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


Day 1 – Arrival in Dakar

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

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, with spacious tents which include beds, and have their own bathroom. (BLD)

Day 3 – Saint Louis and the Nomadic Tribes

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)

Day 4 – Djoudj National Park

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)

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 which is an attractive destination for local and foreign visitors. Overnight Hotel Municipal or similar (BLD)

Day 7 – Gore Island

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. 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 joining local fishermen in pirogues; we may be lucky enough to have dolphins follow us. Alongside the river is a different landscape, with large trees and sacred forests, where animistic cults and 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. The Bijagos Archipelago is located 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.

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)