Touching both the fringes of the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea, this elongated nation is squeezed between better-known neighbours. Whilst this unusual geography brings natural diversity – and riches in the wild north – it is Benin’s colourful culture that draws more intention. Voodoo still dominates – mystifying, terrifying and captivating outsiders in equal measure. This is set against colourful traditions that blur religious lines and unique architecture that is rich with symbolism.
Benin is a new destination for us, and one which presents a number of challenges. Therefore, we are not currently offering tailor-made trips. However, we have set up a pioneering group tour, exploring the country in the company of one of our team members. This will depart in December 2020. Enquire to register your interest.
A Little More about Benin
Despite Benin’s narrow coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, it is here that much of the population lives. It is also this southern region where Voodoo is most prevalent, with around half the country thought to practice it to some extent – most commonly blended with Christianity. Even diluted by monotheism, this pagan religion retains its power and authentic Voodoo ceremonies remain enthralling, exhilarating experiences for the uninitiated.
The north of the country is far wilder and less populated, as forest and savannah dominate. Here, Pendjari and W national parks survive as sanctuaries for some of the region’s last surviving wildlife. In particular, Pendjari is experiencing success under the careful management of African Parks, in partnership with the government. West African lions can be seen here, as well as elephants, buffalos and endemic antelope species like western hartebeests.
Some Ideas for a Benin Holiday
- Explore Pendjari National Park, home to one of the last populations of West African lions
- Visit Taneka villages and meet “fetish priests”, who still oversee ancient initiation rites
- Discover the royal palaces of the Kingdom of Dahomey, protected by voodoos and home to a temple supposedly built from clay, gold dust and human blood
- Experience a Voodoo ceremony, where frenetic drumming and chanting drive the faithful into a convulsive trance as the spirits possess them