Situated between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, Benin is a relatively small and narrow country. It’s approximately 113,000 kilometres square, stretches for just 700 kilometres from north to south, is only 325 kilometres at its widest point, and is bordered by Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and the Atlantic’s Bight of Benin. Journeys by Design currently designs trips to the coastal region, Abomey and Dasse-Zoume, Atakora, and Pendjari National Park.
Having inherited French systems of administration, the country is divided into 12 ‘departments’ or states, which subdivide into 77 ‘communes’ or municipalities. Alibori and Atakora make up the north. Borgou and Donga constitute north-central Benin, while Collines spans the lion’s share of south-central Benin. Zou, Mono, Plateau, Kouffo, Atlantique, Litterol, and Ouémé form the south. Topographically, the country consists of four areas: the Atacora mountain range in the northwest; the 400-metre-high flatlands that constitute the mid-north and centre; a plateau ranging from 20 to 200 metres that covers much of the southern half of the country; and the coastal strip, which is just10 kilometres wide and characterised by lagoons, mangroves, forests, marshlands, and lakes.
The position of the country, the lay of its lands, and the influence by the rain-bringing Inter-tropic Convergence Zone (ITCZ)*, makes for a reasonably complex picture consisting of four climatic zones: sub-humid dry transitioning to semi-arid; sub-humid dry; sub-humid wet transitioning to sub-humid dry; and sub-humid wet.
Located at the northern limits of the ITZC zone, the north of Benin experiences: a single wet season, which occurs between May and late October; and a single dry season, between November and late April, when the Harmattan wind blows in from a north‐easterly direction. It is, therefore, home to two climatic zones. The northern half of Alibori is a Sudano-Sahel semi-arid transition zone, and experiences a yearly average of less than 1000mm rain and temperatures of between 24 – 31 C. The rest of the north is a clear-cut Sudanian savannah sub-humid dry destination, and experiences a yearly average of between 900 – 1100 mm rain and temperatures of between 25 – 29 C.
Due to the ITZC bringing rain as it oscillates north and again on its return journey south, the centre of the country experiences two wet seasons, the first from March to July, the second from September to the end of October. Stretching from the southern borders of Collines to the northern borders of Donga and Bordou, central Benin is a Sudano-Guinean savannah sub-humid dry transition zone. As such, it experiences a yearly average of between 900 – 1100 mm rain and temperatures of between 25 – 29 C, becoming increasingly dry as one travels north.
Everywhere south of Collins also experiences two wet seasons, and at similar times to those in central Benin. The south, however, is a Guinean sub-humid wet destination, and consequently experiences a yearly average of 1200 mm of rain and temperatures of between 25 – 29 C. The average yearly water temperature in the Bight of Benin is approximately 27C. It is at its warmest in May, when it can reach 29C, and its coolest in August, when falls to around 25C.