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Benin, Burkina Faso & Togo
Headlong Into Voodooland
GAP Adventures’ cultural immersion in little-known Benin, Burkina Faso, and Togo starts with an experience straight out of Harry Potter: Travelers, fresh off the plane, plunge into the fetish market in Lomé, the capital of Togo, and bargain hunt for voodoo supplies—amulets, magic elixirs, and the ingredients for a love potion. More than 30 million West Africans practice the religion of vodun (voodoo), which can involve animism and fetishes, trances and animal sacrifice. During the initial voodoo ceremony in the lush marshland of Togo, voodoosi dancers fall into a deep trance, their bodies inhabited by a deity. "When they are taken by the god, they are no longer human," anthropologist Wade Davis wrote. "They are the god. It’s not magical, it’s very real." Crossing into the flat, arid savannas of Benin and the Yoruba kingdom of Ketou, travelers delve into the world of ancestor worship. Young voodoo initiates materialize from the forests and lurch into village streets wearing brilliant colors and masks that represent the spirits of the deceased. Led by an ethnologist, the group explores a Kpalime forest, has the chance to meet a Yoruba king, and stays in bush camps. "It’s a feeling of being in traditional Africa, where there’s no infrastructure and people are really living off the land," says GAP trip designer Maureen Atkinson. The journey ends in Burkina Faso, where tom-toms signal a war of words—a competition between storytellers, who spin enigmatic tales in the flicker of a campfire.

Outfitter: GAP Adventures;
Price: $2,399
Length: 16 days
Departs: September, November, December

Next: Zambia & Malawi: The Next Classic Safari

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