February 3 – 16, 2018     (Fly home on February 17)

Ghana fabric MarketGhana is sometimes called “Africa for beginners” because of the ease of travel, the friendly, welcoming people and the relative level of modernity compared to other West African nations. Yet the people have retained many cultural and artistic traditions such as the patterned ‘kente’ weaving and adinkra cloth – and have created some others, such as the fairly recent mode of fantasy coffins. You will be met by the trip leaders at Kotoka International airport, in the capital city of  Accra on February 3. Plan flights to arrive after 10am or before 8pm if possible.

This exciting adventure, led by Malian Barou Samake and Californian Claudia Avila, includes the very best of Ghana! These two upbeat leaders with their positive attitudes will ensure that your travel experience enchants and enriches you. Also professional English-speaking guides at historical sites will add depth to your knowledge by explaining the historical context and background of the sites from a Ghanaian’s perspective. Expert Ghanaian artist-friends lead the three fabulous workshops: batik stamped cloth, adinkra-printed fabric, and glass bead-making.You can try your hand at weaving on a kente strip-cloth loom if you like, also.

Shirley stamps traditional Adinkra Cloth

Shirley stamping adinkra patterns.

We’ll go from ocean beaches to forest canopy, with lakes and traditional villages in between!  On this wonderful adventure, we will cover as much as possible of the fascinating southern part of the country, spending several days in specific areas such as Kumasi, so that we get a good feeling for Ghanaian life away from the busy coastal areas. First we’ll head west to tour Cape Coast Castle with a professional English-speaking local guide. This important UNESCO World Heritage site was one of thirty large commercial forts built by European traders on the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana). Originally it was built by Swedish settlers to trade timber and gold, but later used in the tragic trans-Atlantic slave trade. St. George’s Elmina, another fort we will go through, was built in 1482 and is one of the oldest European buildings outside Europe.

Bead vendor in a whole market of BEADS!

Bead vendor; Krobo Odumase market.

The historic town of Elmina is believed to be the location of the first point of contact between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans. Today both towns are fishing villages with colorful scenes of fishermen and boats on the beach. We’ll also stop in the fishing town of Jamestown, with its fresh fish market, tuna smoking ovens and fishing scene on the beach (taste the delicious smoked tuna!). We will meet with a friend who works there, and he will show us the boats being crafted by hand, and will explain how the community/communal fishing works. He will also show us the school that has been built recently for the fishermen’s children and you can donate school supplies here if you wish.

_DSC6779The famous Ghanaian kente cloth is still woven in several places; we will see the beautiful patterns of both Ewe and Ashanti versions. We’ll meet the weavers in individual and coop settings, see their weaving demonstrations, and be able to buy their work directly from them. Hand-printed batik cloth and other arts such as music, dance, and bead-making are all thriving, alongside the modern aspect of the city of Accra. We’ll try our hand at some traditional crafts in several half-day workshops–stamping and dyeing our batik yardage, stamping cloth with hand-carved adinkra motifs made from sections of dried gourd. We’ll also make some colorful glass beads from recycled glass and pore over dozens of stalls of handmade beads at the weekly Bead Market, above.

Jeff, master kente weaver holding warp threads.

We will visit a talented coffin carver friend at work, to see which of the latest styles are the most popular. These wooden, custom-made coffins reflect the career or aspirations of the deceased. Fishermen might be buried in a huge colorful fish or a carpenter in a big hammer-shaped coffin! Ghanaians can request burial in a carved wooden version of their favorite automobile, or airplane; farmers can order cocoa pods or chile peppers for the journey to the other life.

Some men choose a beer bottle or an oversized Coca Cola bottle. Popular women’s coffins include huge chickens, with smaller wooden “chicks” at her feet, one representing each of the lady’s children.

DSC_1802 (1)We’ll also stop at the rural school that we have ‘adopted’ to give them school supplies. These kids are adorable and have almost no school materials, but the principal is wonderful as are the hard-working teachers; see below.

Fabric enthusiasts, bring an empty suitcase to hold all the amazing printed fabrics you’ll discover in the overflowing markets! We will go on a special market tour in Kumasi with a friend who knows the labyrinth of stalls and where to find the best fabrics – and whatever else you may need – great fun!

Arrive on February 3 and fly home from Accra on February 17. February 16 is LAST included night of hotel but you may leave your bags, and hang out at the hotel, until time to go to the airport. Many flights leave Accra late at night.

Behind the Scenes Adventures IN ACTION:
We have a project to help local schools where we travel; we visit an elementary school in a remote area in Ghana and offer school supplies.  BTSA travelers have been wonderfully generous about donating pens, pencils and notebooks during our visits, and the children are so sweet — Ask about participating in this heart-warming experience!!  See the BTSA Helping page here.

Stamping wax on white cotton in batik workshop.

Stamping wax on white cotton for batik.

Price: $4195 for 4-12 travelers 
Includes 14 nights accommodation in comfortable local hotels (double rooms), transportation by private vehicle, all meals, except one lunch on last [free] day in Accra, all soft drinks and water with meals, bottled water in the van on the road; airport transportation on group arrival and departure days, all entrances to historical sites and museums on itinerary, guide at Cape Castle and Elmina, guide for Kumasi market tour, three workshops: glass-bead making, adinkra stamping, and batik printing – 2 yards of cotton cloth are provided for the batik printing workshop. (Maximum 12 in group)
Single supplement: $685

Not included:
International airfare to the capital, Accra; visa for Ghana; personal items such as laundry, massage, between meal water and snacks, and the cloth to print Adikra on. There will be a group market outing in Kumasi to buy cloth for adinkra printing. Batik cotton included.

See the Ghana Image Gallery here.

If you arrive or depart on a different day than the designated group arrival/departure date, you will need to pay the taxi from airport to hotel, and any additional nights of hotel. Barou will meet you at the airport, with the driver on the group arrival date. Otherwise, we will arrange for the hotel to send a known and safe taxi driver for you. The Ghana airport is enclosed and fairly un-chaotic!

Glass bead kiln with bead molds heating.

It is impossible to plan attendance at traditional musical or dance events or even holidays and festivals, from afar. We love these events and we’re happy to be flexible and spontaneously attend traditional performances in villages along the way, if the chance should arise.

After you have paid the $500 deposit, and several months before departure, we will send you the form to fill out for your visa to Ghana, and an information packet with lists of what to bring, cultural info, maps, recommended reading, etc.



  Arts, Nature & Culture

Thatched roofs of houses around Kedougou, SenegalSenegal is a peaceful West African country that is not often visited, but it makes a wonderful destination because of the remote indigenous villages, bustling markets full of textiles and folk art, unusual birds and wildlife, interesting archeological sites, pretty colonial architecture, and the fishing villages along the river.

This trip will be led by Malian Barou Samake who speaks English, French, and Bambara, a language common in both Mali and Senegal. Baoru will be accompanied by Idrissa (guide/driver/friend from Senegal), and local guides speaking local languages for village visits and wildlife forays. Senegal is not big, but there are many interesting places to see, and this trip covers as much as possible in 2 weeks – while still offering enough time to relax, visit market places, look for birds, buy some art, meet the villagers, float in a pirogue, take great photos, hug a baobab, or read a book. The 14-night itinerary is summarized below. Note however that this is Africa, and especially in the remote areas, the best-laid plans sometimes develop a glitch or two. The itinerary should be considered “flexible!”Wooden Mask; Senegal

You’ll go from the pulsing, modern scene of the capital city of Dakar with its folk art markets and great restaurants, to a north coast bird sanctuary and the pretty colonial era town of Saint Louis. Then you’ll head south through the big Niokolo-Koba National Park, with its plentiful bird and monkey life, to the most remote corner of southeastern Senegal. Over the next three days, with a local guide, you’ll venture into hamlets and meet some of the Bedik and Bassari people who live in circular houses with neatly trimmed thatch roofs (photo at top). We’ll also see one small village’s busy weekly market, where people from many remote villages come together to exchange goods and gossip. Abyssinian Roller Bird

The photo below shows the round hotel bungalows (with private bath and fan or AC) you’ll stay in when we’re in the more remote areas. In cities and towns, we stay in good, comfortable hotels with private bathrooms and A/C.  For starters, these are the Hotel Djoloff in Dakar and Hotel de la Poste in Saint Louis. You should plan to arrive in Dakar (direct flights from Wash. DC and JFK) on January 18 and depart for home on February 1. January 31 is the last included night of hotel.UNESCO World Heritage logo

Join us and you will also see SIX UNESCO World Heritage sites! •    Island of Goree -off coast of Dakar •    Saint Louis Island – historical town •    Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary •    Niokolo Koba National Park •    Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik villages •    Saloum Delta-Shell tumuli in mangrove landscape


TOUR PRICE:  $4195 Cost is for double occupancy for 14 nights hotel. If you want a single room, there is a single supplement fee of $660.

Price includes: 14 nights Accommodation in good, comfortable or best available hotels with private bathroom, all meals and soft drinks/water with meals (B, L, D) except one lunch and one dinner on free days; airport transportation for arrival on group arrival day, all in-country transportation by private van,  pirogue ride in the mangrove estuaries, entrances to all sites and museums on itinerary, local guides in several areas, English- and French-speaking tour leader accompanying entire trip, and bottled water in the van on road trip days. Senegalese Chameleon

Not included: International air transportation, airport departure transportation, tips to local guides, internet usage, laundry, alcoholic beverages, between-meal snacks/drinks/water; and personal interest events/excursions not on itinerary, such as a birdwatching or fishing tour.

Flights home on February 1.