Visit a Livestock Market
Mali is a country famed for its livestock markets. There's a few within close proximity to Bamako and worth a visit for a unique experience. Watching the local traders barter with the public is an experience in itself. I also had no issues with taking photos at the market. There's many live animals for sale such as chickens, goats, cows, birds, and even snakes.
Note: Don't buy a cow, you'll be over your luggage allowance on the flight home!
Bamako City Tour
The capital city of Bamako will likely be your start point when you arrive into Mali. The city does have a few attractions worth checking out. Most notably, The Cathedral, The Grand Mosque, The Central Post Office, Independence Monument, and Place Des Explorateurs.
All of the attractions are within easy reach and taxis are very low cost.
Segou is a 3 hour drive North-East of Bamako. A pleasant town nestled directly on the Niger River. This is often used as a 'stop off' as it's located half way between Bamako and Djenné. The streets are nice to roam around, as is the waterfront where you'll see an array of boat builders in action. There's a great community feel around the town with all of the local houses inter-joining one another.
Sunset Riverboat Cruise
From the riverfront in Segou, you can tip one of the boat owners to take you along the Niger River for a sunset cruise. You'll see local fishermen in action on wooden boats along the river. A great way to relax after a day of exploring, and the sunset was spectacular too!
Local Mopti Village
There are many local villages in the Mopti region, and the locals will gladly wait with open arms to welcome visitors. I stopped in the village of Tominian as I specifically wanted to see the local village houses. This is one area of Africa where small gifts are much more appreciated when compared to a monetary tip.
Great Mosque of Djenné
One of the largest cities in Mali is Djenné, which is also home to one of the greatest architectural buildings across the whole of Africa. The Great Mosque was built in 1907 and is made entirely of mud and wooden beams. It is said to be the largest mud mosque anywhere on the planet. There's also an interesting document storage library across from The Great Mosque which holds ancient manuscripts.
The city is great to wander round the streets. My advice would be to enter one of the surrounding buildings by the mosque and head up to the rooftop for a great photo opp of the mosque.
Photograph the People
Nowhere on the continent of Africa have I found locals so friendly and photogenic. The locals are so welcoming! Warmly inviting you into their homes, as well as offering to show you around the city. For the past 5 years, tourism numbers have dramatically reduced in the region, so the locals get very excited if they spot a tourist.
Bienvenue L'auberge Djamilla in Bamako is a great hotel to use as a start point to explore the city before you head off to see more of the country. It's central, the rooms are spacious, and there's a nice common room area offering internet facilities and food. There's also a small selection of restaurants close by, but sadly many of these have closed in recent years due to the huge drop in tourism.
Whilst walking around the local area on Bamako, I stumbled across a superb restaurant, literally out of nowhere. Restaurant Kora is a place you could easily just walk straight past. Whilst speaking to the waiter, he was saying that 5 years ago you would've struggled to spot a free table in the restaurant. When I arrived, I was the only person in the entire restaurant. This still didn't hinder the quality of the food, which was superb!
I booked my tour of Mali via Papillon Reizen via email communication with Monique. From start to finish, the service was fantastic! Communication was prompt, discussion of itinerary and recommended changes, accommodation options, safety concerns, and overall experience was great. There were a couple of other companies that offered a lower cost, but their service was a shadow of Papillon Reizen.