Guinea-Bissau is one of the smallest, and least visited, countries in Africa – few western travellers make it to this former Portuguese colony, but those that do return full of incredible experiences and memories of a stunning part of the continent. Starting in Bissau, we travel by boat to the magnificent Bijagos Islands – a group of islands where traditional culture is at its strongest and ancient customs still hold sway. We visit local communities to learn about their lifestyles, some of the most traditional on the continent. We also search for the elusive saltwater hippos as well as other wildlife, and sail between idyllic islands on a true journey of discovery. Returning back to the mainland we visit the ‘ghost town’ of Bolama with its colonial remnants then spend time with the traditional Pepel people. The joy of this trip is the fact that you will be visiting an almost untouched corner of Africa; expect truly genuine encounters with local people and feel privileged to be one of the very few to have travelled here.
Fitness ●●●○○ | Adventure ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●○○
- Discover tiny Guinea-Bissau, one of Africa's least visited nations
- Travel to the stunning Bijagos Islands, one of the most traditional regions of the continent
- Look for rare saltwater hippos, or learn about the esoteric rituals of isolated tribes and witness a local festival
Accommodation: Tourist class hotels, which although comfortable can be basic
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum group size 16 (you may be joined by travellers from companies other than Undiscovered Destinations)
Start Point: Bissau
End Point: Bissau
Transport: 4WD, private motorboats
Tour Itinerary Notes
While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.
Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.
Day 1 – Arrival Bissau - Manjacu Tribe
Arrive in Bissau and check in to your hotel in Bissau (Hotel Azalai or similar). Due to a lack of international flights to Bissau you will arrive in the early hours of the morning. You will then have some rest and at around 10am we will spend the rest of the day dedicated to the Manjacu ethnic group with visits to tiny villages in the forest. These villages are notable for sculptured wooden poles called ‘Pecab’ representing the spirits of the ancestors. With the permission of the elders we have the opportunity to admire these sacred wooden sculptures varying in age and style. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy tribal art in its original cultural context. Overnight Casa Cachungo Eco Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Guinea-Bissau’s capital is a small and fairly unassuming place, with old colonial buildings and a generally easy-going pace – although that changes at the time of the annual carnival. It’s a pleasant place to wander around to witness everyday scenes of life, but doesn’t offer much in the way of traditional sightseeing – rather the attraction is to experience a slice of urban Africa that is much easier to deal with than some other African capitals. Some of the traditional crafts to be found here are particularly excellent.
Day 2 – Villages of the Flooded Forest – Felupes and Baiotes tribe
Today we travel along the Cacheu River to observe the abundant bird life including huge Pelicans, Goliath Herons, egrets, storks and flamingos. We then leave the main river to start navigating through the flooded mangrove forest. Our destination is some isolated villages inhabited by the Felupes and Baiotes, both tribes of the Diula ethnic group. We will witness their complex tribal technology and how they manage to desalinate the land for crop cultivation and we will hope to see their ceremonies and distinctive adobe huts. Overnight Casa Cachungo Eco Hotel or similar (BLD)
Day 3 – Pepel Tribe
This morning visit a local rum factory which has been in use since colonial times. Spend this afternoon discovering the culture of the Pepel people, who still follow animist traditions. We learn about their customs and visit a traditional ‘clinic’ where healers treat patients using their knowledge of local plants. Overnight Hotel Mar Azul or similar. (BLD)
Day 4 – Orango Island
Cruise to Orango Island in the Bijagos Archipelago, known for its unique saltwater hippos as well as crocodiles. Walk in the forest and try to follow the tracks of the saltwater hippos– these can be difficult to find but we hope to be lucky. Overnight Parque Hotel or similar. (BLD)
PLEASE NOTE – DAYS 4, 5 and 6 - The itinerary will be modified to accommodate either the ‘Vaca Bruto’ Wild Bull Dancing Mask Festival, Tribal Carnival or to search for the Salt Water Hippo and/or to possibly witness nesting turtles, depending on your departure date.
Tour dates for Vaca Bruto Mask Dances:
January 29th 2017, April 9th 2017, April 23rd 2017 and May 21st 2017
Tour dates for Saltwater Hippos and/or turtle nesting
November 19th 2017 and December 31st 2017
The Bijagos Archipelago is made up of around forty different islands, and has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to their ecological importance and rare and endangered species including turtles and the unique saltwater hippo, which swim between some of the islands. Their distance from the mainland has meant that local culture here has remained far less affected by modern influences than elsewhere and most islanders live a very traditional life, with a different language, Bijago, spoken here.
Day 5 – Secret Islands
Today we explore small islands and untouched villages where visits from westerns are very rare. We leave our boat parked on the beach and set off on foot across the island vegetation. We will make our way to small villages and pay tribute to the traditional chiefs and then with their permission be allowed into the villages and the sacred shrines. Later we return to Orango Island. Overnight Parque Hotel or similar (BLD)
Days 6 – Rubane Island
Today we walk to the sacred village of Okinka Pampa resting place of the queens. After lunch we take a boat acorss to Rubane Island where there will be some time to explore the villages or just relax on the beach. Overnight Ponta Anchaca or similar (BLD)
Please note that for the November and December 2017 tours the night of Day 6 will be spent at a basic fixed camp as we will be looking to observe nesting turtles.
Day 7- Bubaque
After a relaxing morning take a boat excursion to Anguruma via the Bay of Soga with its colony of pink flamingos. Enjoy the unspoilt beaches and visit Bubaque, the largest village of the archipelago, with its tiny museum of local culture. Later return to Rubane Island. Overnight Ponta Anchaca or similar (BLD)
Day 8 – Bolama – Bissau
This morning we head for Bolama, the former Portuguese capital of Guinea-Bissau but now an atmospheric ‘ghost town’, with charming remnants of its former importance. From Bolama we continue to Bissau where day use rooms are available until your transfer to the airport. Please note that flights usually leave Guinea Bissau in the early hours of the morning. (BL)
Bolama was the capital of Portuguese Guinea until 1936. Built in a charming colonial style, this ‘ghost’ town is still alive – little by little local people took possession of the town and now they live in the old buildings, many of which are slowly crumbling. The city is characterised by its wide avenues, squares, gardens, fountains and once-luxurious administration buildings. Also to be found here is a memorial in honour of Italian pilots who died in 1931, along with symbols of fascist power. Everything is now covered by tropical vegetation.
Arrival and departure transfers
Transport as indicated.
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes