Mali & Burkina Faso - Overland Trip
2 weeks: to (IMT-PFMB)
IntroJourney to fabled towns and immerse yourself in unique cultures unchanged for centuries
Mali and Burkina Faso offer the adventurous traveller experiences that are unique and seemingly timeless. On our journey we explore fabled ancient towns such as Timbuktu (Tombouctou) and historic kingdoms such as the influential Malian and Ashanti Empires, the great Dahomey Kingdom and the ancient settlement of Djenné, renowned for its Grand Mosque. We learn about the rich and diverse history of the region. We enjoy the incredible warmth and exuberance of the local people we meet along the way, as we immerse ourselves in an extraordinary mix of cultures. We meet the Dogon people whose fascinating customs and traditions have remained unchanged for centuries. This journey also takes us to some of the most vibrant, colourful and impressive markets in all of Africa including the unforgettable Gorom-Gorom Market in Burkina Faso - an experience that is sure to captivate all of the senses! The hypnotic sounds and haunting rhythms of the region\'s music is also something that is sure to linger in our minds.
IncludedPeregrine tour leader, local guides, arrival and departure airport transfers, transport, accommodation, meals as indicated, sightseeing and entrance fees.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Bamako
On arrival at Bamako's Sénou International Airport you are met and transferred to the hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure. Situated on the banks of the Niger River, Mali's capital is quite a lively place and home to over 1.3 million people. There are often excellent live music acts in the city over a weekend with such renowned African artists such as Salif Keita, Bassekou Kouyate and Toumani Diabaté regularly playing. The lively Rue de Bla Bla also offers an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. We also get together sometime this evening for a group meeting, where you meet your Peregrine tour leader and your other fellow travelling companions.Day 2 - Mali Initiative - Bamako
In the morning we enjoy a city tour of Bamako that includes the Grande Marché – a veritable rabbit warren of food stalls, clothing and household goods, spread over several city blocks. Whilst not for the faint-hearted, a visit to the fetish stalls is sure to guarantee unforgettable and bizarre sightings. We visit to the exceptional Musée National (National Museum), with its stunning collection of masks, textiles and ancient artefacts. Set amid tranquil, leafy grounds the museum is an excellent introduction into Malian life and also houses a wonderful bookshop and restaurant. Peregrine Adventures supports the Mali Initiative Projects, which co-ordinates a series of programs aimed at improving the quality of life for the many disadvantaged people and communities. High on the agenda is education and schooling. We travel out to the village of Kalabankoro and observe one of the projects at work before being escorted to a home where we get to enjoy a home-cooked meal with a local family. This is a unique opportunity for cross-cultural interaction and is sure to be a memorable encounter as we may well find that the local people are as curious about us as we are about them!Day 3 - Timbuktu (Tombouctou)
We fly from Bamako to Timbuktu (Tombouctou) and spend our first day there taking a walking tour with our wonderful local guide who generously shares with us the secrets of this unique frontier town. We visit the three oldest mosques in west Africa - the Sankoré, Dyingerey Ber and Sidi Yahiya Mosques. Our walking tour also takes us to the early European explorers’ houses, the Ethnological Museum and the main market. We also visit the Ahmed Baba Centre, where we can view ancient manuscripts that have survived since the 13th and 14th centuries. Dinner this evening is enjoyed at a local, atmospheric restaurant overlooking the Timbuktu nightscape.Day 4 - Tuareg Desert Camp - Timbuktu (Tombouctou)
In the morning we are free to make our own discoveries around this fabled town that is perched right on the edge of the Sahara Desert. At the artisan's market one can get quality leather sandals hand-cobbled in a couple of hours, use the internet facilities at Timbuktu High or buy your very own indigo turban like those worn by the Tuareg people; excellent for keeping the dust at bay on our journey. As dusk falls we venture into the desert by means of the quintessential desert vehicle - the camel. A 5-kilometre camel trek over the dunes takes us to a Tuareg camp, where we have the opportunity to mingle and drink tea with these nomadic people, dine on a traditional meal and be entertained by traditional drumming and dancing. Our 4WD vehicles then take us back to Timbuktu for the night.Day 5 - Mopti - Djenné
(Driving time: approx 2 hours)
This morning we catch a flight to the river port town of Mopti, situated at the confluence of the Niger and Bani Rivers. Here we can see the big slabs of salt that come from the far north, carried across the Sahara Desert by the Tuareg camel caravans to Timbuktu where they are loaded on to 'pinasses' (large traditional canoes) and sailed down the Niger River to Mopti to be bought and sold. We also see the many different faces of Mali selling and buying in the market – Peul, Bozo, Fulani, Dogon, Moors, Tuareg and Songhai. After enjoying a pinasse excursion on the Niger River we leave Mopti for a two-hour drive to Djenné. Djenné is the sister town of Timbuktu and one of the oldest towns in west Africa. It is built on an island in the Niger River Delta and we must take a ferry to get there. After we check into our hotel there is the option to go on a walking tour to visit the famous Grand Mosque. The first mosque was built in 1280, when the 26th king, Djenné Were Koi Komboro, converted to Islam. The current mosque is estimated to be about 100 years old and each year its facade is replaced with fresh mud. We also walk through the narrow, winding streets to see the beautiful architecture of the clay houses that make Djenné such a unique and original city. Djenne is a great place for self-discovery as we can just lose ourselves amid the winding alleyways. Watching the sun set over the impressive mosque from one of Djenné’s ancient rooftops yet another experience to behold! Our accommodation whilst in Djenné is quite basic, as we stay in a local 'campement' (simple hostel). However the location of our 'campement' is unbeatable - it is in the heart of this fascinating town and one of only three located within the town walls.
(Driving time: approx 4 hours)
Monday is market day and the most interesting day to visit Djenné. In the early part of the morning as the market is being set up, we visit Djenné's small museum which houses the plan of Djenné-Djeno. This ancient settlement dated back to 250 BC and various artefacts that have been excavated are on display. We then visit the actual archaeological site, which is nearby. Afterwards we return to Djenné to visit the colourful market, which should now be in full swing! This market sells an incredible array of goods from exotic fabrics to various spices, billy goats and watermelons. With the street stalls selling delectable local treats, this market is sure to dazzle all of your senses!
From here we continue to the unique Pays Dogon region where the vibrant local people still live as they have for centuries. With a 200-kilometre-long escarpment forming a stunning backdrop, this area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its natural and cultural significance. It is still used extensively as a place of field study by anthropologists around the world. In the afternoon we begin our trek by going down the escarpment and through a breathtaking gorge - Falaise de Bandiagara. This trek takes two to three hours, over rocky terrain and can at times be strenuous. However, the rewards are worthwhile as the glorious sands of the Sahel stretch before us to the horizon, as we descend the escarpment. A further walk on flat, sandy terrain (approximately 90 minutes) takes us to the Dogon villages, where we spend an unforgettable night sleeping on the rooftop of the chief's compound. Tents and or extremely basic rooms can be hired locally if preferred, but the normal practice is to sleep on mats on the roof. Although some of the village 'campements' do have shared shower blocks (cold water only!), we cannot guarantee that you will have access to showers for this night.
(Driving time: approx 4 hours including time at border)
We are awoken at first light by the resident roosters and donkeys - part of the Dogon experience! However, we will surely not mind as this gives us the opportunity to witness the early light of the sun bathing the rocky escarpment in a spectacular golden glow. We then trek among the northern Dogon villages, while viewing some of the best-preserved examples of the habitats of the Tellem and Dogon peoples. The trek is on flat, sandy ground and takes us though the surprisingly lush vegetable gardens of the Dogon people, who are particularly known for their onion exports to other parts of the country. After some time exploring the villages we are treated to the sights and sounds of the incredible Dogon Masked Dance ceremony – an energetic, ritualistic dance featuring elaborate masks and dancers on stilts. This is a performance that is truly a privilege to witness. The trek is not strenuous; however temperatures in the Dogon region can be quite high, so there is the option to take a ride on an ox or cow-cart between villages if we chose to do so. After this enthralling encounter we continue on our journey by road and take our lunch in a village before reaching the border with Burkina Faso. After completing border formalities, we enter our new country and continue to Ouahigouya (pronounced waee-gee-ya), where we spend the night. Burkina Faso is a landlocked savannah country crossed by the three principal rivers of the Black, Red and White Voltas. Literally, 'Burkina' is translated 'Men of Integrity' from the Moré language. The Burkinabé, as the local population is known, belong to two major West African cultural groups - the Voltaic and the Mande. Making up one half of the population, the Voltaic Mossi people claim descent from warriors who migrated to present-day Burkina Faso from Ghana. Predominantly farmers today, the Voltaic Mossi kingdom is led by the Mogho Naba who still hold court in Ouagadougou. From its independence in 1960 until 1984, Burkina Faso was known by its colonial name - Upper Volta.
(Driving time: approx 8 hours)
West Africa is known for its eclectic, bustling and incredibly colourful markets, but there are probably none as fascinating as Gorom-Gorom's Thursday Market. The small village is in the far north-east of the country, immersed in the features of true Sahel landscape – blistering temperatures, sandy terrain dotted with acacia trees and plenty of red dust! Each Thursday, diverse ethnic groups diverge on the market. They include the Bella people who were the former slaves of the Tuareg to the Songhai farmers, the striking Fulani women, adorned with heavy gold earrings and the unmistakable indigo-clad Tuareg nomads, who arrive by camel from the Sahara Desert. The market sells anything from camel milk and cola nuts to handcrafted leather sandals, elaborate African printed cotton and intricate Tuareg jewellery. Goats, camels, donkeys and cattle are all traded at an adjacent animal market. Truly a feast for all the senses, the Gorom-Gorom Market is sure to be one of the memorable highlights of our epic journey. On our two nights in Gorom-Gorom we stay in 'campements'.
(Driving time: approx 4 hours)
After breakfast we venture further east along the border with Niger and visit a Songhai village near the small town of Markoyé. We then depart on a four-hour drive to Ouagadougou (pronounced waga-doo-goo) - one of the cultural centres of west Africa. Ouagadougou has a population of approximately 1.5 million and is the capital of Burkina Faso. The name Ouagadougou purportedly goes back to the 15th century where it was originally known as 'Sogomogobogoyogowogodogo', meaning 'Palace of the worshipful camel-faced bushboy, where people get honour and respect''. It was later changes to 'Wogodogo', meaning simply 'where people get honour and respect'. We arrive in the mid-afternoon and, after checking into our hotel and getting refreshed, there is an opportunity to visit a Ciao village or get acquainted with the sights of ‘Ouaga’ and meet some of its inhabitants, known as 'Ouagalais'.
(Driving time: approx 5 hours including excursion)
We depart Ouagadougou for a 1½ hour drive to Sabou. En route we stop at a sacred lake where we can get to watch the sacred crocodiles being fed! Continuing on to the verdant south-west corner of the country we reach Bobo-Dioulasso. A free afternoon gives us the opportunity to visit the Grand Marché, which is famous for being located at the crossroads of numerous tribes and stocks a great selection of tribal arts from all over west Africa. Alternatively we can enjoy a walk through the Kibidwe District and partake in some fascinating people-watching, giving us an insight into the daily lives of the Kibidwe people. But no highlight in Bobo-Dioulasso is greater than its music. The town is known as the Music Capital of Burkina Faso and on weekends it really comes alive! A melting pot of markets, music and nightlife, it's a great place to appreciate the richness of the traditional music and absorb an extraordinary blend of west African cultures. We have the opportunity to wander down to local cafés, soak up the atmosphere and sample the local delicacy of French fried caterpillars. Another alternative is to head down to Bolomakoté Cabaret, where people go to play percussion and traditional African instruments. There you can sample the local mijo beer and let yourself be carried away by the seductive African rhythms.
(Driving time: approx 1 hour)
An hour's drive takes us to Banfora - a sleepy town set amidst a lush green landscape, surrounded by waterfalls and small lakes. We then spend the afternoon visiting the wonderful attractions in the surrounding area. Sindou is home to incredible rock formations. An ideal short hike takes us to witness a narrow three-kilometre chain of sandstone hills that are occasionally crowned by more erosion-resistant pieces of rocks. Lake Tengréla is home to more than a hundred hippos, but we also get to meet the local fishermen and the lake is also home to a wide variety of bird life. Karfiguela Waterfalls is another stop that is worth the journey whatever the season. Our first sighting of the falls is after we have made our way though a magnificent avenue of mango trees and negotiated a chaotic jumble of rocks. We return to Banfora for our overnight stay.
(Driving time: approx 9 hours)
Today we travel to Gaoua (210 kilometres south-east of Bobo), located in the heart of Lobi country. This area is culturally distinctive and fascinating due to its unique architecture and age-old traditions. Lobi homes are made with high brick mud walls and have small slits for windows, not unlike a miniature fortress. These homes are not built in villages but out in the fields, with a small family compound being up to several hundred metres from their nearest neighbour. Living in these remote rural areas, the Lobi are not used to foreigners, and may feel nervous when we visit. Please do not take any photos here without permission. In the afternoon we visit the ancient stone ruins of Loropéni. These are the best-preserved of the larger Lobi ruins. No one is sure of the origins of the stones - one theory being that they were once part of a slave palace belonging to a historic Lobi king, while another is that they were part of a fortified village that stretched through a 18,600-square-kilometre cultural corridor in lands which are today Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana. At the end of the day we head back to Ouagadougou for our overnight stay.
Today is the final day of your tour and you are transferred to Ouagadougou International Airport to meet your ongoing flight or your flight home. This is where your tour comes to an end.