Escape to Africa: This exploration of remote West Africa calls to the adventurous and curious traveler who wants to go where few have gone before. Mossi villages, Dogan communities and artesian markets are just some of the sights you can experience on a 15-day trip through West Africa. Spend two days sailing along the Niger River from Mopti to Timbuktu in your traditional pinasse. As you drift downstream, take once-in-a-lifetime pictures of wildlife roaming about. Wander through Bozo villages and experience the life of a herdsman. Watch camel caravans cross the Sahara and explore the ancient mud mosques that Timbuktu offers.
Begin your West African journey in the capitol of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. Here, meet with your guide for a welcome dinner and trip orientation to kick off a two-week adventure you will not soon forget. Make your way to the Village Artisanale the following morning, where the spirit of Burkina Faso comes to life through wood carvings, jewelry, textiles, traditional musical instruments and much more.
After enjoying the local market you will travel to the border of Ghana, where you will meet the Gurunsi tribe, famous for their extraordinary abstract African frescoes. As night falls, gather around a fire while listening to the tribe beat tom-toms and share their age-old oral tradition through stories and riddles.
Today you journey through the African savannah to encounter the villages of the Mossi people. This ancient people celebrate the longest royal dynasty in West Africa, just shy of a millennium. With the day far from over, you will continue on to the rural town of Ouahigouya. Founded in 1757, this town was originally formed as the capitol of Yatenga, an old Mossi kingdom. Spend the rest of your day enjoying the local culture, visiting the Yatenga Naba compound, Naba Kongo's tomb or simply relaxing by the Hotel de L'Amitie pool.
Continue your exploration through the Dogon Lowlands and on to the Dogon cliffs. Many of the small communities you will encounter in the Dogon are incredibly rich culturally, as their remote locations ensure very little influence from outsiders. This fascinating community is recognized for the genius of its abstract artwork, ritual dance, musical instruments and masks. You will feel like you are one of the tribe as you are permitted to experience the thrill of a true masked dance. Skillfully designed, these masks can reach up to 15 feet in height. If the stunning masks weren't enough, these talented people will climb to an exhilarating height to dance on stilts, making this a highlight of your incredible West African experience.
On this day you will move on to Djenne, a city situated on the Niger River, known for its awe-inspiring architecture and colorful weekly market. At one time a mecca of learning and trade, this city has a beautiful Afro-Arab design and is the oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa. Here you will find the largest clay building in the world, the magnificent Great Mosque. Designed in the Sudanic style, this gigantic and truly amazing clay mosque is one of Unesco's World Heritage sites.
Mopti, known as the "Venice of Africa," is made up of three islands. This vibrant city is filled with many cultures, and you will encounter Bozo fisherman, Dogon, Bambara, Bella farmers and more. Here you will take in all of the sights, with a walking tour of the town. Along the way you will have the opportunity to visit blacksmiths, antique dealers and behold a melting pot of people clothed in an assortment of dress from white Islamic robes to colorful African robes called boubous.
Board a thatch-roof pinasse to journey down the Niger River. Your very own chef will prepare delicious meals aboard the boat, as you float from village to village. On the Niger there is a plethora of wildlife for you to enjoy as many aquatic birds and zebu call the river home. Niafounke, will be your final river destination, tomorrow you head of into the desert.
Your next two days will be filled with the surreal experience of caravanning through the Sahara desert, alongside nomadic tribes and rolling sand dunes. Should you meet up with the nomadic Taureg and Maur people they will accord you with the genuine hospitality that is customary here. Many archealogical sites also still inhabit in the desert, bearing witness to ancient cultures that once populated this region.
As you continue on your expedition, climb up onto your own camel to travel across the sand to the only inhabited outpost: Araouane. Founded in the 11th century, this place does not see visitors often, and the presence of newcomers is an event worthy of a special lunch, hosted by the local chef. After filling up on local cuisine you will embark on the final leg of your desert excursion, and travel to Timbuktu.
In Timbuktu you will tour the city, and visit the oldest clay building in Africa, the Djinguereber Mosque. Built in 1327, this mosque was erected as a learning center. In this city you can wander the energetic markets, and soak up the spirit of the town known as the "end of the world."
On your last day, you will fly to the capital of Mali: Bamako, a city exploding with life and color. Here you will find bazaars, street sellers, and markets with everything from fruit to artwork on display. Spend the rest of your day shopping for last minute artifacts and strolling through the ethnographic museum, which houses ancient art, traditional weapons, musical instruments, tools, and more.