West African Journey
Please disregard these 10 FALSE assumptions about traveling in West Africa.
Assumption #1: Transportation is difficult at best You may be surprised that there are actual freeways to speed you out of some of the West African capitals and into the rural areas. Modern gas stations provide the means to get to the next large city, which is probably connected by a paved road. There may be some difficulties getting from village to village where rivers and mud become involved but these are the problems for your guides, who have already planned itineraries to avoid such situations.
Assumption #2: Revolution will break out at any moment No, no, no! War in Africa is an isolated affair, like anywhere in the world. There is more violence in any American city than in most African countries. Please leave the daily news behind you and relax with the villagers in peace and quiet. After all, the whole point of our journey is to show you how peaceful and loving the people of West Africa are.
Assumption #3: You will catch exotic diseases that you've never even heard of. Well, if you haven't heard of it, then it probably doesn't exist. If you have heard of it, ask your doctor how to avoid it. Common sense is the best medicine. We provide bottled water. Take the preventative measures reccommended by your doctor. Avoid dehydration and exhaustion. You'll do just fine.
Assumption #4: Africa is beset by a pestilence of bugs The amount of bugs in West Africa is no more than in any forested area. Furthermore, the farther you get into the dry season, the fewer you'll find. Better yet, the tropical areas produce many breathtakingly beautiful species of beetles, dragonflies and the friendly lizards that eat the bugs. Hopefully we'll run across a few.
A$$umption #5: The$e exotic vacation$ are expen$ive Once you step off the transatlantic flight, you will have left the bulk of your expenses behind you. A week or two in West Africa is manageable for even the most modest of budgets. Better yet, avoid the first class hotels in the capital cities, rely on the hospitality of your hosts, and you could find yourself spending only pennies per day.
Assumption #6: Where there is food to eat, it's inedible Famine? I ate more in a typical Senegalese meal than I do now in a normal day. The famines that you have seen pictured on the news are foremost the result of political turmoil and wars that inhibit food production and distribution systems. Exotic spices and cooking methods will intrigue even the most cultured tongues. Some cuisines, notably those of Ghana and Senegal, are known worldwide for there characteristic sauces. Many of the local nuts, spices, and fresh fruits are not to be found in most American supermarkets.
Assumption #7: There are too many dangerous animals I've seen more dangerous animals in Central Texas during the last few months (five snakes and counting) than I saw during the years that I lived in Senegal. As much publicity as the lions, cobras and cheetahs of Africa receive, they just are not a part of the everyday life in West Africa. What is a part of everyday life are numerous tropical animals of more natural beauty than I'd imagined: birds of metallic green and turquoise blue, chameleons shades of orange and purple, and the occasional monkey sneaking around in search of a tasty snack.
Assumption #8: When it rains, it pours, and for days on end. In West Africa, like anywhere in the world, thunderstorms occasionally pass through. It lightnings, it thunders, and it may rain very hard. And then it passes over. In the Sahel (the region of West Africa immediately South of the Sahara desert), the dry season lasts from November to June, and it might rain the rest of the year during what locals call the "rainy" season. The reality is that most of the days during these months are relatively cool in temperature, and may even be pleasantly overcast. After four or five rains, the desolation of the desert blooms into grasslands full of seasonal plants. And the "desert in bloom" is not meant solely for National Geographic: West Africa is so blessed after the first few rains in July and August. You won't want to miss it!
Assumption #9: The heat is unbearable Sure it's hot, if you stand in the sun all day. The absolute first thing that you will learn from the people you meet is stay in the shade. Relax, take a nap. Drink the ritual three rounds of tea. Mid-afternoon is the time of day to gossip, trade stories, visit with friends. Got work to do? It can wait until the cool of the evening, or better yet, wait 'til morning. Yes, West Africa lies in the tropics but wise travelers, like the villagers, know how to deal with it. We'll provide LOTS of water. Stay in the shade. Moreover, check out our itineraries and you'll find that we've already helped you out- tours just don't go during the hottest months of the year, except along the mild coasts.
Assumption #10: Most of Africa is desert wasteland The populations of West Africa are in the plentiful forests to the south of the Sahara. The exceptions are the populations in the floodplains of the Niger and Senegal Rivers. Both of these rivers, which wander north through fertile valleys on their way to the sea, have annual floods are truly a phenomenon of nature.