Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau Explorer

Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau Explorer

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


An intriguing journey touching the edge of the Western Sahara and down to the Bijagos Archipelago. We begin by travelling north through Senegal, reaching the border with Mauritania and the Djoudj National Park, a natural oasis composed of hundreds of miles of partially flooded land. We cross the Gambian estuary by ferry to Banjul and continue to our hotel, where the grounds are home to over 100 species of birds, and monkeys roam free. We continue our exploration of Senegal with visits to nomadic tribes and sacred towns before crossing into Guinea-Bissau. This is one of the smallest, and least visited, countries in Africa. Few western travellers make it to this former Portuguese colony, but those that do return full of incredible experiences and memories of a stunning part of the continent. Depending on the date of your tour, in Guinea-Bissau you will either experience turtle nesting, tribal carnivals or the wild bull mask dancing.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●● | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●○○ (November and December) Wildlife ●●○○○ (for other times of the year)

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • Exceptional cultural experiences such as meeting the largest African religious brotherhood
  • An introduction to animistic traditions, tribal kings and other ethnic groups
  • Experience ever changing landscapes from the edge of the Sahara to the Bijagos archipelago
  • Excellent wildlife spotting opportunities in season
  • Prolific birdlife in Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
  • Explore the charming old town of Saint Louis in Senegal
  • See traditional African architecture in the Diola Kingdom
  • Navigate through the islands of the Bijagos Archipelago

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable hotel accommodation, camping and 1 night on-board a ship
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum group size 16 (On this tour you may be joined by travellers from companies other than Undiscovered Destinations). See notes below.
Start Point: Dakar
End Point: Bissau - please book flights after 1930hrs
Transport: Minibus, 4x4 Vehicles, Calash, local taxi, ferry, ship and local motorised canoe.
Countries: Guinea Bissau, Gambia and Senegal

Group Size – Important Information

The maximum group size for this tour is 16. The group will be led by an experienced local guide and dedicated transport will be provided. As tourism facilities in West Africa are limited and some tours including those that include a festival can be popular, it should be noted that on occasions other tour groups will be travelling in the region and may be following the same or a similar itinerary. They may also be staying at the same hotels.

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1- Arrival in Dakar

Arrive in Dakar and transfer to your hotel. Overnight at Hotel Djoloff or similar.


Located on the Cap Vert peninsula and Africa’s westernmost city, Dakar is thriving, colourful, and lively providing the first real experience of urban West Africa on this trip. Brash and often uncompromising, it was once one of the major cities of the French Empire and today is home to over a million people. With busy traffic and street vendors everywhere, Dakar is a world away from the rest of Senegal. Nearby is Gore Island, in contrast a peaceful sanctuary with well-preserved colonial buildings, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. Gore is best known for its associations with the slave trade, although there is some controversy about how much of a role it actually played.

Day 2 – Dakar – Gore Island

Dakar was the centre of political, economic and cultural French West Africa. We have a morning tour of the city including the city hall, Independence square the Presidential Palace and some interesting markets. This afternoon we will visit the “Village of Arts”, which provides studios for over fifty local artists. In the late afternoon we board a ferry to Gore Island. Overnight at Hotel Municipal or similar (BLD)

Day 3 – Gore Island – Lac Rose (170km, approx. 4 hours)

Waking up in Gore and strolling through the tiny stone alleys of this historical settlement is a real pleasure. Gore was a boarding point for slaves waiting to be shipped to the Americas, and some restored buildings remain to bear witness to that dark period. Today its breezy climate, history and ancient architecture, together with restaurants and boutiques, make Gore an interesting and attractive destination for local and foreign visitors. After lunch, we drive to Lac Rose which is a shallow salt lake surrounded by dunes. It is ten times saltier than the ocean, and the high concentration of minerals, lends it a pink colour on occasions. Later a minibus will take us to the Lampoul desert where our 4x4 vehicles will be waiting at the edge of the dunes to transport us to our camp. Overnight in a fixed camp at Lampoul, with spacious tents which include beds, and have their own bathroom. (BLD)

Day 4 – Saint Louis and the Nomadic Tribes (150km, approx. 2 hours)

This morning we drive to Saint Louis, the one- time home of the aviator and author Antoine Saint Exupery, where we explore its narrow lanes by calash in keeping with the locals! Overnight at Hotel de la Poste or similar (BLD)

Saint Louis

One of West Africa’s most charming towns, Saint Louis was the first French settlement in the region and still retains much of its old colonial architecture, contributing to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Divided between an island and a peninsula, most of the old European buildings are concentrated on the island with an old governor’s palace, museum, and numerous grand old houses.

Day 5 – Djoudj National Park (250km, approx. 5 hours)

This morning we travel north to discover Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj), a natural oasis composed of hundreds of miles of partially flooded land. This is the habitat and nesting site of over a million migratory and sedentary birds including pelicans and flamingos. Later we continue to the Ferlo desert to discover the dry savannah where the Fulani, a nomadic tribe, herd Zebu cows. The Fulani (Peul) are the largest tribe in West Africa occupying a vast area from Senegal to Chad. They are the main herders of this vast savannah and their origins are still shrouded in mystery. We have dinner and overnight in a basic, but clean, structure of grass huts with mosquito nets and private WC and showers, managed by the local community. We will visit the nearby villages and, in the evening, when the herds come back, we may be invited to witness the milking of the herd! (BLD)

Day 6 - Touba Brotherhood (160km, approx. 4 hours)

Rarely visited, the inhabitants of the sacred town of Touba are followers of Muridism, which offers a peaceful vision of Islam. Touba is a sacred town and visitors must wear conservative clothing, while it is forbidden to smoke, drink alcohol or listen to music. Mourdi appreciate any interest shown by visitors in their traditions and by following these simple rules, we will be made very welcome. Baye Fall, a member of a colourful branch of Mouridism, will accompany us during the visit. Overnight at Le Relais de Kaolak or similar (BLD)


Touba is the centre of the Mourids, a strict Islamic sect that started in the 19th century with Sufi associations, and the town is an important centre of pilgrimage within the region. With that in mind, it’s forbidden to bring either alcohol or cigarettes into the town and there are no hotels here, for they are seen as dens of iniquity. Each year the town plays host to an annual pilgrimage called the Grand Magal, when 750,000 people descend, raising comparisons with a West African Mecca. The main sight here is Touba’s enormous mosque – construction began in the 1930s but was not completed until the 1960s, and it is one of the largest on the continent.

Day 7 – To Banjul and Stone Circles (220km, approx. 5 hours)

Early this morning we leave Touba and follow the main road to the unique megalithic site of Sine Ngayene, composed of 52 circles of erect stones, including a double circle. This site has been recognised by UNESCO, with a total of 1102 carved stones. We cross the border into Gambia and drive to the northern banks of the Gambian estuary where we will cross the river by ferry. We moor at Banjul and arrive at Senegambia Hotel, the first hotel that opens the country to tourism, and located in a large park where it is easy to encounter many birds and where monkeys  roam freely. Overnight at Senegambia Beach Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 8 – Gambian Birds – Casamance (170km, approx. 4 hours)

Senegambia gardens are a real African experience, and it is possible to see 70% of the bird species that are found in the whole country. We spend time with an ornithological guide discovering the different variety of bird species. We visit the National Museum which focuses on different areas of the country such as archaeology to recent history, art, music and photography. After lunch we drive to the southern border and cross back into the Casamance region of Senegal. This evening we will reach Ziguinchor. Overnight Hotel Kadiandoumange or similar (BLD)

Day 9 – Sacred Kings (100km, approx. 3 hours)

We discover the adobe fortified buildings of the Diola people which are an interesting example of this style of African architecture. We will then be received by the Monarch of one of the oldest Diola Kingdoms and with his permission we may be invited in to the sacred forest to assist in some traditional rituals. This evening we return to Ziguinchor. Overnight at Kadiandoumange Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 10- Ancestor’s Cults (210km, approx. 7 hours’ drive, different drives)

After crossing the border into Guinea Bissau, we explore the region inhabited by the Manjacu ethnic group with visits to tiny villages in the forest. These villages are notable for sculptured wooden poles called ‘Pecab’ representing the spirits of the ancestors. With the permission of the elders we have the opportunity to admire these sacred wooden sculptures varying in age and style. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy tribal art in its original cultural context.  Overnight at Hotel Cupedo, Reino de Tor or similar (BLD)

Day 11- Bijagos Archipelago (4 hours boat)

This morning we leave for a four-day journey across the Bijagos Archipelago to discover its remote islands and isolated human settlements. The Bijagos Archipelago is located 40 miles off shore and is the largest in Africa with 88 islands of which only 21 are permanently inhabited. With its wild and idyllic landscapes, unique fauna and a genuine tribal culture, the Bijagos Archipelago is a geographical treasure. During this tour we will have the opportunity to witness the Wild Bulls Mask Festival which will be widely attended by all the villagers. Overnight at Parque Hotel. (BLD)

The itinerary during these four days may be slightly modified to accommodate the Vaca Bruto mask dances or saltwater hippos.

Day 12- Queens Island (approx. 2 hours 30 hours boat)

This morning we will take a 30-minute walk to the sacred village of Okinka Pampa, the site of the graves of the Queens. The society is semi matriarchal so this is a place of great significance. We will meet with the local king who can relate the history of the island. From here we will leave Orango and arrive to Rubane Island which will be out base for the last 2 nights. Overnight at Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar (BLD)

Vaca Bruto Masks – 11 Feb, 27 Mar, 6 May 2020

Saltwater Hippos and Turtle Nesting – 2 Nov, 21 Dec 2019, 13 Nov, 23 Dec 2020 (one night camping on Poilao Island for these departures)

Day 13- Island life (approx. 2 hours boat)

Take a boat excursion to Bubaque passing Soga Bay with its large colony of pink flamingos. This is the largest village in the archipelago with unpaved alleys, and a tiny colourful market, with a small museum dedicated to the culture of the Bijagos. In the afternoon we will return to Rubane Island and the rest of the day will be at leisure. Overnight at Hotel Ponta Anchaca or similar (BLD) 

Day 14- Bolama Island - Bissau (approx. 5 hours boat)

Early this morning we leave for Bolama, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1871 to 1941. When the Portuguese left, the native people came to live in the town but it is now falling apart and partly invaded by tropical vegetation. The town has large, sunny avenues, empty squares, dry fountains, bush-like gardens and the Governors Palace around which goats wander peacefully. This afternoon we arrive in Bissau for a short city tour. There will be rooms available for day use until 6pm before you transfer to the airport for your flight home. (BL)

The Carnival tour which begins on 19th February has a slightly different itinerary which can be viewed in Downloads.

Arrival and departure transfers provided on a shared or private basis depending on location. On occasions the transfer will be operated by a hotel shuttle bus (*please see notes below)
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Transport as described
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

International flights in to Dakar and back from Bissau
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Tips (discretionary)
Items of a personal nature

*Please note that airport transfers will be provided on the advertised start and end dates of the tour. In addition arrival and/or departure transfers will be provided in conjunction with any pre and/or post tour accommodation that has been booked and paid for through Undiscovered Destinations. In all other cases charges may apply for airport transfers.