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Overland Freetown to Accra TOP019_10

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Overland Freetown to Accra

Join a 35 day overland adventure through Sierra Leona, Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. Delight in West African dance, culture, traditional architecture, and great music. Cross vine bridges, relax on the beach and spot some incredible wildlife as you go off the beaten path in four incredible West African countries.

Highlights:

  • Two nights at Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary – home to the best wildlife that Sierra Leone has to offer, including the rare pygmy hippo
  • Enjoy the beaches and nightlight of Freetown, Sierra Leone’s buzzing capital
  • Overnight near the stunning Kpatawee waterfalls in northern Liberia
  • See stilt dancing in Ivory Coast and visit its fabulously weird capital Yamoussoukro
  • Take a day trip the sacred lake of Bosumtwi
  • Visit the many slave forts that populate the coast of Ghana
  • Observe the famous coffin makers in Accra

The first week begins in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Options include a visit to Charlotte Fall and the Tacugama Chimpanzee or simply soaking up the beach culture of the capital city. At Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary you’ll have a chance to explore the island by foot, dugout canoe, or motor boat. Any way you go you’ll have a great chance to see the elusive pygmy hippo.

You’ll cross the border into Liberia and head to Monrovia. The city has an interesting history and you can see glimpses of its tragic past as you stroll through the city being greeted by welcoming locals. This week involves a great deal of flexibility as Liberia is newly opened to tourists and there are many unknowns waiting to be discovered. Week three is equally intriguing as you make your way through Guinea Forestiere (Forest Region) one of the most naturally beautiful parts of West Africa.

While in Ivory Coast during week four Yamoussoukro will definitely be a unique highlight. See the Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix, a six lane highway leading nowhere, and the grandest monuments on par with any European city you can name. The journey ends in Ghana where there’s an opportunity to visit Ankassa National Park, St George’s castle at Elmina, take a class in drumming, batik-making, or Ghanaian cuisine.

Overlanding by truck through West Africa comes with challenges. Road conditions will slow the group down, there are often corrupt officials at border crossings, and you’ll be staying in remote areas with no tourist infrastructure to provide comfort amenities. This provides great opportunities for bush camping off the truck and experiencing the true meaning of team work. Your guides will be monitoring safety conditions throughout the journey and working hard to ensure you have a safe and unbelievable experience.

This is an epic adventure through four of West Africa’s extraordinary countries. There is so much to do and see that each day is an unbelievable journey from dawn till dusk. Enquire today to learn more.

Itinerary

Week 1: Sierra Leone

We start this leg of our journey in Freetown. You’ll have time to look around and soak up the atmosphere in Sierra Leone’s dazzling capital. You could  take a speedboat to Banana Island with its breathtaking views of  the coastline, visit Charlotte Falls and/or the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, or simply beach hop along the peninsula. When the sun goes down Freetowners like to party – so if that’s your thing you’ll find plenty of street parades, beach bars and nightclubs to dance in until dawn!

From Freetown we head east towards Bo and onto Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary. This reserve home to 11 species of primates and the rare and elusive pygmy hippo. You can explore the island by foot, motorised boat or dugout canoe, enjoying the river and forest wildlife and searching for signs of the secretive hippos.

Nearby we’ll have a chance to cool off in a swimming hole, take fishing trips on the river, learn about local customs and agriculture, and visit a neighbouring community for a music and dance performance.

Leaving Tiwai Island we will spend some time in Kenema, a town made famous by the diamond dealing trade. The tar runs out here as we head south on some of the most challenging roads on the entire trip to get to the border with Liberia.

To experience the magic that Sierra Leone has to offer watch this superb video that Jamie Noel made for us. Jamie joined one of our trips in 2012 and made a series of videos highlighting the pristine beaches, friendly people, and stunning landscapes the country is so famous for!

Week 2-3: Sierra Leone into Liberia

The roads from the east of Sierra Leone to the border with Liberia are in a poor state, so our progress will be slow at times. It’s a beautiful drive through the jungle as we get to see a part of West Africa few other travellers get to. As we cross into Liberia the road improves for the journey into the capital, Monrovia.

We will spend time in and around Monrovia as we apply for visas for later on in the trip. The city is in a varying state of repair after so many years of trouble, but is very much moving on from a tragic past. The people in Monrovia are particularly welcoming and always pleased to see tourists coming to their city! Marvel at what remains of the Masonic Lodge and other reminders of Monrovia’s most intriguing history.

Whilst we wait for visas we will spend time at a surf retreat in the sleepy coastal town of Robertsport. Here you will have the chance to enjoy the beaches, or explore the interesting architecture from some of Liberia’s early settlers.

With visas in hand we will head north towards Gbarnga before continuing onto Guinea. This is a totally flexible part of the trip, as Liberia is very much new to travellers after being closed for so long. We will take it as it comes! The roads are in a varying state of repair, and could slow us down, so we have built spare days into the itineraries to account for this. We will visit Kpatawee waterfalls en route, one of Liberia’s most beautiful spots, where if you wish you can spend a few hours trekking up the river to see a number of falls rising up the hillside.

In the Nimba region, we hope to visit the huge rusting relics of a long abandoned mine, against the backdrop of a modern purpose built mining town.  You will be travelling through a remote part of West Africa, an area not accustomed to seeing a large group of overlanders before, so expect quite a welcome as we journey through this beautiful part of Liberia!

Week 3: Liberia and Guinea’s Forest Region

This weeks itinerary is left deliberately vague due to the nature of the area we will be travelling through. Guinea Forestiere (Forest Region) and much of Liberia is remote, and receives far fewer visitors than other parts of the region. It’s one of the most naturally beautiful parts of West Africa, but travel in the region is somewhat challenging due to varied road conditions.

As a very rough guide, we hope to do some or all of the following during this week:

  • Hike in the Guinea Forestiere to find the vine bridges the area is famed for – walking on them is at your own discretion!
  • Explore the markets of Nzerekore and perhaps look around the Musee Ethnographique, home to a selection of masks and fetishes.
  • Optional trekking to visit the Wild Chimpanzees the area is famous for
  • Overland towards the Ivory Coast border taking in the views of Mount Nimba

Wild Chimpanzee Guinea West AfricaWe plan to enter Ivory Coast close to the Liberian border and head east towards Yamoussoukro. On our way we will spend the night in a traditional village and witness an evening of dancing and festivities. This village is picture post card perfect, and with luck the dance will include a stilt dancer!

To reiterate: this section of the trip is totally flexible due to unpredictable road conditions and security. Calm has most certainly returned to this particular area since recent conflicts ended – but your security is paramount, so we do not want to make any cast-iron guarantees regarding the exact route until the trip enters the region. Either way, we will have journeyed from the Forest region of Guinea to the west of Ivory Coast by the end of week 3.

Week 4: Ivory Coast

After our night in a traditional Ivorian village and having witnessed a stilt dance ceremony (see the video near the top of this page), we head east to one of Africa’s anomalies – Yamoussoukro.
The capital of Ivory Coast in name alone, Yamoussoukro was the hometown of long serving post-independence President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who spent exorbitant amounts of money to make it the new spectacular capital.

We will spend two nights just outside of town – giving you a chance to marvel at the Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix, and some grand hotels with sweeping panoramic views over the cities dramatic skyline.

Despite such a low percentage of the population actually being Catholic, the President spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a grand Basilica, almost an exact replica of St Peter’s in Rome! The town itself also boasts 6 lane highways that lead nowhere, grand hotels and monuments on a par with any other capital city of the world but all in a relatively small settlement of 250,000 people. A surreal place that has to be seen to be believed!

Ivory Coast Dancer, West Africa TravelOn our Freetown to Accra trip we lend support to an NGO called C.R.E.E.R (Centre de Reinsertion et d’Education pour les Enfants de la Rue). This project has been set up to help trafficked children who have been forced to work in the cocoa plantations, gold mines and domestic service. The project is currently in the process of constructing their new premises, a hugely exciting time for all involved. We hope we can make a positive contribution to such a worthy cause. We will be making a financial donation to the project and will bring various supplies out from the UK/France on the truck.

Next we head south for Ivory Coast’s bustling economic capital, Abidjan, with its stunning skyline and modern architecture. It may come as quite a shock after our journey through such remote areas over the past few weeks! There are some very interesting buildings and museums to visit, and a chance to stock up on luxuries. Abidjan really comes to life at night, and we will spend a night here to sample some of the great local music, including Ivorian reggae and coupé-décalé.

A short drive east brings us to Grand Bassam, the former French colonial capital in Ivory Coast. This sleepy town feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Abidjan. Here you can wander around the crumbling colonial buildings, visit local artisans at work, or simply kick back and relax on the beach.

Week 5: Ghana

A drive day and hectic border crossing sees us leave Francophone Cote d’Ivoire for a chance to speak English again in Ghana. Our first stop, Ankassa National Park, boasts the greatest biodiversity of any reserve in Ghana, with over 800 plant species, 190 bird species and 70 resident mammal species. We’ll have a chance to trek among the dense rainforest on the lookout for some of this elusive wildlife.

Heading further east along the coast, we will visit St George’s castle at Elmina. Originally built by the Potrugese as a trading post, it later turned into a holding fort ready to ship slaves across the Atlantic. A beautiful place yet one with such a tragic history. We’ll also have a chance to wander around the bustling fish market below the castle.

After our visit to St Georges castle, we will head onto Cape Coast castle to visit what was the residence of the British governor until Accra became the capital of Ghana. Again, the beautiful setting of such an impressive building seems insignificant when you learn about the suffering that went on within the walls during the days of the slave trade. There will be the opportunity to take classes in batik-making, drumming or Ghanaian cuisine!

Next stop is Kakum National Park. Here we’ll get to walk on the famous canopy walkways above the rainforest and the opportunity to see some of the wildlife within the reserve.

A bumpy tar road and a full days drive takes us north to the Ashanti stronghold of Kumasi. We will spend two nights in the city, offering you a chance to do any of the following:

  • Visit Kejetia market, one of the biggest in West Africa
  • Look around Manhyia Palace museum to admire the exhibits and learn about the history of the Ashanti royal family
  • Stroll around the grounds of the national cultural centre and witness the crafts people at work making anything from drums to weaving to jewellry.
  • Take a day trip out to the sacred Lake Bosumtwi

The trip finishes after a final days drive into the Ghanaian capital of Accra. It is well worth visiting the coffin makers just outside of the city, where they chisel timber into all kinds of objects to give people a final send off in style (cars, animals, rockets, you name it!) In addition, the artisans market has a superb array of masks, statues, clothing, jewellery, chess boards, and chairs for sale if you feel the urge for some souvenir hunting!

If time permits, it’s worth joining a tour of Accra with the excellent local guide Charles Sablah. The impoverished suburb of Nima in Accra is his base and where he started his walking tours a few years ago, offering a chance to visit the kind of places that most other tourists miss out on!

Ghanaian’s love to dance and party, so why not join in the fun and dance until dawn on the last night of this epic overland adventure!

Dates: 14 November – 19 December 2016

Price: 1,550 GBP + 550 GBP Kitty

WHAT IS INCLUDED

  • All accommodation costs included. Approximately 4 nights in a hostel/hotel, the rest mixed  between campsites/campements  with  basic  facilities  and  bush  camping  (no facilities).  The  longest  stretch without  facilities should  be  around  4 nights  in  a  row.
    There are numerous options on this trip to upgrade from camping to a basic room if you want to pay extra.
  • All food whilst camping is included in the kitty, though occasionally we might want to  put  a lunch  or  dinner  on  hold  whilst  camping if we find somewhere funky en route or are invited to eat in a local village.

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

  • Flights
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Border taxes
  • Personal spending money
  • Optional activities
  • Tips
  • Meals when in hotels / guesthouses
  • Drinks
  • Any unforeseen contingency route expenses

Operator

When it comes to exploring West Africa there can’t be a better bunch to travel with than this passionate independent tour operator. Their unique trips in the region offer exploratory travel to countries and places that no other overland operators venture to.

Instead of just passing through the region as part of a Trans Africa Tour, or only visiting a few tried and tested countries, they take their time and travel as far off the beaten track as possible.

The overland adventure trips they offer focus entirely on West Africa and nowhere else – so you can be sure you are getting a trip run by crew who are passionate and entirely focused upon this magical part of the world.

We love that if you compare the trips to other companies offering tours of West Africa you will see they travel at a slower pace and visit many more places. The crew oozes a passion for this wild and under visited region.

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