From the pleasant Fula village of Massina, you can start a trip along the Niger by public pinasse (large canoe). A good first stop is Diafarabé, where vast Fula herds cross the Niger in one of West Africa's most picturesque annual rituals.

Every late December or early January (the exact date of the crossing is not set until November because much depends on water levels), Diafarabé (and other places along the Niger with large Fula populations) is transformed into a hive of activity as hundreds of thousands of cows are driven southwards and across the Niger to greener pastures.

The crossing, known as Dewgal, dates back almost 200 years and is a happy time for the Fula herders who have been on the fringes of the Sahara for many months.

The crossing means reunion with their families and a time to celebrate with music and dance. Fula women adorn themselves in all their ritual gold and amber finery, while the men paint and decorate their favourite animal to see who owns the finest and fattest beast.