West Africa is a place where darkness and light sit side by side, balancing, complementing and creating an intriguing mix of culture and history that fascinates travellers.
Its grim stories of slavery contrast with its vibrant contemporary cultures – all singing, all dancing, draped in a rainbow of wax print cloth. The darkness of voodoo stands amid stunning tropical landscapes – wild beaches, ancient rainforest and undulating, sun-baked dunes.
It could be the animistic, the romance of the sahel nomads, the unsettling voodoo carvings or the sense of venturing into Africa’s cultural heat, but west Africa has sense of magic that few other places can match.
Did you know?
- West Africa encompasses both Franco- and Anglophone nations, speaking between them hundreds of tribal languages.
- It stretches from the arid Sahel, at the Sahara’s edge, through primate-filled forests all the way to the Atlantic.
- Being so close to the equator, these countries experience little variation in temperature throughout the year, with “seasons” restricted to wet and dry, or windy.
- Oct-Mar is the best time to travel to West Africa in general, with drier weather and more comfortable temperatures. This is the best time to see wildlife too, as creatures cluster around waterholes, but it is also harmattan season – the dusty wind that blusters in from the Sahara from Dec onwards, creating haze and uncomfortable dryness.
- Ghana is doable in the rainy season, thanks to its paved roads, but most other countries are a washout.
- Make the most of west Africa’s culture by timing your trip to coincide with some of the many Jazz, cultural or voodoo festivals.
- Many of west Africa’s countries are compact, meaning it is possible to travel overland between two or even three different countries in a single, two-week trip.
- West Africa is one of the most culturally diverse places on earth. Over 600 languages are spoken here, with many more dialects.