Granaries of tribal Benin
Our West African odyssey reveals a panoply of traditional cultures, including the Gourounsi tribe, whose thatched village granaries store the season’s crop. The Gourounsi are known for their unique architecture of round adobe dwellings painted in spectacular geometric patterns.
Photo by Michel Renaudeau / age fotostock
Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Cost From:||$5795 see pricing|
|Lodging:||14 nights in hotels & guesthouses|
|Meals:||All meals included|
|Activity:||Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures|
Rugged road travel, cultural exploration, easy walks
- Kumasi, the heart of the vibrant Ashanti culture, known for their colorful handicrafts and elaborate funerary rites
- The surreal voodoo world of the Togo and Benin coasts
- Elmina Castle, fetish priests of Taneka, the Tamberma and Somba people with their castles of clay
- Each departure features a vibrant festival: Akwasidae or the Egun Mask Festival
This was an unforgettable trip, featuring cultural exchanges and visits to unbelievable festivals and sites. Every day held something of interest, and we had the benefit of meeting friendly people and participating in authentic festivals such as the tribute to the Ashanti king and the voodoo ceremony.Sara K.—Las Cruces, NM
Choosing the Right Trip
We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.
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Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.
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. The March 2013 departure will attend the colorful Ashanti Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi honorings the Ashanti king, and our September 2013 departure will witness the exuberant mask dances of an Egun Mask Festival in the Yoruba and Fon villages of southern Benin.
Itinerary at a Glance
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Accra, Ghana / El Mina 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 St. George de la Mina, entering its evocative slave dungeons and peaking through the “Door of No Return,” where captives were taken to awaiting ships. We also visit Kakum National Park, which protects a fragment of Ghana’s former rainforest.
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.
For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary
What the Trip is Like
This trip is rated Level 3, moderate. Tourist facilities are very limited in the remote savanna regions and small villages we visit. There are few first-class hotels anywhere outside the cities, but rest assured we always try to obtain the best possible. For the most part, the hotels are comfortable, but they are very basic. Hotel air conditioning in West Africa does not cool a room to American standards of comfort, and may not work sometimes, and there may be occasions where the hotel electricity goes off for periods of time. We travel by one minivan or by two 4WD vehicles, depending on weather and road conditions. Our support staff travels in another vehicle with cooking supplies. On our road journeys, we make frequent "outdoor bathroom" stops and you have ample opportunity to stroll around villages and markets to see and experience the differences in architecture, dress, and culture among the many tribes in West Africa. On travel days, our staff prepares a lunch for us ahead of time in the morning and we enjoy it in a roadside restaurant en route.
Although we are accompanied by a support crew staffed by experienced veterans of West Africa, participants should understand that this trip involves long drives, lack of proper bathroom facilities, hot and humid weather, and somewhat basic hotels outside of Accra. The physical shape you are in will be an important factor in your enjoyment of your trip. We recommend you bring Gatorade-type powdered mixes or packets of OHS (oral hydration salts) to add to your water bottle from time to time on really hot days. Dehyration is a serious risk and should be prepared for.
There are dangers inherent in any expedition traveling to remote regions. These dangers include everything from the possibility of a vehicle accident or sickness without access to the means of rapid evacuation. The availability of medical supplies, or the adequacy of medical attention once provided, cannot be guaranteed and cannot be expected to measure up to Western standards. If you have any chronic health problems (respiratory or cardiac problems, a bad back, or diabetes), we recommend you consider a different trip.
Departures & Leaders
Sep 11-25, 2013 Egun Mask Festival
Prices are for 2013
$5795 (11-14 members)
$6095 (7-10 members)
$6395 (4-6 members)
Single supplement: $1390
Forced single supplement: $990
more on pricing
Trip Cost Includes:
- Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
- Accommodations in hotels
- All meals included
- Land transportation, airport transfers
- Bottled drinking water with meals, plus a supply in our vehicle
Trip Cost Does Not Include:International airfare, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, any additional hotel nights made necessary by airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses such as medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).
Trip Payment Schedule
At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20%
60 days prior to departure: Balance
Paul Agboglo, raised in the south of Togo, earned his BA in Foreign Languages (German and English), with a thesis focused on the translation and interpretation of 150 proverbs in the Ewe language of Togo. Paul's thesis has since become a standard reference in Lomé for studies of the moral and philosophic teachings of the Ewe people as transmitted by oral tradition. Paul was an assistant on a National Geographic and NPR expedition to Taudenni and has worked with TV documentary crews from Australia. He has personally been “blessed” by having twins, which in West African culture is surrounded by mystical considerations—parents of twins are revered and honored. Paul has led European and American groups in West Africa since 1999 and is himself a “blessing” for trip members with his vast knowledge and lively personality.
Paul is very intelligent and a great teacher, with an encyclopedic knowledge of West Africa and voodun. He also has a warm personality and a great sense of humor!Sara K., Las Cruces, NM
Paul is an outstanding guide. He is multilingual, speaks English very well, has an in depth knowledge of the culture for all three countries, and is able to meet the needs of group members.Marcella G., Blacksburg, VA
Tribal Ghana, Togo and Benin
I can't say enough good things about Paul. He is highly experienced and educated, fluent in four language, seems to know everyone in all three countries, always very meticulous about providing us the best quality experience, and most of all a wonderful person and great travelling companion. Paul joins my list of truly outstanding trip leaders I have had on WT trips.Jack S., Evergreen, CO
Tribal Ghana, Togo and Benin