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The Road to Timbuktu and the Rivers of West Africa

At the end of the Earth, dusty light hallows corridors of clay. Figures walk by in indigo robes and white turbans, smiling, laughing, singing, and praying. At the end of the Earth, musty tomes, centuries old, describe ancient histories, themselves but mysterious transcriptions of tales told to children, handed down to generation after generation. And a fantastical temple rises up, studded and turreted with hand-sculpted mud, forged anew each year for the last thousand years.

This is Timbuktu—poised at the edge of the Sahara, as far away as the imagination can peer, as legendary as El Dorado . . . and now as close as you wish it.

In the long centuries before Magellan, Timbuktu was the destination of camel caravans, bearing salt from the Sahara in exchange for gold, jewels, and precious ivory. It rose to prominence as a scholarly center of Arab Africa before a long period of decline, with the sand dunes inexorably closing in. Only in 1828 did the first European traveler return from Timbuktu. Almost nowhere else is a place so fabled and so prominent in history and myth also so isolated from the rest of the world.

Do you seek an experience beyond your familiar borders? Do you wonder about ancient landscapes and cultures rooted to the fabric of human history?

Because for us, Timbuktu is merely the beginning of a journey—into the heart of West Africa, where myriad cultures and natural wonders will leave you breathless.

The Road to Timbuktu winds through the 19th-century French colonial town of Segou en route to Djenne, home to the famous Grand Mosque, the greatest mosque in West Africa and the largest mud-brick structure in the world. Admire this otherworldly Sahel-style structure before driving through lonely landscapes of epic beauty to Mopti, a bustling city known for its trade in carved wood sculptures and dramatically colored fabrics. Explore the mystical Dogon region, where a complex animistic cosmology reigns, inspiring mask ceremonies, vibrant rock paintings, and mystical cliff dwellings. Unlike most pilgrimages to Timbuktu, a short flight will transport us to this most legendary of cities, bypassing a lengthy and arduous drive for your comfort and convenience.

Sub-Saharan civilizations are only half the story of West Africa. After our exploration of the Dogon region and Timbuktu, we’ll continue our journey aboard the 34-guest Callisto, an elegant private yacht hailed for its wonderful combination of superb cuisine, impeccable service, and intimate ambience, for a dazzling cruise down the Casamance, Gambia, and Saloum rivers of Senegal and The Gambia. You will be surrounded by the extraordinary wildlife of the Casamance, Baobolong Wetland Reserve, Kiang West National Park, and Abuko Nature Preserve—a completely different experience of nature than in the well-trodden safari routes of Kenya and Tanzania. Kingfishers swoop, baboons howl, and warthogs rut and snuffle along the banks; marsh mongoose and roan antelopes dart through isolated expanses of woodland and grassland. An awe-inspiring display of bird life, with hundreds of species from carmine bee-eaters to yellow-billed storks and paradise flycatchers, will amaze champion and neophyte birdwatchers alike. Dock at traditional villages and take excursions to historic towns—including M’lomp, with its banco houses and silk-cotton trees, and Jufureh, famous for its Mandinka culture and griots. Conclude in Dakar, the musical capital of West Africa, for a pilgrimage to Goree Island, creating a comprehensive educational experience in the natural and cultural history of this unbelievably varied region.

 Guest Lecturers

Each of our voyages will feature experienced study leaders and guides—experts on the historical, natural, and cultural aspects of West Africa who are eager to introduce you to this awe-inspiring land. In the company of these noted lecturers, we’ll discover Saharan outposts, learn about indigenous cultures and art, and watch for exotic bird life. Among those accompanying our voyages will be Vincent Resh, a biologist and an advisor to 11 West African nations on water sustainability issues; Harry Cahill, who has served as minister-counselor of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. and an expert on the political, economic, and social history of West Africa; and many others.


Day 1
Depart the United States on a flight to Bamako, Mali

Day 2
Arrive in Bamako and transfer to the Hotel Salam Bamako

Day 3
This morning, visit the National Museum, housing one of the best ethnographic collections in West Africa. After lunch, drive to Segou, built on the banks of the Niger River. Segou was the capital of the French administration in the 19th century and retains an air of its former colonial glory. Transfer to the Hotel Independence for the night.

Day 4
In the morning, depart for San, set on the banks of the Bani River. An important commercial center, San boasts one of the largest markets in the region. Continue to Djenne, the oldest city on the ancient trans-Saharan caravan route. Djenne is dominated by its remarkable Grand Mosque, an example of Sahel-style architecture and the largest mud-brick building in the world. Continue to Mopti and the Hotel Kanaga.

Day 5
Mopti, once the third largest city in Mali, lies at the confluence of the Niger and Bani Rivers. Spend time at leisure exploring the markets, where handicrafts, including jewelry, sculptures, and Dogon and Peul blankets are on display.

Day 6
Drive to the Dogon Region, which contains some of the most impressive sites in all of West Africa. Visit Dogon villages, built along the cliffs of an escarpment, where we can see their elaborate art forms and unique architecture.

Day 7
Fly from Mopti to Timbuktu, once one of the wealthiest cities of Islamic Africa and a center of Muslim scholarship. Tour the city, visiting the Djingareyber and Sankore mosques, both dating from the 15th century. Walk through the city's narrow streets to see its distinctive architecture. In the afternoon, fly to Bamako and spend the night at the Hotel Salam Bamako.

Day 8
Fly to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Upon arrival, enjoy a tour of Dakar, including a visit to The Boribana Museum, showcasing contemporary art of the worldwide African diaspora. In the late afternoon, embark on Callisto and sail in the evening.

Day 9
In the morning, Callisto enters Senegal’s Casamance River, a maze of creeks and lagoons dotted with small islands. Anchor close to Karabane Island, an early trading center near the mouth of the river. Land at the village of Kachovane, where we are greeted by local dancers. After exploring the village, drive to Cap Skirring and the Hotel La Paillote for lunch and a swimming opportunity. After lunch, board local boats to explore traditional villages. Spend the night aboard anchored near Karabane Island.

Day 10
In the morning, explore the village of Elinkine and then drive to nearby M’lomp, known for its two-story banco architecture, a rare example of African tribal house design. In addition to touring the village, we will also meet with its chief and visit St. Joseph School. Reboard the ship and spend the rest of the afternoon at sea. In the evening, Callisto will enter the Gambia River.

Day 11
This morning, Callisto continues cruising upriver to call at the traditional village of Albreda, known for its batiks and dyed cloth, characteristic houses and huts, and fortified trading station. Continue to Jufureh, which became famous in the 1970s after the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots. Return to Callisto and enjoy lunch aboard as the ship journeys upriver to Tendaba. Upon arrival, depart by local boats for a cruise in the Baobolong Wetland Reserve.

Day 12
Explore the Kiang West National Park, where mangroves, creeks, and mudflats alternate with dry woodland and grassland. Look for baboons, colobus monkeys, warthogs, marsh mongoose, and roan antelopes, as well as some of the 250 bird species that inhabit the park. In the afternoon, cruise downriver to Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.

Day 13
Tour the Abuko Nature Reserve, a small area that boasts a tropical riverine woodland and a wide variety of bird life. Alternatively, explore Banjul, including visits to the National Museum and the Albert Market. Then, sail to Senegal’s Saloum River, whose delta comprises the Saloum Delta National Park. Formed by the convergence of the Saloum and Sine Rivers, it is an area of channels, lagoons, sand islands, and mangroves, home to rich wildlife. Upon arrival, explore this unspoiled region on local boats.

Day 14
This morning, continue exploring the islands and channels of the Saloum River, keeping an eye for the region’s bird life, including pelicans, flamingos, brushes, and herons. Spend the afternoon at sea cruising toward Dakar.

Day 15
Disembark in Dakar and visit Goree Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shop at the Marche Soumbedioune, a craft market with the best variety of artisan workmanship. Transfer to the Hotel Meridien for dinner and accommodations until your evening flight.

Day 16
Arrive in the United States.

 Program Dates:

Dec. 29, 2005 - Jan. 13, 2006
Jan. 6 - Jan. 21, 2006
Jan. 13 - 28, 2006
Jan. 20 - Feb. 4, 2006
Jan. 27 - Feb. 11, 2006
Feb. 3 - 18, 2006
Feb. 10 - 25, 2006
Feb. 17 - Mar. 4, 2006

 Program Inclusions

  • Two nights in Bamako at the Hotel Salam Bamako; one night in Segou at the Hotel Independence; three nights in Mopti at the Hotel Kanaga; day rooms in Dakar at the Hotel Meridien
  • 7-night cruise aboard the 34-guest yacht Callisto, including welcome and farewell cocktail receptions
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the trip, both on land and aboard Callisto
  • House wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner aboard ship
  • Flights in West Africa: from Mopti to Timbuktu, from Timbuktu to Bamako, and from Bamako to Dakar
  • Complete program of tours and excursions
  • Educational program of lectures by accompanying study leaders
  • Professional Travel Dynamics International tour staff
  • Complete pre-departure materials
  • Baggage handling and transfers abroad on the designated program departure and arrival dates
  • Port dues and embarkation taxes
  • Gratuities to porters, guides, and drivers


NOT INCLUDED: Airfare (other than the flights in West Africa listed above); visas; passports; luggage, cancellation, and accident insurance; meals, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages other than those specified above; personal expenses such as laundry, telephone calls, faxes, and e-mail service; and gratuities to shipboard personnel

Airfare: Airfare (other than the group flights from Mopti to Timbuktu, Timbuktu to Bamako, and Bamako to Dakar) is not included in the cost of the program.

 The 34 guest Callisto ship: The finest, most memorable voyages take place aboard a luxurious private yacht. On a private yacht one is part of a small, select, sociable community. Cabins are more like guest rooms in a fine home -- beautifully furnished, comfortably arranged, and complete with the little extras one would expect from a thoughtful host. The yacht's public areas, whether indoors or out on deck, are warm, inviting places where friends meet for conversation, a drink, or to pass a pleasant hour with a good book. The cuisine is superb. And the service is considerate and congenial.

This is the kind of exceptional experience you'll enjoy aboard the Callisto, a beautiful oceangoing yacht that is the fulfillment of a traveler's dream.

Like a fine country house, Callisto is furnished with rich fabrics, handsome woodwork, gleaming brass, rare antiques, and fine works of art. The guest list is limited to no more than 34 individuals -- a group large enough to bring together an interesting mix of travelers, but small enough to foster a genuine spirit of camaraderie.

In addition to all of the other pleasures of the Callisto, the ship's guests enjoy an advantage that eludes travelers aboard big ships: because Callisto is a yacht, it can visit those unspoiled islets, pristine beaches, and intimate coves and harbors that have been familiar to fishermen and other sailors of small craft for thousands of years, but which are inaccessible to large commercial cruise liners.

Callisto was designed with the comfort of her guests in mind. All staterooms are exterior with large windows (portholes on Daphne Deck) that look out on the sea and the yacht's various ports of call; they are air conditioned and feature generous storage space, a telephone, two-channel radio, and a marble bath with shower. The yacht's public areas include a spacious lounge; a dining room in which all guests are accommodated at a single unassigned seating; two broad decks for sunbathing and dining alfresco; and a swimming platform at the yacht's stern. The Callisto flies the Greek flag and is served by a crew of 18.

Join us aboard the Callisto and discover for yourself the pleasure of exploring the world from a private yacht.

Cruise and Land Rates:
Per person, double occupancy





Outside cabins on Daphne Deck with portholes.



Outside cabins on Daphne Deck with portholes.



Outside cabins on Leto Deck with picture window.



Outside cabins on Leto Deck with two picture windows.



Single Supplement: A limited number of singles are available in Categories B & C for an additional charge of $3,695.

Category Descriptions

All cabins on board Callisto have picture windows (portholes on Daphne Deck), affording panoramic views, and feature twin, double, or queen-size beds; private bathroom with shower; telephone, radio; TV/VCR; refrigerator; and air-conditioning.




Outside cabins on Daphne Deck with portholes


Outside cabins on Daphne Deck with portholes


Outside cabins on Leto Deck with picture window


Outside cabins on Leto Deck with two picture windows


Ship Specifications

Length: 164 ft. | Beam: 27.7 ft. | Draft: 8 ft. | Gross Tonnage: 435 | Main Engines: Mannheim 2x840 H.P. | Rebuilt/Renovated: 2000 | Flag: Greek




Kristina Trowbridge CTC MCC DS
Kristina's African Safaris
PO Box 30903, Seattle WA 98133-0903
call: 206-297-7179 toll free 877-297-7179
WinWin Vacations
WA Seller of Travel #601433464