A truly unforgettable safari in Africa’s fabled Mali, where the city of Timbuktu has stood since the 12th century. Mali’s landscape contrasts sharply: forests and bushes, savannahs and deserts, and Niger’s inland delta. Mali’s birds are its natural highlights, while its rich cultural history provides fascinating interludes: mosques, mud houses, the Dogon country and Timbuktu.
Mud Mosque and Piapiac
The Mali tour begins in the wooded landscape north of the capital, Bamako, where small villages and mud mosques share the woods with fox kestrels, brown snake eagles, grasshopper vultures, and grey-billed and red-billed hornbills. Bird watchers will especially appreciate the unusual sight of Piapiac on the back of a cow. In the town of Djenné, visit the Grand Mosque, an earthen mosque built in Sultan-Sahelian style in 1907 on the site of an old mosque. Every year, the people of Djene gather for a festival to repair the damage caused by erosion.
On a journey to the Dogon country, the mosque thins out, where animism and fetishism have survived centuries of Muslim and European cultural influence. A visit to the village on the slope of the Astragalus at the base of the cliff is an opportunity to meet the Dogon people and learn about their religion. This cultural diversity is one of the reasons why Mali is such a great destination for African wildlife tours. Another is the bird life of the area, which includes the Kulikouro Firefinch (actually a species endemic to the country) and the Stone Partridge, Cliff Chat, Bearded Barbie, the Spotted Woodpecker, Green Wood-hoopoe, and Neumann’s Starling.
The road to Timbuktu passes through open, acacia-infested grasslands, home to northern anteaters, chestnut-bellied pheasants, and numerous larks and ears of wheat. (A small number of elephants migrate through this part of Mali each year on short breaks from bird watching.) Then there’s the city of Timbuktu itself, an unforgettable stop for all African holidays and wildlife tours. It is known for being at the heart of an ancient trading network in the north of the continent, as well as for its great centre of learning. A visit to the Djinguereber Mosque is a must, as is a view of the salt flakes transported to the market on camels from the north.
Niger is a land of open water, marshes, desert and sky, lined with mud-brick villages and mosques – cruising along it is a great way to end a wildlife tour of Africa’s fabled land of Mali. Bird watchers will be able to admire Senegalese Coucals in the reeds, overheard African ospreys, Senegalese thick-legged and Egyptian plover along the river banks, and groups of red-billed partridges hovering in the sky. Hippopotamus and crocodiles live in the river and offer a panoramic view.