Beyond the Bijagos

One of Africa’s smallest countries, Guinea-Bissau nevertheless packs quite a punch. This short tour spends time both on the idyllic Bijagos Islands and the mainland, exploring its Portuguese colonial heritage and indigenous culture.

The compact capital Bissau is our starting point, with its Latin flavoured historic centre, and from here we head out to meet the Pepel people, one of the region’s more traditional groups. On our journey to the beaches of the north west we enter the territory of the Diola people, seeing their impressive mask dances, then explore the villages of the Felupes, Baiotes and Manjaco – a real journey into the surprising variety that exists in this small corner of West Africa.

After returning to Bissau we travel by boat the Bijagos Islands, a world of mangroves, pristine beaches and isolated cultures. We explore the crumbling colonial town of Bolama, see mask dances, and look for unusual wildlife including the ‘saltwater hippos’. The Bijagos archipelago, isolated from the mainland, remains a real repository of ancient customs, and we have several days here to explore all that it has to offer, sailing between the different islands to maximise our experience.

Our journey ends with a boat trip back to Bissau in time for your flight home, where the rhythms of West Africa will long play in your memory…..

Highlights

  • Explore the tribal traditions of the Felupes and Baiotes people
  • See the Diola mask dances
  • Look for saltwater hippos and turtles
  • Sail between the Bijagos Islands

Day 1 - Bissau

Arrive in Bissau and transfer to the hotel. Overnight Hotel Azalai or similar.


Day 2 - Quinhamel

This morning we head out to Cana to see a colonial era rum distillery, then continue to Quinhamel. Here we meet the Pepel people, and learn about their animist customs centred around traditional ‘fetishes’. Return to Bissau for the evening. Overnight Hotel Azalai or similar. (BLD)


Day 3 - Varela

Leave the city behind and head north west to Varela. This is the territory of the Diola people, and we will be able to see one of their mask dances while here – an event rarely seen by outsiders. In the later afternoon we reach the beaches of Varela. Overnight Aparthotel Avo Anisa or similar. (BLD)


Day 4 - Bissau

Heading back to Bissau, we leave the main road and travel through a landscape of swamps and streams to the settlements of the Felupes and Baiotes people. Living in large clay built huts under a patriarchal structure, they farm rice by desalinating the soil. We then visit the villages of the local Manjaco people and see their sacred wooden sculptures, before continuing to Bissau for the night. Overnight Hotel Azalai or similar. (BLD)


Day 5 - Bolama - Bijagos Islands

Sail to the Bijagos Islands, a magical and unique world of authentic tribal traditions and unusual wildlife. First visit the island of Bolama, once a colonial capital but now largely abandoned, its Portuguese buildings slowly being taken over by vegetation and goats. From here continue further into the archipelago. Overnight Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar. (BLD)

The Bijagos Islands
The Bijagos are the jewel in tiny Guinea-Bissau’s crown, an archipelago of more than forty islands that have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covered in dense forest and mangroves, the islands are home to some of West Africa’s least adulterated cultural traditions, the islands serving to isolate the inhabitants from too much colonial influence. The Bijagos also contain enigmatic wildlife – the rare ‘saltwater’ hippo being the most famous, rather elusive but sometimes found swimming along the shorelines and between the islands. Facilities here are few but our stay here offers us an opportunity to explore some of the region’s most pristine natural environments.

Day 6 - Bijagos Islands

Activities today depend on the departure date of the tour. Some departures will see the impressive Vaca Bruto mask ceremony, unique to the Bijagos Islands where participants assume the roles of wild bulls. Others will travel to the uninhabited island of Poilao, to watch turtles come ashore in the evening to lay their eggs. Overnight Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar. (BLD)

Please note that the exact itinerary for today will depend on the departure date; The 2 April 2021 and 8 April 2022 departures are scheduled to coincide with the traditional ‘Vaca Bruto’ mask dances. The 29 October 2021, 27 December 2021, 28 October 2022 and 27 December 2022 departures coincide with an opportunity to view turtles nesting.

Days 7-8 - Bijagos Islands

Two more days to explore the archipelago. We head to Orango Island, a national park where the famous ‘saltwater hippos’ live – this is the same species as found on the mainland but unusually here often swims between the various islands. They can sometimes be difficult to locate, but we will search for them amongst the thick mangroves that characterise these islands. We also visit Bubaque, the largest village of the Bijagos, visiting its colourful market and small ethnographic museum, and getting to know the local people. Overnight Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar. (BLD)


Day 9 - Bissau

Return by boat to the capital Bissau, where we have time for a quick look around the lively old quarter, with its traditional Portuguese architecture, before having dinner and transferring to the airport for your onward flight. (BL)


Please note that we sell this trip in conjunction with our local partner and therefore you should expect people of different nationalities and a maximum group size of 16 on this tour.

Our 25 February 2022 departure follows a slightly different itinerary, to incorporate the annual Bissau carnival. Please contact us for details.

Traditional tribal ceremony - Guinea-Bissau holidays

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

    While we prefer to use centrally located hotels where possible, this is not always practical and in some locations they may not be the best option in terms of standards or reliability. 

    Please note that it is not always possible to secure twin rooms as many hotels in West Africa only have rooms with one large bed. If you would like a twin room you must check with us beforehand that this is possible.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

Visas for Guinea-Bissau can be obtained on arrival and cost 20,000 CFA. You will need to bring two passport photos with you and let us know beforehand if you would intend to obtain your visa this way.

Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Please note that Yellow Fever is a compulsory vaccination for entering Guinea-Bissau and you must bring your vaccination certificate with you, otherwise you may not be allowed to enter.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Arrival and departure taxes

There are no arrival or departure taxes applicable for Guinea-Bissau.

Money

In Guinea-Bissau the West African CFA is the currency, which is impossible to obtain outside of the region. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes.

Credit cards won’t be much use on this trip, and ATM machines are few and far between. Therefore it’s sensible to bring enough cash to last you throughout the tour.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place.

In addition, roads throughout the parts of Africa that we visit are often poorly maintained (if at all!) and distances between key sites of interest can be long. Travelling in Africa can be tiring, hot and dusty at times, and inevitably it can be frustrating. While there are some issues that we are able to solve, others are intrinsic to the countries that we travel through, and you should be aware that many of the countries that we operate in cannot be compared to others on the continent that have better infrastructure – for example the popular tourist destinations of east and southern Africa.

Although travelling in these countries can at times be an ‘unpolished’ experience, this is all part of the adventure. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and putting up with a pothole (or ten) is undeniably worth it for the amazing sights and cultural experiences you will encounter along the way.

This is particularly relevant to this trip – it travels through some remote regions, some of which are largely isolated from the outside world and have very little experience of tourism whatsoever.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any places that we visit on this tour.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated November 2020

Traditional tribal ceremony - Guinea-Bissau holidays
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
29 October 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,599
Single Supplement -
£270
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
27 December 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,675
Single Supplement -
£270
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
25 February 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,775
Single Supplement -
£280
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
08 April 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£280
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
28 October 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£280
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
27 December 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,775
Single Supplement -
£280
Trip Status -
Available