Tour To Guinea Bissau & Bijagos: The Sacred Archipelago
The present itinerary is concurrent with VACA BRUTO CEREMONY
Vaca bruto ceremonies. In Bijagos Islands life is still ruled by the “cycle of seasons” and during the long dry season, when harvest is over, the main ceremonies take place. The most spectacular Bijago mask is called Vaca Bruto (wild bull) and is a wooden helmet mask with eyes of frosted glass, real horns, leather ears and a rope through the nostril. During the Vaca Bruto ceremonies dancers embody the spirit of the mask with great realism: they bow and face the ground, just like a real untamed animal would do. The mask represents a man in full possession of his physical strength but with still an immature behavior since he has not yet undergone the final initiations. All the villagers attend this fascinating ceremony.
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. Most of the Bijagos islands have no permanent settlements and are a real paradise for many bird species and rare fauna. Finally, Bissau gives a great opportunity to experience the intriguing mix of Portuguese and African style, spreading unique vibes.
An itinerary aiming at discovering nature and culture as well as some relax to enjoy 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!
Itinerary & rates on request
Departure date : 21 February 2020
Carnival is the main festivity in Guinea Bissau.
An incredible mix of African and Portuguese traditions, the Carnival goes wild in the afternoon : along the main avenue, colorful masks from different areas and neighborhoods start their parade, sacred masks, fetish priests in traditional costumes, warriors dressed in a crocodile skin and armed with arrows, initiated girls wearing strings of glass beds around their waist and contemporary masks made of papier-mâché. Hours of lively parades turn this carnival into an unforgettable experience, a real “fiesta popular” combining Portuguese influence and tribal African soul.
Itinerary & rates on request
Departure dates: 29 October 2020 & 27 December 2020
Following the “uncertain border” between land and water, we move across natural environments such as deserts, mangrove swamps, forests, ocean and islands. By traveling from north to south we follow the route of migratory birds, a constant presence along the whole journey. Depending on the departure date, we may discover rare endemic fauna.
Turtle Nesting – Poilao Island (G.B.) is an uninhabited site of a great beauty. It is also considered the main nesting ground for the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Midas) in West Africa. In the night, on the silent beach, we wait for the magic moment when a female emerges from the ocean and digs a deep hole where she lays her eggs. If luck will be on our side, we will witness this natural wonder of nature and/or the hatching, when the tiny ones emerge from the sand to join the ocean and begin a long journey that will bring them back to this same beach after 30 years, when they reach sexual maturity.
- Duration: 9 days
- Guide: English speaking
Bissau, the capital
Arrival in Bissau and transfer to the hotel.
Living Bissau, we will visit Bandin the largest market in the country.
Full day dedicated to exploring 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.
Villages of the flooded forest
By car and by foot 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 Diola 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
Reminiscences of colonial time
We drive to Quinhamel to 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.
Bissau the capital
Morning 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…
In the afternoon we arrive at Bissau. We will stroll around Bissau-Vehlo: the lively old quarter with its sleepy streets and alleys. Here we will be amazed by the interesting Portuguese architecture which gives Bissau an atmosphere that reminds us of Portugal back in the days. Old wooden café where to drink Portuguese wine and watch Portuguese news. Or an open-air restaurant where to drink the best mojito in town…
From the ghost capital to the Bijagos Archipelago
Aboard a speedboat, we start our sailing to discover the Bijagos Archipelago with its remote islands and isolated human settlements. 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 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..
Our first stop will be Bolama Island, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941, before it was moved to Bissau. Bolama, although inhabited, is plunged in the fairy-tale atmosphere of a ghost town.
Arrival on Rubane Island where we will stay at the most beautiful lodge of the Bijagos Archipelago.
Dancing masks: Vaca Bruto
In the morning boat excursion to Soga bay. Here we will walk in the shadow till the villages of the island. All in all, the discovery of the Bijagos islands will give you a great opportunity to have an insight into the remote life on the islands. Having the chance to see how people still live making little use of the modern technology and at the same time be part of the lay-back atmosphere that characterizes the islands and the entire country, a beautiful mix of Portuguese and African style.
Boat excursion to Bubaque
Visit of the village, the largest one 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.
We attend the dancing masks: Vaca Bruto.
Beach and relax
Time to relax on the beach or to discover the lush vegetation and villages of the island.
On request excursion to Orango island to watch hippos (actual seeing the hippos is not guaranteed) and the villa of Okina pampa.
Relax on the beach
Arrival by speedboat in Bissau, the actual capital of the country.