Tour to Guinea Bissau & Bijagos: The Sacred Archipelago

GUINEA BISSAU & BIJAGOS:
THE SACRED ARCHIPELAGO

(Discovery)

9 DAYS / 8 NIGHTS

Scheduled departure dates from Bissau in 2019:

Feb. 8th (Vaca Bruto Mask dances),
Mar 1st (Carnival, special itinerary and special rate),
Apr. 19th (Vaca Bruto Mask dances),
Nov. 1st (Saltwater hippos & turtle nesting)
Dec. 27th (Saltwater hippos & turtle nesting, high season rate).

Be aware : day 1 is considered Feb 8th (arrival night 8th to 9th Feb) - The same for all tours

Each departure date is carefully chosen to coincide with an unique event

Minimum 2 – Maximum 16 participants

Any other date upon request

An amazing journey across an incredible variety of landscapes, colors and experiences. Guinea Bissau a still unknown country where borders between water and land change with each tide. The largest continuous mangrove forest, wild rivers, beaches and estuaries hiding remote villages and animistic ceremonies.

A fantastic adventure taking us to pristine forests, remote villages and the largest archipelago in Africa.

Most of the Bijagos islands have no permanent settlements and are a real paradise for many bird species and rare fauna.

An exciting itinerary perfectly mixing natural and cultural discoveries and including some relax time to enjoy the blue ocean and wild beaches where our foot prints are the only tracks.

For travelers who look for something new and very special in Africa!

Tour to Guinea Bissau & Bijagos - Map

Day 1 Arrival in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau and transfer to the hotel.
Day 2 Explore cult for the ancestors
Day 3 Visit villages of the flooded forest
Day 4 Visit magical villages
Day 5 Start a journey in the Bijagos Archipelago
Day 6 Discover secret islands
Day 7 Visit matriarcal tribes
Day 8 Boat excursion to Bubaque
Day 9 Visit Bolama Island, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea. Departure.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Bissau, the capital – GUINEA BISSAU

Arrival in Bissau and transfer to the hotel.

Meals: own arrangements
Overnight: Hotel Azalai or similar (all rooms ensuite and with aircon)

Day 2: Cult for the ancestors – GUINEA BISSAU

Full day dedicated to explore the region inhabited by the Manjaco. This ethnic group calls their traditions “Gendiman” and keeps them still very much alive. We visit tiny villages hidden in the forest to discover sculptured wooden poles called “Pecab” representing the spirits of their ancestors; they are kept in sanctuaries known as “Cab Balugun”. With the permission of the elders, we will have the opportunity to admire sacred wooden sculptures varying in age and styles. It is indeed a unique opportunity to enjoy tribal art in its original cultural context: the village.

Meals: B – L - D
Overnight: Casa Canchungo, simple eco hotel in Canchungo or Mar Azul in Quinhamel (all rooms en-suite and with fan)

Day 3: Villages of the flooded forest – GUINEA BISSAU

An aluminum speed boat will take us along the wide Cacheu River to discover the abundant bird life: white Pelicans (weighing up to 10 Kg they are considered among the heaviest birds), Goliath herons (the largest ones), egrets, hammerkop, storks and pink flamingos. We then leave the main river to start an intriguing navigation through the flooded mangrove forest where it is only thanks to the experience of our local sailor that we manage to find our way through the complicated network of natural canals. After a few hours 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 this remote environment, some huge isolated Kapok and Baobab trees provide the shade to the tiny human settlements. Local people live in adobe huts built in a distinctive African architectural style: clay “buildings” supported by a complex structure of palm tree poles, surrounded by a shady veranda and covered with high wide thatched roofs, with garrets for aeration. The Felupes practice different ceremonies and the initiated groups include a powerful cast of female priestesses; rituals are generally announced by large sacred drums called “Bombolon”.

In the afternoon we will assist to ritual dances of the Kumpo 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.

Meals: B – L - D
Overnight: Casa Hélène, simple in Varela (all rooms en-suite)

Day 4: Magical villages – GUINEA BISSAU

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.

Interesting afternoon 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…

Meals: B – L - D
Overnight: Hotel Mar Azul or similar (all rooms en-suite and with fan)

Day 5: The Bijagos Archipelago – GUINEA BISSAU

The Bijagos ArchipelagoIn the morning departure by speedboat for a five-day journey in 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 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: 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.

The colors of Orango Island will simply fascinate us: the green vegetation, the white sand beaches, the brown rocks and the blue ocean.

The itinerary will be slightly modified in order to participate to the “Vaca Bruto” mask dances. Ask for the specific program.

Meals: B – L - D
Overnight: Orango Parque Hotel or similar (sea front bungalows en-suite and with fan)

Orango Parque Hotel is an eco-lodge managed by the local community and an environmentalist organization; profits are used to support the conservation of the unique environment and the local village.

Day 6: Secret islands – GUINEA BISSAU

Day dedicated to the discovery of small islands and untouched villages where the arrival of a foreigner is a rare event. We leave our boat “parked” on the beach and follow paths across the islands vegetation. In Bijagos, villages have always been hidden inside the islands; they were never built near the sea line in order to be protected from tribal wars and slave hunters.

The itinerary will be slightly modified in order to look for the rare salt water hippos and possibly witness turtles nesting. Please ask for the specific program.

Meals: B – L - D
Overnight: Orango Parque Hotel or similar

Day 7: Matriarcal tribes – GUINEA BISSAU

Okinka Pampa VillageIn Bijagos tribal culture women have an important role, it is in fact a semi-matriarchal society and often the supreme ruler has been a woman. A 40’ walk will take us to the sacred village of Okinka Pampa, hosting the graves of the Queens. Return to the hotel for lunch and in the afternoon departure by fast boat to our very comfortable hotel on the beach in Rubane Island.

The itinerary will be slightly modified in order to look for the rare salt water hippos and possibly witness turtles nesting. Please ask for the specific program.

Meals: B – L - D
Overnight: Hotel Ponta Anchaca or Fishing Club (ocean front comfortable bungalows en-suite and with air conditioning).

Day 8: Island life – GUINEA BISSAU

Boat excursion to Bubaque, passing by Soga Bay. Visit of Bubaque, 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.

Return to our comfortable base in Rubane Island and time to relax on the beach or to discover the lush vegetation and villages of Rubane Island. On request fishing can be organized, Bijagos islands are a fisherman’s paradise.

Meals: B – L - D
Overnight: Hotel Ponta Anchaca or Fishing Club

Day 9: from the ghost capital to Bissau – GUINEA BISSAU

Departure to Bolama Island, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941, before it was moved to Bissau. When the Portuguese left, 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 its large sunny lethargic avenues, its empty squares, its dry fountains, its bush-like gardens and its charming administrative buildings in neo Palladian style. 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.

In the afternoon, arrival by speedboat in Bissau, the actual capital of the country. Here a vehicle will be waiting for us and take us on a brief tour of this tiny and intriguing capital.

In the evening transfer to the airport for the flight out.

Meals: B – L
Day-use: Rooms in day-use till 18.00 hrs in a comfortable hotel (all rooms en-suite and with air conditioning)

Download Detailed Itinerary

Day 1:

Hotel Azalai or similar,
Bissau

 

Day 2:

Casa Cachungo,
simple eco hotel in Cachungo
or Mar Azul in Quinhamel

 

Day 3:

Casa Hélène, simple in Varela

 

Day 4:

Hotel Mar Azul or similar,
Quinhamel

 

Day 5, 6:

Orango Parque Hotel or similar,
Bijagos Archipelago

 

Day 7, 8:

Hotel Ponta Anchaca or Fishing Club,
Rubane Island