Tour to Togo, Benin: hiking and walking discovering forests and savannah

A “slower” and gentler way to discover the rich variety of landscapes and peoples of this fascinating region on the Gulf of Guinea.

In West Africa a few hundred meters off the main road you enter a totally untouched reality

– this is exactly what we will experience when we get out of our vehicles and walk into the “bush”.

We will climb up the highest peak in Togo (986 m.), we will walk in a virgin rain forest, we will ascent Mt Kabye

to meet with blacksmiths whose tools are still stones (!), we will hike around the Atakora Mountains for 3 days to meet with Tamberma and Somba tribes, we will discover the old Yom villages with their initiates and their fetish priests still dressed in goat skins, we will visit the sacred Royal Hill of Dassa, we will take a walk along the Slave Route in Ouidah to retrace the steps of the unfortunate victims and we will stroll along the beach to discover fishermen villages built with palm tree branches.

Being in the cradle of voodoo, we will attend amazing ceremonies and witness the state of deep trance reached by adepts.

  • Duration: 15 days
  • Guide: english speaking
Price from 2190 € Send request
Day 1

Lome, Gulf of Guinea

Arrival in Lome and transfer to the hotel. Free time to relax.

Day 2

Lome & Voodoo

Our journey starts with a visit of Lome, the vibrant capital of Togo . It 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) ; 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 .

All along the coast of Togo and Benin, voodoo is a religion that has been passed on by the ancestors and is still fervently practiced.  In a remote hidden village we will join a Voodoo ceremony: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and chants of the adepts help calling in the voodoo spirit who then takes possession of some of the dancers. They fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain.

In another village, we will visit a healer, another special encounter with a person who “deals with” complex issues by giving solutions based on a very “simple” vision of human life.

Day 3

Rainforest

From Lomé we move to the coolness of tropical forests.

Half a day dedicated to a walk in the virgin rain forest to meet with the majesty of tropical trees, the cheerful greetings of its human inhabitants, the sounds of tam-tams, the echoes of wild animals, the filtered green emerald light. Under the guidance of a local entomologist, we will learn about endemic trees and plants and about their use in natural medicine and cooking.

Day 4

Agou Peak

In the morning we will hike up Agou Peak, the highest in Togo (986 m. a.s.l.) following a nature trail which takes us across lush tropical vegetation and remote villages inhabited by coffee and cocoa growers.

Day 5

Fire  Dance

Moving north we will visit some villages inhabited by people that came originally from the north of the country. These peoples have maintained their traditions that have kept them tied to the land of their ancestors.

We will reach Atakpame, a nice city surrounded by hills that lies along the railroad that heads north from Lomé to Blitta. Atakpamé dates from the 19th century and was first settled by the Ewe and Yoruba peoples. It developed as a commercial centre on a major north-south caravan route. Nowadays, it is the centre of an important cotton-growing area and trades in both cocoa and coffee.

We will stop to visit weekly markets.

In the evening, we will attend a fire-dance.

In the heart of the village, a great fire lights up the faces of the dancers who start moving on the frenetic rhythm of the drums. The fire dancers, in a state of trance, throw themselves into the embers, grab them with their hands and put them in their mouths; they even run them over their bodies without showing any trace of injury or any sign of pain.
Is it a matter of courage? Willpower? Magic? Such a performance is hard to explain.
Maybe it really is the fetishes that protect them from fire. We would need to prove it to believe it… and believe it to prove it….

Day 6

Blacksmiths

We will visit the Faille d’Aledjo: a dramatic chasm dynamited out of the cliff to make way for the highway pass. We will be surrounded by green hills.

We will ascent on foot to the Mont Kabye, populated by the homonym population. They live in a group of huts joined together with a wall. Within each house, called « Soukala », lives only one patriarchal family.

Something really interesting to witness:

  • the blacksmiths using still today stones instead of harmer;
  • Women making traditional pottery and old style floors made up with pieces of potteries.
Day 7-9

Adobe Castles

A track across the Atakora Mountains is the access to the mystical and ever-resourceful Tamberma people. For self-defense reasons, these people have been taking refuge for centuries in the heart of the Atakora, a land so difficult to access that they could flee from any kind of invasion or intrusion, especially slave traders coming from Muslim North Africa.

According to specialists, their origins are close to the Dogon people of Mali. They share with them an absolute faith in their own animist traditions. Proof is the presence of big fetishes of a phallic form at the entrance of their houses. Those dwellings, amazingly beautiful, look just like tiny two-storey castles. Some avant-garde architects such as Le Corbusier were amazed by the strength and design of these fortified dwellings. With the permission of the inhabitants, we will go into a house to try to understand their way of living.

We will go for a three-day walk in the hills to discover the remote Tamberma & Somba villages.

Walking in this remarkable region, we will discover some villages in the Atakora Mountains. We will meet the Somba (this word means “nude” in the traditional language), whose traditions have not yet been contaminated by outsiders due to their geographic isolation. In some remote villages people only wear a simple cloth and women are covered with amulets. Similar to the Tamberma architecture, the Somba architecture is characterized by dwellings that resemble a three-story castle. These beautiful fortifications are separated one from the other depending on the ownership of fertile lands.

Day 10

The mountain of the fetish priest

We will have a nice hiking trip to discover old Taneka villages. Those villages are made of round houses covered with conical roofs protected at their top by terracotta pots. The upper part of the village is inhabited by the fetish priests dressed in a goat skin, and their initiates. This ethnic group lives on an archaeological site and could be the descendants of a tribe thought to have mysteriously disappeared four hundred years ago.

Day 11

Dancing masks

In the afternoon we will arrive to Dassa.

Dassa has been the capital of an ancient kingdom founded by Olofin in 1385.

First we will stop at the wooden horse, offered by Portuguese merchants in 1903 to the chief who was complaining that four of his horses had died from a mysterious disease.

We will continue our visit to Dassa by walking to the Royal Hill where in the past, Kings used to be buried. As we are now in the voodoo world, we will not fail to notice how the site is “protected” by many statues and the remains of recent rituals.

If scheduled, we will attend the  masks festivals.

Day 12

Royal Palace

We will move to Abomey, home to one of the most significant kingdoms in Africa.

We will visit the Royal Palace of Abomey which has walls decorated with the symbols representing the former kings, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a museum and resting place for the remains of former kings.

The Kingdom of Dahomey established its power due to a permanent state of war, in which it managed to catch prisoners who were sold as slaves. The royal army also included a female battalion famous for its boldness and aggressive fighting spirit; they became known as the “Amazons of Africa”.

We will also meet with an ancient community of blacksmiths who have now been serving the Dahomey Kings and their army for centuries.

If scheduled, we will attend the masks festivals.

Day 13

Villages on stilts

We will travel by boat to the village of Ganvie, the largest and most beautiful African village on stilt. The  inhabitants build their huts on teak stilts and cover the roofs with a thick layer of leaves. Fishing is their main activity.

Life unfolds each day within the canoes that men, women and children lead with ease with colored poles. It is with these canoes that men fish, women deliver goods to the market and children go to school and play.

The night in Ganvie is bizarre: thousands of oil lamps break the darkness, and the silence is only interrupted by the greetings of people meeting in the water-streets. Somewhere, young people are dating each other from one canoe to another one.

We will spend the night in a charming guest house on stilt.

Day14

Ouidah

A pirogue tour of Ganvié in the morning and then return to the mainland for the drive to Ouidah, considered the capital town of African Voodoo. 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 .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.

If scheduled, we will attend a Voodoo Festival.

Day 15

Relax…

Crossing of the Togolese border .

Arrival in Lomé in the afternoon and free time to relax on the beach or go shopping. Many are the places which can be visited for this purpose and our vehicle will be available to take you around: shops for tribal art and antiques, craftworks, art galleries with contemporary paintings from the “Togolese school” (which start to be quite popular in French and North-American galleries), shops selling “popular” art items such as the colourful “advertising” signs in front of the street hairdressers etc.

In the evening, transfer to the airport.

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