22 days
Duration
Africa
Destination
Level 2 - Moderate
Activity

Small Group Tour of West Africa for the adventurous senior traveller.

This small group tour to Central West Africa has been specially designed for the mature traveller. Those with a sense of adventure and a desire to explore this exciting but infrequently visited region. Ghana, Togo and Benin may be off the usual tourist route, but each has much to offer the discerning visitor. Our tour concentrates on the history, culture and wildlife of this exotic location. Meet the friendly local people and come to a greater understanding of just what has made them what they are today.

The colonial past is always closes in Ghana, Togo & Benin.

This small section of Africa has a fascinating, if often tragic, past. Colonial powers including the Portuguese, French, Germans and British all fought for control of this gateway into the rich African interior. It was from here that enormous numbers of slaves were shipped to Europe and the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century. On our tour we will visit some of the well preserved “Slave Castles” where we will learn a great deal more about this infamous part of European history.

Naturally it is not just the colonial past which interests the visitor. Local kingdoms existed from very early times. On this educational  tour of West Africa we will explore the culture and history of a number of different groups. In Benin, for example, we will visit the mud tower houses of the Batammariba people. Take time to trace the history of Somba culture in the Natittingou Museum. A Gelede masked dance ceremony will give us an insight into local traditions dating back to the 15th century.

Ghana, Togo and Benin offer a diverse range of cultures and activities in what is actually quite a small region. There are long, palm fringed, sandy beaches, dense rain forests, teeming cities and exotic wild life parks. These countries all suffer from great poverty but each is attempting to escape from their economic hardships through a variety of strategies, including increased tourism. Become a part of the solution!

The countries we visit.

Ghana is where we spend most of this educational tour of West Africa.

Ghana, with a population of 25 million, gained independence from Britain in 1957 and is considered one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. Gold, cocoa and more recently oil, formed the cornerstone of the nation’s economic boom. The region has much to offer the visitor including historic fortifications, diverse wildlife and vibrant cities. Expect to be amazed by the fantasy coffins of the Ga people of Ghana as much as by the landscape and the colonial past. Here we have the chance to immerse ourselves in a culture so very different from our own.

The tour of Benin introduces the group to Voodoo....

In Benin we have the chance to find out the truth about Voodoo which is followed by some 40% of the population and where even many Christians and Muslims incorporate some elements of Voodoo into their belief systems. Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo.  Any visit to this country would not be complete without an introduction to its spirits and fetishes far removed from the clichés of Hollywood films. Benin also has one of the best wild life parks in West Africa where lions, cheetahs, leopards and elephants thrive. While in Benin we’ll visit the Pendjari National Park where we can admire these amazing animals in their natural environment.

This Tour of West Africa includes Togo.

Togo, once a German Protectorate but ceded to the French and British after WWI.  Togo has a great diversity of landscapes and cultures despite its tiny size. This country gained its independence only in 1960. It  has a land area of less than 57,000 square kilometres but has a population of more than 7 million dependent mainly on agriculture. It is a long, thin nation sandwiched between Ghana and Benin. Togo, with its rich artistic traditions, voodoo shrines and colonial past is a rewarding destination for those travellers looking for somewhere just a little different. The National Museum in the capital, Lome, provides a particularly good introduction to the arts and traditions of Togo.

Something unique to see on the Ghana section of a Tour of West Africa.

Coffin design in Ghana is quite frankly something else. This article from the Guardian newspaper provides a cultural insight.

Finally, you may also enjoy reading this article on Central West Africa from Odyssey Traveller Australia.

 


PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

1
Experience Ganvie, the “Venice of Africa” where 25,000 inhabitants live in houses built on stilts above the water.
2
Observe and learn about the sacred Voodoo shrines side by side with a Roman Catholic Cathedral.
3
Gain an insight into the slave trade at Cape Coast Castle.
4
Enjoy spotting unique indigenous wildlife in Pendjari National Park.
5
Visit the Batammariba people and learn about the design history of the mud tower houses.

Overview: Group members should make their own way to our Accra hotel and meet with their program leader in the afternoon. We will meet again in the early evening for a welcome dinner at the hotel.

Accommodation: Labadi Beach Hotel 5*

Overview: After breakfast this morning we meet with our local guide for a day spent exploring Accra and some of its many fascinating tourist destinations.

Start by visiting the National Museum and then continue to the colourful Makola Market. From there we head through the High Street to see the Holy Spirit Cathedral before going on to Jamestown, the ‘original Accra’ with its old streets, 19th century lighthouse and Dutch built Ussher Fort. For a great view of the city, climb to the top of the old lighthouse near Portuguese built James Fort.

 

Continue to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum (the final resting place of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President). We will also visit the nearby Arts Centre for National Culture. We drive by Independence Square and the Osu Castle to the Artists Alliance Art Gallery.  

Jamestown
Jamestown originated as a community that emerged around the 17th-century British James Fort, merging with Accra as the city grew. These days, Jamestown is one the poorer neighbourhoods of Accra.
Makola Market
There is no front door or welcoming sign to the Makola Market. Before you know it, you’ve been sucked in by the human undertow from the pavements clogged with vendors hawking food, second-hand clothes, shoes and so much more.
Kwame Nkrumah Park and Mausoleum
This tranquil park is full of bronze statues, fountains and wandering peacocks, with the mausoleum of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first leader, at its heart.
National Museum
Set in pleasant grounds, the national museum features excellent displays on various aspects of Ghanaian culture and history. The displays on local crafts, ceremonial objects and the slave trade are particularly noteworthy.

Independence Arch
This imposing arch adjacent to Independence Square is crowned by a large black star, Ghana’s national symbol. Note: taking photos is forbidden.

Accommodation: Labadi Beach Hotel 5*

Overview: Breakfast at the Hotel

After breakfast this morning meet your guide and depart for the Central Region (160 km).

Start the day with a visit to the Coffin makers of Nungua (Paa Joe), where coffins are made to reflect a person’s affiliations and interests.

Continue to visit the ruins of Fort Amsterdam in Anomabo & Nassau in Moree. On arrival, we visit the Kakum National Park comprising undisturbed virgin rainforest for a walking tour on the canopy walkway. This is the longest and highest of its kind in the West Africa.

 

The forest provides an opportunity to see much of Ghana’s indigenous plant life, as well as rare butterflies, birds and other forms of wildlife.

We stop over at Hans Botel, a resort partly built on stilts on a river with crocodiles and lots of bird life.

Accommodation: Coconut Grove Beach Resort 3*

Overview: Breakfast at the resort

This morning we take a trip to the Cape Coast Castle (Cabo Corso) a fortress that was built by the Swedes in 1653, seized by the Danes and later conquered by the British. This castle was one of around 40 “slave castles” that served as prisons and embarkation points for slaves en route to the Americas. Thousands of enslaved Africans from regions near and far were taken to these castles to be sold to slave ships.

We continue to the Elmina Castle, founded by the Portuguese in 1482.

Take a walk through the Elmina Township and fish market to view some houses built in colonial style including the Dolphin house, Churches and the Dutch Cemetery.

Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle are the best-preserved castles in Ghana and declared as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Both castles are located in thriving fishing ports where hundreds of huge wooden fishing canoes are anchored.

Have dinner followed by a cultural performance.

Accommodation: Coconut Grove Beach Resort 3*

Overview: After breakfast at the resort we have an early morning departure to Kumasi.

On arrival, we visit the Manhyia Palace to join in the Akwasidae celebration – a gathering of Chiefs and people of the Asanteman.

Our group can meet and greet the Asantehene and make a presentation of Schnapps. By tradition, one needs to present at least 2 bottles of schnapps as guests to a Chief’s Palace. So our group will be introduced by a linguist and possibly invited to shake hands with the sitting Chief.

Accommodation: Golden Tulip Kumasi City Hotel 4*

Overview: Breakfast at the Hotel

We begin our day with a visit to the craft villages of Ahwiaa (wood carving) and Ntonso (Adinkra), to see traditional craftsmen apply their skills and talents.

We will also visit Lake Bosomtwi, a crater lake believed to have been created by a fallen meteorite.

Accommodation: Golden Tulip Kumasi City Hotel 4*

Overview: After breakfast at the Hotel we set off for the Northern Region in the early morning with a stopover at the Kintampo Waterfalls. (390 km)

En route, we also visit the Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, where Mona and black and white Colobus monkeys are considered to be a significant part of the community. Also visit the Tano Boase Rock formation, which exhibits a variety of huge beautiful hanging and hollow rocks.

Explore the sacred groves and caves, where villagers sought refuge during slave raids and tribal wars. We take a hike along the trails to spot antelopes, baboons and monkeys.

We continue our trip northwards to Mole with stops at mud villages with straw roofs along the route.

End the day with a sundowner on the deck of the Zaina pool.

Accommodation: Zaina Lodge 4*

Overview: We start the day with a morning safari drive and spend the rest of the day at the park, home to 93 species of mammals including herds of elephant, buck and a wide range of bird life.

Lunch will be at the Lodge.

In the afternoon we visit a nearby traditional village.

Dinner at the Lodge

Accommodation: Zaina Lodge 4*

Overview: After breakfast at the lodge we transfer to Tamale. (130 km)

Tamale is the capital city of the Northern Region of Ghana, known for its traditional mosques, particularly the large Central Mosque.

Visit the Central Market for goods like fabric and fruit.

End the day at the Centre for National Culture, where various handicrafts are for sale. We also attend a traditional music and dance performance

Accommodation: Gariba Hotel 3*

Overview: Breakfast at the Hotel

After breakfast we transfer to Kara after crossing the border into Togo.

On our way we visit some settlements of Dagomba and Konkomba tribes. We also visit the Bassar people.

We drive through mountainous landscapes and villages to Bandjeli, a village in the centre of metal works.

Continue to Kara.

Accommodation: Hotel Kara 3*

Overview: Breakfast at the Hotel

Today we transfer to Natittingou (125 km), and cross the border into Benin.

Visit the Batammariba people and their mud tower houses (Takienta). The surrounding nature is also strongly associated with the traditional rituals and beliefs. Continue to the Tata Somba miniature villages, located to the southwest in the plains of Boukoumbe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also visit the Natittingou Museum for an interesting overview of the Somba culture, retracing the history and heritage of the Atakora civilization.

Arrival at the hotel

Accommodation: Hotel Tata Somba 3*

Overview: Breakfast at the Hotel

Experience the wild beauty of this northern territory.

Today we visit Pendjari National Park; one of West Africa’s surviving tropical forests.

Take a walk through this forest, where you have a good chance of spotting elephants, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, lions, warthogs, monkeys, antelopes and other exotic wildlife.

 

Visit the Tanougou falls at the entrance of the park.

Accommodation: Tata Somba 3*

Overview: Breakfast will be at the Hotel before an early morning start.

After breakfast we transfer to Abomey (425 km).

En route, we visit the fascinating Taneka villages for a guided tour.

We visit the Chief’s palace on arrival before taking a tour of the village.

Abomey is known for its famous and historically significant traditional sites such as the Royal Palace and Museum (a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site). Every new king added his own residence within the palace grounds, resulting in 12 palaces in the empire at its peak. Currently, only two of them remain. Visit the royal palaces and learn more about the powerful kingdom of the Fon people, who founded the Dahomey Empire.

Accommodation: Hotel Sun City 3*

Overview: Breakfast at the hotel

This morning we visit the Royal Palace Museum and the History Museum of Abomey, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1985.

We will also visit the underground town of Agongointo in Bohicon. It consists of a series of bunkers and other housing structures around 10m deep underground, built in an apparent effort to provide dwelling as well as protection for warriors in an underground village.

Continue with a drive through this ancient city.

End the day with a Gelede masked dance ceremony.

The Gelede mask ceremony is pre-arranged and takes place in Cove, a town near Abomey. It consists of a group of colourfully dressed dancers wearing masks. The tradition dates back to the 15th century and only men initiated into a ‘secret society’ can perform the dances which represent both men and women. The performance relays the virtues and responsibilities of society. The Society actively condemns all kinds of social immorality by subjecting it to public ridicule during the dance.

Accommodation: Hotel Sun City 3*

Overview: After breakfast in our hotel we transfer to Cotonou, (135 km), via Allada (the homeland of Toussaint Louverture, the first president of Haiti and home place to the kingdoms of Benin).

The day of spectacular sightseeing continues as we visit Ganvie, described as the ‘Venice of Africa’, with 25,000 inhabitants living in houses on stilts above the water since the 17th century.

                                                    

 

A small group of people, outside of what is now Cotonou, took advantage of circumstances to evade capture by the Portuguese. Roughly 400 years ago the powerful West-African Fon tribe was hunting and selling other native tribesman to the Portuguese. While there were few physical impediments protecting the ancestors of today’s Ganvie village from outside attack, Fon religious practice forbade their raiders from advancing on any peoples dwelling on water, laying the groundwork for the Ganvie Lake Village.

 

 

 

Arrival at the hotel

Enjoy a possible cruise on Lake Nokoue to visit the water villages.

Accommodation: Maison Rouge Hotel   4*

Overview: This morning after breakfast we set out to explore Porto-Novo, the capital of Benin, although the second largest city. Named by the Portuguese in the 1500s, Porto-Novo still today shows significant Portuguese influences.

Many Afro-Brazilians settled in Porto Novo following their return to Africa after emancipation in Brazil. We will visit the vibrant market, the Ethnographic museum and the Grand Mosque, formerly a church designed in Brazilian style. We also visit the Da Silva Museum and the 300 year-old Palace of King Toffa. The former residence of King Toffa is now officially called Musee Honme and retraces the history of Porto-Novo.

Return to the hotel

Accommodation: Maison Rouge Hotel 4*

Overview: After breakfast this morning at the hotel we transfer to Ouidah. (40km)

Ouidah is best known for its central role in the slave trade during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, during which time nearly 0ne million individuals were boarded onto ships from the beach at Ouidah and transported across the Atlantic.

Ouidah is the centre of the Vodun religion in Benin, and arguably the world. In 1992 Ouidah held the first international festival of dedicated to the art and culture of Vodun. In addition, the annual Festival of Vodun on January 10 at Ouidah has been declared a national holiday.

Start the day with a drive though Ouidah beginning with the infamous Portuguese slave fort, the Basilque de l’Immaculee, Place Chacha (Slave market), the L’arbre de l’Oubli, History museum and the Zomai house on the slave route.

 

Continue to the “Temple des Pytons” (temple of pythons), the Sacred Forest and The Door of No Return, the stronghold of Ouidah now converted into a museum.

Arrival at the hotel

Accommodation: Hotel Casa del Papa 3*

Overview: Breakfast at the hotel

This morning we transfer to Lomé, crossing back into Togo. (115 km) Lomé is the capital and largest city of Togo and is known for its palm-lined Atlantic coastline. Once known as the Paris of West Africa, Lomé is one of the continent’s most charming cities. Lomé is loved for its craft markets, board boulevards, vibrant nightlife and palm fringed beaches.

Enjoy a tour of the city, which includes the Place de l’Independence and the National Museum. The National Museum exhibits a fascinating display of African jewellery, masks, musical instruments and pottery. You will also have the chance to observe sacred voodoo shrines side by side with the city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Visit the Lomé central market, or Grand Marché, where pearls, baskets, pottery and sacred pieces are on display. It is possible to shop for traditional tonics and bizarre items like serpent heads, parakeet tails, warthog teeth and porcupine skins. Here, too, you’ll find a selection of ready-made charms from all over Africa.

Overview: This morning after breakfast we cross the border into Ghana and transfer to Senchi. (257km)

This afternoon we have a boat ride along the Volta River to visit some of its islands.

The rest of the day is at leisure: You might like to stroll to nearby fishing villages or engage in some water sports including jet skiing or boating. (additional cost)

Accommodation: Royal Senchi Resort

Overview: This morning is also at leisure giving you a chance to rest after your tour.

Continue trip to Accra in the late afternoon. (85 km)

Arrival at the hotel

Farewell Dinner at the hotel

Accommodation: Labadi Beach Hotel 5* (BB)

Overview: Tour concludes after Breakfast.

What’s included in our Tour

  • Coach transport in air-conditioned coach.
  • 20 breakfasts, 10 lunches, and 10 dinners.
  • Services of local guides.
  • Lectures, field trips, entry fees to parks and attractions as indicated.
  • Game drives and boat cruises.
  • 20 nights of accommodation in 3 and 4 star hotels and game lodges offering en-suited share twin rooms.
  • Services of a Tour Leader.
  • Detailed tour information booklet.
  • All porterage fees.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Return economy class international airfare and departure taxes.
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Visas for entry.
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