Tour to Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau attending the amazing carnival

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

Carnival

is the main festivity in Guinea Bissau. Carnival goes wild in the afternoon when along the Main Avenue, groups from all the country start hours of parade: sacred traditional masks, warriors dressed in a crocodile skin and armed with arrows, initiated girls wearing only strings of glass beds around their waist and contemporary masks made of papier-mâché. An intense “fiesta popular” combining Portuguese influence with the cheerful African spirit.

  • Duration: 14 days
  • Guide: English speaking
Price from 3945 € Send request
Day 1

Dakar, the capital

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

Day 2

Dakar, contemporary arts 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. 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.

Day 3

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. Ferry to Dakar and drive to Lac Rose, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes. 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.

Day 4

Saint Louis

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.

Day 5

Birds sanctuary & nomadic tribes

Early in the morning departure northwards to discover Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary , a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  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  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.

Day 6

Tuba Brotherhood

The rarely visited the holly town of Tuba is the right place to appreciate the hospitality of an African brotherhood. 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. 

Day 7

Stone cercles

Early departure to discover the unique megalithic site 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. It will be Friday evening, dinner in a restaurant before roaming from club to club to enjoy vibrant music and African style of enjoy.

Day 8

Gambian birds

Senegambia gardens are a real African experience, in his 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.

Day 9

Sacred kings

Today we visit an adobe-fortified buildings 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” – an African variant of the ancient roman house – and had the function to protect its dwellers from outside attacks. 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.

Day 10

Flooded villages

Early riser  departure for a long but interesting day.  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 lives 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.

Day 11

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.

Day 12

Queens Island

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

 

Day 13

Islander life

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.

Day 14

Carnival

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: on time to attend the carnival parade..

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