Tour to Senegal, Gambia,Guinea Bissau: Nature, Rites, Tribal & Contemporary Art, Live Music
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.
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. 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. 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.
Unique events coinciding with the different departure dates:
Saltwater hippos & Turtle nesting – coinciding departures: Nov 2nd; Dec 21st
Vaca Bruto mask dances – coinciding departures Apr 13th
- Duration: 14 days
- Guide: english speaking
Dakar, the capital
Arrival in Dakar (Senegal) and transfer to the hotel. Free time to relax.
Dakar contemporary art metropolis
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.).
Gorè, Lac Rose and fisherman villages.
Waking 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.
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. 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.
Saint Louis is a charming old town which was the first capital of West Africa French colonies . It 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.
Bird sanctuary & Nomadic tribes
Early 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.
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 wide area from Senegal to Chad.
The rarely visited the holly town of Tuba (Touba) is the right place to appreciate the hospitality of an African brotherhood. During the annual festival the town is visited by four million pilgrims.
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.
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.
We 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”. 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.
After crossing the border with Guinea Bissau we will leave 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. 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.
The Bijagos Archipelago
In 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.
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.
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.
From the ghost capital to 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.
At the end of this intense journey, we can recommend a few extra days in the Bijagos Archipelago, a natural paradise. On request, we can arrange for some days in Ponta Anchaca Hotel on Rubane Island, in a comfortable ocean-front bungalow enjoying fine French and tropical cuisine. At the hotel you can relax at the pool, go for walks on the wild beach, discover the island lush vegetation or do some game fishing – Bijagos Archipelago is a known destination for rich game fishing, ask details.