Man is a beautiful town to the West of the Ivory Coast. It is located in the “Dix-Huit Montagnes” region, and is quite literally surrounded by 18 lush green peaks. We took a long weekend road trip from Abidjan to Man, hiring a 4×4 with driver for 3 days. The drive without stopping is about 8 hours there and 8 hours back, which left us with just a day and a half to see as much as we could of this charming area. Here my highlights: all of which I would recommend to anyone looking to discover Man.
Hike to the top of Dent de Man
Named after it’s tooth-like shape, this peak took us a good half-day hike to climb up and down. The walk departs in the local village of Glongoin, and starts with a pleasant walk through the rainforest to reach the bottom of the peak, where the proper ascent starts (881m)! With a bit of slipping and a bit of scrambling, the hike should be achievable to anyone with a moderate level of fitness. Unfortunately we were clouded over at the top, so no view for us, but the walk was worth it never the less to appreciate the landscape and vegetation. The trail isn’t marked, so anyone planning the trek will need a guide (which can be arranged at Hotel Les Cascades). Ours was lovely, keeping us motivated, describing particular plants, and pointing out stinging ants which we needed to run past quickly. (My friend didn’t run fast enough, and these ants went up his trousers and into his pants, which resulted in a hilarious dance as he tried to get them out!)
If you have more time in Man you might want to tackle the full day hike up Mount Toukoui (1223m) from which you can see neighbouring countries Guinea and Liberia!
Go Swimming in Les Cascades des Zadépleu
This famous waterfall in Man is the biggest and widest in the country and is the pretty much the perfect way to cool off after a morning hike. The pool at the bottom of the waterfall is tiled around the edge, so there is no risk of being swept away by the water down the river. Depending on the season and amount of recent rainfall, you might be able to climb the little “steps” beneath the stream of water and get to the top. If the current is too strong, there is a route through the forest next to the waterfall which takes you to the top. Just ask one of the local kids playing in the water and they’ll be able to show you.
Discover Traditional Clothes at Man Market
The traditional outfit of the Dan people, who inhabit the western region of Ivory Coast, will cost you somewhere between 3000 and 6000 CFA depending on your negotiation skills. The fabric is very heavy, so I opted against buying, but the market is a great place to witness local dressmakers at work and to be a part of the hustle and bustle of the town (though I would advise keeping your valuables very close to you: a young boy followed us halfway around the market hoping to snitch something out of our pockets).
Meet the Monkeys at La Forêt Sacrée de Gbêpleu
Not far from Les Cascades, is the edge of this monkey-filled forest. The monkeys are known to emerge at approximately 4pm everyday. I was surprised by just how many came out to greet us; at one point there must have been ten of them balancing on one branch. This is probably because we came armed with a decent stock of bananas!
Ps. Look closely at the photo below and spot the baby monkey in his mother’s pouch.
Walk Across Le Pont de Liane at Lieupleu
Though it is an hour’s drive out of Man, this sacred bridge is worth the visit. There are many similar bridges in the region, but this is one is by far in the best condition! Legend has it that the bridge was made by “genies” and the Dan people protect it accordingly, with limited tourism, and visits that must be approved by the village chief. When stepping onto the bridge you can feel it’s strength as it supports you with ease, but you also notice its fragility: one foot wrong and you risk snapping one of the woven branches.
Visit the Local Villages
Surrounding Man you will find a multitude of villages in which the Dan people live. The people earn their money in agriculture, particularly in cultivating and growing cassava, rice and cocoa beans. These are then dried on big ground sheets in the sun before being sold on. It is worth visiting one or two of these villages to gain an appreciation of how many people in Ivory Coast live their daily lives. Each village has a chief and rituals which need to be respected, hence you should always be accompanied by a guide who knows the customs. We, however, opted to pick up a random man on a nearby road to help us navigate the village (at least that’s what it seemed to me, but who am I to question the initiative of my Ivorian travel buddies, it worked!). Another thing to note is that some inhabitants, especially the kids, will be delighted to see you and will greet you with enthusiasm, while others may be less pleased. Just be respectful, use your intuition, and ask before taking photos.
Included below is a selection of snaps from Lieupleu village (where the sacred Pont de Liane is also located).