Replies: 9 - Last Post: Apr 21, 2013 3:58 PM Last Post By: almondy23
Dec 5, 2012 3:37 AM
Guinea-Bissau tipsRoute covered: Ziguanchore (Senegal)-Bissau-Bijagos-Bissau-Bafata-Gabu-Labe (Guinea-Conakry)
Visited: Bissau, Bijagos, Bafata and Gabu
Feb 2012 (BEFORE the coup!)
Lovely, like everywhere else in West Africa.
Everyone with basic education should be speaking Portuguese. Some French spoken by those employed in tourist industry. English almost non-existent among ordinary folks, but spoken in more upmarket establishments in Bissau and Bijagos.
Safe and friendly, NB: I visited the country BEFORE coup d’etat took place earlier this year! I’m sure that ordinary citizens are still nice and friendly - don’t know about the uniformed officials these days.
Changed my Euros in Ecobank, pretty much straightforward procedure. Noticed ATM in front of the bank, but had no opportunity to use it. All travellers that I met came loaded with Euros or with CFAs from Senegal.
Eateries and fast food places are almost non-existent. Westernised restaurants in Bissau with western food are bad value for money. Hotel restaurants in Bubaque can be good. Street food also almost non-existent if you exclude bananas, oranges and home made greasy donuts. Food, or everything that one wants to eat and drink, is expensive for being imported from Senegal and even as far as Portugal. Food in general is a poor value for money.
The county has no electricity grid and the light comes from privately owned generators! Usually between 6 or 7pm until midnight. Sometimes all night long electricity provided in Bubaque.
Orange seems to be the only mobile internet provider in the country and the service can be erratic. I don’t think there is fixed line broadband high speed internet in Bissau, and I’m certain there isn’t one in Bubaque.
The sight of camera pointed at people can provoke angry reactions, Bijagos in particular. Always ask for permission before taking a pic. Taking pics of military installations, bridges and state buildings carries risks of getting into serious trouble.
The road from Ziguinchore to Bissau is in a very good condition. Bissau-Bafata-Gabu is paved throughout. Gabu-Labe (Guinea-Conakry) via Foula-Mori is a nightmare. Luggage fees are 20-25% of the ticket cost and for the Gabu-Labe ride the asking price goes up to 50% of the ticket cost, but this is negotiable. No overcrowding on sept places in Guinea-Bissau - very different story on the Gabu-Labe ride via Foula-Mori.
The safest option of getting from Bissau to Bubaque is by taking the big scheduled ferry. It will depart on Fridays from Bissau at no fixed time and will sail to Bugaque in high tides. It sails in all sort of weather condition and it has GPS. Back to Bissau from Bubaque on Sundays. The big ferry SHOULD depart once more during the week to bring fuel and supplies to Bubaque from the mainland. This departure is NOT scheduled and it could depart as short as two hours notice. This ferry usually returns to Bissau as soon as it offloads the cargo at Bubaque. The ferry terminal is close to the cargo terminal, maybe 10-15 min walk east from Pdjiguiti.
Possible to catch a speed boat as they take package tourists sometimes to the islands, usually to Bubaque and Rubane, but I know it is possible to get on one to as far as Orango, just a matter of luck. Speed boats should be fine at rough(er) seas, but still check the weather conditions before taking one!
I would recommend this option only and if ONLY the weather conditions are exceptional! The best indicator would be the wind and if there is ANY of it on the mainland (or the islands) then take NO pirogue at all! Pirogues do not sail in harmattan anyway. More on my pirogue experiences below. Public pirogues from Bissau to Bubaque depart from Pdjiguiti.
Would not recommend these even for the 10 min ride from Bubaque to Rubane.
Continued from my tips on Senegal:
We had a sept place people carrier from Zig-Bissau. The sept place will depart at 7.30 or 8am to coincide with the border crossing opening times. It was 4000cfa + 1500cfa for luggage.
The trip would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the GB immigration officer making fuss because the Senegalese businessmen didn't have documentations for their laptops with them.
Dropped off at Bissau’s ground transportation terminal (paragem), maybe some 3km from central Bissau, then shared taxi to the cetre.
The accommodation was difficult to sort when I arrived as the Hungarians from the Budapest-Bamako rally ended up for some reason in Bissau on that day. Managed to find room in Residencial Tropicana opposite Jordani, don’t remember the price maybe 10k CFA, but much cheaper than Jordani which was full and so was Pensao Creola. Out of curiosity I asked when the room is going to be available in Pensao Creola as I didn’t mind changing my accommodation or maybe staying there after I was done with Bijagos, but they appeared not to be taking any advance bookings. Someone else told me about the same experience and this is because they cater to NGOs and foreigners who are paying for longer-term accommodation. Don’t understand why Rough Guides and Lonely Planet feature this accommodation in their publications at all if this is true. Pensao Centrale, the one next to cathedral, is now closed. I’d recommend staying in Central Bissau if you intend to visit Bijagos as you’d need to run down to harbour(s) every few hours or so if you miss the Friday’s scheduled big ferry.
Ate at Kalliste restaurant at Praca Che Guevara, nothing special and not cheap either, but at least they had a decent choice of meals. They have wifi, worked twice out of three times I went there. French Cultural Centre, also at Praca Che Guevara, has also wifi for a fee, but it didn’t work properly when I visited - they gave me my money back.
Butiques were all well stocked and some of them have generators running 24/7 which means COLD DRINKS are available for purchase.
Taxis are CFA500 per pax per ride in central Bissau, maybe CFA1000 for destinations like paragem for travelling to other destinations on mainland Guinea-Bissau.
Get your postcards stamps at the main post office facing the cathedral. Don’t know where to buy postcards in Bissau though. The only postcards I came across were in Bubaque’s Kasa Africana, free from their bar.
Guinea-Conakry visa can be issued on the spot, the same day or the day after applying for it. Pain free at a cost of CFA30000 valid for one month. Just make sure you have the right documentation so you’re not sent away to make copies and speak a little FR at least. I confirm this info was correct when I applied for my visa:
Warning: MAKE SURE THAT EVERY CELL ON THE VISA STICKER IS FILLED IN BY THE CONSUL, i.e. nothing is left blank, as someone somewhere in Guinea-Conakry may use the possible admin error/discrepancy against you and, of course, ask for the correction fee.
Bissau is a nice place to explore for a few hours, old town in particular; sad evidence from the civil war is everywhere, former Grand Hotel and the old Presidential Palace being the most impressive. Fortaleza d’Amura looks nice from outside and I caught a glimpse of what’s inside from the gates at Av. 12 Setembro. This is a military installation not accessible to tourists and photography is out of question.
Getting there and back to Bissau
See my posts on different modes of water transportation above.
Departures from Bissau to Bubaque by public pirogue are numerous, but they all depend of tides and interest. You will need to visit the harbour often if you miss the Friday ferry, but that’s OK, Pdjiguiti is only 10 min walk from the city centre and the ferry and cargo terminals are 10-15 min further away to the west. It is also possible to hitch a speed boat chartered by whoever and for whatever reason. You may need to contribute and share costs, but sometimes they take you for free. Speed boats use both cargo terminal and Pdjiguiti harbour. I made three visits to the harbour before securing my transportation. My arch-accommodation-enemy from the night before turned into best friends and took me with them on a speed boat to Rubane. They actually recognised my efforts for helping with French and filling in application form for the Guinea-Conakry visa earlier in the same morning, so there we go.
Coming back from Bijagos to Bissau is easier to organise as every vessel from Bubaque departs from their small harbour. The scheduled ferry departs to Bissau on Sundays. The scheduled public pirogues depart several times a week.
Getting around Bijagos
The ideal way to visit Bijagos would be by sailing through the archipelago on a boat or yacht, mooring wherever you wish to do so, swimming, fishing, making short excursions to islands’ interiors etc. The other option, the one I was hoping to realise, was 7-10 days cruising around on Queen of Africa. It is not cheap, but the amount of time and inconvenience saved would be really worth it. Queen of Africa is for now out of service unfortunately, so I had to settle for much cheaper but time-consuming options described below.
There are scheduled public pirogues from Bubaque to islands of Canhabaque, Uno and Orango and their departures, of course, depend on tides. There are also numerous unscheduled pirogues and canoas to these islands as well as to some other islands in the archipelago. It was even possible to hitch a lift to Joao Viera national park on their staff boat - I found this out when waiting for hours for my Canhabaque pirogue. You may get lucky and get the boat within a couple of hours of making an inquiry, but moving between islands on public pirogue is likely to consume the whole day sometimes: going to the harbour, waiting for the boat, sailing, spending time at stopovers, sometimes getting stuck off coast of your destination waiting for high tides, not to mention regular engine breakdowns.
Travelling on public pirogue with locals is great. They’ll quickly adopt you especially on longer rides and in situations that you have to wait for hours on end like at stopovers, waiting for engine to be fixed or waiting for high tides so you can disembark without having to swim with your backpack. These waits can be really long so biscuits and drinking water are must haves!
Warning: one should really consider taking a public pirogue only if the weather conditions are really good, e.g. no wind on the islands should mean calm seas. The first indication of bad conditions in the dry season would be the high clouds, hazy sunshine and light winds. It just gets ugly and misty on the islands in harmattan with a c.5C drop in temperature and this is nothing to be worried about, hopefully you’re stuck somewhere with plenty of food. The sea is the problem as the waves can get really nasty. The harmattan period doesn’t have a regular occurrence patterns, but when it happens it tends to last 7-10 days. Public pirogues won’t be sailing in extreme conditions. My ride from Bubaque to Canhabaque was very smooth in perfectly calm water and so was from Bubaque to Orango via Uno. Orango to Uno was a bit rough on the second day of harmattan; from Uno to Bubaque was very choppy on the same day, but the boat was good with a great crew. They try to sail in the late afternoon, tides permitting, at the beginning of harmattan as the winds are always lighter at that time of the day. My last ride on the public pirogue was something that I don’t want to remember. The attempt to reach Bissau on the third day of harmattan had to be abandoned as soon as we passed Rubane’s SE shores. The boat started shaking sideways violently, and at one point we thought we had it. The crew then decided to abandon the attempt probably influenced by shrieking passengers from the back. Thank heavens for that as I saw two days later how horrible the waves were once in open water in between Rubane and Bissau. I had to spend two extra days in Bubaque before hitching a speed boat to Bissau. And a fortunate thing was to be stuck in Bubaque and not somewhere else in Bijagos.
Before I forget, luggage goes missing on pirogue stopovers. It’s not a theft, but a sheer mess of some passengers alighting and others getting on. Also, in many instances the cargo is not accompanied by its owner so the pirogue crew is sometimes too keen to bow over to demanding receivers on the shores in order to sail away as quickly as possible. Watch your backpack at stopovers as it will be probably stored away from the piece of wood you’ll be sitting at. Don’t bother taking individual small bags on pirogue trips if those can’t be with you for the duration of the trip - they will most certainly go missing or be forgotten on the boat in the disembarkation frenzy.
See also this very accurate post on boats around Bijagos, but bear in mind that the time of the day is not set in stone - the departure/arrival does coincide with high tides:
Dangers and inconveniences in Bijagos
Not one beach is without these in Bijagos. Unwary foreigners shout when they’re stung and then the reality kicks in that you could be next. The locals carry the most obvious evidence of attacks, children in particular. The safest way to enter the water is to stump your way in and start swimming as soon as the water gets to knee level. Saw others doing this and it worked. Or follow other swimmers’ footsteps where possible or local children splashing in shallows. Someone said that the areas around mangroves are particularly bad for stingrays. Not sure if this true, but the only stingray attack I witnessed did indeed happen next to mangroves.
Saw no snakes on main roads, beaches or frequented paths, but did see them off beaten trek though. Those are green mambas, long, fast and the second most poisonous snake in Africa and they’d usually disappear long before you realise one was there. It says somewhere these snakes are usually seen on trees, but locals told me they are everywhere and I did see them with my own eyes on the ground too. I had a two-metre long dead palm branch, stripped of its leaves for the length of (some left on the top of the branch) and that was my best friend when venturing off beaten trek. Everything ran away from me and it proved to be useful for spider webs too. Wonder if it would look too weird on the beach if I used it to scare off stingrays as well?
It seems that everything revolves around tides in Bijagos. Swimming and sailing usually possible for a couple of hours before and after the high(est) tide. Inconveniencing at first, but easy to get used to high tide timings after 2-3 days spent in the archipelago. Example of approximate timings for daylight high tides when I was there: Mon 15.30 (3.30PM), Tue 16.45, Wed 17.30, Thu 18.00, Fri 19.00, Sat 08.00 (08.00AM), Sun 08.30, Mon 09.15 etc.
This is more of a nuisance than anything else. The first sign of harmattan is this light wind and a c.5C drop in temperature - it is a welcome relief from the heat though. Then the high clouds broaden and the wind increases. Everything is covered in mist on the third day with hazy sunshine, if any. It’s an interesting contrast to exotic and picture perfect image of Bijagos, but one get quickly get bored with it. Then the winds weaken, but it takes an additional few days for mist to disappear. Witnessed two bouts of harmattan in the six-week period spent in W Africa lasting around a week per episode. Both provided welcoming drop in temperature, but turned landscapes, views in particular, very ugly. See above about the sea travel during the harmattan periods. My advice would be to wait for the decent weather conditions if in Bissau at the begging of the harmattan period or to get to Bubaque as quickly as possible if you happen to be on another island in the archipelago. It’s better to be stuck in Bubaque with some comfort around - remember that there could be very little to buy on some of the islands.
Bottled water is available widely in Bubaque. It wasn’t possible to buy one in Canhabaque. The boutique in Orango may or may not have one for sale and it depends if the boutiques owner is around. Uno had quite a few boutiques. Would advise to carry water purifying tablets in case you have to get some water from locals - they came useful in Canhabaque.
It was here that I was brought by my Hungarian friends on the speedboat from Bissau and it was like arriving in paradise. Decided to spoil myself and stay for one night at Bob’s Fishing Village. €50 per night + €12 for the dinner. I had no breakfast as I had to leave at 7.30AM, I think the breakfast costs around CFA3000. The Bob Fishing Village complex is at an idyllic location set at the south-eastern tip of the island and the owners are really really nice people - hospitable, helpful and knowledgeable. Swimming is good in the high tide on the beach downstairs from the hotel’s terraces. The couple of hours hike through the woods north of the hotel and up to the body of water (kind of a small bay) is great, beware of the snakes though. Came back to the hotel long(er) way round by following the coastline in low tide. Bob’s Fishing Village has wi-fi, but it was too slow when I was there.
Rubane is beautiful and it can be visited on a day trip from Bubaque. Bob’s fishing village will take you for a day trip from Bubaque for the price of lunch at their place. Arrange this through Casa Dora in Bubaque. Or just be at Bubaque’s harbour first thing in the morning as Rubane’s hotel staff uses the same boat to get there from Bubaque. It takes only 10 min to reach Rubane and this service, as well as numerous other unscheduled boats, appears to be available in all weather conditions. The water between Rubane and Bubaque doesn’t seem to swell too bad in the harmattan periods.
I stayed at Casa Dora and this was the best move I did while in Bijagos. Not only that the accommodation was good, but also the staff, Dora and her daughters Susanna and Gloria, were phenomenal. They helped me with everything I needed to know on moving around Bijagos and getting organised as well being kind, patient and sympathetic when the boats were not sailing in when harmattan struck. They provided regular updates on the possible unscheduled ferry visit. They managed (after two days of being stuck in Bubaque) to put me for free on Bob’s Fishing Village speedboat to Bissau which was picking up some Portuguese TV crew for filming around Bijagos - nice! Susanna and Gloria don’t volunteer info as they’re shy to talk in English (I think), but do ask and they’ll probably be able to help. The cost per room is CFA15000 and this include breakfast. The cost will go down to CFA10000 per night if staying for three nights or more - make sure you ask for this option. Dinner is good, but needs to be pre-booked Mon-Thu.
Bubaque town is worth a stroll - lots of derelict buildings. Harbour is the most atmospheric area and the bars in the harbour are where you go out at night for a drink. Hotels usually open their restaurants in the evening. The food in Bubaque is good. Lots of well stocked boutiques. The choice of street food, like everywhere else in Guinea-Bissau, is disappointing. Electricity after dark up to midnight. Internet shop is open between 7pm and 10pm and it is located diagonally from the former Chez Raoul. Internet speed is variable and their laptops are old, some with FR keyboard setting - be early and prepare to wait. Also, the place was infested with mosquitoes so slap on some mossie repellent.
Bubaque’s ‘town beach’ is kind of OK stretch of sand with very calm waters and it’s possible to swim only in high tides, of course. That is unless you fancy traversing long almost mudlike sands in order to reach water in lower tides. The only incident of stingray attack I witnessed happened close to mangroves at the far end of the beach.
Hire a bike at Kasa Africana (5000 or 7000 CFA per day, don’t remember) for a better beach experience. Praia da Bruce is 14km away from Bubaque, 15km the most (and not in excess of 20km as per some info posted here!). It takes an hour of easy cycling to reach the beach. The southern bit is at least 5km long and the beach continues northwards for another 2km after reaching the bend at the island’s most SE point. The ride to the beach is nice in itself with kids greeting brancos along the way. We were four brancos and the only people enjoying the beach that day. Only two other people were seen for the duration of our stay at the beach - locals collecting some dead wood. Take all food and water with you needed for the day. Praia da Bruice is great for a swim in high tides, if slightly unnerving for churning grey sands which makes it impossible to spot stingrays. We liked to believe that stomping when entering the water really did work as none of us got attacked. Riding the bike on wet sands in low tides on Praia da Bruce is great too.
The cycling back to Bubaque town in the dusk would have been beautiful if it wasn’t for swarms of mossies biting even whilst cycling.
Giles, manager/owner?, of Casa Africana was friendly and helpful unlike some other staff member encountered the night before. Bit snobbish feel about the place. Sponsored but free postcards are available from their bar. These are the only postcards I’ve seen in Guinea-Bissau.
Mixed feelings about visiting Canhabaque. Public pirogue (scheduled) at least twice a week - I travelled on the Wednesday one for CFA1000 (one way). Pirogue returns to Bubaque the day after it arrives in Canhabaque. It was seven brancos travelling on that pirogue.
Confused if Canhabaque (Kanyabakeh) or Roxa (Roshah)? Better use Canhabaque as only those in tourism industry will know the meaning of Roxa.
The pirogue ride was smooth in the most pleasant of late afternoons, but the engine broke down several times and it finally died close to the beach some 8km far from Indena. The evacuation procedure was efficient (we’re all in this together) in the nicest of sunsets on the sandiest of beaches. Greeted by locals on arrival and arranged the guide to take us to Indena.
The 8km moonlit hike to Indena was unforgettable and the village was buzzing with activity in darkness at around 9pm. Activities like kids playing outdoors in moonlight. There is no electricity in Indena and no hotel beds either - you’ll most probably be put for night with locals. Ask to be taken to Neto, Portuguese language teacher, who will be able to arrange something for you if he’s not able to put you for the night in his place. We were told in Bubaque not to give money, but to take a little hamper with us maybe to include soap, tooth paste, biscuits etc. Some brancos were taking alcohol with them as thanks for the provided accommodation. My personal feeling is that this situation of not giving money for accommodation is about to change. Some land has been cleared for building of simple huts for tourist accommodation.
We had enough time to take a couple of hikes in the following morning to the village close to Indena and through the island interior. The beach closest to Indena is some 5km away and it was too far to hike in midday heat.
The beach where we landed was nice and so were others that we saw from the boat to and from Canhabaque. However, some of the stingray scars that kids had on their feet and ankles were really bad - infected for not being treated properly. Some as a result of infection had a slight deformation of the lower part or the leg and the foot itself! See above on dangers of stingrays.
Canhabaque was an OK experience, not sure it was worth all the effort to be honest. The best thing was the rawness and simplicity of the place. Word of warning: some may find the curiosity factor overwhelming as the kids will not leave you alone for one minute of your stay. Nothing bad like begging - they just want to be your friends, talk in Portuguese and teach you the local language.
Also, the boutique in Indena was the worst stocked I came across in Bijagos. They didn’t have bottled water so we filled ours with the water the locals drink and used water-purifying tablets.
Most independent travellers visit Orango with one thing in mind: to see saltwater dwelling hippos. This really need not to be the case as the island seemed like a place where one can spend several days and enjoy beaches as well as its beautiful interior. Orango was different to other islands - it resembled more of a savannah with long yellow grass and its clear open spaces which is in contrast to island interiors of Bubaque and Canhabaque. Also, there seems to be more sand in Orango’s interior compared to other islands - not sure how wise it would be to bring the bike to the island. Basic Portuguese is desirable if not essential.
Getting there from Bubaque is pretty much straight forward. There is a public pirogue on Sat stopping over at Uno (CFA1500 one way) - the stopover at Uno may or may not take forever. Mine stopover was OK, even though the Catholic mission had a third of all pirogue’s cargo that day which needed to be offloaded in Uno. See Moving around Bijagos above on missing luggage at stopovers. Getting to Orango from Uno was a quick one-hour crossing, but we needed to wait for two more hours for tide to rise for safe disembarkation. I became friends with locals in these stages of waiting and waiting and waiting. The crewmembers were great and spoke Portuguese. I was the only branco on board.
It is worth asking around for any unscheduled pirogues or speedboats to Bubaque or even Bissau for stays longer than two nights but shorter than nine nights. It’s relatively safe to rely on the scheduled public pirogue to take you back to Bubaque on Mondays. I left my luggage in Bubaque and took only bare necessities with me as I knew I would stay for two nights only.
I’d do things differently if I’m about to repeat the trip: I’d make Orango the last place to visit in Bijagos, would take the entire luggage with me and would plan staying up to seven days basing myself in Eticoga. Eticoga is the only place where you can get information about all you need to know on Orango including getting away from it too. Orango is a national park and there are frequent speedboats to Bissau used either by tourists or park staff. The hotel would be the place to make inquiries.
As I mentioned, Orango is a national park and it’s famed for its saltwater dwelling hippos. Brancos arrive as a part of an organised boatload from Bissau and sometimes from Bubaque. They stay at Orango Parque Hotel, the only hotel on the island which is run by the national park. They get a chartered boat from the hotel with a guide then see (or do not see) the hippos and off they go back to where they came from.
Sadly, the park officials don’t differentiate between the organised-tour-visiting-branco and the independent-travel-minded-branco in Orango. You’re expected to be behaving and spending the branco way by the park officials and the absolute minimum for your two days stay will be amounting to the following:
CFA140000 for accommodation in Orango Parque Hotel (70k per night)
CFA23000 per place on the boat to Anor (possibly more in case of low interest) - this should include the guide costs
CFA6000 entrance fee to the park
Total CFA170k which is a lot of money for a two night stay!
No idea what food, if any, is included in the accommodation costs, but I had a coffee at the hotel’s terrace and the hotel menu prices didn’t look more expensive than in Bissau’s restaurants.
Fortunately, there is still a way around this nonsense, for now at least. I met a couple travelling on a shoestring in Bubaque who just came back from Orango. I didn’t understand at first what was the purpose of them visiting Orango if they stayed only in Eticoga and made no excursions around. Then I realised they had bikes with them - bikes were, of course, expected to be of use for transportation around the island, but the sand probably made the bike rides very difficult. Anyway, it was good to meet them to pick up some tips on accommodation, food and water.
I went straight to Eticoga after disembarkation on the beach close to the village. Eticoga is a nice and big village. The local kids will know that you’re in search of boutique and they’ll point to the right directions. Valdinho (Val-dee-nyo) Joao is the boutique owner who will be able to put you in touch with Dona Ana for accommodation. The boutique is basic, but it had those sometimes essential cans of the horrible processed meat, sardines tins, biscuits, sweets and bottled water. In contrast to Canhabaque, the curiosity factor is almost non-existent. You’re nicely greeted by all, kids are polite, but nobody seemed to have been too much bothered for branco being around.
Accommodation at Dona Ana CFA5000 per night is very very basic but not terrible - very centrally located (!?). Her meals are at around CFA1000 per plate of maffe and the food was OK. The only thing is that you must ask what meat she’s using to prepare the evening’s maffe if you don’t want to end in situation of remembering your maffe for all wrong reasons until the rest of your life - not saying anything else on this occasion. Also, Dona Ana being a women in Bijagos, that is, loud and authoritative, will get rid of the park officials in case they bother. They sometimes come telling you that it’s illegal to stay in private accommodation and trying to persuade you to stay in the hotel. Nobody bothered me, but it did happen to the shoestring travelling couple I met in Bubaque.
Now, the purpose of me visiting Orango was to get to know another island in Bijagos and not to enter mad chase of salt water dwelling hippos. I went there in February when chances of seeing hippos are slim as the water retreats in January from the hippo creeks in the south of the island. There is some basic accommodation in Anor run by national park close to the hippo creeks for the persistent and those with plenty of time on hand. No idea about the cost.
Below is what I did in Orango.
Day 1: arrival, Eticoga, accommodation sorted and the hike arranged. Valdinho, the boutique owner, happens to be born and raised in Anor where the hippo observation stations are and I asked him to act as my guide to the village the following day. The cost for his services were CFA7000. He also arranged the payment of CFA6000 to the park official so nobody asks for more money or bothered on the following day.
Day 2: Hike starts at 7am from Eticoga to Anor and it takes you through some really beautiful landscapes: sand clearances, savannah plains, mangroves, shallow swamps, forested bits and villages. The array of birds you see in the morning is amazing.
The hike is something between 12 and 14km - definitely not 18km as they claim in Eticoga or 20km as in some guidebooks! It took us 2.5 hours to get there with one short break as Valdinho is a fast walker, but so am I.
Anor is another village typical for Orango where locals go about their business; carpenters work on those lightweight kinds of coffee tables and stools made of wicker and where pygmy goats are cared for by children. I was taken to one of the stations where hippos are know to appear, but all we saw there were hippos footprints.
Then we went to another station through more beautiful landscapes. No hippos to be seen over there either so I decided we have a half an hour break at the viewing cabin in preparation for our hike back. Lots of beautiful birds though. Then something started moving in the canal of water maybe 50m away: hippo! Then the second one, the third, and another one popped up - eight in total! I had my small binoculars with me for a better view and they looked really nice. Not sure what, if any difference, there is between the salt dwelling and the fresh water hippo, but there we go: huge beautiful animals parading right before your eyes. There was a crocodile swimming in the same body of water after the hippos were gone.
Then back to Eticoga for a late afternoon on the beach. Coffee at Orango Parque Hotel. The terrace bar had a book on Birds of West Africa and you’ll be able to recognise many from your Bijago’s experience.
Orango - Uno - Bubaque
Orango, other issues:
Valdinho can be reached on 681 3491 or 538 3642. He really walks very fast, but I’m sure he’ll slow down on request. After all, it’s you who’s paying for the tourist guide service so don’t be shy to ask him to slow down.
Another option could be to do the hike from Eticoga to Anor by yourself. The trek is easy and the only potentially confusing bit is the fork maybe 2km away from Eticoga - take the right direction and confirm with locals if you’re on the right path to Anor. Then arrange accommodation with the park officials to stay in the purpose built construction. No idea how it works with the entrance fee once there and more importantly, not sure if you have to take the guide with you to the hippo creeks. The nature around Anor is nice and hospitable, but really not sure how safe it would be, if possible at all, to be around the hippo creeks with no guide with you. This option could be ideal for those whose sole intention of coming to Orango is to see hippos as the viewing stations are c.20 min away from Anor.
We stopped there on the way from Orango to Bubaque. The village close to the port is nice with forested avenues and heaps of activity. It was the most unlikely place to meet the geography teacher who never ventured further than Bissau and spoke surprisingly decent English! He told me that Uno’s beaches are not as nice as in the other islands.
Really wanted to see this island as it sounded interesting in my guidebook, but run out of will and patience due to my harmattan pirogue rides experiences.
Bubaque - Bissau
The attempt to reach Bissau on the third day of harmattan had to be abandoned as soon as we passed Rubane’s SE shores. The boat started shaking sideways violently and at one point we thought we had it. The crew then decided to abandon the attempt probably influenced by shrieking passengers seated at the back. Thank heavens for that as I saw two days later how horrible the waves were once in open waters in between Rubane and Bissau. I had to spend two extra days in Bubaque before hitching a speedboat to Bissau. It’s better to be stuck in Bubaque with some comfort around - remember that there could be very little to buy on some of the islands.
It took more than one hour to fill up sept place for Bafata at paragem in Bissau. CFA2400 for the ride and 500 extra for the luggage. Good road.
Was planning to stay overnight in Bafata, but changed my mind and found a couple of hours sightseeing sufficient. It’s nice with some lovely architecture; the ghost town look is something that adds to the charm rather than repels.
Bafata-Gabu the same day. CFA800 and nothing extra for luggage. They pick you up on the way to Bafata’s paragem then they pick up more pax along the main road. Road from Bafata to Gabe is in good condition too.
Gabu is an ugly mess, but the evening market atmosphere is nice. Limited choice of food establishments like everywhere else in Guinea-Bissau. That meat cooked in paper bags is OK, but there seems to be more bones than meet for the dinner. Stayed at Hotel Vision, convenient, it’s only 5 min walk from paragem for Guinea-Conakry. CFA10000 for a very spacious and clean room, had to use my insecticide spray before settling in though and mosquito burning coils after as mossies come back through the glassless windows.
Gabu-Labe (via Foulamori)
It’s possible to get a direct shared taxi from Gabu all the way to Labe via Foulamori. This is what I did and I’m glad I did it, but would not recommend it. It’s simply too long and uncomfortable. I would recommend getting to Koundara, then break the journey and continue to Labe from Koundara the following day. More on the Gabu-Labe via Foulamori experiences in my Guinea-Conakry tips:
Dec 6, 2012 8:26 AM
Dec 8, 2012 2:33 AM
Dec 8, 2012 3:16 AM
Dec 9, 2012 12:18 AM
Dec 12, 2012 1:46 PM
Jan 18, 2013 12:42 AM
6For the visa's of Guinea, GB, SL, Liberia, Cote d'Ivorie, Burkina-Faso, Ghana .... how much space do they take in the passport ... are they type (a) or (b) ?:
(a) adhesive sticker/label taking 1 full page?
(b) ink-stamp taking 1/2 page, 1/2 page or full page ?
Hope someone replies soon as i'm in Senegal attempting to reach Ghana .
Trying to visit as many countries as possible and include Mali, because , apparently, Mali is the only country in West Africa which Nigerian embassy will give visa.
Will attempt to get Ghana visa here in Senegal , on Monday.
many thanks for any info.
Jan 19, 2013 4:10 AM
7Guinea Bissau visa is a full page sticker if you get it in Dakar.
It may depend on which city you get the visa. At the very least you should assume they will be a full page. Burkina was a full page stamp, Sierra Leone actually gave a half page stamp on arrival at the airport, Ghana gave a full page sticker but that was in the US...
Feb 8, 2013 2:04 PM
8#5 bit less than three weeks
#6 Guinea Conakry visa is a full page sticker too
Apr 21, 2013 3:58 PM
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