Grand Expedition

This is a 55-days “Grand Expedition” that crosses the Sahara from north to south and reaches savannas, forests, coasts, and islands in the Gulf of Guinea, traversing the main natural, cultural, and religious environments of this part of the African continent.

Embark on an extraordinary journey that starts in Marrakech, Morocco, continues to the once-forbidden Western Sahara, and explores Mauritania‘s remote oasis. Witness the transition from desert to savannah in Senegal, and delve into the cultural shift from Islam to traditional animism in Casamance, before reaching the incredible landscapes of Gambia. Continue across the pristine Guinea Bissau‘s Bijagos Archipelago and the lesser-known corners of Guinea, visiting Fouta Djalon, the largest mountain massif in West Africa. This journey allows you to discover Liberia, the only country that was never a colony nor a protectorate, and learn about Sierra Leone‘s historical significance as the first British colony in Africa. It also brings you to Banana Island’s pristine paradise before moving onto the exploration of Ivory Coast, where you can experience its tribal identity and traditions. Finally, the journey reaches Ghana, with its Ashanti ethnic group and ancient slave trade castles, and ends in Togo and Benin, uncovering the African origins of Voodoo.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience to get to know all the multi-faced aspects of these amazing countries all together, a journey that will enrich you of knowledge and show you the incredible diverse landscapes of this vast area of Africa.

*If you are not able to join the full expedition, you can always join one of the 25 possible legs, mixing different combinations of country. Get in touch with us for more information.

 

 

55 days
Nov-Apr
all accommodated

PRICES STARTING FROM: 17.350€ per person*

Book your spot

For more info send us an email or chat with us!

Services included:

  • Transfer airport/ hotel and hotel/ airport at arrival and departure, EXCEPT on day 1, from the airport to the hotel In Marrakech. The fixed price for a Taxi from the airport to the hotel in Marrakech is 200 Dirhams or 20 Euro.
  • Transfers and itinerary in 4WD vehicles, minibus and boats.
  • Tours and visits as per the programme (detailed programme sent on request).
  • The equivalent of a bottle of water a day during the visits.
  • Accommodation in standard rooms, as per itinerary
  • All meals, from breakfast of day 2 to breakfast of the last day of the expedition.
  • Entrance fees to parks, concessions, protected areas and cultural sites
  • First Aid box
  • All service charges and taxes

 

Services excluded:

  • International flights
  • Earlier (prior) and/or later (after last day) transfers from and to airport
  • Visa fees
  • Any meal or sightseeing other than those specified
  • Mineral water and drinks at restaurants and hotels.
  • Portage
  • Fees for personal photos and videos
  • Personal and holiday insurance (compulsory)
  • Tips for drivers, guides and hotel staff
  • Costs related to delayed program or lost luggage
  • Any item of personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.
  • Whatever is not mentioned as included

 

*Price per person considering a shared double/twin room in a group of 6 or more passengers (from 2 to 5 pax. a small supplement is required).

Day 1-12: Morocco & Western Sahara

We start this extraordinary journey through Morocco’s diverse landscapes and historical sites. Leaving the main road, we explore lesser-known Berber villages in the High Atlas Range while we cross the majestic Tizi n ‘Tichka pass at 7460 ft, and visit the iconic Ait Benhaddou, a historic Ksar along the ancient caravan route linking Marrakech with the Sahara. Finally we reach Ouarzazate, a large oasis on the desert’s edge.

We continue to the Ouadi Draa, discovering a continuous palm grove and an archaeological site with ancient graffiti, offering a glimpse into the region’s rich history. After a stop at the charming oasis of Zagora we proceed to Mhamid, the last permanent outpost before the vast desert.

From here we embark on a Sahara adventure, driving off the beaten track through the high dunes of Erg Chegaga. Encounter the critically endangered white addax antelopes and explore the dry Salt Lake of Iriki. The itinerary unfolds through spectacular scenery, rock mountains, and large oases.

We then venture into the rarely visited region of Assa to explore ancient Arab-Berber stone architecture. The journey continues to Guelmim, an ancient caravan terminal, and then follows one of the fishiest coasts on earth. Encounter a ghost military fort that once guarded the former borders between the French protectorate of Morocco and the Spanish Sahara.

After exploring the Dra estuary region, visit the Naila Salt Lagoon, the largest in Morocco, before boarding local fishing boats to explore its emerald waters.

Arrive at the historic town of Tarfaya, a former “Aeropostale” base, and continue the journey through Laayoune, where a local guide leads a three-day off-road expedition across the Western Sahara. Camp under the stars in the vast Sahara desert.

Continue the trans-Saharan expedition, passing through dunes, wells, and nomadic camps. Reach the ocean and explore the breathtaking beauty of the Dakhla Peninsula, experiencing the unique event of the high tide flooding the desert. Visit Dakhla town, a former Spanish settlement, before concluding the journey.

Meal plan
  • All meals included except on arrival
Accommodation
Hotel
Day 13-19: Mauritania

We will travel a few miles into no-man’s land before reaching Mauritania, where we start with a day of driving between roads and trails to reach the mining town of Akjoujt. From there, an “out of any track” itinerary takes us through high dunes of Erg Amatlich, offering an untouched geological universe. Amidst the breathtaking Sahara landscape, we discover traces of ancient human presence, nomadic settlements, and the scenic Adrar massif with valleys, high mountains, and yellow sand dunes.

After a long and intense day, we arrive in Chinguetti for a two-day exploration of this “jewel” of Mauritanian Oasis. The stone citadel, dating back to the 13th century, served as a cross-point for trans-Saharan routes. The town’s unique atmosphere, ancient manuscript collections, and the second oldest operating minaret in the Muslim world captivate us.

From here we venture off the main track again, we reach Ouadane, the remotest oasis in Mauritania, following an “out of any tracks” itinerary. Discover tiny hidden oases and explore Ouadane, an important caravan trading point founded in 1147, before going back to Chinguetti.

The journey continues to a region of spectacular mountains, gorges, and canyons, including the Agrour site with prehistoric Roc Art. After visiting the Atar market, we reach Terjit, one of the lushest oases in Mauritania, providing a refreshing contrast to the desert landscape.

Transitioning from the desert to the ocean, we delve into Mauritanian history and culture with a visit to the National Museum of Noukchott, showcasing archaeology, artifacts, and textiles. Witness the vibrant Nouakchott fishing harbor, bustling with colorful pirogues and sub-Saharan fishermen selling their catches. Our journey through Mauritania reveals the diverse landscapes, ancient history, and cultural richness of this unique region before moving to the next country.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel
Day 20-32: Senegal, Gambia & Guinea Bissau

We continue this expedition from Mauritania to Guinea Bissau, crossing diverse landscapes and experiencing unique cultures. Departing early in the morning, head south to Senegal, crossing the Senegal River, a natural boundary between the desert and savannah. Explore the Djoudj National Park, a World Heritage Site and a green oasis attracting over a million migratory and sedentary birds. Enjoy a boat excursion to an island with a concentration of pelicans before arriving in the historical Saint Louis.

Discover Saint Louis, the first capital of French West Africa, situated on two twin islands. Roam the narrow streets on a kalash and explore artisan shops, art galleries, libraries, and a photographic museum. Drive south to the largest fisherman village in Senegal, experiencing local life with a donkey chariot. Continue to Lac Retba, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes.

Explore Dakar, Senegal’s vibrant capital, visiting the “Musée des Civilisations Noires,” the Presidential Palace, and a typical market. Take a ferry to Gorée Island, and witness the historical slave trade.

We head to Kaolack town, in a region of salt pans while we get close to the Gambian border. We will first visit the megalithic site of Sine Ngayene and then cross into The Gambia, experiencing a local ferry crossing. Explore Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, with a visit to the national museum.

Engage in bird watching in Gambia before crossing into Casamance, arriving in Ziguinchor from where we will discover the Casamance River estuary’s lagoons, mangroves, and islands, and visit a Diola King in a remote village. Experience ritual dances of the sacred masks and return to Ziguinchor.

Cross into Guinea Bissau, we explore its unique ecosystem with Bolon (sea arms) penetrating the land for hundreds of miles. Here we will focus on exploring the the Bijagos Archipelago with 88 islands and islets, starting with the old ghost capital Bolama, and the Bubaque island. Witness the traditional ceremonies and masks of the Bijagos people and their incredible traditions which have been almost untouched from the outside world. Relax on the wild beaches and take a walking excursion in Ponta Anchaca or explore Orango Island for a chance to encounter hippos before navigating to Bissau. Enjoy a city tour in Bissau before departing for a small village in the Malinké region. Experience the rich traditions and music of the griot families before arriving in Gabu, near the border with Guinea Conakry.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel
Day 33-41: Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone & Liberia

Departing early for a long day of driving, we cross into Guinea, experiencing wild empty spaces, spectacular mountains, and tropical dry forests on the Fouta Djalon massif. The Fouta Djalon is the water reservoir of West Africa, giving rise to three rivers that name four nations. Explore Fulla (Peul) settlements, known for their beauty and skills as Zebu cow stockbreeders, in isolated villages with clay houses before arriving to Labe.

Here we continue the discovery of Fouta Djalon, exploring its fantastic natural environment, waterfalls, and deep valleys. Visit a Fulla Kingdom descendant settlement, where traditional costumes and discussions about their history take place. Explore a villa built by the colonial governor near the area and visit Dalaba at 3,900 ft. altitude, before continuing the journey to Mamou, Kindia, and Forecariah.

Reach the Sierra Leone border and arrive in Freetown, the capital. Learn about Freetown‘s origins, its role during the Napoleonic war, and its transition into the first British colony in tropical Africa. Drive along the coast, take a boat to Banana Island, and spend a day circumnavigating and exploring the pristine paradise of the Freetown Peninsula.

We will continue the trip to Bo for a unique experience in diamond seeking, understanding the artisanal mining techniques. Journey through the forest to the Mano River, witness the Bundo masks’ female domain in a Mende village and arrive in Monrovia, Liberia‘s capital, in the evening.

Explore Monrovia‘s unique history shaped by freed slaves and the Krio population. Visit the Grand Masonic Temple and possibly meet the Grand Master, witness the remnants of the Ducor Palace Hotel, and explore the National Museum. After have learnt about Liberia’s history we will be ready to cross another border to the next country, Ivory Coast.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel
Day 42-47: Ivory Coast

Start your adventure with a morning departure to the Ivory Coast border. After crossing formalities, traverse lush vegetation to reach a remote village. Take a short walk to a spectacular liana bridge, a masterpiece of genuine tribal technology. These bridges, built exclusively with vegetal materials like wood and lianas, showcase the mystical “magic technology” of the tribe. Arrive in the small town of Man.

Man, the capital of the We, Dan, and Guéré ethnic groups, is known for its exquisite masks, considered masterpieces of African art. Immerse yourself in the vibrant tribal culture with a full day dedicated to discovering the Man region. Witness masks emerging from the forest, representing the intermediaries between humans and spirits in Dan cosmogony. Explore Man’s market, offering a variety of handicrafts and authentic masks.

Continue your tribal cultural experience with a full day dedicated to different vibrant traditions. Travel in 4X4 vehicles to a remote region rarely visited by foreigners. Witness Gueré masks‘ powerful expressive performances and, if fortunate, see rare “Jugglers” performances, an ancient tradition.

From Daloa we drive to the southeast, crossing coffee and cocoa plantations. Ivory Coast, the world’s main cocoa producer, is a landscape dotted with small villages. In a Guro tribe village, witness the Zaouli dancing masks, known for their sophisticated leg and feet movements. Then reach Yamoussoukro, the country’s formal capital since 1983. Explore the Basilica of the Virgin of Peace, inspired by St Peter’s in Rome, and visit the city’s landmarks.

Finally, we drive to Abidjan, the economic capital growing vertically along the Ebrié Lagoon. Experience the modern and colorful African metropolis with a visit to its bustling districts and attractions. We conclude the journey with a short drive to Grand Bassam, the first capital of the French Ivory Coast colony. Explore the well-preserved colonial buildings, including the Costume Museum, showcasing tribal costumes, masks, and ethnographic photographs. Continue to the small town of Aboisso, getting ready for the last leg of the trip.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel
Day 48-55: Ghana, Togo & Benin

Begin the last leg of this expedition with an early departure for the border with Ghana. The region, initially named the Gold Coast by Portuguese navigators in the 15th century, is now known as Ghana. Visit St Antonio Fort in Axim, built by the Portuguese in 1515, reflecting the region’s rich history of gold trade, and reach Anomabo, a small village on Ghana’s coast, this part of Ghana is renowned for its concentration of ancient castles and forts, with over 80 fortifications built by Europeans over three centuries.

Dedicate the next day to discovering ancient slave trade castles and animistic shrines. Visit Cape Coast and explore Elmina Castle, the oldest and largest castle with a history dating back to 1482. Witness the vibrant fishing harbor facing the castle and stroll through the alleys of the ancient fishing village. We also explore the Posuban shrines in a neighboring town before returning to Anomabo.

We then move to Kumasi, the historical and spiritual capital of the Ashanti Kingdom. With a rich cultural heritage, Kumasi boasts a fantastic central market and the Ashanti Cultural Centre. If available, participate in a traditional Ashanti funeral in the afternoon, marked by festive celebrations.

Finally, we reach the capital Accra, exploring the James Town neighborhoods with evidence of the slave period and a visit to a workshop specializing in carving “fantasy coffins”.

We move to the Togo border, arriving in Lomè, a unique capital influenced by German, British, and French rule. Explore the central market with the “Nana Benz,” colonial buildings, and the largest fetish market in Africa.

Experience the vibrant Voodoo religion in coastal Togo through authentic ceremonies. Witness drum rhythms, chants, and participants falling into deep trances. We then cross our last border to Benin and arrive in Grand Popo.

Here we explore the Zangbeto cult between lagoons and the ocean, experiencing the tall, colorful straw masks symbolizing wild, non-human spirits. Drive to Ouidah, a town with Afro-Brazilian architecture and historical significance in the transatlantic slave trade. Visit the Python Temple, Portuguese Fort, and embark on a fisherman track journey to Ganvié, the largest African village on stilts. Experience the daily life of its approximately 25,000 inhabitants, known for their ancient tribal technology of fish breeding.

Finally we drive to Cotonou for your international departure.

This remarkable expedition comes to an end, leaving you with an incredible memory that you will never forget.

Meal plan
  • All meals included except on departure
Accommodation
Hotel
Departure date
Status
Language
11/11/2024
english
confirmed
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