I traveled last month from Dakar to Ziguinchor, Senegal, on a modern ferry, the Aline Sitoe Diatta, which offers seating as well as cabins at a reasonable price. The ferry also accepts vehicles, including our Toyota Land Cruiser. The overnight ferry bypasses The Gambia. From Ziguinchor, we drove to the Guinea-Bissau border; and crossed without major problems. Please be advised that there are many checkpoints along the way in West Africa; and you can expect to make "payments" at some of those checkpoints. We left our vehicle at a hotel in Quinhamel, then boarded a chartered boat for travel to many of the Bijagos islands, including Uno, Orango, Poilao (to see Green Sea Turtles nest, as well as their hatchlings), Canhabaque (Ilha Roxa), Rubane and Bolama. I don't know how much the boat cost since it was paid by someone else. Lodging prices aren't cheap in the islands, as most visitors are there for sport fishing. Hope this helps.
Thanks for getting back to me.
I'll be relying on public transport such as bush taxi's and buses, but could you tell me how long the drive took from Ziguinchor to the border, and then how long onward travel would be to Quinhamel? (is that the best place to get a boat to the Islands)? That will give me an idea of how long it will take.
Any idea what the cheapest island logeing would be?Edited: 15 November 2015, 10:41
It took us a day to get from Ziguinchor to Canchungo and another day to get to Quinhamel. Of course, we stopped at several places along the way, including villages that are off the beaten path. I traveled with Alberto Nicheli in his Toyota Land Cruiser. Based in Lome, Togo, Nicheli's an expert on the Sahara and West Africa, having traveled throughout the region for more than three decades. He's the founder of TransAfrica, based in Lome.
Quinhamel is a good place to hire a boat. The Orango Parque Hotel on Orango island also has a boat there. In Quinhamel, we stayed at the Hotel Mar Azul, which is on the water. But if you're looking to take public transportation to the islands, then Bissau might be a better jumping off point. As mentioned before, lodging prices aren't cheap; and there aren't many choices, if any. On the mainland, some hotels aren't in town, but several kilometers outside. You have to drive over dirt roads to get to them, such as Casa Canchungo in Canchungo and Hotel Mar Azul in Quinhamel. Guinea-Bissau isn't your usual tourist destination. In fact, there are very few tourists. Many people who visit come for sport fishing. The waters are teeming with fish.
Once in Guinea-Bissau, how do you plan to get out? Will you retrace your journey and return overland to Senegal? Will you fly from Bissau to Casablanca or Dakar? The two major airlines that serve Bissau are Royal Air Maroc and Air Senegal. The fares aren't cheap. TAP, the Portuguese airline, no longer flies to Guinea-Bissau. Locals can tell you why.
NIcheli advises not proceeding into Guinea-Conakry. Although the Ebola epidemic has abated, people in the region also will tell you that travel in Guinea-Conakry remains difficult for a variety of reasons, including armed "bandits."
Also, as you travel through West Africa, you can expect to encounter numerous checkpoints manned by police and others. Expect to make "payments" to some.
West Africa is a wonderful place. The people are friendly; and it's an amazing place to experience different cultures. I plan to return next year. So don't be discouraged. But know that travel there isn't as easy as in many other places, such as Europe and Asia. You have to be flexible; and have your wits about you. And you have to have time, and some money, to get the most out of your travel there.
One more thing. You can get a Guinea-Bissau visa at the consulate in Ziguinchor, Senegal. You will need to fill out an application, provide one passport photo; and a photocopy of your passport's main page. The cost of a 30-day single-entry visa is 20,000 XOF. A visa that's valid for a year will cost 60,000 XOF. You get the visa almost immediately. Hope this helps.
Which car hire company did you use for this trip? We are hoping to drive from Dakar through Senegal and into Gambia before back into Senegal to Cap Skirring and over into Guinea Bissau at the end of November
Also which charter boat company did you use to get you from Bissau and around the Bijagos? Was it ok to leave your car at a hotel in Bissau... What are your thoughts on the Bijagos? Worth seeing?
Waters teeming with fish you say? Are there any good snorkeling spots you can recommend?
I've had a quick look at accommodation. Based on the prices on their website (which doesn't look like its been updated since 2011!), Hotel Casadora looks nice and seems to be within the upper reaches of my budget:
Any other suggestions?
I stayed at Casa Dora in February. This is definitely one of the best in Bubaque. Food and accommodation was excellent and one lady that worked there spoke very good english. We were very lucky and found this place by accident.
Cost if I remember correctly was around 17-18000 CFA per night.
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