Tour To Guinea Bissau & Bijagos: The Sacred Archipelago
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!
SALT WATER HIPPOS & TURTLE NESTING
Departure dates: Nov. 23rd – Dec. 28th 2018 / Nov. 01st – Dec. 27th 2019
Orango Island (G.B.) is a National Park and among the many protected species there is a unique mammal: the spectacular “saltwater hippo”. These rare animals mainly live in the saltwater of the mangrove forests but sometimes even like to go for a swim in the ocean!
Turtle Nesting – Poilao Island (G.B.) is an uninhabited site of great beauty. It is also considered the main nesting ground for the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Midas) in West Africa. After dark, on the silent beach, we await for the magic moment when a female emerges from the ocean and digs a deep hole where she then lays her eggs. With a bit of luck 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.
VACA BRUTO CERIMONIES
Departure dates: Apr. 2oth – 23rd Mar. 2018 / Feb. 08th – Apr. 19th 2019
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.
- Duration: 9 days
- Guide: English speaking
Bissau, the capital
Arrival in Bissau and transfer to the hotel.
Cult for the ancestors
Full day dedicated to explore the region inhabited by the Manjaco. This ethnic group calls their traditions “Gendiman” and keep 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”. It is indeed a unique opportunity to enjoy tribal art in its original cultural context: the village.
Villages of the flooded forest
An aluminum speed boat will take us along the wide Cacheu River to discover the abundant bird life: white Pelicans, 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. After a few hours we reach some remote villages inhabited by the Felupes and Baiotes, both tribes part of the Diula ethnic group. They live in an isolated ecosystem where, thanks to their complex “tribal technology”, they manage to desalinate the land and farm rice.
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.
The Bijagos Archipelago
In the morning departure by speedboat for a five-day journey in the Bijagos Archipelago to discover 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”.
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.
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.
In 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 15’ walk will take us to the sacred village of Okinka Pampa, hosting the graves of the Queens.
Boat excursion to Bubaque, passing by Soga Bay with its large colony of pink flamingos. 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.
from the ghost capital to 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. 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!
In the afternoon, arrival by speedboat in Bissau, the current 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.