Re: Bamako Personal Guide
Mali is francophone Africa, so the excellent English skills can be a bit hard to find. There are English speaking people - but let´s say, their language skills vary widely, and the really good ones are usually hooked up with NGOs or tour companies - finding an individual guide focussing just on you you will probably have to arrange with a tour operator. If you only have a week or so, Segou might be a good place to explore the famous mud architecture, have a boat ride on the Niger etc. Heading to the desert might take a bit long unless you are willing to fly. and of course you should try to get some taste of Malian music in Bamako!
Just a word of warning as you say this is your first trip to Africa - Mali is a fascinating country, but it is not really the "picturebook Africa" of savanahhs with thorn acacias and elephant herds many people have in mind when they think of Africa. Mali is Sahel and partly desert, a landscape and culture that is quite different from East Africa. I´m sure you won´t be dissapointed at all though!
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