Guinea Bissau, a remote country where borders between water and land change with wide- ranging tides covering and uncovering mangroves, beaches, and estuaries. A trip that will take us to pristine forests, remote villages, animistic ceremonies, and to the largest archipelago in Africa: the Bijagos. Most of the Bijagos islands have no permanent settlements and are a real paradise for many species of bird and rare fauna. Finally, the capital, Bissau, is a great opportunity to experience the intriguing mix of Portuguese and African styles in a unique and special vibe.
An itinerary aiming at discovering nature and culture as well as enjoying some relax by the blue-ocean and wild beaches where our footprints are the only tracks.
For travelers who look for something new and very special in Africa!
What is Special about the trip:
Thanks to the remoteness of the destination, African tribal culture is still untouched. We will be introduced to animistic traditional religions, traditional kings, dancing masks, and tribes who still worship their ancestors’ statues, also nature has remained intact and rare animal species lives in the islands. This “one time a year” itinerary includes two special events one natural the other cultural : the discover of the Saltwater Hippos and the unique Bissau Carnival.
DAY 1: BISSAU, Sunday 4th of February 2024.
Arrival in Bissau and transfer to the hotel.
DAY 2: THE GOAST CAPITAL OF BIJAGOS ARCHIPELAGO, from Bissau to Rubane (speedboat)
On board a speedboat, we start a 5 days sailing to discover the Bijagos Archipelago with its remote islands, isolated human settlements and unique wildlife.
The Bijagos Archipelago, the largest archipelago in Africa and located approximately 40 miles off-shore, has 88 islands of which only 21 are permanently inhabited. Thanks to its wild and pristine landscapes, its genuine tribal culture and its unique fauna, Bijagos is a “geographical jewel”.
Due to the remoteness of the destination, the lack of transportation and the deep attachment to the local traditions, the Bijagos inhabitants have been little influenced by the external world: during ceremonies women still wear the saiya – a traditional skirt made of straw – and the rhythm of life in villages is marked by initiations and secret ceremonies. In some island young men still recently followed a seven-year initiation rite during which they live in a “convent” without any contact with women.
Our first stop will be Bolama, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941, when was displaced to Bissau due to the shortage of fresh water in the island.
When the Portuguese left Bolama, native people came to occupy the town which is now falling apart and is partly invaded by tropical vegetation. It was originally built following the plans of a «Castrum Romanum» (roman citadel). We will walk in large sunny lethargic avenues, empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens, and large administrative buildings in neo-Palladian style. In the Administration Palace, we can still admire columns in classic style … where now goats graze! Bolama is plunged in fairy-tale atmosphere of an unique still inhabited ghost town.
Arrival to Rubane Island at the comfortable lodge that will be our base for four days of discovering the Bijagos Archipelago.
DAY 3: BIJAGOS VILLAGES AND DANCES (speedboat)
Speedboat excursion, landing on the beach and walk to an ancient Bijagos village.
In the afternoon we will arrive to Bubaque and visit the largest village in the archipelago, the only one connected to the continent by a ferry once a week: unpaved alleys, a tiny colorful market, local bars and traders, and the tiny ethnographic museum dedicated to Bijagos culture. We will sail or walk to discover remote villages where the cultural traditions are still practiced, and with a bit of luck our local guide will be able to know in which village some mask dances or initiation rituals are happening.
Return to our comfortable base.
DAY 4: SALTWATER HIPPOS (speedboat)
Orango is a remote protected wild area compose by 4 islands separated only by sea lochs and canals. Among the many species living in this pristine paradise there is a unique mammal: the spectacular “saltwater hippo”. These rare animals mainly live in pounds surrounded by the mangrove flooded forests and sometimes even to go for a swim in the ocean. During the right season these large mammals moves to some pounds where, with a bit of luck, our local ranger will be able to bring us with a walk.
Return to our comfortable base on Rubane Island.
DAY 5: ISLANDER LIFE (speedboat)
Today we enjoy the archipelago easygoing way of life: relax at the wild beach and/or around the swimming pool. Optional: walking to explore the luxuriant vegetation of the island and discover traditional fishermen settlements.
DAY 6: BISSAU (speed boat)
Relax on the tropical island. Departure time will be determinate by the tide and weather conditions.
Arrival by speedboat to Bissau.
DAY 7: TRIBAL ART STILL IN ITS CONTEXT (4 hour drive)
Left the main road for a tiny track to discover the more remote Manjacu settlements.
Some Manjaco households within the traditional large patriarchal houses have an ancestor altar made of sculptured wooden poles called “Pecab” representing the spirits of their ancestors; they are kept in sanctuaries known as “Cab Balugun”, carved wooden posts. We visit tiny villages hidden in the forest to discover, with the permission of the elders, sacred wooden carvings that vary in age and style, from centuries-old: from abstract statues to the more recent naturalistic style influenced by contact with the Western world. It is a unique opportunity to enjoy tribal art in its original cultural context: the village, and discover the changes of stiles of an old tradition that has survived to the colonial time and maintain its vitality in the contemporary world.
Arrival in Cacheu on the homonym large river. Cacheu was one of the first Portuguese settlements in black Africa dating from 1588, chosen for the navigability of Cacheu river and becomes an important trading point. From that time remains a population result of a mixing of locals, European outcasts and adventurers called “lancados”, Cape Verdean traders and prisoners that accepted the exile as an alternative of prison in Portugal called the “degradados”. Interesting the tiny fort and the museum on the slave trade that will open for us.
DAY 8: MAGICAL VILLAGES (150 Km, 4 hour drive)
Full day to explore an area inhabited by the Pepel people who live in typical clay huts covered with a thatch roof Lunch in a local restaurant.
At the heart of a tiny village, we will meet a fetish priest who can consult the spirit of the deceased as we are in a deeply animistic culture.
Visit of an old local rum (called Cana) distillery dated from the colonial period: we will be wrapped in the smell of the tons of sugar cane which get crushed and refined every day in this firewood powered distillery.
Return to Bissau stop in an open-air bar known in tow for the best tropical version of mojito and dinner at a restaurant of the lively part of Bissau.
DAY 9: BISSAU CARNIVAL (Town drives)
Morning, discover the capital. Bissau-Vehlo: the old Portuguese quartier, impregnated by an atmosphere that reminds us of Portugal’s days gone by. Here you can experience the mix of African and Portuguese souls. We continue to the Presidential Palace, the Catholic Cathedral, Fortaleza Amura, Independence Monument, and Che Guevara Square. Lunch in a restaurant.
Carnival is the main national festivity in Guinea Bissau. Carnival is an incredible mix of African and Portuguese traditions. Carnival goes wild in the afternoon, colorful masks from different areas and neighborhoods start their parade: sacred traditional masks, warriors dressed in crocodile skins and armed with arrows, initiated girls, contemporary masks made of papier-mâché, all surrounded by girls wearing only strings of crystal beads around their waist. Hours of lively dancing parades turn this carnival into an unforgettable experience, a real “fiesta popular” combining cheerful African spirit with Portuguese and Brazilian influences.
Carnival display goes on until late evening, transfer to the airport will be possible in the night.
At the end of this intense journey, we recommend some extra days in the Bijagos Archipelago. On request, we can arrange your return to Ponta Anchaca 4 stars Resort on Rubane Island. Comfortable ocean-front bungalows enjoying fine French and tropical cuisine. At the hotel, you can relax at the pool, take walks or swim on the wild beach, discover the island’s lush vegetation, or enjoy game fishing. You can chouse the duration of the extension from one to more nights, every day the resort grants a speed boat connection to Bissau and the airport transfer.