Making The Most Of The Ivory Coast

Bags in hand or not, it’s time to tour the Ivory Coast and see the crocodiles, cultural dances and gigolos (not for me 😂) this rather developed West African nation has to offer.

After a few days in Liberia, I was ready to move on to the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, is a former French colony that secured its independence in 1960. It has had its fair share of coups and civil wars, much like many of the neighboring West African countries. Their last civil war ended in 2011, and nowadays it is a relatively stable country.

An Unfortunate Loss

It seems like it should have been easy to fly from Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, to Abidjan, the economic center of the Ivory Coast, but of course, there were no direct flights. It was a long way back to Conakry, the capital of Guinea that I had just recently visited, and from there to Abidjan.

I arrived in the late evening and had a fairly common experience that had actually never happened to me before in all my years of extensive travel. My luggage was lost, similar to what happened to Alana after leaving Guinea-Bissau. Normally I only travel with carry-on luggage, but I checked my luggage this time because they wanted me to at the airport. When I arrived in Abidjan, my luggage was not there. I waited almost an hour for it, but it never arrived.

I was already underwhelmed by the Ivory Coast

The people working at the airport in Abidjan are very incompetent, so it took a long time to actually figure out what even happened to my luggage. In the end, I got everything sorted out, but I was very annoyed. They told me that it would probably take about three days to get my luggage because, for some reason, they left it in Conakry. 😡

This is where my luggage stayed while I traveled the Ivory Coast practically empty-handed.

So, with very little baggage, I met my guide and we drove to the hotel. It was almost midnight and I was very hungry due to the long flight and having so little food. We managed to find a pizzeria that was already closing, but we begged them to make us a pizza and they agreed. We got the pizza to-go and brought it to the hotel in Abidjan where I would just stay the night. Early the next morning we would go somewhere else, and the baggage I could collect three days later when we were heading up north.

More Animals, Less Culture

A bit before the trip, I told the agency Continent Tours, with whom I arranged most of my West African travel, that I would prefer more excursions into nature and less culture, as we had already seen a lot of dances in Guinea-Bissau and the surrounding countries. The dances were nice, but I don’t need a big group of people to dance for me every day. 😂 I’d rather see fewer villages and have more experiences with the local wildlife.

Basically, I wanted more puppies and fewer dances

They adapted the program for me a bit, so the next day after my arrival, we first drove to see a farm in the forest. We took a little walk through the rainforest, seeing many plants, birds, and insects along the way. We got our feet quite muddy as we walked. There were also many animals to see there. They were in cages, but it was still a nice way to experience something of life in the rainforest.

Trekking through the jungle

We headed back toward Grand-Bassam, the original capital of the Ivory Coast. It’s a seaside town with some old decaying ruins and French colonial architecture. On the way, we stopped at a crocodile farm or zoo, which was actually discontinued, but they still had some reptiles there including a snake and a crocodile.

Smiling for the camera 😅

We basically bribed the guard to let us hold the crocodile and the snake in our hands because I’m a big fan of reptiles.

I don’t know why everyone is so afraid of snakes.

Most people hate snakes and crocodiles, but I really like them, so I was very happy to get some pictures holding them.

He seemed pretty relaxed with me.

The region that we drove through is also famous for its pineapples. There are many pineapple fields and girls selling pineapples, so we bought some to enjoy. They were really delicious. 😋

Some local ladies selling pineapples

Dirty Tourism

Once we arrived in Grand-Bassam, we checked out the old town, walking around the old buildings and ruins.

It’s not as grand as it once was

We went to the old fishing harbor and visited some fisher huts, then wandered down to the lagoon to see how they fish.

Fishing village at the lagoon

From there I went to the beach hotel, which was a very nice hotel with a great beach, a pool, and good French food. I enjoyed the rest of the day there, taking advantage of the pool and the beach.

Visiting the fisher village

At sunset, I went to the beach to take some nice pictures and enjoy the “scene,” because this area is actually quite famous for sex tourism. We’re not talking about the usual old guys with hot young girls, but rather, female sex tourism. This is someplace that old, shabby, European women go to have fun with the young Black gigolos. 😳

There were a few couples around, and I noticed, in particular, one older lady with a young guy. I saw them sitting in the sand next to each other, admiring the sunset along with everyone else. Out of respect for their privacy, I didn’t take any photos of them close together and kissing, but I considered this to be a quite symbolic image of Grand-Bassam.

Some kind of romance

The sunset was quite stunning to watch, and the people-watching was interesting. Afterward, I had a nice steak dinner at the great hotel restaurant. Then I called it a day and went to bed because the next day we had a very long drive ahead of us.

A beautiful sunset over the ocean

Something Sour, Something Sweet

We first drove back to Abidjan to pick up my luggage, but unbelievably, it still wasn’t there. I basically didn’t get my luggage back until the day of my departure. We then drove further north to Yamoussoukro, the new capital of the Ivory Coast, whereas Abidjan is more of the seaside center. Abidjan is quite a big city, actually one of the biggest in West Africa.

It’s probably the most developed city in West Africa.

The Ivory Coast used to be quite modern and wealthy in contrast to its surrounding countries. Abidjan is still the economic and cultural center, but the capital as the political center was moved to Yamoussoukro, more in the center of the country, so we were driving there.

On the way, we stopped at a chocolate plantation. They don’t make chocolate there, but they grow a lot of cocoa. In fact, they are the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans.

I’m thinking about agricultural investments. What about some Staatenlos chocolate?

A little guide showed me around, telling me about how they grow and process the cocoa. They actually grow a very rare and fine kind of cocoa. I believe there are three types of cocoa, and one is very rare and high quality, which they process there. It was quite interesting to see how they process this cocoa. We took a long walk around the cocoa plantation, where they also grow a bunch of other stuff and we could also see some wild animals.

Enjoying some delicious palm wine

A Bit of Culture

In Yamoussoukro, we just went to the hotel in a big complex by the parliament, then continued to Manfla, which is about two hours north.

In the political capital of Ivory Coast, Yamoussoukro

We were going there to see another dance, but this one was very special and worth taking the trip out to see. This particular dance is so famous that it’s actually made the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The dance is known as Zaouli, and the mask that they use in this dance was created in the 1950s. The dance is believed to increase productivity and promote unity among the community.

It was truly an amazing experience to see the Zaouli mask dance.

It was pretty amazing to see, and it was probably one of my favorite dances that I’ve seen in Africa. The whole village came together to perform the dance for me, which is actually pretty rare — normally they only perform this dance for special occasions such as celebrations and funerals. It was pretty cool and very inspiring to be there and see them dance.

Some local boys welcoming me after the dance

Yamoussoukro is also famous for having the biggest church in the world, called the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. We just saw it from a distance because it was not open for visitors, but it was still pretty interesting to see. At the time of its building, it was believed that this would become a pilgrimage spot for African Catholics, but that dream has yet to be realized.

The world’s largest church

From there, we continued all the way back to Abidjan, where I was planning to visit the city and some of the surroundings the following day.

Exploring Abidjan

We took a tour the next day of the main part of the city. We visited a nature park within the city that had some rainforest.

A bit of greenery in the city

They had some huge catfish there in a little pond, and I thought it was quite interesting to see and feed them. We walked through the forest. There were supposed to be some monkeys around, but we didn’t see any.

Giant catfish lurk beneath the surface here

We visited all of the typical sights of Abidjan, including a heart-shaped church.

A beautiful church in Abidjan

We also went to the river near the catfish place where all of the poor people in town go to do their laundry and then bring it back.

A West African-style laundromat

We went to a very nice restaurant at a kind of sport-fishing club that had some excellent steak and raw meat. It’s always dangerous to eat raw meat in West Africa, but I like to live on the wild side, and it was very good.

A dangerously delicious dinner

After lunch, I was already transported back to the airport to catch my next flight to Ghana. In all, I think I was there for four nights in the Ivory Coast. Just the day before, when we were heading back from Yamoussoukro, I got my luggage back, luckily. So I flew, with my luggage, to Ghana, where I planned to stay for a whole week. Ghana was a welcome relief, leaving the French-speaking country of the Ivory Coast and going somewhere where they speak English again. I got a visa on arrival and was ready to enjoy Ghana the next few days.