nights hotel, double occupancy, with breakfast
- day-room in Cotonou on the final day
- private ground transportation by air-conditioned 4x4 vehicle, with driver and fuel
- sunset sail on the Niger River by private river boat
- pirogue excursion to Ganvie village
- experienced English-speaking guide throughout
- airport transfers upon arrival in Bamako and departure in Cotonou
- all hotel taxes and local tourism taxes
- all site visit, excursion and entry fees as per tour program
Tour package does not include: international flights to Bamako, MALI and onward from Cotonou, BENIN; tourism visas (Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin); lunches, dinners, drinks/bottled water; optional Dogon mask dance; tips and personal expenses.
Optional traditional Dogon mask dance in a village — upon request
Hotel upgrades in the capital cities are available 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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