Ghana, Togo & Benin "Voodoo Festival"
January 06 to 20, 2018
Thriving traditional cultures, renowned art forms, flamboyantly colorful festivals, mask dances, and a dazzling ethnic mosaic are the golden gems of tribal West Africa. This fantastic cultural odyssey takes you to the remote reaches of Ghana, Togo, and Benin to discover lost tribal worlds guided by ancient spirits. On this journey you will witness a special festival-the Egun Mask Dances of the Yoruba villages of southern Benin. Along the way, you will meet unforgettable people including the Taberma, whose fairytale clay castles are spectacular examples of uniquely African architecture. Finish your excursion on the coast, in the heart of voodoo country, visiting practitioners, watching trance-dances, and learning about the awesome power that voodoo spirits still hold over people.
Per person sharing in double occupancy (air and land from JFK or Dulles, DC): $7,995.00
Single Supplement: $800.00
Led by lecturer/guide Mr. Mohamed Halouani
Credit for not using our included airfare $850.00
Price based on a group size minimum of 4 and maximum of 10 participants
Your tour does not include
- All Visa expenses (Multiple entry to Ghana & Togo while single entry to Benin).
- Airport taxes, fuel surcharges and security charges (Approx. $460.00 - subject to change).
- Vaccinations, yellow fever immunization, anti-malaria prophylaxis (all highly recommended).
- Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum participants.
- Items of a personal nature: beverages, laundry, phone calls, email, souvenirs, etc.
- Hotel accommodations necessitated by changes in air schedules or misconnections.
- Travel protection insurance (highly recommended).
Your tour includes
- Transfers airport/hotel/airport.
- Accommodation at hotels mentioned or similar.
- Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B: breakfast, L: lunch and D: dinner).
- Transportation in a minibus with A/C and 4-WD vehicles with A/C (at the Penjari Park).
- All visits to sites, villages, monuments and museums.
- English speaking guide and local guides at the various villages.
- Gratuities to guide, drivers, hotel & restaurant staff and porters.
- 1 bottle of water per day.
- Camera fees at the Festival of Ouidah.
II Active – Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long rides.
*** Superior: Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards. (3 or 4 stars)
Important Trip Notes: Tourist facilities are very limited in the remote regions and small villages you will be visiting. There are few first-class hotels anywhere outside the cities, but rest assured we always try to acquire 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 there may be occasions where the hotel electricity goes off for periods of time. Frequent stops will be made to give you 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. Participants should understand that this trip involves long drives, 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. There are dangers inherent in any expedition traveling to remote regions, such as sickness and lack of modern medical facilities.
If you have any chronic health problems (respiratory or cardiac problems, a bad back, or diabetes), we recommend you consider a different trip. It is highly advisable to purchase travel protection insurance for such a journey. The weather is rather hot and humid and you need to be tolerant to temperatures in the mid 80’s to mid-90 plus some roads are dirt and this can cause breathing and eye irritation from the dust. By signing up for such tour, we are admitting to accepting those challenges and that you are agreeing to be tolerant, flexible and patient with any possible arising inefficiency.
View Tour Itinerary
Saturday, Jan 06
USA to Accra "Ghana"
Depart the US arriving in Accra the next day.
Sunday, Jan 07
Arrive in Accra
Arrive in Accra, meet and transfer to the Novotel hotel or similar for check in and overnight. If you fly on Delta’s non-stop from USA, you will have the whole day at leisure to rest and adjust and have an orientation tour in Accra. (D)
Monday, Jan 08
accra to Lome "Togo"
Accra the capital of Ghana, has maintained its unique identity despite the fast paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city. You will start by a visit to the National Museum, one of the first works of independent Ghana - the idea inspiring the Museum is to relate Ghanaian art to the rest of the continent and to prove the existence of an African history as part of the general history of humanity. We explore the old quarter of James Town, inhabited by the local population known as the Ga. Our tour ends with the visit of a workshop where they specialize in building fantasy coffins. These special handcrafted coffins can reflect any shape: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. the only limit being imagination! Started in Africa, these flamboyant coffin designs are by now collected worldwide and exposed in museums. Afterwards transfer by car to Drive to Lome, Togo and check in at Ibis hotel or similar for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, Jan 09
Lome to Ouidah "Benin"
Lome, the vibrant capital of Togo, is the only African city which was a colony of the Germans, the British and the French. It is also one of the few capitals in the world bordering with another nation. These elements have led to the development of a unique identity reflected in the life style of its inhabitants and in the architecture of the town: Lome is indeed a cross point for people, trade and cultures, a cosmopolitan city in small size. We will visit: the central market with its famous “Nana Benz”, women who control the market of the expensive “pagne” (=cloths) coming from Europe and sold all over West Africa; the colonial buildings in the administrative quarter where the flavor of colonial time is still very present; and the fetish market where we can find an eclectic assortment of all the necessary ingredients for love potions and magical concoctions. We move into voodoo world and meet with a traditional healer. Traditional healers treat their patients combining voodoo rites with their deep knowledge of ancestral herbs. The treatments are believed to be effective for almost all diseases, especially for insanity. The endless list of voodoos shows the endless powers concentrated in their impressive shrines! Afterwards cross the border to Benin and transfer to Casa del papa or similar for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, Jan 10
Ouidah "Voodoo Festival"
Every 10th of January in Benin is a national celebration day in honor of the traditional religion and of the cults associated with it. Ouidah in particular is where tens of voodoo ceremonies are held gathering thousands of adepts, traditional chiefs and fetish priests. Ouidah was conquered by the Dahomey army during the 18th century to become one of the main slave ports. Today Ouidah enjoys an Afro-Portuguese architecture, and the python temple faces the Catholic Cathedral. The laid back attitude of the locals blends in harmoniously with the thunder of the distant waves and the rhythm of the drums - a timeless atmosphere very well described by Bruce Chatwin in his book "The Vice-Roy of Ouidah". On foot we visit the Python Temple and the Portuguese Fort, now a museum on the history of Ouidah and the slave trade. We end our city tour by following the “slave road” to the beach, the point of “no return” where slaves used to board ships. In according with program of festivities, we will choose the best sites to attend the festival which takes place in the entire region around Ouidah. Return to your hotel for your overnight. (B,L,D)
Thursday, Jan 11
Ouidah to Dassa
Cross Lake Nokwe with a motorized boat to reach Ganvie, the largest African village on stilts. The village has managed to preserve its traditions and environment despite the long-lasting human presence in a closed setting; and the lake is not over-fished. Life unfolds each day around the canoes that men, women and children guide with ease using brightly colored poles. It is with these canoes that men fish, women deliver goods to the market and children go to school and play. Afterwards move to Abomey where you visit the Royal Palace. The walls of the palace are decorated with bas-reliefs representing symbols of the ancient Dahomey kings. Now a museum listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it displays items belonging to the ancient kings: thrones, cult altars, statues, costumes and weapons. A Kingdom whose economy was for a long time based on the slave trade: a permanent state of war made it possible for the kings to capture thousands of prisoners whom they then sold as slaves. The royal army also included a female troop famous for its boldness and aggressive fighting spirit. In the middle of the royal courtyard there is a temple built with a mixture of clay, gold dust and human blood. At the height of their power there were up to 4.000 women in the palace harem. A walk around the buildings helps the visitor to recall the past splendor of the court, which proudly challenged the powerful armies coming to colonize the continent. Afterwards transfer to Hotel Jeko or similar for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)
Friday, Jan 12
Enjoy your full day tour in Dassa, the seat of an old kingdom founded by Olofin in 1385. Visit some sites witnessing the passage of this long lasting dynasty. Stop at the wooden horse. A walk through the hills will take you to a sacred place where kings used to be buried – it is still protected today by several voodoos. Egun masks; the Egungun is a very powerful masks secret society. They are the reincarnation of deceased people and are known and feared for their aggressiveness and their unpredictable way of moving around. Intensively colored, masks are covered with a multitude of pieces of cloth of many red shades. They emerge from the forest and form a procession through the streets of the village, leaping towards any foolish spectator who dares getting too close. And nobody wants to be touched by the Egun because any contact carries the danger of death. When masks arrive they perform a kind of bull fight designed to scare the crowd but in truth they are actually greeted with bursts of laughter, return to your hotel for your overnight. (B,L,D)
Saturday, Jan 13
Dassa to Natitingou
Head north where the fetish of Dankoli will be the gateway to the voodoo world. Pilgrims plant thousands of wood sticks that represent the prayers offered to the spirits. When their pleas have been answered, they come to sacrifice the promised ransom: a goat, a chicken, a cow, blood, palm oil and sodabi (local liquor). Continue to the region of Djougou and nice hike to discover old Taneka villages located on a mountain with the same name. The villages are made up of round houses covered with a conical roof protected at the top by a terra cotta pot. The upper part of the village is inhabited by the young initiated and by the fetish priests who only cover themselves with a goat skin and always carry a long pipe. This ethnic group has been living on an archaeological site for centuries; in fact it looks as if the first inhabitants (from Kabye origins) moved to the mountain during the IX century. Since then, other populations have joined thus forming a kind of melting-pot where despite the fact that each group kept its own cults and initiation rites, common religious and political institutions were defined. As we wander among the villages along alleys bordered by series of smooth stones, we may come across half naked men. The Taneka people believe that in order to “become” a man, it is necessary to combine time, patience and a lot of blood from sacrificed animals. It’s actually a lifetime process in the sense that life itself becomes a rite of passage. As a consequence, life should not be considered conditioned by a “before” and an “after” but rather as following a continuous path practices. Transfer to Tata Somba Hotel or similar for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)
Sunday, Jan 14
Natitingou to Kara "Togo"
After breakfast, Leave to Atakora Mountains and enter the land of the Somba & Tamberma who live in fortified dwellings. Similar in form to medieval castles, they are one of the most beautiful examples of ancient African architecture. Their style impressed Le Corbusier so much that he spoke of «sculptural architecture». In fact the houses are built by hand, layer after layer, adding round mud balls and shaping them as per the plan of the house. Their strong tradition beliefs are proved by the presence of big shrines - of phallic form - at the entrance of their homes. Actually their houses are a projection of their anthropology and cosmology - the ground floor, with its darkness, represents death and is the place of ancestors; the second floor, open to the sky, represents life and is the place where grandmothers keep babies until they “find out” which ancestor has come back as the new life - only then will the baby be allowed to come down from the terrace. All family, food supplies and stock are kept inside the house, for safety and survival in case of attack by enemies. Afterwards transfer to Kara Hotel or similar for overnight. (B,L,D)
Monday, Jan 15
Kara to Tamale "Ghana"
After breakfast head to Ghana border and to a seldom visited region. It is in the savannah, that the Dagomba people live. They build round clay huts with thatched roof. The house of the village chief is easily recognizable thanks to its larger size and style: it has a central pole supporting the roof and the entry is framed with pieces of burned clay. It’s here that the council of the elders meets. Further ahead we meet a very large settlement of witches! All exiled from their villages because found guilty of terrible events such as the death of a teenager, a mysterious disease or a bad harvest, they now live all together in a specific place. Enjoy chatting with them about their life and about the special shrine which protects them, “cleaning” their spirit from bad will. Their warm welcome dramatically contrasts with the gravity of the stories that justify them being here. Overnight at Gariba Lodge or similar. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, Jan 16
Tamale to Techiman
Drive from the savannah to the forest. In the Brong Afo region we leave the main road and follow a track to a sacred forest. The locals living here consider Monas and Colobus monkeys as their totems, as result we can encounter here the largest community of these species in the world. During a walk in the forest, accompanied by the emerald green light filtered by the giant trees, we will see plenty of sacred monkeys. Overnight at Encom Hotel or similar. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, Jan 17
Techiman to Kumasi
Kumasi is the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful nations in Africa until the end of the 19th century, when the British annexed Ashanti Country to their Gold Coast colony. The tribute paid today to the Asantehene (King) is the best evidence of their past splendour and strength. With nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling city with a fantastic central market, one of the biggest in Africa. Every type of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable. You will visit to the Ashanti Cultural Centre: a rich collection of Ashanti artifacts housed in a wonderful reproduction of an Ashanti house. In the afternoon we participate – if available – in a traditional Ashanti funeral, attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration: the deceased in fact is believed to be still with his/her family and through this ceremony he/she becomes an ancestor. Relatives and friends gather, socialize and celebrate his/her memory. The chief arrives surrounded by his court under the shade of large umbrellas while drums give rhythm to the dancers whose intricate moves are highly symbolic. Overnight Miklin Hotel or similar. (B,L,D)
Thursday, Jan 18
Kumasi to Anomabu
In the morning continue to visit the Royal Palace Museum hosting a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court, and a few nearby villages specialised in weaving the traditional Kente cloth, praised by the socially important people and used to make special ceremonial stools. At the end of these amazing visits, drive back to the coast. Overnight at Anomabu Beach Resort or similar. (B,L,D)
Friday, Jan 19
Anomabu to Accra
Head to visit of Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in Africa, erected by the Portuguese in the 15th century. At different times the castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. The castle we visit today is the result of successive extension works and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Old Dutch Cemetery in Elmina goes back to 1806. Outside the castle, a wonderful fishing village with lots of large colorful fishing boats - every day these canoes are guided by skilled fishermen across strong ocean waves and currents, “fighting” to earn a living. In the old town we will see the Posuban, the shrines of the old “Asafo companies” - the warriors who used to put their offerings on the large colorful statues. The alleys in the old town have a very lively atmosphere, bringing us back to a time when Elmina was a busy colonial town. In the late morning drive to Accra and transfer for your Day-use Rooms till 18.00 hrs. Afterwards transfer to the airport for your flight back home arriving the next day. Jan 20. (B,L)
We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed