Gecko’s Heads to West Africa for the First Time in 2011

In 2011 Gecko’s will take its grass-roots style of adventure into the wilds of West Africa for the first time, with a series of overland adventures – ranging from trekking among the cliff-clinging villages of Mali’s Pays Dogon to exploring fetish markets and witnessing voodoo ceremonies in Burkina Faso; to searching for pygmy elephants in Ghana – all set against the hypnotic bluesy beat of West Africa’s world-famous music.

A feature trip in the new Gecko’s 2011 Africa brochure is the 24-day Wild West Africa adventure. Beginning in Mali with a hands-on drumming session to set the mood, the trip covers the highlights of Mali – recognised as the ‘jewel in West Africa’s crown’. From the bustling port town of Mopti – still an important trading post for salt, carried by camel caravan across the Sahara – the group takes a traditional pinasse down the Niger River, one of the great rivers of Africa, camping overnight on the riverbank.

The river cruise arrives in Djenne in time for market day. It’s one of the biggest markets in West Africa and a meeting point for the many faces of Mali: Moors, Fulani, Tuaregs and Bozo all don their finest for market day. Djenne is the oldest known city in Sub-Saharan Africa and is the site of the world’s largest adobe structure, the Djenne mosque, which, unforgettably, rises organically from the earth like a Gaudi-esque sand castle.

There is three-day trek in Dogon country, where complex cultural rituals have been kept alive in part by their isolation. Listed by Lonely Planet in the ‘Top 10 Places to See Before You Die’, the dramatic escarpment is intersected with ancient trails and villages – often clinging to the bare rock face.

Crossing into Burkina Faso, there’s a night to enjoy the thriving nightlife of the capital, Ouagadougou, en route to Bobo-Dioulasso. At night, the town’s streets come alive with music and dancing – best enjoyed over a few drinks and, if you’re game, the local delicacy: fried caterpillars.

The group gains an insight into the Lobi people’s traditions of fetish and ancestor spirit worship, before crossing into Ghana and Mole National Park, which straddles an elephant migration route. On safari drives and guided walks, travellers spot antelope, various monkey species and elephants. It’s a good segue to the Boabeng-Fiema monkey sanctuary, where the monkeys live in harmony with the local villagers and are not averse to communing with visitors.

The group continues south, and learns of the harrowing history of slavery at the Cape Coast slave castle. The penultimate destination is Kakum National Park, a rich rainforest replete with medicinal plants, butterflies, civets, monkeys and pygmy elephants. There’s a guided canopy walk before the group heads to the golden sands of Kokrobite Beach for a last couple of days of R&R at the renowned Big Milly’s camp.

The 24-day Wild West Africa adventure departs from Bamako in Mali on September 13 and November 8, 2011 and January 3, February 28 and March 20, 2012. It costs A$2575 plus a local payment of 400 Euros (roughly A$566, so a total of A$3141) per person, twin share, land only. This includes all accommodation, transfers, transport aboard the Gecko’s custom-built safari vehicle; experienced guide, driver and cook; all camping equipment; entry fees and some meals.

For further details and bookings, visit your travel agent, Gecko’s travel centre or to download the Gecko’s 2011 Africa brochure.

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