Itinerary

Days 1 & 2

U.S. / Bamako, Mali

Fly independently to Bamako, where our West Africa tour overnights at the Azalai Salam Hotel. (Meals Aloft)

Day 3

Bamako / Segou

Spend the first morning of your West Africa tour learning about West African art, textiles and Malian history at the National Museum. We then stroll through the market. Departing the city, we head toward Ségou. En route, visit Ségoukoro, a charming village on the banks of the Niger River. During the 18th century, Ségoukoro was the base of the Bambara kings, who ruled a kindom which stretched thousands of miles across West Africa. Continue to Ségou, Mali's second largest city and a former colonial capital perched on the banks of the Niger River. Spend tonight at Independence Hotel. (B,L,D)

west africa travel village

 

Day 4

Segou / Mopti

After a morning visit to the N'domo Textile Art Center, where we learn about traditional textiles and have an opportunity to paint famed bogolan mud cloth during a workshop with Professor Doumbia. Depart for Mopti, traveling through a wild landscape of giant baobabs. Mopti is a vital port and trading center at the confluence of the Niger and Bani Rivers. Spend four nights at Hotel Kanaga. (B,L,D)

Day 5

Mopti

Explore canal-laced Mopti, spotting mud-brick buildings and bustling markets, and shopping for jewelry, sculptures and blankets. This spectacular port, set against the backdrop of majestic red mud-brick Sudanese buildings, evokes the memory of the glorious 14th and 15th century Mandingo empires. Along the Niger, we find traditional pirogue boat builders and take time to shop at the Sougouni market. Our full day of touring also includes a visit to the architecture museum and Komoguel neighborhood, where we see traditional banco houses. Board a traditional pinasse — a covered boat with outboard motor — for a cruise on the Niger, seeing riverside Bozo fishing villages and livestock farms. Return to our hotel for a moving performance by a Fulani griot, the traditional West African poet, singer and storytellers who pass down their cultural knowledge. (B,L,D)

sunset seen on west africa tour

 

Day 6

Dogon Country / Mopti

Delve into the rich Dogon culture during a walking excursion along the Bandiagara Escarpment. The Dogon people live in an extremely remote area, with houses perched in implausible fashion along the steep slopes of the Bandiagara Escarpment and on the adjacent plateau and plains. The traditional belief systems of the Dogon people are rich and elaborate, and are reflected in the design and layout of their villages and in their famous carved masks and doors. During our West Africa tour visit several traditional villages, where our stops include the granaries, fetish houses and the togu-na (elders’ house). Take in a mask performance and learn about the vivid artistry of their masks, ritual figures and carvings. Return to Mopti for the night. (B,L,D)

Day 7

Djenne / Mopti

The Grand Mosque, the largest mud-brick building in the world, dominates Djenne. Many of Djenné’s houses are also fine examples of Sahelian architecture. We walk through the town, and also visit a workshop where some of the area’s famous, exquisite bogolan mud cloth is created. Return to Mopti this afternoon. (B,L,D)

west africa travel djenne mosque

 

Day 8

Mopti / Timbuktu / Bamako

Board our private flights to the mystical city of Timbuktu. Founded in the 11th century, Timbuktu became a powerful city, capital of the vast Songhai Empire in the 1500s, and a center of learning and scholarship. European explorers were captivated by stories of Timbuktu’s enormous wealth, but by the time they arrived in the 1800s, they found a much less imposing place. Today Timbuktu is a pleasant town with many echoes of the past. Travel to the distinctive Djinguereber and Sankore mosques, dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, and ancient university. Drive to the edge of the Sahara to a camp, where we savor a traditional mishui lunch of Tuareg specialties and a dance performance by this tribe, known as the “Blue Men” of the Sahara. Late this afternoon we fly to Bamako, where we overnight. (B,L,D)

Days 9 & 10

Bamako / Dakar, Senegal

Spend the morning learning about West African art, textiles and Malian history at the National Museum. Fly to Dakar, where we spend a full day touring this former French colonial city, a maze of vibrant markets, along with a poignant visit to Goree Island. Spend two nights at the Terrou Bi Hotel. (Day 9: B; Day 10: B,L)

west africa travel tribal dancers

 

Day 11

Dakar / Embark Pegasus

Spend the morning strolling through two of Dakar’s colorful local markets: Tilène, known for its medicinal herbs and traditional healers; and Kermel, selling European foods, flowers and crafts. Enjoy a lunch of local fare before boarding the Pegasus, the West Africa cruise yacht that will be our home for the next seven nights of our West Africa travel expedition. (B,L,D)

Day 12

Saloum Delta / Djiffere / Joal-Fadiouth / Banjul

Senegal’s Saloum River Delta features scenic waterways, where you may spot birdlife, while crocodiles, West African manatees and marine turtles inhabit the mangrove swaps lining the waterways. Explore the primitive fishing villages of Djiffere and Joal-Fadiouth. Enter the Gambia River and continue to Tenada. (B,L,D)

west africa cruise guests on excursion boat

 

Day 13

Kiang West National Park / Bao Bolong Reserve

Kiang West National Park is one of Africa’s last undisturbed tracts of savannah and a sanctuary for 250 bird species Visit a section of Kiang West National Park, looking for birds, monkeys, baboons and warthogs. Meet residents of a local village and learn about life in this region. Aboard small local boats, navigate the waterways and maze of islands that comprise Bao Bolong. This wetland reserve features mangrove forest, salt marsh and savannah woodland. Look for both resident and migratory birdlife and other wildlife such as hippos and the rare sitatunga. (B,L,D)

Day 14

Kuntaur

As our West Africa cruise winds its way upriver toward Kuntaur, pass villagers as they fish, mend their nets and tend dug-out canoes. (B,L,D)

west africa travel whimbrel  

 

Day 15

Kuntaur / River Gambia National Park / Janjanbureh

Board local motorized pirogues in the morning to see the five mid-river Baboon Islands that constitute the River Gambia National Park. The islands also house the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project, set up in 1969. We look for monkeys and other wildlife as our boat cruises by the lushly forested islands. Our day ends in the town of Janjanbureh, also known by its colonial name of Georgetown, once an important trading post for the British. Most of the buildings in the old town date from the 19th century. There is an opportunity to shop for local crafts. Janjanbureh’s woodlands and leafy riverfront house a large number of bird species, and you will have the opportunity to take a nature and bird watching walk. (B,L,D)

Day 16

Banjul

Spend another relaxing day on the river, as we cruise to Banjul. Founded by the British early in the 19th century near the entrance to the Gambia River to safeguard their commercial interests, Banjul is the capital and commercial center of The Gambia (B,L,D)

west africa cruise the gambia river

 

Day 17

Banjul / Abuko Nature Reserve / Makasutu Culture Forest

Our West Africa tour journeys to the tiny Abuko Nature Reserve, one of the last surviving examples of tropical riverine forest in the country, which boasts 270 bird species, Nile crocodiles, green monkey, Maxwell’s duiker and more. Continue to Makasutu Culture Forest, a private nature habitat with beautiful woodland and waterways, where we explore on bush walks and aboard dug-out canoes. Get a firsthand look at Gambian life during encounters with an Islamic holy man and a palm tapper. Return to Banjul to visit the National Museum, whose exhibits illustrate the history and culture of the country. (B,L,D)

Days 18 & 19

Dakar / Disembark / U.S.

After bidding farewell to the crew, disembark the Pegasus and board connecting flights to the U.S. (B, Meals Aloft)