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With so much focus on safari trips to Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa and beach vacations to Mombasa, Capetown and Mozambique, West Africa is often overlooked as a top African travel destination. With the softening of political tensions and a heightened increase in tribal, musical and ancient African adobe culture, countries such as Mali, Ghana, Cote D'Ivoire, Senegal, Togo, Benin and Gambia are experiencing a resurgence in tourism. Taking advantage of the rich culture associated with the region, tour providers are offering a wide range of vacation options including lengthy and short tours and guided bus tours for backpackers to less bohemian-styled tours with home-stays. Any way you look at it, West Africa offers travelers get a look at African roads less traveled. Best of all, West Africa travel is usually extremely affordable as tour providers try to attract European and American travelers.

Silicon Travel & Tours (tel. 233-21/228-520; www.silicontours.com) provides different levels of luxury tours to almost all of the West African nations, including special tours to special events. One such tour to Ghana is scheduled around a total lunar eclipse in March 2006. In the darkness of the African jungle, viewing a total lunar eclipse will be like sitting in total black. The eight-day trip stops in Accra, the Ashanti Kingdom, Busua Beach, a village on stilts and several nature parks. You'll view the eclipse on March 25, 2006, after your first day of arrival. Silicon Tours offers three different levels of travel including Gold, Silver and Premium Packages. Sharing a double room in four or five-star hotels, the Gold Package costs approximately $980; the Silver Package with stays in three-star hotels costs $880; and the Premium Package with lodging at two-star "very clean" hotels costs $780. Single supplements run between $200 and $300 depending on the chosen package.

Other tours from Silicon include an eight-day and seven-night trip to Ghana, Togo and Benin. Visiting craft fairs, large marketplaces, museums, and nature reserves, this tour delves into African art, history and village life. Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner is included in both levels of this tour. Prices start at $700 for the lower three-star package and go up to $970 for the four or five-star option. Having started their almost 20 years of experience in the travel industry as a discount airline consolidator, Silicon Travel & Tours can also help you with airfare from Europe or the United States. Call or e-mail a Silicon representative (info@silicontours.com) for updated prices on round-trip flights to Accra or other major West African cities. An English-speaking guide with accompany the tour and an air-conditioned bus will transport you from site to site.

For long, rustic, trips to Africa that promise to take you places not many Western people have gone before, Dragoman Overland Tours (tel. 800/227-8747; www.dragoman.com) offers a wide selection of trips ranging in length from three months to three to six weeks. Connecting from one Dragoman Overland trip to another, you can almost traverse the entire globe on truck. A five-week tour called "Nomadic West Africa" starts in Senegal and ends in Mali. On the way, you'll take a canoe trip, ride camels with nomads in Timbuktu, visit a hippo lake near Bobo, and experience the sound of African beats in Ouagadougou. This trip is labeled challenging, as you'll cross rough terrain and drive through African bush. Two Western guides will accompany you on your journey with 90 percent of accommodations at campsites or camping in the wild and 10 percent in hotels and hostels. A Dragoman Overland classic truck will take you and approximately 12 to 20 other travelers through West Africa. Departing on February 14, 2006 from Accra and arriving in Dakar on March 21, 2006, this voyage costs approximately $2,320 with a suggested "kitty" of $520 advised for food, drink and extra costs. In Mali, you'll visit the Djenne market, held at the world's largest adobe structure. Other 2006 departure dates for this trip include September 6 and October 6, 2006.

Offering trips to Ghana designed for two travelers, Poku African Tours (tel. 916/612-8746; www.pokuafricantours.com) has seven-, 10- and 14-day tour options. The trips include room and board, daily breakfast and dinner, admission to all tour sites, transportation to all tour sites and the airport, and laundry while you're in the beach capital of Accra. Costs of the tours are approximately $2,100 for the seven-day tour, $2,900 for the 10-day trip, and $3,600 for the 14-day trip. Poku tours promise visits that get you well-acclimated with village life, local flavor, natural sites, and slave heritage sites such as the Elmina Slave Castle.

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