Guinea Bissau, a still unknown country where borders between water and land change with the changing of the tides, covering and uncovering mangroves, beaches and estuaries. A trip that will take us to pristine forests, remote villages, animistic ceremonies and the largest archipelago in Africa: the Bijagos. Most of the Bijagos islands have no permanent settlements and are a real paradise for many bird species and rare fauna. Finally, Bissau gives a great opportunity to experience the intriguing mix of Portuguese and African style, spreading unique vibes. An itinerary aiming at discovering nature and culture as well as some relax to enjoy 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!
Bissau, the capital
Arrival in Bissau and transfer to the hotel.
Living Bissau, we will visit Bandin the largest market in the country. Full day dedicated to exploring the region inhabited by the Manjaco. This ethnic group calls their traditions “Gendiman” and keeps them still very much alive. It is indeed a unique opportunity to enjoy tribal art in its original cultural context: the village.
Villages of the flooded forest
By car and by foot we reach some remote villages inhabited by the Felupes and Baiotes, both tribes part of the Diola ethnic group. They live in an isolated ecosystem where, thanks to their complex “tribal technology”, they manage to desalinate the land and farm rice. We will walk in a unique landscape made up of streams, salt swamps, flat lands, clay dams and rice farms. In the afternoon we will assist to ritual dances of the sacred mask; rarely shown to the foreigners, this mask belongs to a secret society and the identity of the dancers is not revealed, it is said that the mask is animated by the spirits. Drums, dances and a colourful crowd will enliven the tiny village in the shade of larges kapok trees.
Reminiscences of colonial time
We drive to Quinhamel to visit of a traditional healer specialized in the treatment of bone injures. He will show us the herbals and traditional medicaments and explain us his way of proceeding and how he became a “healer”. Visit of an old-style local rum distillery (Cana) dating back to the old colonial days and walk across a cashew nuts plantation, the main export product of the country.
Bissau the capital
Morning spent discovering the magical and animistic traditions of the intriguing Pepel people. In this region the forest hides a fetish endowed with feared powers: only the initiated young men can carry it on their shoulders…In the afternoon we arrive at Bissau. We will stroll around Bissau-Vehlo: the lively old quarter with its sleepy streets and alleys. Here we will be amazed by the interesting Portuguese architecture which gives Bissau an atmosphere that reminds us of Portugal back in the days. Old wooden café where to drink Portuguese wine and watch Portuguese news. Or an open-air restaurant where to drink the best mojito in town…
From the ghost capital to the Bijagos Archipelago
Aboard a speedboat, we start our sailing to discover the Bijagos Archipelago with its remote islands and isolated human settlements. The Bijagos Archipelago. 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 given by initiations and secret ceremonies – for example young men have to go through a seven-year initiation rite during which they live in a “convent” without any contact with women. Our first stop will be Bolama Island, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941, In the Governor’s Palace we can still admire columns in the classic style … where now goats graze! Bolama, although inhabited, is plunged in the fairy-tale atmosphere of a ghost town. Arrival on Rubane Island where we will stay at the most beautiful lodge of the Bijagos Archipelago.
We move to reach the southern islands hidden in the remotest part of the archipelago. After dark, we will remain silent on the beach until the magical moment when the turtles emerge from the ocean to dig deep holes in the sand and lay their many eggs. If we are lucky, we will witness this wonder of nature and we might even see the hatching with the tiny turtle coming out of the sand already looking for the ocean to begin a long journey that will end on this same island when sexual maturity is reached, 30 years after: males come back to the same place to mate with the females.
Beach and Relax
In the morning departure by speedboat to the largest village in the archipelago and the only one connected to the continent by a ferry once a week: unpaved alleys, a tiny colorful market, local bars and traders; quite interesting also the ethnographic museum dedicated to the Bijagos culture. In the afternoon, time to relax on the beach or to discover the lush vegetation and villages of the island.
Relax on the beach. Arrival by speedboat in Bissau, the actual capital of the country. Here a vehicle will be waiting to take us to the hotel to have the last shower. In the evening transfer to the airport for the flight out.