Worldwide Photographic Journeys

Benin

BENIN: UNSEEN WEST AFRICA – Voodoo, scarification and extraordinary cultures

Sunday 8th January – Sunday 22nd January 2023

Leaders: Inger Vandyke and knowledgeable local cultural guides

15 Days Group Size Limit 6

BENIN PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES

The incredible country of Benin in West Africa is home to some of the friendliest, yet most bizarre, beautiful and ancient cultures on the African continent. Benin photography tours are still uncommon events, but this little-explored country offers a highly rewarding diversity of photographic opportunities.

To coincide with the annual festival of Voodoo at Ouidah in Benin, our Benin photography tour is the first truly comprehensive cultural exploration by any photography group in the region.  Join us on a journey to learn about Voodoo, the floating village of Ganvie, the world heritage listed Otamari houses (Tatas) and the extraordinary Batonu Horse Warriors of Benin.

Held together by the threads of different beliefs, the cultures of Benin often combine their monotheistic faiths of Christianity or Islam with that of Voodoo, a way of life that it is a supernatural ancestral connection, passed from generation to generation via oral tradition and the presence of spirits linking living people to voodoo spirits.

On this unique Benin photography tour, we will meet no less than nine different West African ethnic groups. Explore the last holders of elaborate body tattoos and facial scarification in the Holi people, the fine featured Fulani nomads with their beautiful and dainty facial tattoos, dramatic Batonu horsemen galloping and dancing their horses in the streets and the stunning Otamari people with their World Heritage listed houses and traditional facial scarification of intricate lines.

Floating around the waters of Lake Nokue on wooden pirogues, we will learn how the Tofinu people survive at Ganvie.

We will join in the lively Voodoo festival at Grand Popo, searching for twirling Zangbeto dancers, Guélédé spirits and masked Egungun spirits wandering the streets of the city. If the crowds become too much, we can photograph the participants of the festival in our own private Voodoo ceremonies.

This incredible odyssey of West African culture will suit all lovers of non-safari Africa, seasoned African travelers or photographers who are interested in the anthropological wonders of West Africa.

Why travel to Benin with Wild Images?

Currently there are a few photographers and photography tour companies offering trips to Benin.  We have decided to offer a unique alternative to the more standard itineraries on offer.  By joining a Wild Images tour we work with an unrivalled level of ground expertise and local anthropological guides who are well connected to the various tribal people, headmen and African kings we will meet on our tour.  Our tour includes at least ten private ceremonies for photography over a comprehensive journey to the southern and northern halves of Benin.

Our leader has over thirty years of experience in Africa and knows West Africa extremely well.  We travel to remote villages where we may meet with African kings and also members of kingdom aristocracy. Exploring the fascinating and charismatic world of Voodoo we will have interpreters on hand to explain exactly what you are photographing while our leader will guide you to get the best possible shots of our experiences.  We also believe that the best images come from photography of people in a two way situation.  We encourage our guests to chat to local people through our interpreters, laugh with them, engage with them and simply enjoy the experience of being immersed in their world.  As the body of work from our tour shows, we don’t just simply pass through villages spending less than an hour to get photos. We stroll around enjoying places, we sit in the shade with local people, eat local street food with them or enjoy banter with them at lively and colourful local markets.  Join us on a journey where friends are made alongside beautiful images in one of the most beautiful, complex tribal regions of the African continent.

VOODOO

For the people of Benin, the religion of Voodoo underpins almost every facet of their daily lives. It is followed by over 30 million people in Africa and, due to the adaptation of Voodoo to incorporate both Christian and Muslim beliefs, followers of these large monotheistic faiths often worship voodoo alongside them.

Outside of Africa, a common misconception of Voodoo involves black magic, evil deeds and sticking pins in nominated dolls to torture an enemy. This is how we are taught to understand voodoo through popular media including films and television.

For the followers of Voodoo (or Vodoun) in Africa, however, Voodoo represents the cooling sea breeze, the hope for a new job or a new family member. It connects the living with the dead, the people to their earth and people from different faiths and ethnicities.

To understand the strength of Voodoo spirituality in Beninese people, you need to understand three basic tenets – ancestral worship, the intertwined relationship of people and voodoo spirits (or spirit people) and the great interconnectedness of all things.

In Benin Voodoo is everywhere and during our tour we will learn about the mysterious Legbas, or spirit shrines that lie at the entrance of villages and houses; the notion of sacrifice and the offerings to spirits that feature so heavily in the various cultural groups in Benin.

“Voodoo is more than a belief.  It is the hope of women who cannot conceive children, of men who cannot find work and elders who cannot find peace. It restores our faith, protects our land and brings the cool breeze” – Voodoo King Daagbo Hounan (“the one who owns the sea”)

Held annually in January, our tour coincides with the most spectacular celebration in the voodoo calendar, Benin’s annual Voodoo Festival, which is held in the cities of Grand Popo and Ouidah. This festival is famous worldwide for its various trance dances, divinity worship, masked dances and celebrations that are all overseen by the King Adanryoh Guèdèhounguè Agassa, the ultimate leader of the world’s voodoo followers.

While the public performances of the festival are rowdy, involving lots of dancing, beating of drums and singing, we will attend these and also some of the smaller celebrations either exclusively or in tiny villages with a limited number of people.

WEST AFRICAN CEREMONIES IN BENIN

Our tour is unusual in that it holds no less than ten private ceremonies that are performed specifically four our small group.  As the only photographers there you have limitless chances to capture these incredible events without the presence of other tourists.  Of course, the locals join in these ceremonies but they are as much a part of the magic and beauty of these acts as the ceremonies themselves.

EGUNGUN

Travelling around the streets during the festival we may encounter Egunguns or elaborate mask wearing creatures, accompanied by percussionists, running around the streets of the city with no predefined destination. Originating in the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, Egungun ceremonies in honour of the dead serve as a means of assuring their ancestors a place among the living.

During a celebration, women will clap and sing to honour the family of the Egungun dancers while drummers beat loudly to start the dance. When the Egunguns appear, each is accompanied by a guardian wielding a large stick to stop the Egungun from touching any onlookers. If they accidentally do so, it is thought the touched person may momentarily die.

Children are at once both curious and terrified of the Egunguns who can break off and chase them, sending groups of terrified kids running into the alleyways.

Watching and photographing Egunguns is a fascinating introduction to the culture of Yoruba people in Benin.  We will witness a traditional ceremony of Egungun dancers and enjoy a specific portrait shoot at the end with these beautifully decorated masked performers.

ZANGBETO

Twirling Zangbetos are a feature of culture in Benin, Togo and Nigeria. As the original guardians of the night, Zangbetos come out at dusk after being lured out by Voodoo spirit chiefs, drumming, sacrifices and food. Designed to install fear into local citizens if they go out at night, Zangbetos are such an integral part of Beninese culture that they feature strongly in the country’s street art. They are kept in special holding pens and don’t appear to move until they are blessed by voodoo. They also, oddly, all make a noise that sounds like a muffled fog horn! When they emerge they are guarded by men who keep them under control by walking close to them. Then they twirl around by the power of a spirit. It is impossible to really know if a human is under a Zangbeto. The local Beninese will always tell you that a ‘spirit human’ is underneath each one and this spirit can take the form of a smaller Zangbeto, a voodoo spirit person or some other form of moving spiritual life.

With their bright colours and magic, watching Zangbetos are a highlight of our photography tour in Benin.

GUÉLÉDÉ

Another fantastic ceremony performed by Beninese Yoruba people is that of Guélédé which celebrates a feminine divinity. In a largely patriarchal society, the presence of Guélédé represents a feminine opposition and is a reminder to the Yoruba people that the seriousness of life needs to lighten up a little at times. This lively event involves lots of drumming and dancing to procure spectacular masked dancers who start their performance by first blessing the guardian of the Guélédé. They then twirl, bless onlookers and dance among the crowd before they are replaced by other masked dancers in the ceremony. We will visit a community of Mahé people to witness Guélédé over a colourful afternoon of dancing and singing.

BENIN TWIN CEREMONIES

The people of Benin and Nigeria have some of the highest rates of twin births in the world. Living twins are seen as protectors in society across nearly all of Benin’s cultures.

When twins die at childbirth, however, their spirits live among their families in the form of dolls. These twin dolls are created when the twins die and each day they are cared for by their family like living children. They are bathed, fed and put to bed just like any normal child.

During our photography tour of Benin we will attend a blessing ceremony for twins in the culture of the Fon people, where we will learn more about the prominence of twin people in the realm of voodoo.

Our itinerary in Benin is deliberately designed to be flexible so if we hear about other ceremonies, initiations or dances we can shift our movements to suit our attendance at these.

BATONU HORSE WARRIORS

Originally from Nigeria where they lived under the King of Nikki, the Batonu people of Benin are best known for their remarkable horsemanship. Each year Batonu riders, many of whom are the children of dignitaries and royalty, gather with their beautifully decorated horses to race and dance in the streets. These colourful events are full of life and we will spend time watching these men ride energetically on their well trained and cared for horses during our tour.

SHANGO

The Voodoo god of lightning and thunder or Shango (as he is known in Yoruba) or Heviosso (in Ewe/Fon) presides over matters of jurisprudence in voodoo.  He is the ultimate judge of guilt in criminal matters and, should you be accused of a crime in the belief of voodoo, you are required to present yourself to the Shango priest who will determine your fate.  If you do not show up at your meeting then it is deemed you will be struck by lightning.  If you show up and the Shango priest deems you guilty of your crime then the penalty is death.  During our tour we will witness a traditional Shango ceremony with the most honoured Shango priest in Benin.  This incredible introduction to voodoo law involves a fiery display of gunpowder and colour in front of a traditional Shango temple in remote Benin.

KOKU

Voodoo’s ultimate ceremony of power, Koku is danced by people who start by covering their bodies with a mixture of kaolin powder and yellow palm oil before they dress in raffia skirts and perform.  A signal of physical strength Koku then involves trances and deliberate self scarification in a display of power and magic.  Witnessing a traditional ceremony of Koku from the time it starts in a Koku temple to the time it ends is a highlight of our tour for its wildness and raw energy.

GAMBADA

Gambada, the voodoo celebration of love, takes place in a tiny village called the village of strangers.  Attended by young people who are hoping to find their lifelong partners the ceremony involves kaolin covered dancers arriving in trance and then performing in front of the village priest.  It is an afternoon of incredible singing and dancing which introduces you to the real notion of trance, where a person is overtaken by spirits and must be guided to the ceremony in order to perform.  We will witness this ceremony as part of the voodoo festival festivities before we head north to explore more remote corners of Benin.

SHIMO

The women’s dance of Shimo, performed by the beautiful Otamari people in northern Benin, symbolises the spiritual separation of twins in Otamari culture.  Danced by women wearing beautiful ‘antelope’ hats fashioned out of horns and wicker, each performer adorns her legs with metal bells which tingle musically alongside a large drum fashioned out of a kalabash.  Shimo is just one of the ceremonial dances we may see during our time with the Otamari in the Atacora mountains of northern Benin.

SCARIFICATION IN WEST AFRICAN PEOPLE

“A child has no life until it bears the scars of its ancestors” – Holi saying

The traditional practice of scarification in West Africa is one that is rapidly dying out. For the traditional people of the Otamari, Holi, Fon and other West African tribes, the practice of scarification is one of great importance, linking people not only to their tribe, but to their ancestors.

In West Africa, there are aesthetic, religious, and social reasons for scarification. For example, scarification has been widely used by many West African tribes to mark milestone stages in both men and women’s lives, such as puberty and marriage. It is also used to transmit complex messages about identity; such permanent body markings may emphasize fixed social, political, and religious roles. Tattoos, scars, brands, and piercings, when voluntarily acquired, are ways of showing a person’s autobiography on the surface of their body to the world.

On our Benin photography tour we will explore the scarification of several tribal groups and engage with them for portraits while we learn about what their scars mean to them.

TOFINOU

The Tofinou are a population of West Africa who lives mainly in Benin but are present, in the small numbers, in Togo and Ghana.

The Tofinou originally lived in Benin, within the country, on the banks of a river and have always been skilled fishermen and, traditionally, have had a good relationship with water and its spirits.

The Tofinou exploited the fact that the Fon, the ethnicity of the kingdom of Dahomey, had no connection with water, and therefore bore the spirits of water, and also the fact that they did not know how to swim; they moved along the coast and built a village on stilts at the center of the Nokoué Lake, accessible only by water; in this ingenious way they managed to escape the raids of the Fon, who were always in search of new prisoners to be sold as slaves to Europeans.

FON (KOTAFON, EWE, SAHOUE)

Living mostly near the border of Benin and Togo, the Fon people and their sub-cultures of Kotafon and Sahoue are the bearers of a rich tradition of scarification whereby the children are marked in the same scars as the parents and other members of their family.

As Benin’s most numerous people they are descended from the powerful Dahomey people who were prominent assistants in the slave trade.

During our Benin photo tour, we will explore a ceremony of twins and possibly other initiation rites of the Fon people.

HOLI

The spectacular scarification and tattooing in the Holi people is a highlight of our tour. Exploring pretty Holi villages on foot we will meet many scarred men and women who are the current bearers of this tradition in Benin. Originally from the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, most Holi now live in Benin. Traditionally the elders engaged in elaborate torso tattooing, however with the arrival of Christian missionaries and also the reign of General Mathieu Kérékou in 1972 the tradition of tattooing was ceased and while it is still possible to meet Holi elders who proudly show their tattoos to visitors, these elderly people are the last of their kind and when they go, their beautiful art of tattooing will go with them.

FULANI

Fulani people belong to the largest ethnic group in Africa. With people living across eight countries, Fulanis were traditionally nomadic until Africa became divided up on colonial lines. Once borders to countries were established many Fulani opted to simply stay in the country they were living in at the time. These ‘settled’ Fulanis now live in a myriad of countries including Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria and Benin. After settling many of them abandoned the traditional tattooing and facial marks of their people. While we will not visit any Fulani villages on our tour, it is very possible we will meet Fulanis as we travel around eastern Benin. Fulanis are instantly recognised by their beautiful fine features, delicate facial tattoos and colourful jewellery.

TANEKA

Benin’s rugged and spectacular Atacora mountains act as a climatic and cultural divide that separates the coastal humid plain from the desert like savannahs in the north of the country. Occupying these beautiful mountain slopes are the fascinating Taneka people who originally came to Benin from Burkina Faso in the north.

Scarification in the Taneka people occurs mostly in young men who, after they undergo initiation, may scar three deep marks across each of their cheeks as a symbol to the world that they have come of age in Taneka culture.

The Taneka are a small group numbering less than 300 that live together harmoniously in beautiful round clay houses, each topped with a conical roof of thatch.

Traditional healers, or spiritual chiefs, are an important part of the animist beliefs of the Taneka. The spiritual chiefs possesses spiritual secrets and the villagers call him to ask for intercession in case of problems or illness, bringing him food offerings. He deprives himself of everything, except for a pipe that he smokes almost constantly, through which he finds inspiration and means of communication with the spirits. The spiritual chiefs also hold a great knowledge of medicinal plants and can prepare fetishes and amulets to be used as propitiatory objects.

Overseeing the eight chiefs of the Taneka is King Tanigasawa who looks after all of the judicial matters in Taneka society. If we are very lucky on our trip we may meet the King if he is resident in the community at the time of our visit.

OTAMARI

Imagine walking through pretty fields and groves of wild cashew trees dotted with Baobab trees to find some of the most beautiful vernacular architecture in Africa. This is what it is like to visit the Otamari, a group of people whose reverence for nature and connection to the earth differentiates them from almost all of the other ethnic groups in Benin.

Sophisticated and secluded, the Otamari people are one of West Africa’s most intriguing ethnic groups. Living deep in the bush, the Otamari people construct houses known as “Tatas” that are so unusual in their design they have been listed as part of the World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2004.

Tatas (known locally as fortresses) consist of a ground floor which houses a kitchen and livestock owned by the family, a middle floor for cooking and the upper floor or roof designed to dry grains and to sleep. Although there are five key styles of Tatas built today, they all loosely follow these structural principles. Earthly and warm at night with thick walls to keep cool during the day, the Tatas are integrated with the traditional spiritual beliefs of the Otomari, protecting both them and their animals from natural and supernatural dangers. These homes may have developed as a means to resist night raids during the era when slave hunters in West Africa roamed to kidnap their victims for sale. Some feature wells and even external ladders that can be pulled up for self defence which means a family could survive for days on end, unable to be caught by slavers. When the ground floor entry to a Tata is closed, access to it is via a tiny hole in the roof that acts as a doorway to the sky.

Unlike many African villages where the houses of families are clustered together, Tatas are more separate and each are surrounded by the fields of their family. When a location for a new Tata is being decided, the Otamari shoot an arrow in to the air. Where it lands will be the place a new Tata is built.

The Otamari people are known for their traditional body scarring rituals, starting between the age of two and three. These special marks are a form of lifelong identification marks (tattoo ID), which identify a person as belonging to one’s tribe as well as more coded personal information. Additional marks are added at puberty, readiness for marriage and post-child birth as a form of visible communication.

Scarring in the Otomari people can take many forms in line with a variety of different meanings, the predominant marks indicating which tribal group a person belongs to.

Starting at the age of two or three years old, scars can also be created to indicate readiness for marriage, reaching puberty and mark a child’s birth. Some may even be given to protect against sickness or spiritual attacks.

The scarification takes the form of very fine parallel lines and these lines are replicated in all of the things the Otamari create including their homes and clay pots.

Organic in form and each one differing from the other, exploring these beautiful Tatas is a highlight of our Benin photography tour.

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY IN BENIN

FISHING VILLAGES

Benin’s coastal waterways are dotted with villages of both fresh and saltwater fishermen. On the coast, pretty thatched huts sit quietly under the shade of towering coconut palms with brightly colored pirogues resting nearby.

Inland these villages take on a different persona with villages built on islands to escape the ravages of slave traders.

“Amniotic waters. Where new life swims. Water is the wealth and cement of Ganvie; the yeast that makes it grow; the reflections that make it shine. Ganvie lives according to the floodwaters. It may wave, but it stands resolutely”

Imagine a world that hovers above water, one where colourful fishing families live in stilted houses that can only be reached by wooden canoes. This is Ganvie, Africa’s largest stilted, or floating, village, which is built above the waters of Lake Nokwe and is home to the largest community of Tofinu people in West Africa.

During the 17th century Portuguese slave trading boom in Africa, a tribe of people called the Tofinu took to the waters of Lake Nokwe to escape being caught by the more powerful Dahomey slavers from Abomey. Religious beliefs prevented the Dahomey from fighting on the sacred lake, so the lagoon became a haven for the Tofinu, as long as they never returned to dry land.

Legend has it that the village was built thanks to the crocodiles that helped the Tofinu to carry the material to the center of the lake.

Fast forward to today and that community of Tofinu people has grown in to the 80,000 strong community of Ganvie. Instead of living in mud huts on land, the people of Ganvie live in bamboo stilt houses suspended above the lake.

On our Benin photography tour we will spend one night in Ganvie, exploring it’s amazing waterways by wooden pirogues and photographing this colourful fishing community as they harvest lake vegetation and fresh fish from the lake that gives them life.

Towards the border of Benin and Nigeria we will also explore an island fishing village by taking a ‘commuter pirogue’ with some of the local people. In the same way as Ganvie, these people also fled slavers, escaping to an island on a remote lake. Today this friendly and colourful community are mostly engaged in fishing, smoking fish and drying produce to sell on the mainland.

Our tour visits several communities of fishing people in Benin for photography.  From isolated islands on the freshwater lakes system spanning the border of Nigeria and Benin, to the brackish waters of Lake Nokue and finally the coastal fishing villages nestled in groves of coconut palms near the beach.

EXPLORING SLAVERY AND PORTUGUESE COLONIAL HISTORY

Sadly Benin’s history has a dark era when the country was used as a major centre for the West African slave trade by the Portuguese.  During our trip we will not only visit some outstanding examples of Afro-Brazilian architecture in cities such as Porto Novo and Ouidah, but we will also learn about the slavery era through visits to several monuments erected to the people who were traded across the Atlantic.

Curiously Beninese people now have cultural offshoots in countries like Brazil, Haiti and Cuba due to the trade and thankfully many diaspora of Benin continue to practice their cultures in these countries through their music, food and spiritual beliefs.

THE PYTHON TEMPLE

One of the oddest places we will visit on the tour is the quirky Python Temple at Ouidah.  This temple dates back centuries and is home to a large collection of Royal Pythons who are sacred in the belief of voodoo.

Legend has it that the pythons are released from the temple each night and they are free to slither their way around the streets of Ouidah visiting people in the community.  It is extremely bad luck to kill one as a visit by a python is deemed to be a symbol of good luck.  If you are blessed with a visit then you are required to look after the python overnight until you can take it back to the temple the following day.

This widely accepted blessing is considered so important that even the priest of the Catholic cathedral across the road from the temple will return a snake if one blesses his cathedral during the night.

We hope you can join us on this incredible cultural odyssey in one of the friendliest countries in Africa!

Accommodation & Road Transport

Road transport is by modern minibuses.

Accommodation is in comfortable hotels.  On one night we will stay at a basic guest house so we can experience life in the Venice of Africa at Ganvie.

Walking

The walking on this tour is mostly easy.

Climate

The weather in Benin will be hot and often humid. There is likely to be a mixture of sunny and overcast conditions. Rain is unlikely.

Photographic Equipment

For most photography of the people in West Africa, a travel lens of around 24-105mm on a full frame DSLR or mirrorless body will be essential. A wide angle lens of around 16mm or smaller will be perfect for working with the people inside smaller rooms.

If you prefer to photograph people from a distance, then please consider bringing a larger zoom or telephoto lens. It is our experience that sometimes people can feel a bit intimidated by large cameras and lenses so you may wish to bring a smaller sized zoom lens like a 100-400mm which doesn’t appear as intimidating as a large fixed focal length telephoto lens. Such a lens can also be useful for the ceremonies we will attend as you will often be standing in a crowd and a longer lens will allow you to shoot past other onlookers.

If you bring a good quality bridge camera instead of a DSLR or mirrorless it will be best if it has an optical zoom of 18-20x or more, combined with a reasonable wide-angle at the other end of the zoom range.

If you have a phone or tablet that can be used for photography, you may find these quite useful around people. Similarly if you have a Polaroid camera like the Leica Sofort or an Instax Mini, these are wonderful to have on hand when you spend time with tribal people. If you decide to bring one of these, please bring lots of film with you as the photographs you produce will be quite popular!

Drones are particularly wonderful to use in Benin and they provide a very unique perspective of Beninese fishing and tribal villages. Benin has very few restrictions on flying drones, however, there are a few limitations you will need to consider when you fly.

If you would like to talk over suitable equipment, please contact our office. We will be happy to advise.

Photographic Highlights

  • Witness no less than 10 vibrant West African ceremonies in the most culturally comprehensive photography tour to Benin
  • Private photography sessions with Voodoo performers, masked Egungun dancers, traditional healers and horse warriors
  • Street photography around the colourful colonial mosque of Porto Novo and the Afro-Brazilian architecture of Ouidah
  • Community visits to traditional Holi people with their intricately beautiful scarification and tattooing
  • Visit the annual Voodoo Festival
  • Learn more about the Voodoo worship of pythons and how these snakes are revered by the local community at the Python temple in Ouidah
  • Take to the waters of Ganvie, Africa’s largest floating village, with the local fishing community of Lake Nokwe
  • Explore Abomey’s ancient palaces and learn about this former kingdom's history
  • Meet Taneka traditional healers in the foothills of the Atacora Mountains
  • Meet the stunning Otamari people with their beautifully sculpted and painted, fortress like homes called ‘tatas’
  • Visit a remote fishing community on the freshwater lakes that span the border of Benin and Nigeria
  • Watch spectacular Batonu horse warriors flamboyantly ride their beautifully decorated horses in dances and races
  • Visit the Dankoli Fetish, the most holy shrine of Voodoo religion

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Evening tour start with dinner and overnight stay on the coast at Cotonou.
  • Day 2: Drive out to Grand Popo to visit private ceremonies in the lead up to the annual Voodoo festival. Overnight in Grand Popo.
  • Day 3: Full day at the annual Voodoo festival. Overnight in Grand Popo.
  • Day 4: Visit to the palaces of Abomey and a small ceremony for Benin’s twins. Overnight in Grand Popo.
  • Day 5: Explore the history of slavery in Ouidah. Overnight in Cotonou.
  • Day 6: Travel from Cotonou out to the floating village of Ganvie, the Venice of Africa for an overnight stay.
  • Day 7: Return to Cotonou and then drive out to the city of Covè, visiting Holi villages. Overnight in Covè.
  • Day 8: An early morning exploring remote fishing villages then enjoying a traditional dance of Guelede in the afternoon. Overnight in Covè.
  • Day 9: Drive north to Parakou to enjoy our first visit with the city’s Batonu horsemen. Overnight in Parakou.
  • Day 10: A final shoot with the Batonu horsemen in Parakou before driving to visit the Taneka people in the foothills of the Atakora. Overnight in Naititingou.
  • Day 11: Exploration drive from Naititingou to Boukombe visiting local Otamari people and their beautiful homes. Overnight in Boukombe.
  • Day 12: A final visit to the Otamari people before our drive south to the city of Dassa. Visit the Dankoli fetish and Fulani villages. Overnight in Dassa.
  • Day 13: Today is a long travel day as we drive from Dassa back to Cotonou for an overnight stay.
  • Day 14: Today we will explore some of the pretty fishing villages of coastal Benin and enjoy street photography around the colourful mosque of Porto Novo. Overnight in Cotonou.
  • Day 15: On our final day in Cotonou we can either relax or do some last minute shopping before the tour ends at Cotonou airport.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Wild Images Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

Our tour prices also include all tips for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff. We also include payments to local people who are willing to be photographed. Also included are some special photography session arrangement fees.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

 



2023: £6220, $7590, €7430, AUD10850. Cotonou/Cotonou.

Single Supplement: 2023: £330, $410, €400, AUD580.

If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

BENIN UNSEEN WEST AFRICA PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Benin Photography Tour: Day 1: On arrival in Cotonou we will settle in to our city hotel for an overnight stay. Dinner on our first evening will be at sunset in one of Cotonou’s beachside fish restaurants.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 2: Travelling out towards the border between Benin and Togo, we will explore the region of Grand Popo visiting ceremonies in the build up to the annual Voodoo Festival.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 3:A full day at the annual Voodoo Festival of Benin where we will attend events, dances and other celebrations. Over the course of the festival we will be attending ceremonies of Zangbeto, Egungun and others.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 4: Early in the morning we will drive to Abomey to visit the palaces of the Dahomey Kingdom. These expansive structures are fascinating and they provide a key insight to the Dahomey people who were some of the most powerful slave traders in all of Africa. Later that day we will attend a private ceremony of twins with a high priestess of the twin spirits in the Kotafon people.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 5: On our way back to Cotonou we will spend time in the city of Ouidah visiting the Python Temple, the monument tree of slavery, the famous Gate of No Return and learn more about the role of Ouidah in the colonial slave period.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 6: Today we depart for the floating village of Ganvie on Lake Nokwe for an overnight stay. Travelling out on local canoes we will check into the basic but pleasant guest house for an overnight stay. From there we will take a tour of Ganvie to see how the Tofinu people exist out here on the lake. Our guest house is located opposite the main point where Ganvie’s residents visit to buy fresh drinking water and it is wonderful to simply sit and watch even small children expertly navigate their way through Ganvie’s canals in their wooden canoes.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 7: We will depart early for Cotonou by boat where we will once again take to the road and drive out to Covè to visit the Holi people. Our afternoon will be spent visiting numerous villages of Holi people where we will learn about their beautiful tradition of scarification and tattooing.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 8:  Today we will travel by car and canoe to visit an isolated fishing community living on an island of a freshwater lake near the border of Benin and Nigeria. This friendly community of people live their lives solely dependent on the fishing and waters of the lake. In the afternoon when we return to Covè, we will attend a ceremony of the Guelede feminine divinity in a community of local Mahe people.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 9: Travelling north to Parakou we will see our first horse race and dance of the Batonu people before sunset.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 10: After our final visit to the Batonu horsemen in the morning, we will drive further north to the foothills of the Atakora mountains where we will visit the Taneka people in their pretty villages. We will meet some of the spiritual chiefs while we explore their villages on foot before travelling north to Naitingou for an overnight stay.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 11: Today we will drive slowly from Naititingou towards Boukombe exploring the Tatas of the Otamari people with their organic designs, sculptured legbas and meet beautiful Otamari people with their delicate, linear facial scarification. 

Benin Photography Tour: Day 12: A final morning of visiting Otamari Tata houses and people before we drive south to visit some Fulani villages and the Dankoli Fetish before driving to Dassa for an overnight stay.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 13: Today is a long travel day as we drive from Dassa back to Cotonou for an overnight stay.

Benin Photography Tour: Day 14:

From Cotonou we will drive to reach some pretty fishing villages nestled in huge groves of coconut palms that line the coast between Cotonou and Ouidah. Fast disappearing we may see lines of local people all pulling at a single rope to bring in a heavy catch of fish. In the afternoon we will visit the historical centre of Porto Novo with its beautiful buildings including the spectacular mosque which has alternated in history as a mosque and a cathedral. The street photography is wonderful here so we will spend time walking around the mosque area photographing people and the facades of buildings, many of which are crumbling and beautiful. We will then return to Cotonou for the last night of our tour and a farewell dinner

Benin Photography Tour: Day 15: On our last morning in Benin we will have a chance to relax or do some last minute shopping before our tour ends at Cotonou airport.

Benin Photography Tour Report 2022

by Inger Vandyke

It is early January and in the West African country of Benin, the groundswell of activity was growing in anticipation of the country’s annual voodoo festival. Established as an honour to the kaleidoscope of cultures in this fascinating it was determined that January should be the right month to hold the festival, which celebrates the […]

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Benin Photography Tour Report 2021

by Inger Vandyke

COTONOU Lying at the heart of Benin’s economy, the bustling sea port of Cotonou sits on an isthmus between the Atlantic Ocean and the calmer waters of Lake Nokue. We arrived in the city in time for our mandatory Covid19 testing, which was very straightforward and well organised, as we disembarked from the aircraft. Benin’s […]

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