Guinea Bissau and Senegal Explorer


Guinea Bissau and Senegal Explorer

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Dossier

An intriguing journey touching the edge of the Western Sahara and down to the Bijagos Archipelago. We begin by travelling north through Senegal, reaching the border with Mauritania and the Djoudj National Park, a natural oasis composed of hundreds of miles of partially flooded land. We continue our exploration of Senegal with visits to nomadic tribes and sacred towns before boarding a ferry for our overnight journey to Guinea-Bissau. This 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. Depending on the date of your tour, in Guinea-Bissau you will either experience turtle nesting, tribal carnivals or the wild bull mask dancing.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●● | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●○○○

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights

  • Exceptional cultural experiences such as meeting the largest African religious brotherhood
  • An introduction to animistic traditions, tribal kings and other ethnic groups
  • Experience ever changing landscapes from the edge of the Sahara to the Bijagos archipelago
  • Excellent wildlife spotting opportunities in season
  • Prolific birdlife in Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
  • Explore the charming old town of Saint Louis in Senegal
  • See traditional African architecture in the Diola Kingdom
  • Navigate through the islands of the Bijagos Archipelago

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable hotel accommodation, camping and 1 night on-board a ship
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum group size 16 (On this tour you may be joined by travellers from companies other than Undiscovered Destinations)
Start Point: Dakar
End Point: Bissau
Transport: Minibus, 4x4 Vehicles, Calash, local taxi, ferry, ship, local motorised canoe and a private flight
Countries: Guinea Bissau and Senegal

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.

Tour Guide

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 in Dakar

Arrive in Dakar and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel Djoloff or similar.

Dakar

Located on the Cap Vert peninsula and Africa’s westernmost city, Dakar is a thriving, colourful, lively city that provides the first real experience of urban West Africa on this trip. Brash and often uncompromising, it was once one of the major cities of the French Empire and today is home to over a million people. With busy traffic and street vendors everywhere, Dakar is a world away from the rest of Senegal. Nearby is Gore Island, in contrast a peaceful sanctuary with well-preserved colonial buildings giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. Gore is best known for its associations with the slave trade, although there is some controversy about how much of a role it actually played.

Day 2 – Dakar and the edge of the Sahara

Dakar was the centre of political, economic and cultural French West Africa. We have a morning tour of the city including the city hall, Independence Square, the Presidential Palace and some interesting markets.After lunch, a minibus will take us to the Lampoul desert where our 4x4 vehicles will be waiting at the edge of the dunes to transport us to our camp. Overnight in a fixed camp at Lampoul in spacious tents, which include beds, and have their own bathroom. (BLD)

Day 3 – Saint Louis

This morning we drive to Saint Louis, the one- time home of the aviator and author Antoine Saint Exupery, where we explore its narrow lanes by calash in keeping with the locals! Overnight Hotel de la Poste or similar (BLD)

Saint Louis
One of West Africa’s most charming towns, Saint Louis was the first French settlement in the region and still retains much of its old colonial architecture, contributing to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Divided between an island and a peninsula, most of the old European buildings are concentrated on the island with an old governor’s palace, museum, and numerous grand old houses.

Day 4 – Djoudj National Park and Nomadic tribes

This morning we travel north to discover Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj), a natural oasis composed of hundreds of miles of partially flooded land. This is the habitat and nesting site of over a million migratory and sedentary birds including pelicans and flamingos. Later we continue to the Ferlo desert to discover the dry savannah where the Fulani, a nomadic tribe, herd Zebu cows. The Fulani (Peul) are the largest tribe in West Africa occupying a vast area from Senegal to Chad. They are the main herders of this vast savannah and their origins are still shrouded in mystery. We have dinner, and overnight, in a basic but clean structure of grass huts with mosquito nets and private WC and showers, managed by the local community. We will visit the nearby villages and in the evening when the herds come back, we may be invited to witness the milking of the herd! Overnight in simple grass huts.(BLD)

Day 5 – Touba Brotherhood

Rarely visited, the inhabitants of the sacred town of Touba are followers of Muridism, which offers a peaceful vision of Islam. Touba is a sacred town and visitors must wear conservative clothing, while it is forbidden to smoke, drink alcohol or listen to music. Mourdi appreciate any interest shown by visitors in their traditions and by following these simple rules, we will be made very welcome. From here we drive to Lac Rose which is a shallow salt lake surrounded by dunes. It is ten times saltier than the ocean, and the high concentration of minerals, lends it a pink colour on occasions. Overnight Le Traza Hotel. (BLD)

Touba

Touba is the centre of the Mourids, a strict Islamic sect that started in the 19th century with Sufi associations, and the town is an important centre of pilgrimage within the region. With that in mind, it’s forbidden to bring either alcohol or cigarettes into the town and there are no hotels here, for they are seen as dens of iniquity. Each year the town plays host to an annual pilgrimage called the Grand Magal, when 750,000 people descend, raising comparisons with a West African Mecca. The main sight here is Touba’s enormous mosque – construction began in the 1930s but was not completed until the 1960s, and it is one of the largest on the continent.

Day 6 – Gore Island

Early this morning we will take a 4WD vehicle along the beach to the largest fishing village in Senegal, where up to 4,500 pirogues land their catches. We then leave Lac Rose by local taxi, and on arrival in Dakar we will visit the “Village of Arts”, which provides studios for over fifty local artists. In the late afternoon we board a ferry to Gore Island. Overnight Hotel Municipal or similar (BLD)

Day 7 – Casamance

Waking up in Gore and strolling through the tiny stone alleys of this historical settlement is a real pleasure. Gore was a boarding point for slaves waiting to be shipped to the Americas, and some restored buildings remain to bear witness to that dark period. Today its breezy climate, history and ancient architecture, together with restaurants and boutiques, make Goré an interesting and attractive destination for local and foreign visitors.  Later we return to Dakar and board the Aline Sitoe Diatta to travel overnight to Casamance. Overnight in 2 or 4 person cabins on-board the ship. (BLD)

Please note that solo occupancy of the cabins cannot be guaranteed

Day 8 – Casamance- Cap Skirring

In the early morning the ship will enter the estuary of the impressive Casamance River. Fishermen in pirogues will be collecting their nets, while it may be possible to spot dolphins that follow the vessel. The theme of continuous change in the landscapes is once again apparent as we discover the Casamance region, a landscape of large and luxuriant trees and “sacred forests”, where animistic cults of traditional African religions are still practiced. The boat will stop at Carabane Island where we transfer to a local motorised canoe to explore the mangroves and villages of the island, and we take part in the Essipati dances of the women of the Diola ethnic group. This evening we will reach Cap Skirring, famous for its excellent beaches. Overnight Hotel La Paillotte or similar (BLD)

Day 9 – Sacred Kings

We discover the adobe fortified buildings of the Diola people which are an interesting example of this style of African architecture. We will then be received by the Monarch of one of the oldest Diola Kingdoms and with his permission we may be invited in to the sacred forest to assist in some traditional rituals. This evening we arrive in Ziguinchor. Overnight Kadiandoumange Hotel or similar. (BLD)

PLEASE NOTE – DAYS 10, 11 & 12

The itinerary on these days will have seasonal variations and will be modified to accommodate the ‘Vaca Bruto’ Wild Bull Dancing Mask Festival, or to search for  saltwater hippos and see turtle nesting sites, depending on your departure date.

Day 10 – Manjaco people

After crossing the border with Guinea Bissau we explore the region inhabited by the Manjaco. This ethnic group calls their traditions 'Gendiman', and still practise them today. We visit some tiny villages hidden in the forest, with sculpted wooden poles called 'Pecab', representing the spirits of their ancestors, and kept in a sanctuary known as 'Cab Balugun'. Overnight at Hotel Mar Azul or similar. (BLD)

Day 11 – Bijagos Archipelago

This morning we leave for a five day journey across the Bijagos Archipelago to discover its remote islands and isolated human settlements. It is located an average of 40 miles off shore and is the largest in Africa with 88 islands of which only 21 are permanently inhabited. With its wild and idyllic landscapes, unique fauna and a genuine tribal culture, the Bijagos Archipelago is a geographical treasure. Overnight Parque Hotel. (BLD)

Day 12 – Queens Island

This morning we will take a 30 minute walk to the sacred village of Okinka Pampa, the site of the graves of the Queens. The society is semi matriarchal so this is a place of great significance. We will meet with the local king who can relate the history of the island. From here we will continue to a spectacular bay and spend the night at a permanent tented camp. (BLD)

Day 13 - Canhabaque Island (around 5 hours of walking in total on flat sandy tracks)

Today we will reach Canhabaque Island (Ilha Roxa) and spend the day walking to villages hidden away in the forest. If you wish not to walk this far you can choose to visit fewer villages and spend more time relaxing on the beach. Due to the remoteness of the islands, the lack of transport and the deep attachment of the locals to their traditions, the Bijagos inhabitants have been little influenced by the external world. Women still wear the saiya, a traditional skirt made of straw, and life in the village is characterised by the importance of initiations and secret ceremonies. Later we travel to Rubane Island. Overnight Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar (BLD)

Day 14 – Island life

Take a boat excursion to Bubaque passing Soga Bay with its large colony of pink flamingos. This is the largest village in the archipelago with unpaved alleys,and a tiny colourful market, with a small museum dedicated to the culture of the Bijagos. In the afternoon we will return to Rubane Island and the rest of the day will be at leisure. Overnight Hotel Ponta Anchaca. (BLD)

Day 15- Bolama Island- Bissau

Early this morning we leave for Bolama, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941. When the Portuguese left, the native people came to live in the town but it is now falling apart and partly invaded by tropical vegetation. The town has large, sunny avenues, empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens and a Governors Palace around which goats wander peacefully. This afternoon we arrive in Bissau for a short city tour. There will be rooms available for day use until 6pm before you transfer to the airport for your flight home. (BL)

The Carnival tour on 31 January 2018 is 15 days in duration- please contact us for the Tour Dossier.

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Transport as described
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

Excluded:
International flights in to Dakar and back from Bissau
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks
Tips (discretionary)
Items of a personal nature

Updated 27/06/17