Niger's Park W: The Animal-Loving Foodie's Best-Kept Secret
As the wooden boat glides along the calm waters of the Niger River, white-faced ducks scatter upwards into the evening sky. Further along the shore, elephants lumber down the muddy bank. On the other side, a family of warthogs darts between clumps of grass. A safari in a traditional canoe, or pirogue, is one of the best ways to see wildlife in West Africa’s Park W. The trans-border national park is located at the juncture of three countries - Niger, Burkina Faso, and Benin. Relatively undeveloped and infrequently visited, the park is home to a wide range of animals including lions, cheetahs, hippopotamuses, and many migrating bird species. Driving from Niamey, Niger to the park in your own car is easy, but you can also book trips through local tour operators. The best place to stay is the Ecolodge on the Île du Lamantin. Guests spend the night in small, well-kept huts scattered along the shore of the island, which is crisscrossed by maintained hiking trails. After a day of wildlife watching, the lodge's dining terrace on the river is an excellent place to relax and savor the flavors of locally-procured ingredients in French-Nigerien dishes such as Guinea Hen in Tikadigué Sauce, Terrine de Tchapata (quiche-like dish using local leaves), Baobab Cream, and Bissap Juice. If your party is large enough, Nathalie, the manager, can organize a cooking class for you, complete with recipe cards - an excellent souvenir for a unique experience.