THE SACRED ARCHIPELAGO & THE CARNIVAL, 9 days: Bijagos & Guinea Bissau
THE SACRED ARCHIPELAGO & THE CARNIVAL, 9 days: Bijagos & Guinea Bissau
Special Event International group
From 2 to 16 participants
PRICES per person: - GROUP OF 6 OR MORE GUESTS: 2785 € - Group of 4/5 guests: 3335 € - Group of 3 guests: 3843 € - Group of 2 guests: 4807 € - Single room supplement: 328 €
GUIDE: English, French, German, Italian speaking
Deposit at the booking:
The deposit is intended as 30% of the total. For more information, you can view our information.
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.
Carnival is the main festivity in Guinea Bissau. Carnival is an incredible mix of African and Portuguese traditions. Hours of lively parades turn this carnival into an unforgettable experience, a real “fiesta popular” combining cheerful African spirit with Portuguese and Brazilian influences.. DEPARTURE: 17 February 2023
Guinea Bissau, a still unknown 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 Archipelago. 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:
Carnival is the main 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, modern masks made of papier-mâché, all surrounded by girls wearing only strings of crystal beads around their waist. Hours of lively parades turn this carnival into an unforgettable experience, a real “fiesta popular” combining cheerful African spirit with Portuguese and Brazilian influences.
DAY 1: Bissau, the capital
Arrival in Bissau and transfer to the hotel.
DAY 2: Diola dancing masks, from Bissau to Varela (200 km – driving time 6 hrs)
Leaving Bissau, we move towards North-West.
We will assist to a ritual dance of the Diola sacred mask rarely shown to the foreigners. Masks are part of the animistic Diola culture. People fear and respect them. They consider them spirits who play an important role in solving conflicts between villagers. When the masks leave the sacred forest they dance for an enthusiastic local crowd.
Late afternoon we reach the beaches of Varela.
DAY 3: Villages of the flooded forest, from Varela to Bissau (200 km – driving time 6 hrs)
On the way back to Bissau, we will leave the main road for a track. We will reach a unique landscape of streams, salt swamps, flooded lands, clay dams and paddy fields. In this remote environment, some gigantic and isolated Kapok and Baobab trees give shade to tiny human settlements of Felupes and Baiotes tribes. These people live in an isolated and flooded ecosystem where they farm rice thanks to a complex “tribal technology” to desalinate the soil. People live in adobe large patriarchal huts built in a unique African architectural style: clay “buildings” surrounded by a shady veranda and covered with large and tall thatch roofs with opening trapdoors for the aeration. The whole building is supported by a complex structure of palm tree poles.
Back to the main road on our back to Bissau, we stop at Bula to meet a Manjaco king and learn about the culture of his tribe.
Many Manjaco households within the traditional homeland have an ancestor shrine made up of carved wooden posts which represent people. The carved posts are collectivist representations of ancestors in general. When Manjaco make offerings, they refer to a single ancestor despite the shrines representing ancestors collectively. An important distinction to make is how the Manjaco regard their ancestors in comparison to other cultures. Rather than revering ancestors and treating them as guides to moral superiority, the Manjaco tend to subjugate their ancestors and incorporate them back into society as relative equals.
DAY 4: Animistic Pepel, from Bissau to Quinhamel and back to Bissau (150 km – driving time 4 hrs)
Visit an old colonial rum distillery (Cana).
Drive to Quinhamel where we discover the magical and animist traditions of the intriguing Pepel group. In this region, the forest hides a fetish endowed with feared powers: only the initiated young men can carry it on their shoulders…
DAY 5: Carnival, (transfers) Bissau city tour. We will stroll around Bissau-Vehlo: the old Portuguese quartier, where the atmosphere reminds us of Portugal back in the days. Here you can experience the mix of African and Portuguese souls. Old wooden café where to drink Portuguese wine and watch Portuguese news. We continue to the Presidential Palace, the Catholic Cathedral, Fortaleza Amura, Independence Monument, Che Guevara Square to end in an open-air bar known for the best mojito in town…
In the afternoon we will attend the spectacular Carnival parade.
DAY 6: From the ghost capital to the Bijagos Archipelago, from Bissau to Rubane (speed boat)
Aboard a speedboat, we start a 4 days sailing to discover the Bijagos Archipelago with its remote islands and isolated human settlements.
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. With 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. For example, young men still follow 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, before it was moved to Bissau due to the shortage of fresh water in Bolama.
When the Portuguese left Bolama, native people came to live in 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) so today we can witness large sunny lethargic avenues, empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens, and large administrative buildings in neo-Palladian style. In the Governor’s Palace, we can still admire columns in the classic style … where now goats graze! Although inhabited, is plunged into the fairy-tale atmosphere of a ghost town.
The Bissau-Guinean government is aiming to obtain the nation’s first World Heritage Site for Bolama.
Arrival to Rubane / Bubaque Island at the comfortable lodge that will be our base.
DAY 7: Dolphins & Hippos (speed boat)
By speed boat we will reach a special site and admire dolphins jumping in the waves around our boat, then we arrive at Orango Island, a National Park, to watch hippos.
In Orango National Park we find the unique “saltwater hippo”. This extremely rare mammal lives in the saltwater of the mangrove forests and sometimes may decide to “go for a swim” in the ocean. Nevertheless, these animals are not the most daring kind, and had happened that local guides lose their track for several days.
Return to our comfortable hotel.
DAY 8: Islander life (speed boat)
Today we enjoy the archipelago way of life: relax at the wild beach and/or around the swimming pool 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.
Optional: walking to explore villages and luxuriant vegetation.
DAY 9: to Bissau, from Rubane to Bissau (speed boat)
Arrival by speedboat in Bissau.
Bissau city tour. We will stroll around 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 and stop at wooden cafés to drink Portuguese wine and watch Portuguese news.
We continue to the Presidential Palace, the Catholic Cathedral, Fortaleza Amura, Independence Monument, and Che Guevara Square to end in an open-air bar known for offering the best mojito in town…
In the evening, transfer to the airport for the flight out.
Recommended Extension: At the end of this intense journey, we recommend some extra days in the Bijagos Archipelago. On request, we can arrange your stay in Ponta Anchaca Hotel on Rubane Island, in comfortable ocean-front bungalows enjoying fine French and tropical cuisine. At the hotel, you can relax at the pool, take walks on the wild beach, discover the island’s lush vegetation or do some sport-fishing – all in the natural paradise of The Bijagos Archipelago. Bijagos Archipelago is known for top game fishing.
Due to the limited quantity of available rooms, please book in advance.
VISAS: Guinea Bissau – single entry visa required and available upon arrival.
VACCINATIONS: Yellow fever – compulsory; malaria prophylaxis – highly recommended; cholera not necessary at the moment but to be checked upon departure
MEALS: lunch – restaurants (pre-selected menus) or cold picnic; dinner – at the hotel restaurant (pre-selected menus).
LUGGAGE: please contain the weight in 20 kg (45 lb) water-proof duffle bags are suggested, when on the speedboat, passengers may get splashed by water or foam, we advise protecting any camera equipment. We suggest bringing mosquito repellent.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: Not included. Mandatory for medical assistance, repatriation, material, and physical damages. We are not responsible for any material and physical damage during the tour
TRANSPORT: on roads and tracks by Minibus or 4×4, speedboat fitted for ocean crossing to the Bijagos Archipelago.
TIDES and WEATHER: With each departure, visits could be rescheduled as per the tides; all will be visited but maybe in a different order. Bad weather conditions can oblige to change, cancel, reschedule or delay the itinerary, the organizer cannot be held responsible for any change and delay.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Hotels and lodges are always chosen with maximum care, however due to possible lack of availability in some hotels, the Tour Leader may have to replace some hotels during the tour itself with others of similar standard. In some hotels, single rooms are not always granted.
All our trips are designed to be flexible so that we can adapt to external conditions and take advantage of opportunities that arise once there.
Considering the special nature of the journey, some parts may be modified due to unpredictable factors and are based on unarguable decisions of our Tour Leader. Costs originating from such variations will be the sole responsibility of the participants. Of course, the Leader will do his/her utmost to adhere to the original program.
Prices could change in case of major changes in services costs, beyond the organizer’s will
Assistance at Bissau airport upon arrival and departure
Transfers and tours on roads and tracks by Minibus or 4×4, speedboat fitted for ocean crossing to the Bijagos Archipelago.
Tour Leader (languages spoken English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese as available)
Tours and visits as per the program
Accommodation in standard rooms/bungalows as per itinerary
All meals as described, from breakfast of day 2 to lunch of day 9.
One bottle of Mineral water in the bus/car each day during the visits
Entrance fees to parks, concessions, protected areas, cultural sites, festivals, and events as in the program.
First Aid box
All service charges and taxes
Mineral water and drinks at restaurants and hotels.
Fees for personal photos and videos
Personal insurance (compulsory).
Tips for drivers, guides, and hotel staff
Any item of personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.