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Wildlife Tours in Africa’s Fabled Land – Mali

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Wildlife Tours in Africa’s Fabled Land – Mali

Wildlife tours in Africa’s fabled land of Mali, where the city of Timbuktu has stood since the 12th century, are truly unforgettable. Mali’s landscapes are of contrast: forest and scrub, savannah and desert, and the inland delta of the Niger. The birds of Mali are its natural highlight, while the rich cultural history provides fascinating interludes: mosques, mud houses, Dogon country and Timbuktu.

Mud Mosques and Piapiac

Tours in Mali begin in the well-wooded landscape north of the capital Bamako, where small villages and mud mosques share the woods with Fox Kestrel, Brown Snake Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard and Grey and Red-billed Hornbills. Bird watching enthusiasts will especially enjoy the unusual sight of the Piapiac riding on the backs of cattle. At the town of Djenné, tours take in the Grand Mosque, a mud-built mosque built in Sudano-Sahelian style in 1907 on the site of older mosques. Each year, the people of Djenné gather in a festival to repair damage caused by erosion.

Dogon Country

Mosques thin out on the journey into Dogon Country, where an animist and fetishist religion has survived centuries of Muslim and European cultural influence. Visiting villages in the talus slopes at the bottom of the cliffs is an opportunity to meet Dogon people and learn from them about their religion. This cultural variety is one of the reasons Mali is an excellent destination for wildlife tours in Africa. Another is the bird life in this region, which includes the Kulikouro Firefinch (virtually an endemic species to the country) and the Stone Partridge, Cliff Chat, Bearded Barbet, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Green Wood-hoopoe and Neumann’s Starling.


The road to Timbuktu takes tours through open, acacia-studded grasslands, home to Northern Anteater-chat, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and numerous larks and wheatears. (In a brief break from bird watching, a small population of Elephants migrates through this part of Mali every year.) Then there is the city Timbuktu itself, an unforgettable stop on all holidays and wildlife tours in Africa. It is famous for sitting at the heart of an old trade network across the north of the continent, and for its great centre of learning. A visit to the Djinguereber Mosque is essential, as is admiring the slabs of salt brought to the market by camel trains from the north.

Niger River

The Niger is a wide-open weave of water, marshland, desert and sky, with mud-brick villages and mosques along its shores – cruising along it is an excellent way to end wildlife tours in Africa’s fabled land of Mali. Bird watchers will be able to admire Senegal Coucals in the reeds, African Fish Eagles overheard, Senegal Thick-knees and Egyptian Plovers along the riverbank, and Red-billed Queleas flocks wheeling in the sky. Hippopotamus and crocodiles live in the river, rounding out the excellent views.

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