We are 2-3 swedish women planning on visiting Mali for 14 days including the desert festival in january 2012. I´ve looked at the tour agencys on the homepage of the festival but they are a bit on the expensive side + it´s can be a drag being led around with a group of people we don´t know. But since the time is short we don´t want to get stuck places. Should we take an arranged tour or try to find our way on our own? Is it possible to find cars to Timbuktu, to find guides and places to stay in Dogon area etc?
you can get to Timbuktou without a tour operator (though you will need to book your flights in time, it might otherwise be difficult as the desert festival is a popular event). But for both time in the desert or Dogon you will need some sort of guide. Avoiding being stuck with people you don´t know should be hard during the festival in particular - there are lots of people there.
Thanks for your answer. I have looked for how to book plane ticket Timboukto- Bamako but it seems difficult to do in advance, outside of Mali. Know anything about it?
(Regarding stuck w people I mean of course in a car for a week or two w moaners and complainers.)
It is certainly true that it can be a drag with a tour all worked out for you, but it is also true that you gain a lot of time with an agency, as you have to factor in time loss using public transport. Why not contact agencies in Mali and telling them what YOU want to do ? Most agencies will do this, especially for 3 clients. For guides, if you have an agency driver for Timbuktu he will probably do but for Dogon country you will certainly need one, if only from a culture point of view. I would also wait until I got to Sangha to take a guide. So many people in Mopti or elsewhere want to be your guide but a lot are not even Dogon....
As always it comes down to either time or money. Since you're short on time I guess you don't really have a choice but go with a tour. I know exactly how you feel about being stuck, I'm not really into tours myself. But with only 14 days and you having to arrange everything yourself and the public transport over there... you would waste a lot of time and probably miss out on a few things.
I just put together a tour for a friend of mine, he's going to arrange it for some people over there in Mali. As someone else already said, since you're already 2 or 3 people, you might be your own little tour group.
If you have any more questions about Mali, feel free to contact me.
Me and another woman will be going to the festival too next year.
how much around the areas that we are talking about in this post can be done by normal car? is a 4x4 really warranted other than the obvious desert part to get from Timbuktu out to the festival? as we could get there by car and then find a guide to do the Dogon areas etc? would it be safe enough to take an agency tour from Timbuktu to go to the desert festival and leave the car in T. while doing so?
I do not know how it will be next year, but in the past year the festival was organised in Timbuktu itself (a dune at the outskirts) for security reasons, so getting a guide to get to the festival if you have already arrived by your own means would not be necessary. As for getting from Timbuktu to Dogon country by car - that seems a bit tricky for me, I think you have quite a distance to cover and it might be rather time consuming.
You don't really NEED to hire a 4x4, I just thought when you're short on time it might be a better option. You have a guarantee to see all the things you want to see and you'll be able to stop on the way.
There are public 4x4s going to Timbuktu from Mopti and from Douentza. There are also busses going to Timbuktu. Can't vouch for those but they didnt look that reliable despite of the fresh coat of paint.
In Mopti and Sevare you will be able to find a guide (or he/they rather find you) who should be able to get you to Pays Dogon too.
I think the Festival is going to be just outside Timbuktu next year too. So getting there won't require a 4x4 either.
thanks so much syphnxxs and flamejd, I have the website to refer to as needed but youve both been really helpful thanks - that the festival might be just outside Timbuktu and not out in the desert is wonderfully great to know!
I did tell you that Angie, in a mail I sent back in April, but as I never got an answer back.......
hi Paul, thought I had answered sorry! I will check my sent box..and yes it was very helpful re driving down but you said something about the festival being out in the desert about 2 hours or so and needing 4x4 for that part so based on that that Segou might be better to go to. I have another friend here in London who wants to go and would come with me from Morocco if i did drive down from Morocco which saves expensive flights from London to Bamako and she hasnt been to Morocco before - but she was not really too interested in the Segou festival above this one.
but otherwise you are still the most experienced person I know on VT for travelling down around these parts...thanks and hope all is well with you...and getting geared up for your VT meet in Paris?!..I have a wedding in Morocco to go to at the same time so cant go but if do go to the Mali festival have to start looking at things now I guess!