14 Day Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau

African West Coast
Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau

14 days to experience:
nature, rites, tribal and contemporary art, live music
(explorer)

Scheduled departure dates from dakar in 2019

Feb 19th (carnival),
Apr 13th (vaca bruto mask dances),
Nov 2nd (saltwater hippos & turtle nesting)
Dec 21st (high season; saltwater hippos & turtle nesting)

Each departure matches with a special tribal or natural event:

Minimum 2 - maximum 16 participants

Any other date upon request

Map for 14 day Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau tour

An amazing itinerary crossing three countries “north to south” to experience a continuous change of climatic ecosystems and human environments.

NATURE. Following the “uncertain border” between land and water we move across spectacular variety of natural environments such desert dunes, savanna, estuaries, forest, mangrove swamps, to end with a ocean navigation to discover and enjoy the Bijagos Archipelago. North to south is also the route of migratory birds, a constant presence along the whole journey. Djoudj in Senegal is between the three main migratory birds sanctuary on earth and Gambia is a well-known birding destination, just in the large park of Senegambia hotel is possible to spot 70% of the different bird species of the country.

HISTORY, PREHISTORY & TIME LESS VILLAGES. We will discover historical sites as Goré ancient slave-trade island, Saint Louis – the first colonial capital of “French West Africa” and Bolama the Portuguese Guinea capital to day forgotten in the forest of a remote island. Dakar, contemporary large capital and African intellectual center from the time before independence. We will experience the contact with “Timeless” people as Nomadic herders, and remote villages and discover a prehistoric sites, with thousand mysterious stone craved monoliths.

ART, CULTURE & MUSIC. From In the northern savannah we will be invited at the camp of nomadic herders and we will meet with the largest religious and peaceful brotherhood that practices an African form of Islam that rejects fundamentalism and violence.. In the south, we will be introduced to animistic traditional religions, tribal kings, dancing masks and remote tribes who still worshiping ancestor statues; a unique chance to enjoy tribal art in is original contest, the village. In the animistic Casamance region we will witness at the celebrations of Diola mask, the incarnation of mythical spirits… Masquerade is a unique experience that involves the participation of the entire village in an intense mixt of magic, music, and dances. We will focus also on contemporary art and music: Dakar metropolis has always been the cultural capital of West Africa, a melting pot for painters and sculptors from the whole continent. Meeting with the vibrant community of the Artist Village. During the week end nights in Gambia and Casamance we will vibe at the rhythm of music in the hot African clubs.

TRANSPORTS VARIETY. We will travel in eight different kind of transportation, each chosen to optimize the different geographical and cultural environments and have fun. On the land portion mainly on comfortable air-conditioned minibus and for short rides in 4WD vehicles, traditional calash, donkey chariot, local taxi. On ocean rivers and lagoons : ferry, local boat and modern speedboats.

Each departure date will be special to fit with unique events.

Day 1 Arrival in Dakar (Senegal) and transfer to the hotel.
Day 2 Dakar contemporary art metropolis- (town drives) - Senegal
Day 3 Gorè, Lac Rose and fisherman villages. - Senegal
Day 4 Saint Louis - Senegal
Day 5 Bird sanctuary & Nomadic tribes - Senegal
Day 6 Tuba Brotherhood - Senegal
Day 7 Stone Cercles - Senegal & Gambia
Day 8 Gambian birds - Gambia & Senegal
Day 9 Sacred kings - Senegal
Day 10 Flooded villages - Senegal & Guinea Bissau
Day 11 The Bijagos Archipelago - Guinea Bissau
Day 12 The Queens island - Guinea Bissau
Day 13 Islander life - Guinea Bissau
Day 14 From the ghost capital to Bissau - Guinea Bissau

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Dakar, the capital - Senegal

Arrival in Dakar (Senegal) and transfer to the hotel. Free time to relax.

Meals: Free
Overnight: Hotel Djoloff, hotel de charme with fine traditional architecture and comfort, or similar (Air conditioned, en-suite rooms)

Day 2: Dakar contemporary art metropolis - (town drives) - Senegal

Dakar became the center of political, artistic and intellectual “renouveau” from independence time. Visit of the “Plateau” district, the Governor Palace and some interesting markets as Kermel built in pure colonial style. Lunch in a typical restaurant. Afternoon dedicated to the “Village des Arts” composed by fifty-two artist studios (ateliers). All disciplines of the visual arts are represented (painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, video, installation, etc.). The Village has a large gallery, which receives exhibitions year round. The Village is “the place” to meet the best artist and young talents of the Senegalese vibrant artistic scene.. Arrival at the port of Dakar to board a ferry and spend a night in Gore Island. Mini night tour of Goré.

Meals: Lunch and Dinner in a restaurant
Overnight: Hotel Municipal, “hotel de charme” in a full restored stone building, or similar (air conditioned, en-suite rooms).

Day 3: Gorè, Lac Rose and fisherman villages. (170 Km 4 h) - Senegal

Goré IslandWaking up in Goré before the crowd arrives is a pleasure, as strolling in the tiny stone paved alleys of this historical settlement. In Goré slaves used to be crammed and then shipped to the Americas. The town is totally restored to bear witness of those ancient times, however thanks to the nice breeze, the ancient architecture, the many restaurants and boutiques; Goré today has become a very pleasant and trendy location. Ferry to Dakar and drive to Lac Rose, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes, also known as Lac Retba. The water is ten times saltier than in the ocean and thanks to the high concentration the lake often shimmers into pink. More than 600 workers here collect salt in the traditional way. Along the coast we discover the largest fisherman village in Senegal, more than 4500 wooden painted pirogues came to the shore with the catch of the day… We will live our vehicles for a less intrusive, but fun, donkey chariot to approach the fisherman selling to the local market women, to meet the artisans craving the large pirogues, the painters decorating them with bright colors and if we are lucky the “local saint” for final blessing before sailing…

At the edge of Lampoul Desert, some 4WD vehicles will be waiting to cross the dunes and take us at our fix camp.

Meals: included in a restaurant and at the camp.
Overnight: Permanent tented camp (comfortable tents with beds and en suite)

Day 4: Saint Louis (150 km – 2 hrs) - Senegal

Saint Louis is a charming old town which was the first capital of West Africa French colonies (AOF). Has been the former base of the “Aeropostale” airmail pioneer operation between Europe, Africa and South America. Saint Exupéry the famous writer author of “The Little Prince” was one of Aeropostale pilotes following this route. The best way to visit the narrow lanes of Saint Louis is by calash, just as locals do, and walk in the fisherman quarters. Time to stroll in the tiny avenues and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this old town.

We will spend the night at the historic hotel of the town - built in 1895 and now fully renovated - it was here that all Aeropostale pilots use to stay.

Meals: Lunch in a restaurant, dinner a charming restaurant facing Senegal river.
Overnight: Hotel de la Poste or similar (Air conditioned, en-suite rooms).

Day 5: Bird sanctuary & Nomadic tribes (250 km – 5 hrs) - Senegal

Djoudj National Bird SanctuaryEarly in the morning departure northwards to discover Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj), a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This “humid paradise” - the best habitat and nesting site for over a million of migratory and resident birds - lies on the southeastern bank of the Senegal River and offers a range of wetland habitats that are very popular with migrating birds, many of which get here after crossing the Sahara. Out of over 400 species, pelicans and flamingos are the most common, whereas aquatic warblers are a bit less conspicuous - migrating here from Europe, this park is their single most important wintering site yet discovered. Apart from birds there is also a wide range of wildlife has warthog and crocodiles. Motor boat excursion leaded by a local guide-ornithologist.

In the afternoon continuation to the Ferlo Desert to discover the arid region where nomadic Fulani tribes herds large droves of zebu. The Fulani (also called Peul) are the largest tribe roaming West African savannahs, living in a vast area from Senegal to Chad. Their origins are still covered with mystery but they all share a common and aristocratic cult for beauty and elegance. In the afternoon a local guide will join us for a visit to the neighboring villages and shelters. When the herds come back, we might even be invited to witness the milking process.

Meals: included in a local restaurant and at the camp restaurant.
Overnight: Camp made up of simple grass huts, managed by a local entrepreneur (all rooms with beds, mosquito nets are en-suite).

Day 6: Tuba Brotherhood (160 km – 4 hrs) - Senegal

TubaThe rarely visited the holly town of Tuba (Touba) is the right place to appreciate the hospitality of an African brotherhood. Tuba inhabitants follow Mouridism and the town itself is a sort of theocratic “state within the state”, ruled by a Caliph. The founder of Mouridi brotherhood was a Sufi named Amhadou Bàmba Mbake and still today the Mouridi have a large social and economical impact in Senegal: thanks to their peaceful (and African) vision of Islam, Mouridism has become the bastion that protects Senegal from radical Islam. During the annual festival the town is visited by four million pilgrims. Mouridi welcome any interest for their traditions yet since Tuba is a sacred town, all visitors should show respect for traditional rules, therefore we must apply a considerate dress code, not smoke, not drink alcohol and not listen to music during the visit. If we follow these simple rules, you will be welcomed. Baye Fall, a member of a colorful branch of Mouridism, will accompany us during the visit.

Meals: included in a local restaurant and at the hotel.
Overnight: Le Relais de Kaolak, or similar (Air conditioned, en-suite rooms).

Day 7: Stone Cercles – (5 h , 220 Km ) Senegal - Gambia

Early departure, we will live the main road to discover the unique megalithic site of Sine Ngayene composed by 52 circles of erected stones, including a double circle. With a total of 1102 carved stones this unique site has been recognized by the UNESCO. After Gambia border formalities we will drive to the northern banks of Gambia estuary where we will join a ferry with a colourful crowd to cross this large river. We will shore at Banjul and arrival to Senegambia hotel the first hotel that has open the country to tourism located in a large and lush park where is easy to encounter birds and monkeys that roams freely often also in the reception. It will be Friday evening, lunch in a restaurant before roaming from club to club to enjoy vibrant music and African style of enjoy.

Meals: included, lunch picnic, dinner at the hotel restaurant or at a lively town restaurant.
Overnight: Senegambia Beach hotel, separate buildings in a tropical forest vegetation, private beach facing the ocean.

Day 8: Gambian birds (4h 170 Km) Gambia - Senegal

Senegambia gardens are a real African experience, in is large park is possible to spot 70 % of the bird species that can be seen in the whole country. With an ornithological guide providing us binoculars we will discover different species of African birds in their habitat. Join the interesting National museum focused on different aspect of the country: from archaeology to recent history, to art, music and photography. Lunch and afternoon drive to the southern border whit Casamance region of Senegal. Evening arrival to our comfortable hotel on the banks of Casamance River where we will stay two nights.

Meals: included in a local restaurants.
Overnight: Kadiandoumange Hotel on the banks of the river or similar (air conditioned en suite rooms)

Day 9: Sacred kings (100 km – 3 hrs) - Senegal

DiolaWe will live the main road to visit an adobe-fortified building still inhabited by a large patriarchal Diola family, a very interesting example of traditional African “sculptural architecture”. These large clay and wooden fortified houses, where light comes from a central hole in the roof, are known as “impluvium houses” and had the function to protect its dwellers from outside attacks. We will be received by the king of a Diola Kingdom. After the protocol salutations the king, that is also the high priest holding both political and mystical power, will answer our question on the traditional rules in Diola society.

In the afternoon we follow an isolated path to a tiny village and … masks leave the sacred forest (where only initiated are admitted) to dance for an enthusiastic local crowd. Mask are part of the animistic Diola culture and Malinka traditions - people fear and respect masks, consider them spirits who play an important role in solving conflicts between villagers. Evening return to Ziguinchor.

Meals: included, lunch in a local restaurant and dinner at the hotel.
Overnight: Kadiandoumange Hotel on the banks of the river or similar (air conditioned en suite rooms)

Day 10: Flooded villages (150 km – 4 hrs drive and 3 hours of navigation) - Senegal & Guinea Bissau

Early riser departure for a long but interesting day. After crossing the border with Guinea Bissau we will live the main road for a track. We will walk in a unique landscape of streams, salt swamps, flat lands, clay dams and rice farms. 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 huts built in a unique African architectural style: clay “buildings” surrounded by a shady veranda and covered with large and tall thatch roofs with garrets for the aeration. The all building is supported by a complex structure of palm tree poles. Felupes people practice different ceremonies. The initiated groups include a powerful cast of female priestess and rituals are announced by the sound of large sacred drums the “Bombolon”. An aluminum speed boat will be at the meeting for a intriguing navigation in a flooded mangrove forest. Thanks to the experience of our local sailor we will be able to find our way through a complicated network of natural canals and bifurcate in hundreds of different streams of salt and fresh water to join the wide Cacheu River and discover the white Pelicans (weighing up to 10 Kg each, they are considered among the heaviest birds), the Goliath Herons (the largest herons), Egrets, Hamerkop, Storks and Pink Flamingos. Cacheu town is one of earliest Portuguese settlement in Africa and the first navigators arrived in early 15° century, interesting the small museum on slave trade. Evening arrival to Quinhamel, late dinner.

Meals: included in local restaurant or pic-nick and at the hotel
Overnight: Hotel Mar Azul or similar (en-suite rooms)

Day 11: The Bijagos Archipelago (4 hrs boat) - Guinea Bissau

Bijagos ArchipelagoIn the morning departure by speedboat for a four days navigation across the Bijagos Archipelago to discover remote islands and isolated human settlements. The Bijagos Archipelago is located approximately 40 miles off-shore and, with its 88 islands (of which only 21 are permanently inhabited), is the largest archipelago in Africa. With its wild and pristine landscapes, its unique fauna and its genuine tribal culture, Bijagos is a “geographical jewel”. The colors of Orango Island will simply fascinate us: the green vegetation, the white sand beaches, the brown rocks and the blue ocean.

Meals: included, pic nic and at the hotel
Overnight: Parque Hotel locate in the vegetation in front of the ocean, or similar. (Bungalows en suite, with fan).

Day 12: The Queens island (2h30 hrs boat) - Guinea Bissau

A walk in the island vegetation reach the sacred village of Okinka Pampa, hosting the graves of the Queens - a really fascinating place since this population live in a semi-matriarchal society. We will be received by the Régolo (local King), that will tell us the story of the island.

For the departures of: Nov 2nd and Dec 21st
the itinerary will be modified to participate to the visit of Saltwater hippos an Turtle nesting, please ask specific itinerary.

For the departures of Apr 13th
the itinerary will be slightly modified to participate to the “Vaca Bruto” mask dances.

We will leave Orango to discover villages on remote islands and arrive to Rubane that will be our comfortable base for the last two nights.

Meals: included pic nic and at the hotel restaurant.
Overnight: Lodge Ponta Anchaca or similar. Large and comfortable ocean front air-conditioned bungalows. Swimming pool, private beach. Gastronomic restaurant on stilts, French and international cuisine, specialized in the catch of the day, different menus available.

Day 13: Islander life (2 hrs boat) - Guinea Bissau

Day of relax to enjoy the archipelago way of life: relax at the wild beach, swimming pool, or walking to explore villages and luxuriant vegetation. Optional included: excursion to Soga bay and Bubaque, the largest village in the archipelago and the only one connected to the continent, by an old ferry once a week. In Bubaque we will find unpaved alleys, a tiny colorful market, local bars and traders. Quite interesting the small ethnographic museum dedicated to the Bijagos culture. Return to our comfortable base at Rubane Island for lunch.

Optional not included: game fishing.

Meals: included, at a restaurant, at the hotel.
Overnight: Lodge Ponta Anchaca or similar. Large and comfortable ocean front air-conditioned bungalows. Swimming pool, private beach. Gastronomic restaurant on stilts, French and international cuisine, specialized in the catch of the day, different menus available.

Day 14: from the ghost capital to Bissau ( 5 hrs boat) - Guinea Bissau

Departure to Bolama Island, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941, before was moved to Bissau. When the Portuguese left, native people came to squat the town which is now falling apart and is partly invaded by tropical vegetation. The citadel was built following the plans of a «Castrum Romanum» (roman citadel) today we can witness is lethargic avenues, empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens and charming administrative buildings in neo Palladian style. In the large Governor’s Palace with a patio and columns in neo Palladian style goats grass peaceful. Bolama, although inhabited, is plunged in the fairy-tale atmosphere of a ghost town.

In the afternoon, we end our speedboat navigation by arriving in Bissau. A vehicle will bring us on a brief tour of this tiny and intriguing capital. Day rooms, free dinner.

Transfer to the airport. End of our services.

Download Detailed Itinerary

Day 1:

Hotel Djoloff, Hotel de charme,
Dakar, Senegal

 

Day 2:

Hotel Municipal, Hotel de charme,
Gore Island, Senegal

 

Day 3:

Permanent tented camp,
Lampoul Desert, Senegal

 

Day 4:

Hotel de la Poste or similar,
Saint Louist, Senegal

 

Day 5:

Camp made up of simple grass huts,
Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, Senegal

 

Day 6:

Le Relais de Kaolak, or similar,
Tuba, Senegal

 

Day 7:

Senegambia Beach Hotel,
Gambia

 

Day 8 - 9:

Kadiandoumange Hotel on the banks of the river or similar,
Senegal

 

Day 10:

Hotel Mar Azul or similar,
Guinea Bissau

 

Day 11:

Parque Hotel locate in the vegetation in front of the ocean, or similar,
Bijagos Archipelago, Guinea Bissau

 

Day 12 - 13:

Lodge Ponta Anchaca or similar,
Queens Island, Guinea Bissau