Notes from the field: West Africa

Notes from the field: West Africa
February 2018

In our never-ending search for life-changing travel experiences delivering memorable human engagement, the team at A&K regularly scouts the globe for extraordinary people, places and things. Pioneering Product Manager John Saporito is just back from West Africa and shares some of the extraordinary encounters he experienced and the mementos he brought home.

Black magic
In a remote village in Togo where voodoo and witchcraft are still practised, ceremonies are commonplace. Considered by most westerners to be dark, sinister and mysterious, in Togo voodoo is a party of everyday life and involves different rituals, spells, and animal sacrifices. One of the best ways to understand the religion is to meet a local witch doctor and observe a traditional voodoo ceremony where the use of drums and chanting call in the voodoo spirits to heal. Some performers are possessed and fall into deep trances.

On stilts

On the northern shore of Lake Nokoué in Benin lies Africa’s largest town on stilts. Created in the 16th or 17th centuries by the Tofinu people who took to the lake to avoid marauding warriors capturing slaves, Ganvie is now home to a population of around 30,000. The primary industry here is fishing and fish farming and local transport is by dugout canoe. Declared a World Heritage site in 1996, a visit here reveals a thriving community relying on the lake’s waters for its bounty.  

Back to school

One of the most rewarding things I did during my time in Togo was to visit one of the local village schools on the way from Ouidah to Kpalimé. A delivery of school supplies will be made during our hosted journey next year.  

Bring it home
The Grand Market in occupies an entire city block and is full to bursting with all sorts of fascinating items. The fabric section is particularly interesting with the Nana Benz women and their famous colourful wax printed cloth that has become a sought-after commodity throughout the world. I selected a rare bronze statue from Nigeria.  

Contemporary art

For traditional Ghanaian crafts, head to the Artist Alliance Gallery in Accra. Overlooking the sea, the gallery was established by a respected local artist and showcases work by both established and emerging local artists. I was especially impressed by the Ashanti drums and masks as well as the quirky painted fantasy coffins, which come in a variety of shapes from fruit and animals to cars and Nike sneakers.

Our suggested journey: 
West Africa: Kingdoms, Salves & Voodoo
16 Days | Priced from $12,150 per person twin share
Single supplement $2,825
Tour date: 23 October - 7 November 2018.