Where on earth are they, you may ask? Off the coast of Africa , roughly 12 degrees north longitude and 15 degrees west latitude. They comprise 88 islands which makes them the largest archipelago in Africa and with only 21 of them inhabited. What to see? White sand beaches and forests, turtles laying eggs, salt water hippos and abundant bird life and a Marine Park. Their Tribal and village culture is unique and it’s home to one of the most vibrant carnivals outside of Rio; like Rio the people are a mix of Brazilian and Portuguese with music rhythms to match. How do we get there?By TAP via Lisbon, Air France via Dakar and Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca.
THE INDEPENDENT TRAVELLER is offering set departures on Thursdays with a maximum of 16 persons , as well as tailor made tours.
Accommodation is in the best hotels available with en suite rooms and mostly air-conditioned, and includes a Fishing Club, the charming “Chez Claude.”
Travel within the islands is by speedboat and ferry.
Costs are around €2,800 per person full board for 10 days and you will visit up to 20 different islands.
Bijagos Islands – Sample Itinerary
Set departures:- 7 Nov & 26 Dec 2013; 23 Jan; 20 Mar & 6 Nov 2014.
Special departure: – 23 Feb 2014 combines the Bijagos Sacred Mask Carnival & Bissau Rio-Style Carnival.
- “Enjoy a journey made of charming boat rides on the Ocean through the islands of the widest and remotest African archipelago. Come and be fascinated by this gorgeous virgin nature where the great green turtles come to nest, where locals still go through initiation rites, where you can follow the tracks of the rare salt water hippos. An amazing itinerary shared between the discovery of amazing ethnic groups and the exploration of a unique wildlife at the heart of one of the last paradises on earth.”
Day 01 Thursday – Arrive Bissau; Azalai Hotel
- You are met on arrival at Osvaldo Vieira International Airport Bissau (OXB) and transferred to the 4 stars Azalai Hotel
- Bissau is the capital city of Guinea Bissau and it sits at the estuary of the Greba River as it flows in to the Atlantic Ocean. The city has an estimated population of half a million inhabitants.
- Bissau can be accessed by air worldwide via Lisbon, Casablanca and Dakar with Air France, TAP Portugal, Royal Air Maroc and partner airlines.
Day 02 Friday – Bissau to the Island of Rubane; Chez Bob Fishing Club
- Depart Bissau after breakfast on board of the “Bijagos Express”, the local favourite means of transport connecting Bissau once a week to the main island of Bubaque. The journey time is approximately 5 hours and dmAFRICA clients are booked with access to the First Class area. The journey can introduce you to some lively experiences as the islanders make the trip in to an “event” with impromptu dances to their traditional Afro-Brazilian melodies, while sipping the local grogue rum cocktails.
- The “Bijagos Express” sails amongst the islands and clients soon settle in to the soporific pace of island life.
- Picnic lunch on board.
- On arrival at Bubaque you transfer to a speedboat which transfers you to the island of Rubane in a few minutes.
- Dinner and overnight at the Chez Bob Fishing Club with accommodation in bungalows with air-conditioning and private bathroom.
Day 03 Saturday – Island hopping: Canhabaque – Island of Rubane; Chez Bob Fishing Club
- After breakfast by boat to the island of Canhabaque, also known as Ilha Roxa.
- The day will be spent day walking through villages hidden in the forest and on the beach.
- You can also choose to visit fewer villages and spend more time relaxing on the beach.
- Because of the archipelago remoteness, the lack of transports and the deep attachment of the locals to their traditions, the Bijagos inhabitants have been little influenced by the external world. Women still wear the saiya, a traditional skirt made of straw, and life in the village is characterized by the importance of the masks used to perform secret ceremonies.
- Picnic lunch on the beach.
- Canhabaque is the most traditional island of the archipelago and the day will include visits to some villages where the young men have to go through a seven year initiation rite, living in a “convent” with no contacts of any kind with women.
- Return to the island of Rubane for dinner and overnight at the Chez Bob Fishing Club.
Day 04 Sunday – Island of Rubane – Island of Orango; Orango Parque Hotel
- Leave after breakfast for island hopping by boat across the Bijagos Archipelago to discover its many forgotten islands where the low tide sometimes uncovers large sandbanks.
- The Bijagos Archipelago, located around 40 km off the coast of the continent, is the largest Archipelago in Africa with 88 islands, of which only 21 are inhabited year-round.
- With its idyllic landscapes, its exceptional fauna and its tribal culture remaining unchanged, we have “a geographical treasure”.
- It is expected that over the next few years the islands will make as big an impact on the western side of Africa as the Seychelles did on the eastern side in the 1970s.
- The sailing will include Anguruma Island to enjoy its desert beaches which evoke feelings of Robinson Crusoe.
- Next stop from Anguruma is Uno Island. This is one of the principle islands where the villages are involved with the famous ritual masks.
- Arrival in the evening on the bay of Orango Island, which is in the heart of the Marine National Park of the archipelago.
- Dinner and overnight in the Orango Parque Hotel, rooms with air-conditioning and private bathroom.
Day 05 Monday – Orango Island; Orango Parque Hotel
- Orango Island is covered in a lush green forest; the white sand beaches are flooded with birds while the brown of the rocks contrasts with the blue of the Ocean.
- There will be a stop on a small desert bay for a lovely forest walk in an exceptional nature reserve inhabited by enchanting birds which are part of a unique wildlife specific to this remote ecosystem.
- There is also the opportunity to try and follow the tracks of the elusive “saltwater hippos”. These unique mammals of an extremely rare species live in the “saltwater” of the mangrove forests and can sometimes decide to go for a swim in the Ocean.
- Dinner and overnight in the Orango Parque Hotel.
Days 06 & 07 Tuesday & Wednesday – The Southern Islands – Orango – Poilão – Meio – Joao Vieira; Chez Claude
- Morning journey to the sacred village of Okinka Pampa hosting the graves of the queens, a fascinating place as these populations live as a matriarchal society.
- You then leave for an intrinsic two day sailing journey partly along « intertidal zones » zigzagging for kilometres among the islands and partly on the high seas to reach the southern islands hidden in the remotest part of the archipelago which became the « Marine National Park of Poilão and Joao Vieira », a sublime and unpolluted protected area that stretches over 495 Km² with pristine beaches and crystal clear Ocean.
- Discover Meio Island with its gulfs perfect for a swim and its forests all around appealing for walks where you will be the only humans around.
- In the afternoon of the second day you reach Poilao Island, considered one of the main sites where the Great Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia Midas) lay their eggs. Those who have seen this phenomenon liken it to the excitement and awesome awareness of encountering the Mountain gorillas of Uganda or Rwanda.
- After dark remain silent on the beach until this magical moment when the turtles emerge from the Ocean to dig deep holes in the sand and lay their many eggs. If you are lucky, you may be able to witness this wonder of nature and might even see the hatching of an egg with the tiny turtle coming out of it already looking for the Ocean to begin a long journey that will eventually end on this same island when maturity is reached.
- Dinner and overnight on Joao Vieira Island, “Chez Claude”, bungalows located on an impressive beach with private a bathroom.
Day 08 Thursday – Joao Vieira – Bubaque – Rubane Island; Chez Bob Fishing Club
- Enjoy a free morning to relax on the beach, to be introduced to deep-sea fishing (optional) or to take a nice walk on the island.
- In the afternoon sail to the Port of Bubaque Island considered the main island on the archipelago. There will be a visit its tiny museum which is dedicated to the different local cultures.
- Continue to Rubane Island.
- Dinner and overnight at the Chez Bob Fishing Club, with accommodation in bungalows with air-conditioning and private bathroom.
Day 09 Friday – Rubane – Ghost Capital City – Bolama Island – Bissau; Hotel Azalai
- Speed boat to reach Bolama Island, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941 at which time the capital was moved to Bissau.
- Arrival in the port of Bissau where a minibus will be waiting to take you on a city tour of Bissau, a small but intriguing city with its old Portuguese architecture and its huge fort reminiscent of the Slave Trade period.
- This capital town now has the awesome atmosphere of a ghost town.
- Picnic lunch and return to Bissau.
- Accommodation is in the four stars Hotel Azalai.
Day 10 Saturday – Bissau – Depart
- Today includes a minibus tour discovering the magical-animistic traditions of the Pepel people. You visit a “traditional clinic”, where healers cure their patients with a touch of magic combined with the invocation of the spirits, and a good knowledge of African ancestral herbs.
- In the evening, a few rooms will be waiting for you in a hotel of Baiana Square, the liveliest in town (especially on a Saturday night) for a last shower before your transfer to the airport.
- When the Portuguese left, native people came to live in this town, now falling apart, partly invaded with tropical vegetation. Bolama was built following the plans of a « Castrum Romane » (roman citadel). The city is made of large sunny and dreamy avenues, empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens, quaint administrative buildings and a governor palace made of neo-classic columns, amongst which goats peacefully wander.
Contact us for more details or for us to arrange your perfect itinerary.