Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is a country famous for its traditional, African cultures and villages, fine beaches, rainforest, and wildlife preserves. It is the most biodiverse country in West Africa, with the majority of its wildlife population living in the nation’s rugged interior, and there is plenty to explore for the adventurous traveler. In some areas, authentic tribal customs and dances can still be witnessed, and its French colonial heritage ensures delicious food is never far away.
The Fêtes des Masques, (Festival of Masks) held in December in the region of Man is one of Côte d’Ivoire’s biggest and best-known festivals. Competitions between villages are held to determine the best dancers, and to pay homage to the forest spirits embodied in the elaborate masks. Another important event is the week-long carnival in Bouaké each March. In April, there is the Fête du Dipri in Gomon, near Abidjan. This festival starts around midnight when naked women and children sneak out of their huts and carry out nocturnal rites to exorcize the village of evil spells. Before sunrise, the chief appears, drums pound and villagers go into trances. The frenzy continues until late afternoon of the next day. Visitors to Wananiere Village des Tisserands near Korhogo can learn how traditional cloth is made.
Aside from Côte d’Ivoire’s cultural riches, it has numerous national parks, the largest and best-known of which is Comoë National Park, which contains a large variety of wildlife including elephants, giraffes, lions, monkeys and antelopes. Elsewhere, Taï National Park has the largest tropical rainforest in West Africa, and the mountainous area around Man offers cooler temperatures and excellent hiking and viewing nature in the tropical forests.
The beach resorts in Grand Bassam and easygoing Assinie are perfect for a relaxing break after touring the country. The beaches of San Pédro are in close proximity to the rainforest as well as Sassandra, which is also a great choice to to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and white sands under the coconut trees.
A quick look around in Abidjan makes it clear that this diverse nation is developing quickly, yet in its hinterland, it remains rich in culture, and the country’s beauty is undeniable. For those searching for a memorable African adventure in a true tropical paradise, Côte d’Ivoire will surely not disappoint.