How to get there

You can find Cool Camp near the huge Manantali Dam in the west of Mali

Manantali is located about 150 km south of Kayes, 150 km north-west of Kita or about 300km northwest from Bamako.

GPS coordinates: N13 11.721, W10 26.582.

Route coming from Kayes
Coming from the north, from Kayes, near the border with Senegal and Mauritania, follow the road south of Kayes in the direction of Bafalubé. Its easy enough, there is only one road. Near the ‘shutes de felou’ the road turns left. If you go straight, you end up in the dam, not a good plan. Near Kayes, the road is pretty good. There will be an occasional pothole, so keep your eyes open. Also, there are a few speed bumps that are hard to see and no sign, so again, keep your eyes open.

After 50 km or so, you cross the one-lane bridge across the river. Be careful. There are speed bumps without signs just before the bridge. The road continues and now the potholes increase. The closer you get to the cement factory, the worse the road.
Arriving at the riverside near Bafalubé, until the new bridge is finished (if they ever get started), you will cross the river by small ferry (also possible for trucks).
Currently, the prices for the ferry are about 2500 CFA for a car and 4000-5000 CFA for a truck. The captain has a chronic need for money and a big wallet, so make sure you do not pay to much. Usually, you should get an official ticket.

If you drive a motorbike or car which is not to low on its wheels, you can ask the ferry to drop you off at the Bafalubé side, which is the easy way. You then drive south along the river and cross the Railway bridge to continue the road towards Manantali. (maximum 10 tons)

If you drive a truck or a very low car, make sure you are dropped on the Manantali side, NOT on the Bafalubé side!. You have to ask this! From there, you can either follow the bad track along the river for about 5 km until you reach the railway tracks (which might be a problem in the rainy season) or you can head south over a gravel road for about 5km. Just before the first village, there is a turnoff right (no sign, but its clear).  Follow this; its reasonable; just drive slowly until you cross a small stream and have to go steeply up. You end up near the railway bridge. Follow the excellent new tarmac road towards Manantali (about 80km).

Just before Manantali you will see a toll post (currently not being manned) and 1km after that a police check. The policeman usually sleeps so no problem, if the police ask you where you are going, just say Cool Camp. If he does not know this (probably because he Just Woke Up) , there is a big sign of Cool Camp on the side of the road 100 meter past the police post.

Pass the village of Manatali (unless you are in need of some shopping) until you come to a crossroads, you will see the dam right in front of you. There is a STOP sign, do not forget to stop completely, otherwise you will pay !!

The road to Bamako turns left, but for Cool Camp, you turn right. Cross the only bridge across the Baffing River, and just after the bridge, take the dirt road to your right. Follow it 300 meter and look for the tree with the Cool camp sign on your right. The locals burned the tree because there was a nest of bees in it this year. Not happy. Turn right, and after 100 meters, turn left onto the stone road towards the camp.

Route coming from Bamako
I am a slow driver. If I leave Bamako at 8 in the morning, I arrive at Cool camp around 3–4 in the afternoon. (update 2024. The road between Kita and Tambaga (40 km) has become very potholed, so the arrival is a bit later.

Coming from Bamako you drive northwards direction Kati. I usually take the road that passes the zoo and the presidential palace.

The army barracks are located in Kati. Follow the road around Kati instead of through the centre. At the end there is a small roundabout, turn right. Keep following the road and pas the many many trucks parked on the side of the bad road. You arive first at a police checkpoint, but usually you can just continue since its for trucks. Little later you come to a toll booth, normal cars pay 500cfa, trucks 1000cfa.

Immediately after the toll booth, turn left. This excellent road (UPDATE: its not so excellent anymore but they have filled in most of the potholes) will take you to Kita and Keniaba, even all the way to Senegal, which is apparently not known by any mapmaker. Its now not a good tarmac road, and every village has its own speed speedbumps, so beware. Follow this road until Kita, about 180km. Just after the police checkpoint and the tollbooth, you can take the Kita bypass road on your left. But Kita is a nice little town with a cozy market. It is also the last place to get fuel or money. There is a (visa) ATM in the centre (BDM bank) and a TOTAL petrol station.

Follow the road westwards. After 40 km you reach the small village of Tambaga. Just before entering this village you turn right onto a dirt road. There is a sign pointing right, direction Manantali.

The dirt road is 100km long and usualy in ok condition, although a bit slow driving. Only at the hight of the rainy season the road might be difficult, sometimes even closed due to trucks getting stuck in the mud and blocking the road.

Ariving in Manantali the road descents steeply. You have a nice view of the big dam and on the other side of the river you will see the only (white) house, that’s the place you’re going. Descent the road carefully and SLOWLY (its narrow and Africans are not used to the steepness) and at the first 4way crossroads go straight, across the bridge. Turn right after the bridge and after the bridge turn right onto the gravel road. After 300m turn right, there is a sign on the tree. After 100m turn left onto the paved road, you are arriving at paradise.

coming from Keniaba
The always accurate (NOT!) michelin map shows a direct road from Keniaba (on the border with Senegal) to Manantali, via Casama and Koundian. Please be aware that this road is difficult by car and in rainy season not accesible at all due to water crossings.. Unless you are really adventurous ofcourse.

Trucks and big rigs have taken this road, but its partly narrow with brush on the side, specially the first 30k or so, so you might get some scratches on your paintwork.
After Koundian it opens up. The road is beautifull and if you are not in a hurry, go ahead. Near Casama its a little hilly with some ups and downs, sometimes a rocky. After that its flat with weird rock formations sticking out once in a while, its nice, the vilages are authentic and friendly.

Last updated: April 2024