Benin Tourist is an excellent starting point for first-time visitors to West Africa. The country’s eco-tourism business is in its infancy, but the infrastructure is adequate. There are many tourist attractions, ranging from historic palaces to parks rich in animals to long, sandy beaches.
Itinerary for a Trip to Benin:
As part of a West Africa overland tour with Dragoman, I visited Benin. Itinerary highlights included the remote Tata Somba region, the first stop on the ten-day itinerary. From the far north to the southern coast of Benin, where the spectacular beaches of Grand Popo Beach await. During our ten-day stay we visited a variety of locations.
One of West Africa’s most distinctive cultural landscapes is the Tata Somba region, home to the rare two-story mud huts. We then made our way to the Pendjari National Park and the Abomey Palaces, all of which have a rich history. While in southern Benin Tourist, we visited the country’s voodoo sites as well as the frightening Route des Esclaves. Finally, we wrapped up our trip.
Benin’s Tata Somba region:
The Tata Somba homes are part of the more significant Koutammakou World Heritage Site encompassing northern Togo and Benin. We crossed into this from Togo in the Koutammakou/Tata Somba historical region, a tiny border post near Natitingou. It was an adventure in and of itself to cross the border into such a distant location.
There is no formal border crossing between Koutammakou and Tata Somba, and the roads crisscross the area. Families on either side of the border can reunite because the barrier is so porous. We had to drive back and forth across the fictitious border several times before we found an official border guard to get our Benin Tourist entrance stamp.
As soon as we arrived at the immigration ‘office,’ we discovered that it was merely a man sitting on a stump near a dusty village road with a stamp in hand. We drove to our eco-lodge from the border, which was designed to seem like a Tata Somba homestead. We used the eco-lodge as a home base to visit the nearby communities and feel for the region’s distinct cultural landscape.
The Tata Somba villages were the focus of our attention for the better part of two days. Two-story mud dwellings have been conserved for centuries in the area, which is dotted with baobabs. The Tata Somba residences have a distinctive layout and architectural design. The kitchen and animal quarters are usually located on the lower floors of the buildings.
The granaries and bedroom quarters are located on the top floor in elevated thatched chambers. An inside stairway connects the two stories of a Tata Somba house in a customary manner in Benin Tourist. We learned a lot about that region in the two days we were there. The Tata Somba huts, village treks, and simple way of life were all part of our experience.
The Pendjari National Park:
This Park is located in northern India. We made our way north from the Tata Somba area to the Pendjari National Park, one of West Africa’s prime wildlife locations and the most incredible place to witness the mane less. These lions, which we were able to observe. To protect rare elephants and lions from extinction, the park serves as an ecosystem of its own, the largest remaining in West Africa. There are only about 400 West African lions left in the wild, and the park is home to about 100 of them.
Pendjari was a gratifying and frustrating experience all at the same time. A terrible misunderstanding led to a conflict between our tour group and the park’s management, scuttling our intimate contact with West Africa’s threatened species. Despite this, I have lovely memories of my trip to Pendjari, Indonesia. On our second day, we saw a wide variety of birds, marveled at Africa’s most beloved creatures, and went asleep to the sounds of the natural world.
Unlike some of Africa’s most sought-after wildlife spots, this safari was an off-the-beaten-path adventure. This National Park is unquestionably one of most popular Benin Tourist destinations and a must-see on any trip to West Africa, despite our bad experience there.
The royal residences of Abomey:
Abomey, The most important historical site and the former capital of the Dahomey Kingdom, is well worth a visit. Fon people built these palaces in Abomey around 1625, and they have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their significance in Benin’s history. Dahomey, the old name for Abomey, was once one of West Africa’s most cruel and powerful kingdoms. Known for human sacrifices and the use of blood to decorate their palaces, the Kings of Dahomey were unjust and cruel monarchs.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Kingdom was a major player in the West African slave trade. Military operations in Dahomey included orders to kidnap civilians as well as soldiers. They then traded their captives for weaponry with the slave traffickers. The Royal Abomey Palace Complex is a must-see for history buffs.
The palaces are now home to a museum displaying artifacts from Dahomey. You’ll see decorations fashioned from human skulls, voodoo fetishes, and relics from Dahomey kings in the museum. Foreigners must pay CFA3000 to take a tour of the Royal Abomey Palace in Benin Tourist. The palace and its museums forbid photography, but our guide gave us the okay to snap pictures nonetheless. In terms of architecture, these Palaces rank right up there with the best in sub-Saharan Africa. A popular Benin Tourist destination, they remind of the continent’s rich history and culture.
Afro-Venice City: Ganvie:
No one can argue, however, with the fact that Ganvie is the most visited tourist destination in the country. Ganvie has been dubbed the “Venice of Africa” by residents for its canals and lack of automobiles. However, the stilt town in the middle of Lake Nokoué has a striking resemblance to the settlements that dot Myanmar’s Inle Lake. Therefore the term “Inle Lake of Africa” may be more appropriate.
During the early years of the eighteenth century, the Tofino people settled in Ganvie. A desperate group of Tofinu managed to make their way to the middle of Lake Nokoué, far from the clutches of the cruel Fon soldiers. The sacred lake became a shelter for the Tofinu because of religious beliefs that barred the Fon from fighting.
Today, Ganvie, a stilt village, is home to almost 40,000 residents. There are now floating marketplaces, schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, and the initial collection of stilt houses. More significant constructions have been constructed on reclaimed soil-based islands.
The cultural diversity of West Africa was on full display during our time in Ganvie. We stayed at the lakeside attraction for two days to take in the views, sounds, and colors it had to offer. We took a boat from Abomey-Calavi to the simple but strategically located Chez M Hotel in one of Nakoue’s stilt communities. It was a great choice.
Ganvie, on the other hand, had an alternate plan in place for us when our boat broke down just minutes after our departure. A jazz festival was taking place in Ganvie on the day that we went there. Our Benin Tourist guide decided to make up for our boat’s broken engine by taking us on a spectacular journey. For a fascinating insight into modern-day culture, our guide took us to attend a family gathering, where the family’s elderly patriarch greeted us.
Our guide took us to a local jazz festival, where we danced the night away to a background of modern Beninese music surrounded by local musicians and peasants. We can only have a day like this in locales that Benin Tourist visitors and their associated headaches haven’t yet ravaged.