The wonderful Bijagos Archipelago and its main island of Bubaque 🌴

Day 3 – The second stage Bijagos Archipelago and the island of Bubaque

The Bijagos Archipelago is guinea-Bissau's main attraction.
Indeed, it is the largest archipelago in the world with about more than 70 islands. It is one of the seas in the world with the most variety of fish and you can find in the islands turtles, hippos (very difficult to access), dolphins, Djikindors (pronounced ziguindor, we reserve that for the last article)

That's it, let's go!

After a 2 night wait in Bissau, it was time to set sail for the Bijagos archipelago.
But beware, many adventures await us.
We detail all this in this article.

How to get to Bubaque and the Bijagos archipelago?

To reach the archipelago from Bissau by boat, several options:

  • Take the Ferry: 15,000 FCFA (4h) Consulmar Shipping Company.
    Be careful, the boat does not pass every day of the week and the schedules are variable according to the tides.
  • Pirogue called "speed boat" – 4000 FCFA, rather for the return from Bubaque, did not have this information on the way to the port of Bissau
  • Use a private taxi boat : 60,000 FCFA – 100,000 FCFA
  • Find a pirogue of goods or fisherman at the port of Bambim – artisanal fishing port (go there by taxi – 500 FCFA from the main port of Bissau) – Price of the outward journey by fishing boat – 2500 FCFADemquest
    if there is a canoe that leaves for Bubaque to the fishermen.

Our adventure at sea

To go there, we chose the latter for a departure at 4am.
The fishermen welcomed us at their home just behind the port, to wait until 4am and rest before the start of the trip. Very beautiful moments of exchanges around an Ataya (Senegalese tea that is also found in Guinea and in the West African region).

A thought for our host Ebou who was very nice!

Thus, we started the departure so under a starry sky, lulled by the waves we were able to continue our night comfortably installed on bags of rice (our canoe was rather spacious for 7 people and not many goods, but you can end up with cattle and more people ..).
Awakened then by the sunrise in the open sea, be careful it twitches, and still the sea was rather calm, people suffering from seasickness abstain.

However, the crossing was to last 5 hours. But it took much longer than expected.
Indeed, we were stuck on a sandbank for almost 3 hours and had to wait for the tide to rise to leave.
This little adventure was not so unpleasant, we swam around the canoe, in crystal clear waters, and the crew of the canoe found in the surroundings a beautiful fish and a shark that they then cooked and tasted directly on the canoe!
A memorable 11-hour adventure!

Anecdotethe aperitif in the open sea : Guineans drink wine, whether on board a fisherman's canoe, a public canoe or in the ferry. As soon as the engine starts, they take out glasses and bricks of red wine! And let's go for the aperitif (whatever the time)!

Maybe to avoid getting seasick…

What to do/see in Bubaque – Bijagos Archipelago?

Bubaque is the base of the Bijagos, from this island you can then take other canoes or boats to visit the islands further away. It is also the "economic center" of the archipelago. 

The island is very pleasant, the locals are welcoming, several beautiful beaches and lively on weekends. Many Guineans go there on weekends to party and enjoy the beautiful beaches. The ferries are full! 

The contact to have on the island is George (who is at the big antenna towards the port), he is super friendly and he will help you! The coordinates to copy and paste into google maps 11.297810052736983, -15.827815750067572.

He rents bikes, tents, knows guides, and all the departure times of the week's canoes.

Activities:

  • Bicycles: 5,000 FCFA per bike per day. You can also rent them to visit another island by bike.
  • Beaches : 3 beautiful beaches in Bubaque :
    • Bruce : Beach at the other end of the island, count two good hours of cycling to get there but pleasant path, on a asphalt road we cross traditional villages with cashew trees (apple tree and cashew nuts).
      Bruce Beach is large, clean and stretches for miles, white sand, clear water. Perfect for picnicking. Hotel that also makes restaurant. 
      You can if you are lucky to see dolphins from the beach (see photo)! 
  • Cabrousse / Bijante : Go to the village of Bijante and turn left, 30 to 40 minutes from the port on foot. Ask the locals. The beach is visible on Maps.me (essential app with maps to download and can be used without internet).
    Beach favorite of the island. The sand is red, the water is crystal clear. There are mangroves and palm trees. It is a festival of color. 
  • Behind the airport for the sunset and aperitif

We couldn't go, access block because of covid. But it seems that there is a good atmosphere with a small concert in the evening sunset time. 

  • Plenty of other wild beaches if you try the small paths. Look on Maps me
  • Departure to other islands: As to come to Bubaque several possible formulas. Either in private speed boat and it costs an arm, it depends on the destination. This can be interesting if you are many (minimum 40,000 FCFA). Either in public canoe is the it costs nothing at all 1000 FCFA. 

Be careful to ask Georges the times and days of departure / return every day. Most often it is not regular and it can change depending on the tides. 

Where to stay/sleep in Bubaque?

You have the choice!
On our side, we went to Melchior, Saldomar!

Attention on Maps Me it is indicated in Bijante, but it is 5 min walk from the port by going up on the right.

Bed and breakfast format, the place is cozy, welcoming, and tastefully furnished with an incredible view of the islands. Perfect, to rest from a long journey with a book in one of the hammocks.
Direct beach access. 3 rooms only, so it's better to book before!

Spacious room with showers (16,000 FCFA) + breakfast. Shared toilets. (COVID rate may be higher in regular periods)
Excellent evening meal with a menu depending on the fishing and market of the day at 6,000 FCA. Pizza on request.
We stayed there for three nights. Only downside, WIFI access is limited and Melchior, the host is someone with a strong personality who talks a lot you have to have it in mind.

There are other addresses, with swimming pool "Dolphins", festive "Mango Lodge" …
At the other end of the island, Bruce Beach, there is a hotel, which overlooks the beachRoom
between 25,000 FCFA – 45,000 FCFA.

For the great adventurers, you can also bivouac on the beaches of the island.
Tent rental possible with Georges 5000 FCFA per night

Restaurants to eat in Bissau

  • Mango Lodge : correct price (3000 – 5000 FCFA per dish), heartyDiscuss
    with the boss "Mimi", she is full of good ideas for your stay and accommodating.
    Be careful she will tell you that it is dangerous or that you have to bring gifts to the islands. George who comes from canhabaque told us that everything was quiet which was the case no obligation and it is very welcoming.
  • Traditional restaurants at the port : (500-1000 FCFA per dish), rice and fish, red sauce (red name)
  • Bakery at the port: baguettes to make sandwiches before a walk
  • Saldomar : 6000 FCFA but the meal is of very good quality
  • Restaurant of the hotels

The rest of the adventure

After Bubaque, we opted for 3 nights of bivouac in Canhabaque without a guide. We didn't really have the choice to do less than 3 nights as there was no canoe back before. 

It was another extraordinary experience. we tell you everything in the next article

Reminder of some tips

  • Budget: for 2 weeks we spent about 500€ all inclusive per person. Depending on your activities or the accommodations you will take it can go up to 1000 €. there is something for every budget.
  • Time: to enjoy well it takes about 10 days. Especially because for the Bijagos Islands there are no departures every day and in Guinea-Bissau the journeys are very long.
  • Currency: For information, 10 000 FCFA = 15€ // 600 FCFA = 1€. In Guinea Bissau, CFA francs are used so you will be quiet if you come from Senegal! Otherwise you will have many banks in Bissau but on the Bijagos archipelago few ways to withdraw cash. (a person makes money transfers to an account in the UK, we have not tested but it is better to avoid I think).
  • Temperature: IT'S HOT but it's tenable remember to buy water and bring Lifestraw if possible to troubleshoot.
  • Wifi/Infrastructure: the country has poor infrastructure in general, wifi is not the best and not available everywhere. To have some (Bissau: Restaurant Kalliste, Bubaque: Mango Lodge). For the internet, we advise you to take a card in Bissau –> Between 500 FCFA and 1000 FCFA for first prices to receive at least calls.
  • In my suitcase I have … : Mosquito repellent, a Decathlon "meat bag", summer stuff, glasses cap, sunscreen, a headlamp, a Lifestraw

If you liked or have other tips to share feel free to comment on the article or join the facebook page or follow us on Instagram @jeanmichelvoyage

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