West Africa – an incredibly fascinating and eye-opening part of the world. Home to desolate desert landscapes, unique wildlife encounters and 32,201,579 MILLION people whom reveal themselves in extraordinary festivals characterised by dancing and chanting, hypnotic music and the mysterious world of masks and secret societies, this is Africa untouched!
We share with you five hidden secrets of West Africa that showcase what this incredible part of the world has to offer.
1. The Niokolo-Koba National park
The Niokolo-Koba National Park is a World Heritage Site and a naturally protected area in south eastern Senegal near the Guinea-Bissau border. Covering an area of 913,000 hectares, this biologically rich national park is home to 80 species of mammals, over 350 species of birds and nearly 1500 species of flora. Leopards, lions, hippos, baboons and antelope are all found (although not always easily spotted) here. Its terrain encompasses riparian forest, various waterways and dry savannah, making it an incredible destination to visit!
2. Tata Somba Houses “Tata Village”
The Tata Somba Houses are a handful of traditional dwellings in the area around Natitingou whose design recalls that of castles. The tribe of people living in the Atacora region in Northern Benin are referred to as the ‘Somba’”. In the Somba language, the word for fortress is ‘Tata’, so Tata Somba refers to a fortress of Somba People. It is definitely worth checking out these unique and fascinating villages and witnessing how the Tatas live their unique lifestyles.
3. Voodoo Festival Ouidah
In Ouidah, a small town and former slave port in Benin, the annual voodoo festival gathers visitors from far and wide to commemorate the estimated 20 million people who lost their homelands and their freedom during the African slave trade. The festival encompasses locals decked out in traditional costumes, copious amounts of dancing and chanting, as well as animal sacrifices at shrines. The peak of the festival is in the last two days and it is definitely worth witnessing if you plan on travelling to Benin in early January.
4. Grand Popo
Grand-Popo is a wonderful beach town located in the far southwest of Benin. Once a major slave port, the town is now celebrated for its long beach lined with coconut palms and a chosen destination for many locals to relax and unwind. Witness the local fisherman bringing in their daily catch, explore the main town bustling with local markets and shops or even join in with the locals playing soccer and cricket on the beach!
5. Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake and is the second oldest freshwater lake in the world estimated to be over 10 million years old! It covers approximately 32,900 square kms and forms the boundary between Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Zambia. Lake Tanganyika is attracting more and more travellers each year due to its white sandy beaches, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters with multi-coloured tropical fish and to observe the vast amounts of fishermen bringing in their daily catch whilst witnessing a magnificent sunset. Lake Tanganyika is often described as the Thailand of West Africa!
Want to make these experiences yours? Check out our African small group tours!
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.