Senegal | Gambia | Bissau

Get ready for this journey from north to south across Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau.  We will experience a continuous change in climatic ecosystems and human environments, moving across an incredible variety of natural environments such as desert dunes, savannah, estuaries, forests, and mangrove swamps, ending with an exciting ocean navigation to discover and enjoy the Bijagos Archipelago.

An incredible journey in which we will also discover the tribal art and customs of the Guinea Bissau, enriched on certain dates by specific events and ceremonies like the Carnival and the Vaca Bruto mask ceremony. In addition, at the end of the year, also an incredible natural event takes place in Guinea Bissau, the turtles’ nesting on the Bijagos islands.  Check with us which event you would be able to attend when you will book your next trip to these marvelous countries!

 

14 days
all year round
all accommodated

PRICES STARTING FROM: 4.193€ per person*

Book your spot

For more info or private requests send us an email or chat with us!

Services included:

  • Assistance at Dakar airport upon arrival and at Bissau airport upon departure.
  • Transfers and tours in a great variety of different transports, each fitting the different geographical environment, allowing maximum interaction with the local peoples, comfort, and fun: minibusses/microbuses, 4WD vehicles, local calash (private use), donkey chariot, speedboat fitted for ocean crossing to the Bijagos Archipelago.
  • Tour Leader (languages spoken English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese as available).
  • Tours and visits as per the program.
  • Accommodation in standard rooms/bungalows/permanent tents, as per itinerary.
  • All meals as described, from breakfast on day 2 to lunch on day 14.
  • One bottle of mineral water in the bus/car each day during the visits.
  • Entrance fees to parks, concessions, protected areas, cultural sites, festivals, and events as in the program.
  • First Aid box.
  • All service charges and taxes.

 

Services excluded:

  • International flights to Dakar and from Bissau
  • Visa fees
  • Covid tests if required
  • Mineral water and drinks at restaurants and hotels
  • Portage
  • Fees for personal photos and videos
  • Personal insurance (compulsory)
  • Tips for drivers, guides, and hotel staff
  • Any item of personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.
  • Whatever is not mentioned as included

 

*Price per person considering a shared double/twin room in a group of 6 or more passengers (from 2 to 5 pax. a small supplement is required).

Day 1: Dakar - Arrival

Arrival in Dakar and transfer to the hotel.

Meal plan
  • No meals included
Accommodation
Hotel Djoloff or similar
Day 2: Dakar - Gorée

Dakar, the large and vibrant African metropolis that was the cultural and intellectual capital of French West Africa. We will visit the Musée des Civilisations Noirs. Opened in December 2018, it is the realization of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s vision (the first president of independent Senegal, a poet, and Nobel Prize winner). The museum represents the historical and contemporary worldwide cultures, art, and soul of Black people, which he called Negritude.

We will also discover Kermel market and the Cathédrale Notre Dame des Victoires. The project to build the Dakar cathedral started in 1910 to pay tribute to African combatants, the Cathedral was finally built in Neo-Sudanese style, a style inspired by the Sahara and Sub-Sahara adobe mosque architecture and was consecrated on 2 February 1936.
Arrival at Dakar port to board a ferry and spend a night in Gorée, the island where slaves used to be crammed before being shipped to the Americas. Some restored buildings remain to bear witness of those times.

The Portuguese were the first to establish a presence on Gorée in 1450, where they built a small stone chapel. After the decline of the slave trade from Senegal in the 1770s and 1780s, the island became an important port for the shipment of peanuts, Arabic gum, ivory, and other products of legitimate trade. Thanks to the breeze, the many restaurants and boutiques, Gorée has become a pleasant and trendy location. We join Gorée the late afternoon and evening, when the tourist crowd have left to enjoy experience and feeling of this special island.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel Maison Municipal or similar
Day 3: Gorée - Lac Retba

Waking up in Gorée before the crowd arrives is a pleasure, as strolling in the tiny stone-paved alleys of this historical settlement. When the crowd arrive we board the Ferry to Dakar and drive to Lac Retba that was called Lac Rose, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes.

Miles of exciting drive on the beach by 4×4 (depending on tides) will bring us to discover the largest fisherman village in Senegal. More than 4500 wooden painted pirogues come to the shore with the catch of the day… On the beach the fisherman sells to the local market women, after we meet the artisans carving the large pirogues, the painters decorating them with bright colors, and if we are lucky the “local saint” for final blessing before sailing…

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel Le Trarza or similar
Day 4: Lac Retba - St. Louis

Saint Louis, known to locals as Ndar, is a charming ancient town that was a French territory from 1673 until 1895 and the capital of all French West Africa colonies from 1895 until 1902 when the capital was moved to Dakar. From 1920 to 1957, it also served as the capital of the neighboring colony of Mauritania.

It has been the former base of the “Aeropostale” airmail pioneer operation between Europe, Africa, and South America. Saint Exupéry, the famous writer, and author of “The Little Prince”, was one of Aeropostale’s pilots following this route. Located on two islands between the Senegal River and the ocean at the southern edge of the Sahara, rich in three centuries of history, cultural background, geography, and architecture, Saint-Louis is a “bridge” between the savanna and the desert, the ocean, the river, and the inland, between tradition and modernity, Islam and Christianity, Europe and Africa.

Home to a society with a distinctive lifestyle, Saint-Louis has retained its unique identity. “No one comes without falling in love with the city,” proudly say its people who consider Saint-Louis as the birthplace of Senegalese Teranga, the Wolof word for hospitality.
The best way to visit the narrow lanes of Saint Louis is by calash, just as locals do, and walk in the fisherman’s quarters. Time to stroll in the tiny avenues and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this old town. We will spend the night at the historic hotel of the town – built in 1895 and now fully renovated – it was here that all Aeropostale pilots use to stay.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel de la Poste or similar
Day 5: St. Louis - Ferlo desert

Early morning departure northwards to discover Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj), a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This “humid paradise” between the Sahara and Ferlo desert, is the best habitat and nesting site for over a million migratory and resident birds – lies on the southeastern bank of the Senegal River and offers a range of wetland habitats that are attended by many migrating birds, some getting here after crossing the Sahara. Out of more than 400 species, pelicans and flamingos are the most common, whereas aquatic warblers are a bit less conspicuous – migrating here from Europe, this park is their single most important wintering site yet discovered. Apart from birds, there is also a wide range of wildlife such as warthogs and crocodiles. Motorboat excursion led by a local guide-ornithologist.

Depending on the season, considering the time of migrations and level of water, the visit to Djoudj may be replaced by a similar experience in Langue de Barbarie, a thin, sandy peninsula, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, located in western Senegal, in the neighborhoods of the city of Saint-Louis. The peninsula separates the ocean from the final section of the Senegal River. The Langue de Barbarie National Park is home to an abundant variety of bird species and three species of turtle.

In the afternoon continue to the Ferlo Desert to discover the arid region where nomadic Fulani tribes herd large herds of zebu. The Fulani (also called Peul) are the largest nomadic tribe roaming West African Savannahs, living in a vast area from Senegal to Chad. Their origins are still covered with mystery. They all share a common aristocratic cult for beauty and elegance. In the afternoon a local guide will join us for a visit to the neighboring villages and shelters. When the herds come back, we might even be invited to witness the milking process.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Overnight in Camp built in local style
Day 6: Ferlo desert - Kabacoto

The rarely visited holy town of Tuba (Touba) is the right place to appreciate the hospitality of an African brotherhood. Touba inhabitants follow Muridism and the town itself is a sort of theocratic “state within the state”, ruled by a Caliph. The founder of Mouridi brotherhood was a Sufi named Amhadou Bàmba Mbake.

Amhadou Bàmba founded Touba in 1887. The holy site remained a tiny, isolated place in the wilderness until his death and burial at the site of the Great Mosque, 40 years later. The Great Mosque was finally completed in 1963 and since its inauguration, the city has grown at a rapid pace: from under 5,000 inhabitants in 1964, the population was estimated between 1 to 1,5 million in 2018.

The Mourides have a large social and economic impact in Senegal: thanks to their peaceful (and African) vision of Islam, Muridism, with other brotherhoods following the cult of Marabouts, has become the bastion that protects Senegal from radical Islam.
During the Grand Magal, the annual pilgrimage, the town is visited by four to five million pilgrims, after Meca the Magal is considered the larges pilgrimage.
Mourides welcome any interest in their traditions. Yet since Tuba is a sacred town, all visitors should accept 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 rules, we will be welcomed. A Baye Fall, a member of a colorful branch of Muridism, will accompany us during the visit.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Kabacoto Safari Hotel or similar
Day 7: Kabacoto - Banjul

Early departure, we will leave the main road to discover the unique megalithic site of Sine Ngayene, as part of the Senegambian stone circles, which lie in the north bank of  Gambia river and southern Senegal.

According to UNESCO, the Senegambian stone circles are “the largest concentration of stone circles seen anywhere in the world.” These sites represent an extraordinary concentration of more than 1,100 erected stones. We cross the border with The Gambia, a tiny English-speaking country surrounded by Senegal and experience a “very local” ferry crossing of the large Gambia River estuary to reach Banjul, the capital of the country. Visit to the national museum.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Atlantic hotel or similar
Day 8: Banjul - Ziguinchor

Gambia is renowned as a bird-watching destination. With an ornithological guide, we will discover different species of African birds in their habitat.

Drive to the southern border with Casamance region of Senegal. We will leave the main track to join a remote village. We have lunch in the village, prepared by a local family to enjoy the Senegalese gastronomy and improve local community economy.

If we are lucky, in the afternoon masks leave the sacred forest to dance for an enthusiastic local crowd. Masks are part of the animistic Diola culture, people fear and respect masks, and consider them spirits who play an important role in solving conflicts between villagers. Evening arrival to our comfortable hotel on the banks of Casamance River that will be our base for two days dedicated to discovering Casamance.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Kadiandoumange Hotel or similar
Day 9: Casamance

We will leave the main road to visit an adobe-fortified building still inhabited by a large patriarchal Diola family, an 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” and had the function to protect their dwellers from outside attacks.

In a hidden village, we will be received by the king of a Diola Kingdom. After the protocol salutations the king, that is also the high priest holding both political and mystical power, will answer our questions on the traditional rules in Diola society.

Late afternoon, return to Ziguinchor.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Kadiandoumange Hotel or similar
Day 10: Ziguinchor - Bissau

Early departure for a long but interesting day. Guinea Bissau border crossing.
The road will bring us south to a unique eco-system where Bolon (sea arms) penetrate the land for more than a hundred miles creating a large temporary flooding area. The borders between salt water, land and fresh water are uncertain and changes with the tides. 23% of Guinea Bissau territory is under the water during the high tide end emerges during the low tide… On the way to Bissau stop at Bula to meet a tradition king, called Regolo and learn about the culture of his tribe.

 

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel Dunia Azalai or similar
Day 11: Bissau - Bijagos Archipelago

Aboard a speedboat, we start three days of sailing to discover the Bijagos Archipelago with its remote islands and isolated human settlements. The Bijagos Archipelago is located approximately 40 miles offshore 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 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. This transfer was needed due to the shortage of fresh water in Bolama.

When the Portuguese left, native people came to live in the town which is now falling apart and is partly invaded by tropical vegetation. It was originally built following the plans of a «Castrum Romanum» (Roman citadel) so today we can witness its large sunny lethargic avenues, its empty squares, its dry fountains, its bush-like gardens, and its large administrative buildings in neo-Palladian style. In the Governor’s Palace, we can still admire columns in the classic style … where now goats graze! The Bissau-Guinean government is aiming for it to be designated the nation’s first World Heritage Site. Bolama, although inhabited, is plunged into the fairy-tale atmosphere of a still-inhabited ghost town.

Due to the tide, the visit of Bolama can be postposed to day 14.

Arrival at Rubane / Bubaque Islands in a comfortable hotel that will be our base for three days of discovering Bijagos Archipelago.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar
Day 12: Bijagos Archipelago

Vaca Bruto mask ceremony (Mar,Apr,May): If the date of the tour is concomitant to the Vaca Bruta mask, special event: morning relax or walk to visit the inland of Rubane Island and its small village.
After lunch we visit the largest village in the archipelago, Bubaque, the only one connected to the continent by a ferry once a week: unpaved alleys, a tiny colorful market, local bars and traders, and the tiny ethnographic museum dedicated to Bijagos culture. After the visit, we will reach an isolated village to experience the Vaca Bruta initiation mask ceremonies with large participation from the villagers.

Turtle’s nesting (Nov,Dec): If the date of the tour is concomitant to the Turtle’s Nesting, a special event: visit of the largest village in the archipelago, Bubaque, the only one connected to the continent by a ferry once a week: unpaved alleys, a tiny colorful market, local bars, and traders and the tiny ethnographic museum dedicated to Bijagos culture, sail in the direction of the Southern Island, stop at Meio a pristine uninhabited island where our footprints on the sand will be the only human traces. Arrival at Poilao uninhabited island in the late evening, with high tide the turtles will emerge from the ocean, we must remain silent and don’t use a direct flashlight that can scare the turtles….

Late-night return at our comfortable hotel.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar
Day 13: Bijagos Archipelago

Day to enjoy the archipelago way of life: relax at the wild beach, a walk to explore villages and luxuriant vegetation, excursion to the neighboring Soga Island.

Meal plan
  • All meals included
Accommodation
Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar
Day 14: Bijagos Archipelago - Bissau

Transfer back to Bissau, the tiny capital of the country. We start walking by Bissau Vehlo, the old Portuguese quarter with an atmosphere reminding us of past Portuguese days and where we can experience the mix of African and Portuguese souls. In old wooden cafés, we can taste Portuguese wines and watch Portuguese news. We continue to the Presidential Palace, the Catholic Cathedral, Fortaleza Amura, Independence Monument, and Che Guevara Square to end in an open-air bar known for the best mojito in town…

In the evening, transfer to the airport for the flight out.

Meal plan
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodation
Rooms in day-use till 18.00 hrs
Departure date
Status
Language
02/03/2024
english
06/04/2024
english
04/05/2024
english
09/11/2024
english
28/12/2024
english
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