The Fouta Djalon and Beyond

An innovative and completely unique itinerary combining two of West Africa’s least visited countries. Guinea and Sierra Leone have been blighted in recent years by the scourges of Africa, disease and war, but are now opening up again to curious travellers keen to look beyond the dated stereotypes. With unique histories, age old traditions and inspiring landscapes, both have a huge amount to offer the Africa enthusiast.

We start in Conakry then make our way into the Fouta Djalon highlands, stopping en route to explore the lively market at Samaya. The Fouta Djalon are without a doubt one of West Africa’s most beautiful areas, with breathtaking mountain scenery, gushing waterfalls and lush forests, dotted with traditional villages, and we spend a few days discovering the region in depth and meeting its inhabitants. This region is little visited by travellers, but is one of the region’s best kept secrets and a joy to explore for those interested in authentic local cultures – and with good opportunities to spot wildlife too. Staying in small villages, we have a chance to immerse ourselves in a traditional way of life that is fast being lost elsewhere.

Leaving the highlands behind we cross the border into Sierra Leone. We spend a couple of days on the idyllic Banana Islands with their gorgeous beaches and fishing villages, and at Tacugama we have the chance to get close to chimpanzees at a sanctuary for orphans and rescued apes. Finally we head to Tiwai Island we look for wild chimpanzees, hippos and other wildlife by boat and on foot, and experiencing an Africa where primeval nature rules. An exciting and pioneering journey through a little known part of the continent.

The Fouta Djalon and Beyond

Highlights

  • Explore the Fouta Djalon highlands
  • Colourful village markets
  • Tacugama chimp sanctuary
  • Look for wildlife on Tiwai Island

Day 1 - Conakry

Arrive in Conakry and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Palmiers Guesthouse or similar.

Conakry

Built on a promontory stretching into the Atlantic Ocean, Conakry is a busy, noisy, lively city that shows few traces of its former nickname of the ‘Paris of Africa’, but an interesting place to see modern urban life on the continent. The region was first ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese in the 15th century and was once a haven for slavers and traders, and over the years it was occupied by Dutch, English and French settlers involved on the slave trade. Conakry was originally settled on the small Tombo Island and later spread to the neighbouring Kaloum Peninsula, a 22 mile long stretch of land. The city was essentially founded after Britain ceded the island to France in 1887. In 1885 the two island villages of Conakry and Boubinet had fewer than 500 inhabitants, but today it is home to about 2 million – around a quarter of Guinea’s population.

Day 2 - Samaya – Waliah

Drive towards Samaya lake, home to a colourful market that is one of the prettiest in Guinea. Different ethnic groups such as Fula and Landoma visit the market, and we spend time mingling here before continuing to the village of Waliah. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 3 - Waliah - Kindia

After breakfast we visit the villages of Waliah and Missidé village by boat. We then continue to Kindia and arrive by late afternoon. There is time to explore the town, visit the weavers and the wood carvers. In the evening a traditional storyteller shares some of the amazing African stories with us. Overnight Hotel Marcia or similar. (BLD)


Day 4 - Dalaba

Drive to Dalaba, our starting point for visiting the Fouta Djalon, a stunning highland area of Guinea. On the way we visit the Bride’s Veil, – a beautiful waterfall surrounded by tall bamboo. We also visit the neighborhood of the ‘chargeurs’ with its colonial buildings, the French governor’s house and the ‘case à palabre’ in traditional Fula style. Overnight Sib Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Days 5-6 - Fouta Djalon

Today we travel deeper into the Fouta Djalon. Near Dalaba we visit the tiny village of Pouke, where the village women are experts in making baskets and mats. We continue our journey to Pita, where we visit the weavers. After a picnic lunch at the Kinkon falls we continue to Ainguel for the night. On day 6, we begin the day with a short hike in the surroundings, seeing the traditional Fula huts and visiting waterfalls and ‘God’s bridge.’ We continue our road-trip to Douki, home to an impressive array of nature, rocks and jungle scenery. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Fouta Djalon

The highlands of the Fouta Djalon are one of Guinea’s – and West Africa’s – most beautiful areas, a region of plateaux, valleys, cliffs and grasslands, it is the source of many of West Africa’s great rivers including the Gambia and Senegal rivers, as well as a major tributary of the Niger River. Most of its inhabitants are Fula, or Fulani, people, who take advantage of the extremely fertile climate for agriculture and raising livestock; in centuries gone by the Fulani launched jihads to expand the reach of their Islamic state from here, and the region was only ‘pacified’ by the French in the late 19th century. Today it’s a peaceful place with numerous traditional villages and great opportunities for hiking amidst lush scenery – particularly impressive after the wet season when the vegetation is still green and waterfalls seem to be around every corner.

Day 7 - Fouta Djalon

In the morning we travel to Labé. This region is home to five species of primates, including chimpanzees, baboons and red monkeys – so keep an eye out. We also visit the Fouta Djalon museum, a botanical garden and the market. Overnight Tata Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Days 8-9 - Fouta Djalon

On day 8, we visit the Saala falls in the morning – one of the highest falls in the country. Baboons can often been seen sitting on the rocks near the water, and with a bit of luck we’ll see some chimpanzees. After a long drive, we arrive in the village of Mali by the late afternoon. The following morning we explore the landscapes on foot, seeing the ‘Lady of Mali’ rock formations, before returning to Labe. Overnight camping (Day 8) and Tata Hotel or similar (Day 9). (BLD)


Day 10 - Labe – Coyah

A long drive to arrive at Coyah by the late afternoon. On the way we visit the Kissili and the Konkouré falls. Overnight Parc Milly Mamadou or similar. (BLD)


Day 11 - Coyah – Freetown

Another long day of driving as we cross the border into Sierra Leone and towards the capital, Freetown. Overnight Roy Hotel or similar. (BL)

Freetown

Sierra Leone’s capital is set between hills and ocean, a chaotic jumble of buildings and streets packed with the life and colour of West Africa. Freetown’s name derives from its original raison d’etre – in the late 18th century the abolitionist movement launched a programme to send freed African slaves back to the continent, settling on this part of West Africa as a likely spot. The last twenty years or so have not been kind to the city – it was utterly devastated during the vicious civil war which raged through the country, with many gutted and half destroyed buildings to be found, but like the rest of Sierra Leone it is now moving on and increased development bears witness to a growing confidence in the city. Like most African capitals Freetown is fairly devoid of formal tourist sights, but the real joy comes from experiencing the hustle and bustle of a city finding its feet again, wandering through busy markets – including the imaginatively titled ‘Big Market’, or discovering some of the fading remnants of Freetown’s heritage.

Day 12 - Freetown - Banana Island

After breakfast, we drive to Kent, where we take a boat to Banana Island. Here, we have time to relax and enjoy some time on the beach. In the afternoon, we set out on a historical tour, which takes us to the structures of the first European settlers in Sierra Leone, including the ruins of the Slave Hole, the Old Fort, the old St. Lukés church and to a small museum with chains and tools dating back to the time of the slave traders. We combine the walk with a visit to the village of Dublin. Overnight Daltons Banana Guesthouse or similar. (B)


Day 13 - Banana Island

In the morning, we set out on a guided forest walk to explore the nature of the island. The dense forest is a natural habitat much-loved by birds, including the rare Picathartes and the endangered Rufous Fishing owl. The afternoon, we take a boat ride around the island. Overnight Daltons Banana Guesthouse or similar. (B)


Day 14 - Banana Island - Kenema

An early breakfast followed by the boat trip back to the peninsula, where our guided tour of Tacugama’s Chimpanzee sanctuary awaits. We then begin the long drive to Kenema, a town in the heart of the diamond mining region. Overnight Paloma Guesthouse or similar. (BL)

Chimpanzees

Humans’ closest living relatives, chimpanzees are spread among 22 Afrcian countries, from Senegal in the west to Tanzania in the east, and have become extinct in four countries where they once lived. They are among the largest-brained, and most intelligent of primates; they use a variety of sophisticated tools and construct elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage. They live in large social groups of several males, females, juveniles and infants, dominated by an alpha male usually between 20 and 25 years old.

Day 15 - Tiwai Island

We drive to the coast in the morning, where a short boat ride from the shore takes us to Tiwai island, a haven for a variety of wildlife such as chimpanzees and pygmy hippopotamus. In the afternoon we set out on a guided beach walk. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 16 - Tiwai Island

Today we continue to explore Tiwai Island, on foot and by boat, to look for the numerous species of wildlife which live here. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Tiwai Island

Tiwai is one of the last examples of what was once an ancient rainforest spreading across the whole of West Africa, and as a result it has retained a rich and exciting biodiversity that holds a great number of flora and fauna species endemic to the region, n a 12sq/km area surrounded by a tropical river, The Moa. Some of the species are rare and endangered, such as the monkeys (black & white, red and olive) and the Diana monkey. There is also the possibility of seeing wild chimpanzees in their natural habitat by venturing to the southern tip of the island with a guide where the apes have a tendency to be found. These chimps, contrary to their cousins in East Africa use stones as hammers and tree roots as anvils to crack open hard nuts. The rare and endemic pygmy hippopotamus is also a resident of Tiwai. This elusive animal is solitary and eats the swampy vegetation on land and in the river. It is only found elsewhere in the Gola rainforest in Sierra Leone and in parts of Liberia.

Day 17 - Tiwai Island - Freetown

A long drive back to Freetown, for your last night in Sierra Leone. Overnight Roy Hotel or similar. (BL)


Day 18 - Freetown

Spend the afternoon exploring Freetown before transferring to the airport for your onward flight. (B)


Please note: This is a pioneering trip that will be run as a ‘recce tour’ and so you must be prepared for flexibility and changes to the itinerary if necessary. We most definitely do not recommend this trip if you like rigid plans, 4 star hotels, good roads and well defined ‘tourist sites’ – this is a very adventurous trip through a remote part of the continent, where infrastructure is not great, things change frequently and you can expect a certain amount of discomfort at times. However the rewards more than balance these out – the chance to travel through lands that rarely see western visitors, experience the truly authentic and go to places that few have gone before, in one of the most interesting corners of Africa.

The Fouta Djalon and Beyond
The Fouta Djalon and Beyond
The Fouta Djalon and Beyond
The Fouta Djalon and Beyond

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.

  • Guides

    In most cases you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination.

  • 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 can assist.

  • Airport taxes

    If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.

  • 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

Most travellers will require a visa to enter both Guinea and Sierra Leone, which must be obtained before travel. You may need an invitation letter in order to obtain this, depending on the requirements of the embassy that you apply at – we can provide this for you. 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.

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to both countries and you must bring this with you.

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.

Money

The local currency in Sierra Leone is the leone, and in Guinea it is the Guinean franc. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes as neither currency is readily obtainable outside of the region.

It’s not difficult to change money either at banks or the hotels and your guide can assist with this. There are also an increasing number of ATMs in larger towns. However these are not always reliable and so it is best to think of them as a back up rather than a main means of obtaining money.

Credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and better restaurants (usually in Conakry and Freetown only) but are not commonly accepted elsewhere.

When to go

The region experiences two distinct seasons. The dry season runs from October until April, and the wet season from May until September – these can change by a few weeks either side depending on climate variations. Although most people choose to visit in the dry season, it’s also feasible to visit in the wet season – the rains, although heavy, do not last the whole day and usually take the form of short sharp bursts. Some roads can be difficult during the wet season though.

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.

Please note that neither country is particularly used to tourism and what may seem like common sense and good practice elsewhere may not even be considered here. Your guide will manage all situations as best they can, but it’s important to be realistic about the countries that you are visiting – we do not particularly recommend either for first time visitors to Africa.

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 parts of Guinea or Sierra Leone

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.

The Fouta Djalon and Beyond
The Fouta Djalon and Beyond
The Fouta Djalon and Beyond
The Fouta Djalon and Beyond
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
07 November 2020
Price (PP) -
£3,899
Single Supplement -
£550
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
14 November 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,999
Single Supplement -
£550
Trip Status -
Available