Saga Tours of Mali — West Africa Adventure Travel
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West Africa Heartland Tour – 25 days
Senegal · Mali · Burkina Faso · Ghana · Togo · Benin
24 nights hotel; no camping
Every tour is private, scheduled on dates of your choice, beginning on a Tuesday in Dakar, SENEGAL and ending on a Friday 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.
Day 1 Tuesday: Arrival in Dakar, SENEGAL
International flight arrives in Dakar in the evening; our staff will meet you in the Arrivals hall of Dakar airport, and provide your hotel transfer; overnight in Dakar (Hotel Farid or similar).
Day 2 Wednesday: Dakar/Goree Island - Saint Louis (265 km; ~3½hrs)
We start our West African journey with a city tour of Dakar, including the colorful Kermel market and the historic IFAN Museum. Then we will board the ferry (chaloupe) for Goree Island, an old slavery depot for some 300 years; we will visit the notorious House of Slaves and the Historical Museum.
After lunch, we return by ferry and drive to historic Saint Louis, the first French settlement in Africa, founded in 1659, and by 1895 the capital of the French colonial empire. Overnight in Saint Louis (Hotel Cap St. Louis, or similar).
Day 3 Thursday: Saint Louis / Parc Djoudj (60 km; ~¾hr)
This morning we start with an excursion to the Parc Djoudj national bird sanctuary, another of Unesco's World Heritage sites, and one of the world's richest in bird species—around 3 million birds pass through the parc annually, and some 350 species have been recorded. We will enjoy a pirogue ride to better view the many types of cormorants, pelicans, ducks, flamingos, various songbirds and more; we may also see crocodiles, boas and wild boars.
In the afternoon, we return to Saint Louis and visit the old colonial city. Overnight in Saint Louis (Hotel Cap St. Louis, or similar).
Day 4 Friday: Saint Louis - Dakar (265 km; ~3½hrs)
We depart Saint Louis and drive to Thies, Senegal's third largest city, where we will visit the renowned tapestry cooperative. All weaving is done on hand looms, and each weaver completes about 1 sq.meter per month. Only eight tapestries are made of each design; one tapestry is on display in Buckingham Palace, and most are similarly offered as gifts from the government to foreign dignitaries. Onward to Dakar, with the remainder of day at leisureOvernight in Dakar (Hotel Farid or similar).
Day 5 Saturday: Dakar - Bamako (by air) - Segou (235 km; ~3hrs)
Early breakfast and transfer to the airport for 08h00 AM flight to Bamako. Meet your guide at Bamako airport, and begin your visit of Mali with Mali's 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 make a brief stop at the artisans' village, then drive to Segou, Mali's former colonial capital. Overnight in Segou (Hotel Independance, or similar).
Day 6 Sunday: Segou - Mopti (405 km; ~5hrs)
Morning tour of Segou, Mali's second city; see the interesting mix of colonial and traditional architecture. We will visit the Kasobane boutique with its high-end traditional and contemporary textile art; we will visit the Nieleni cooperative, which makes hand-woven high-quality wool rugs; and we will end our visit with stroll through the traditional pottery market on the waterfront. In the afternoon we will drive to Mopti for overnight (Hotel Kanaga, or similar).
Day 7 Monday: Mopti - Djenne (one-way 130 km; ~1½hr) - Mopti
Today we take an excursion to Djenne on its weekly market day, when Djenne is at its colorful best. 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.
We will explore the market, and stroll the ancient alleys and narrow streets; note 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 return to Mopti for a city tour, and a relaxing sunset sail on the Niger River by private river boat. Overnight in Mopti (Hotel Kanaga, or similar).
Day 8 Tuesday: Mopti - Dogon country (120 km; ~2hrs)
This morning 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 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. Then onward to Sangha, a large agglomeration of 10 distinct Dogon villages–some animist, some Islamic; on our walking tour we will see some beautiful examples of the unique Dogon architecture and fetishes. Overnight in Sangha (Hotel Campement Guina, or similar).
Day 9 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.
In the late afternoon we will drive to Bandiagara for overnight (Hotel La Falaise, or similar).
Day 10 Thursday: Dogon country - Bobo Dioulasso, BURKINA FASO (560 km; ~7½hrs)
Breakfast, then 8h00 AM departure from Dogon country, on our way to Burkina Faso. We cross the border and contiue to Bobo Dioulasso for overnight (Hotel Auberge, or similar).
Day 11 Friday: Bobo Dioulasso
Today we visit Bobo Dioulasso, the "house of the Bobo merchants" in the local language; this is Burkina Faso's second largest city. We will see the old mosque, and visit the Houet Museum, which has an interesting clothing exhibit, including war tunics worn by the army of Samory Toure in his seige against Sikasso in the 19th century; there are also replicas of traditional Bobo and Fulani homes in the museum courtyard. We will visit the old Kibidwe artisans' district where we will see traditional blacksmiths, potters, and dyers at work. In the afternoon, we will visit the Museum of Music (unrelated to the one in Ouagadougou), with its impressive selection of instruments; here you can also purchase genuine (non-pirated) CDs of traditional Burkinabe artists. Overnight in Bobo Dioulasso (Hotel Auberge, or similar).
Day 12 Saturday: Bobo Dioulasso - Deux Bale Parc - Ouagadougou (355 km; ~5hrs)
Onward to the capital city, Ouagadougou. En-route, we will visit the Deux Balés National park in the hopes of seeing elephants; this is the smallest of Burkina's national reserves, housing three large elephant herds that roam the 81,000 hectares. Then we will continue to Sabou village to see the 'tame' totem crocodiles—at festival times, locals make sacrifices and ask the crocodiles for health, fertility, and fortune. After years of habitual contact, the crocodiles seem to have lost their reptilian ferocity. We move onwward to Ouagadougou for overnight (Hotel Silmande, or similar).
Day 13 Sunday: Ouagadougou
Today we have a full day to explore Ouagadougou, capital city of Burkina Faso: we will visit the Moro Naba's palace and the Grand Market; we will visit the National Museum, with its interesting collection of regional clothing, masks, household utensils and ancestral statues. We will also visit the Music Museum if it is reopened (currently under renovation), and the crafts markets at the Artisans' Center, where we will find talented artisans making basketry, batik fabrics, wooden statues and masks, jewelry, leatherwork and bronze castings.
If we finish all these visit, 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 14 Monday: Ouagadougou - Tiebele - Tamale, GHANA (495 km; ~7hrs)
Today we depart Burkina Faso and francophone Africa, for anglophone Ghana. En-route we will visit Tiebele village, in Gourounsi country; we will visist 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 15 Tuesday: Tamale - Larabanga - Mole National Park (135 km; ~2½hrs)
This morning 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 will drive to Larabanga to see the famous mosque, which may be the oldest building in Ghana. We continue to Mole National Park for overnight (Mole Park Hotel, or similar).
Day 16 Wednesday: Mole National Park
Mole National Park
Mole National Park is Ghana's largest wildlife sanctuary, and arguably the best for game-viewing. More than 300 bird species, and over 90 mammal species have been recorded in Mole, including elephants, buffalo, hippos, leopards and lions. We will have a day of game drives, or guided walks, in Mole Park; overnight (Mole Park Hotel, or similar).
Day 17 Thursday: Mole National Park - Kumasi (375 km; ~5½hrs)
This morning we drive to Kumasi, in Ghana's fascinating Ashanti country. We will visit the National Cultural Center and the Prempreh II Jubilee Museum, the Manhyia Palace (home of the actual Asantahene), and the Kejetia market, the largest market in West Africa—an unforgettable melange of colors and sounds. Overnight in Kumasi (Hotel Georgia, or similar).
Day 18 Friday: Kumasi
Today is devoted to visiting Ashanti villages (as time permits) on the outskirts of Kumasi: Bonwire village, to see authentic kente cloth being made; Pankronu village and its traditional pottery; wood carvings in Ahwiaa village; Ntonso village, for its adinkra cloth. Overnight in Kumasi (Hotel Georgia, or similar).
Day 19 Saturday: Kumasi - Kakum National Park - 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 20 Sunday: Elmina - Cape Coast - Accra (165 km; ~2hrs)
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. At day's end we drive to Accra for overnight (Novotel Accra, or similar).
Day 21 Monday: Accra
Today we will take it easy, with a city tour of Accra, including the National Cultural Center, the National Museum, and the Nkrumah Mausoleum. In the afternoon we will go on a walking tour of old James Town with its colorful local markets and colonial-era shops, and crafts shopping at the Trade Fair Centre. Overnight in Accra (Novotel Accra, or similar).
Day 22 Tuesday: Accra - Lome, TOGO (200 km; ~2½hrs)
Drive to Lome, Togo; we will check into our hotel, then visit Lome: the National Museum, the Lome central market, the artisans' village and the Akodessewa fetish market, with its skulls, bones, feathers and shells, everything needed to make your own fetish ! If it is open, we will also visit the outstanding Musée International du Golfe de Guinée (closed for renovations, until 01July). Overnight in Lome (Hotel Ibis Centre, or similar).
Day 23 Wednesday: Lome – Ouidah, BENIN (110 km; ~1½hr) – Abomey (120 km; ~1½hr)
Today we depart Togo for Benin; just across the border, we will visit Ouidah, the vodou capital of West Africa, and 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. The we will move on to Abomey for overnight (Motel d'Abomey, or similar).
Day 24 Thursday: Abomey - Cotonou (135 km; ~3hrs)
Today we will explore 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 mid-afternoon onward to Cotonou, Benin's capital, for overnight (Hotel du Lac, or similar).
Day 25 Friday: Cotonou / final departure
And finally we will have a city tour of Cotonou, including the fish market and the international Dantokpa market (the second largest in West Africa), with its fetish market and handcraft center. Then enjoy a pirogue excursion to 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, and transfer to the airport for your 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.
Please note: during the rainy season (July/Aug/Sep) the visit to Parc Djoudj in Senegal is replaced by the Langue de Barbarie bird sanctuary, as Parc Djoudj is closed.
Heartland Tour package includes:
- 24 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
- one-way airfare Dakar-Bamako (priced separately; airfare is subject to change); with airport transfers
- ferry excursion to Goree Island
- excursion to Parc Djoudj national bird sanctuary
- sunset sail on the Niger River by private river boat
- day of game-viewing in Mole National park
- pirogue excursion to Ganvie village
- experienced English-speaking guide throughout
- airport transfers upon arrival in Dakar 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 Dakar, SENEGAL and onward from Cotonou, BENIN; tourism visas (Senegal, 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.
Before reserving, please see our Terms and Conditions.