The land of the Dogon people in Mali, is found to the South East of the country. The villages are found nestling in the cliff face and on top of the Bandiagara escarpment which is approximately 150 kilometers long.
At first sharing the escarpment with the Dogon for a few centuries, the Tellem people were pushed out and migrated to Burkina Faso. The tiny buildings of these short, pygmy people can still be seen, perched safely in higher parts of the cliffs.
The Dogon believed the small Tellem could fly to get to these high places and after they moved away, many of the cliff dwellings constructed subsequently were replications of the original Tellem buildings.
Dogon Mali – Getting There
A flight to the African city of Bamako in Mali is the best place to start. Expect to pay around £500 for a return flight from London to Bamako. Travellers here may like to enjoy a short stay in Bamako to see the boulevards and markets before taking a bus or an internal flight to Mopti.
The two main starting points for a trek in Dogon country are Bandiagara and Bankass which are easily reached from Mopti by public transport.
Dogon Trekking and Guides
Guides in Dogon country are not essential but they can enhance the experience for visitors. They will help with translation, find places to eat and sleep and show the visitor abandoned cliff dwellings which may not even be found by an independent traveller. The guide will also explain a lot about local etiquette and the history and culture of the Dogon.
The cost for a guide is usually payable per day, expect to pay around £15, which should include the guide’s food.
Ensure that the guide has an official identification card and is a local Dogon. Negotiate with him and have a written contract regarding the intended itinerary and total cost of the trek included, signed by both parties before leaving.
There is a small fee to enter each village or cliff dwelling site on top of guide fees, which will allow the visitor to take photos of houses, buildings and, with permission, local people. This provides much needed revenue for the villagers.
Accommodation and Food
In larger villages, accommodation is reserved for visitors. In smaller villages, the visitors will stay with a local Dogon family, usually sleeping on the roof under the stars. This is a wonderful experience and visitors will enjoy seeing the local village life in a very unique setting.
Simple food will be provided but carry extras with, such as dried fruit and nuts. During the day when trekking along the escarpment, be sure to carry at least 2 litres of purified water per person.
There are quite a few tour operators offering customized tours to Dogon, such as Kanaga Tours, which is an option worth looking at, since costs are inclusive and the visitor has nothing to worry about. Everything from accommodation to sourcing the best Dogon art is taken care of.