Thriving traditional cultures, renowned art forms, flamboyantly colorful festivals, mask dances, and a dazzling ethnic mosaic are the golden gems of tribal West Africa. Our fantastic cultural odyssey brings us across remote reaches of Ghana, Togo, and Benin to discover lost tribal worlds guided by ancient spirits. Along the way, we meet unforgettable people including the Tamberma, whose fairytale clay castles are spectacular examples of uniquely African architecture. We finish on the coast, the heart of voodoo country, visiting practitioners, watching trance-dances, and learning about the awesome power the voodoo spirits still hold over people. We attend the colorful Ashanti Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi honoring the Ashanti king, and witness the exuberant mask dances of an Egun Mask Festival in the Yoruba and Fon villages of southern Benin.
This was a very worthwhile and horizon-expanding trip. This part of Africa is not a heavily-travelled tourist destination, and tourist facilities are often basic, but the wealth of cultures, tribes, and customs makes this a great trip for those who have already experienced the more 'popular' Africa destinations.
— Jack S.
Accra, Ghana / Elmina Castle
We visit Ghana’s National Museum, with its striking ethnographic collection, then head along the palm-fringed coast to the 15th century Portuguese fortress of Elmina, entering its evocative slave dungeons and peeking through the “Door of No Return,” where captives were taken to awaiting ships.
Kumasi and the Ashanti
The Ashanti Kingdom was once one of the most powerful nations in Africa. In Kumasi, the Ashanti “capital,” our explorations include the market as well as the fascinating Ashanti Cultural Center.
Traditional Tribes of the Savanna / Castles of Clay
Traversing a baobab-dotted landscape that was once a caravan route between Ghana’s Gold Coast and the vast Sahara, we visit the tiny villages of the Gondja tribe. Entering northern Benin, we meet the Dagomba people, with their round clay huts with thatched roofs, and the isolated Tamberma and Somba, famous for their spectacular defensive architecture of fortified adobe castles complete with turrets. We also visit an ancient Taneka village inhabited by fetish priests and the encampments of Fulani herders.
Voodoo Priests and Fetish Markets of the Coast
As we head south through Benin toward the coast, we visit Abomey, with its eerie Royal Palace of the Dahomey king. Near Lome, Togo’s capital, we meet traditional healers at a “voodoo hospital,” visit a fetish market, and watch a real voodoo ceremony accompanied by hypnotic rhythm of chanting and drums.
Accra, Ghana / Depart
The Krobo region near Accra is world famous for its glass beads, long used as trade goods. This morning we visit a bead workshop to see how these complex multi-colored glass beads are made. Evening departure on homeward-bound flights.
February 2016 Departure Only
Days 1-5 Voodoo Priests and Fetish Markets of the Coast
Days 6-9 Traditional Tribes of the Savanna / Castles of Clay
Days 10-11 Kumasi and the Ashanti
Days 12-14 Accra, Ghana / El Mina Castle
Day 15 Depart