Glide through Senegal’s Sine-Saloum Delta on a pirogue trip. Explore the buzzing arts and handicrafts scene of Bissau. Get back to nature in Guinea’s Fouta Djallon region. Relax on a stunning beach in Sierra Leon
Discover rarely visited gems on this West Africa overland trip from Dakar to Freetown. Very much off the beaten track, this is a fairly physically demanding tour that involves a lot of camping, hiking and trekking – though the bulk of it is undertaken in a comfortable overland truck. This is grassroots travelling at its very best, where you can really get involved in the communities and local people you meet along the way. Whether appreciating the breadth of stunning birdlife or relaxing on the many serene beaches along the coast, West Africa is the ideal destination for travellers wanting a different travel experience.
TRIP CHANGES 2018:
• 1 night taken out of Yamoussoukro and an extra night added in Grand Bassam
Border information: if you are joining at Dakar, you will most likely enter Senegal at Dakar Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport (IATA code: DKR).
Today is an arrival day with a pre departure meeting at 10:00am. Your leader will leave a note in reception telling you where this important meeting will take place. Your leader will collect your kitty and check your passport and insurance details at this meeting.
The afternoon will be free to explore the cosmopolitan city and perhaps take an optional trip to the famous Île de Goreé.
Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Dakar before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Dakar.
In Dakar we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Hotel for the night: Hotel Al Baraka
Hotel Al Baraka
35 Rue A. Karim Bourgi
Tel - +221 338 225 532
Take a trip to the atmospheric and historic island of Goreé, exploring its ancient buildings and stepping back in time : XOF 5000
Freely explore Senegal's bustling and cosmopolitan capital, and see its magnificent Presidential Palace, Grand Mosque and busy Médina district : Free
Discover the incredible beaches of N'gor and Yoff on the northern edge of the Dakar Peninsular : Free
See the controversial African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, completed in 2010 - the tallest statue in Africa and built to symbolise Africa's emergence from European domination, it has been criticised by many for its 'Stalinist' design : Free
Visit the IFAN Museum of Arts (otherwise known as the Théodore Monod Museum), one of the best museums in Africa with 9000 objects of African art and culture from across the region, including traditional dress, masks, drums, and tools : XOF 2500
Visit the Village des Arts, Dakar's hub for local artists to display and showcase their work in a large garden space : Free
Senegal's bustling, cosmopolitan capital of Dakar is always bursting with life. This is a city of busy streets, colourful markets and vibrant nightlife - at first it can seem chaotic, but embrace the rhythms of Dakar's life and you'll come to appreciate it just as much as the passionate people who live here.
The beautiful Île de Gorée is worth a visit, and you can learn about some of the appalling history of the Atlantic slave trade that was once common there in the 18th Century. The Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noir (IFAN) Museum has some great displays of show masks and traditional dress from all across the country. Or you may prefer to just wander the streets, browsing the markets and soaking up the atmosphere. Dakar also has a lively arts scene and you may be able to find some great live music here!
" Day 2 to 3 "
Today we head north through the dry Sahel region to the old colonial city of St. Louis, formerly the capital of French West Africa.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
On the following day we will have a free day to explore the streets of the old city and take an optional trip to the Langue de Barbarie National Park or the nearby Djoudj Bird life Reserve.
In St. Louis we will stay in a colonial-era hotel with good facilities.
Freely explore Senegal's atmospheric colonial city of St. Louis, the former capital of French West Africa : Free
Marvel at the abundant bird life in the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, the world's third largest protected area for birds : XOF 20000
Explore the incredible landscapes of the Langue de Barbarie National Park on the tip of the sandy peninsular near St. Louis : XOF 10000
Visit some of the museums of St. Louis, including the Jean Mermoz museum dedicated to the history of the pioneering French aviators that open up the air route from Africa to South America in the 1930s : XOF 600
Visit the nearby Guembeul Nature Reserve, the centre for a gazelle reintroduction program and home to the African Spurred Tortoise : XOF 20000
About St. Louis:
St. Louis is an old French colonial town on the Atlantic coast of northern Senegal, nestled at the outflow of the Senegal River on the border with Mauritania. Founded in 1659 by French traders, the town became the capital of colonial Senegal - from 1895 it was also the capital of French West Africa, until both were moved to Dakar in 1902. St. Louis was once one of the most important urban centres in Africa, and although its status has become more diminshed since the rise of Dakar it still exhudes a relaxed atmosphere and remains very popular with travellers.
The old town on the river's island of Ndar contains many atmospheric old streets and colonial buildings. The nearby Langue de Barbarie sand spit and Djoudj National Reserves are havens for some amazign birdlife such as pelicans and flamingos.
" Day 4 to 5 "
Today we start our journey south to the small town of Toubakouta, situated close to the Sine-Saloum Delta. On the way we will see the landscape change as we enter the greener wetland region, and we will stop to see the Grand Mosque of Touba, one of the best known mosques in Senegal and most holy site in the Mouride branch of Islam.
Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours.
On our full day in Toubakouta we will have an optional morning pirogue trip to a nearby village to see a slice of rural Senegalese life and to meet their charismatic female chief. In the afternoon we have an included pirogue trip to the mangroves, the 'Shellfish Island' and the 'Island of Birds' - if the weather is good, there are often some stunning sunsets across the delta.
In Toubakouta we will camp in the grounds of a small locally-run hotel.
Visit the stunning Grand Mosque of Touba, one of Africa's largest mosques and the holiest site of the Mouride Brotherhood, a sect of Islam that focuses on hard work as a form of salvation : Included in Kitty
Take an evening pirogue trip into the heart of the Sine-Saloum Delta to explore the fascinating islands and enjoy the spectacular sunset : Included in Kitty
Head out by pirogue to a nearby village to meet the locals (including their female chief!) and learn all about rural village life : XOF 2500
Touba is the second-largest city in Senegal and is the spiritual centre of the Mouride branch of Islam. The area was a remote wilderness until 1887, when Cheikh Amadou Bamba (the founder of the Mouride sect) is said to have had a moment of transcendence and decided to found the city of Touba here. The Mouride branch of Islam focuses on the doctrine of hard work, and sees working as holy an endeavour as prayer - Mourides make up about 40% of Senegal's population and are incredibly influential over the politics and culture of the country. At the centre of Touba is the Great Mosque, completed in 1963 and purported to be one of the largest mosques in Africa. The mosque has five minarets, three large domes, and is the burial place of Amadou Bamba.
Situated amongst a maze of mangroves, the tiny town of Toubakouta is one of the most beautiful spots on the Sine-Saloum Delta. We base ourselves here to take boat trips into the Parc National du Delta du Saloum, which is teeming with birdlife, features some beautiful mangrove scenery, and is dotted with small islands and villages.
Tendaba/Kiang West National Park
" Day 6 to 7"
Border information: Exit Senegal at Karang, enter The Gambia at Fass.
Today we will head across the border from Senegal into the small country of The Gambia, then cross the Gambia River on a local transport barge to arrive at the famous Tendaba Camp on the southern shore of the Gambia River. The ferry can be quite a chaotic local experience! Tendaba Camp was the first inland hotel in The Gambia, and is one of the most popular spots in the country for birdwatchers.
Estimated Drive Time - 6-9 hours (depending on the ferry crossing).
Tendaba is located opposite the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve, one of the premier birdwatching sites in Africa. On our full day here we will have an included morning boat trip into the wetlands to spot some of the stunning area's wildlife and natural scenery. We will also have an opportunity to take an optional safari drive around the nearby forests of Kiang West National Park.
In Tendaba we will stay in a basic guest house.
Explore deep into the stunning wetland delta of the Bao Balong Reserve on a motorised pirogue, discovering one of Africa's best birdwatching areas : Included in Kitty
Take a fun safari truck ride through the dry deciduous forests of Kiang West National Park : GMD 350
Tendaba Camp, on the southern shore of the River Gambia, was the first inland hotel in the country. It remains incredibly popular with tourists and birdwatchers, many of whom return year upon year to immerse themselves in the wonderful bird life of the area. The nearby Bao Bolong wetlands and Kiang West National Park comprise of some wonderful mangrove and woodland Eco-systems, and are home to over 300 species of birds including vultures, harrier eagles, sand grouse, kingfishers, hawks and falcons!
" Day 8 to 10 "
Border information: Exit The Gambia at Soma, enter Senegal at Senoba.
Today we will cross the border into the southern Casamance region of Senegal, arriving at the beautiful beaches of Cap Skirring.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.
We will have 2 full days in Cap Skirring, where there will be good opportunities for optional activities such as swimming, biking, fishing, quad-biking and sunbathing! While in Cap Skirring, your co-driver will travel to the nearby town of Ziguinchor to obtain Guinea-Bissau visas for the group at the consulate there.
In Cap Skirring we will camp in the grounds of a good beach hotel, where there will likely be the opportunity to upgrade to rooms.
Relax, sunbathe, swim and explore on the idyllic beaches of Cap Skirring and Kabrousse : Free
Head out on a fishing trip on the Atlantic near Cap Skirring, having your catch for dinner that evening! : XOF 15000
Go out on a great day trip on the pirogues along the coast of Cap Skirring and to some nearby scenic islands : XOF 15000
Hire bikes to explore the beautiful coastline of the Altantic near Cap Skirring : XOF 5000
Head on an exhilarating quad-biking expedition down the miles of sandy beaches on the Cap Skirring coast (when available) : USD 40
About Cap Skirring:
Cap Skirring is a town on the beautiful Atlantic coast of the Basse Casamance region of Senegal. It is a popular seaside resort with miles of palm-fringed sandy beaches and perfect ocean temperatures. The area has long been populated by fishermen, but the French immigrants first started to use the area for beach tourism back in the 1960s - today it is very popular with Senegalese and foreign tourists, and there are many optional beach activities available here.
" Day 11 to 12"
Border information: Exit Senegal at Mpack, enter Guinea Bissau at São Domingos.
Today we will drive across the border into the very rarely-visited country of Guinea-Bissau, and drive to its capital of Bissau.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.
On the following day, we will have time to freely explore the city and the old Portuguese centre of Bissau Velho.
In Bissau we will stay in a local hotel.
Bissau is the small capital city of Guinea Bissau - its old Portuguese colonial centre of Bissau is noted for its crumbling pastel-coloured buildings, bustling backstreets and busy dock area. Still bearing the scars of the civil wars of 1997-8, the city is quite under-developed - however, it does have a very unique atmosphere and is an interesting place to explore.
Northern Guinea, Labé
" Day 13 to 15"
Border information: Exit Guinea-Bissau at Kandika, enter Guinea at Kandika.
From Bissau we will journey through Guinea-Bissau and into the remote hilly areas of northern Guinea on our way to the town of Labé, the gateway to the stunning Fouta Djallon highland region. The roads on this section are very challenging dirt roads which take us through some incredibly remote areas, and our speed will largely be determined by the state of these roads - although getting to these areas is very special and a great adventure, even more flexibility will be required on these days!
We will stop for 2 wild camps en route - the first is likely to be next to the Guinean border at Kandika, the second is likely to be in the highlands past the village of Seriba.
In Labé we will stay in a pleasant local hotel.
Estimated Drive Times - 9-10 hours each day.
The city of Labé is the second-largest in Guinea, and was founded around 1755 by the Muslim leader Karamoko Alpha mo Labé, who introduced Islam in the region in the 18th Century and founded a theocratic state in Fouta Djallon. The town is the gateway to the spectaclar Fouta Djallon highland region of northern Guinea
Fouta Djallon, Labé
" Day 16 to 17 "
From Labé we will set off for an included 2-day excursion to the heart of the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea.
On the first day we will travel in 4x4 jeeps through very remote country roads to the small rural community of Aïnguel (approximately a 4 hour drive). After lunch there will be a short 3-hour trek to a waterfall viewpoint and to the nearby 'Pont de Pierre' rock bridge where we have the change to swim in a beautiful natural lagoon.
On this night we will stay in a very small and basic community-run guesthouse - please note that if the group is large, some people may need to sleep in tents just outside.
On the second day there is a long 8-hour trek through the surrounding hills and villages taking in the incredible scenery. We will stop for a picnic lunch next to a stunning waterfall, where we have the opportunity to swim in the lagoon beneath. In the latter stages of the trek, we hope to be able to get to the base of a much larger and incredibly powerful waterfall, although this is dependent on the ground waters having receded enough after the rainy season to make this route passable.
Upon returning after this walk, we will immediately drive back in the 4x4s to Labé to spend the night in our guesthouse there.
Guided 2-day excursion to the stunning highland region of Fouta Djallon, with treks through the scenic hills to the incredible waterfalls and local villages, and an overnight stay in a community guesthouse : Included in Kitty
About Fouta Djallon:
The dramatic highland landscape of the Fouta Djallon region consists of many towering sandstone formations, beautiful plains and forests. Erosion by rain and rivers has carved deep canyons and valleys into the sandstone, and have produced some incredible waterfalls to visit- the area has some of the best hiking trails in West Africa, and during our time here we'll stay with a small local community in their tiny guesthouse!
Leaving the Fouta Djallon region behind us, we head south through central Guinea to the town of Mamou.
In Mamou we will stay in a local guest house.
Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.
Mamou is a city in a valley of the Fouta Djallon area of Guinea. It grew around the railway line from Conakry to Kankan and soon became the local administrative headquarters. Its main industry used to be until the 1990s decade meat processing.
Today we will continue our drive south through Guinea, stopping to wild camp close to the border with Sierra Leone.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.
" Day 20 to 21 "
Border information: Exit Guinea at Pamalap, enter Sierra Leone at Kindia.
Today we leave Freetown for the stunning beaches of Freetown Peninsular, where we will spend 2 nights for some well-deserved relaxation after our journey through the tough roads of Guinea.
There are a few different options for which beaches we could choose to visit, our favourites being Bureh Beach at the south of the peninsular and River Number 2 Beach in the western part.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.
We will have a full day for optional activities on the wonderful beaches - we could go fishing, take a boat to explore the Banana Islands, get to know the local communities, and of course relax on the beautiful beaches!
On Freetown Peninsular we will camp on the beach, with some options to upgrade to basic guest houses.
Relax on some of the best beaches in the world dotted along the Freetown Peninsular : Free
Take a boat trip to explore the beautiful and overgrown Banana Islands off the coast of the Freetown Peninsular : USD 25
Visit the orphan chimpanzees at Tacaguma Chimpanzee Sanctuary outside of Freetown, a wonderful organisation that rehabilitates rescued chimpanzees for their return to the wild : USD 15
Head out with the locals in their traditional wooden boats to try your hand at fishing : USD 10
Hire surfboards to take out onto the waves of Bureh Beach, one of West Africa's best surfing spots : USD 10
Head out on a diving trip around the reefs and shipwrecks off the Banana Islands : USD 180
Snorkel through the idyllic waters off the Banana Islands near Freetown Peninsular : USD 120
About Freetown Peninsular:
Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown is perched on the northern tip of a mountainous peninsular on the Atlantic coast. The peninsular is one of the most beautiful areas of Africa, and features some incredible tropical beaches - the beaches are lined with palm trees, have stunning white sands and glittering blue oceans, and are dotted with lively beach communities and fishing villages. We will normally camp on Bureh Beach, an idyllic stretch of coast on the southern peninsular which features some excellent surfing and boat trip opportunities. One highlight of a stay on the peninsular is to take a trip out to the nearby Banana Islands, a serene and historic island dotted with old buildings and ancient cannons.
Today we will have a short drive up the western side of the Freetown Peninsular to arrive in the Aberdeen district of the city of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
In Freetown we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.
See the Freetown Cotton Tree, the city's most famous landmark and home to hundreds of bats that fly out at dusk : Free
See the King's Yard Gate, where the ancestors of all modern Creole people will have passed through on their way to a free life after their rescue from illegal slaving ships : Free
Learn about Sierra Leone's traditional history and cultures at the National Museum : Free
Take a boat to the overgrown ruins of the old slaving fort of Bunce Island, from where the ancestors of most modern African-Americans were shipped to the New World : USD 150
Visit the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum, a remarkable collection of old trains that was hidden from destruction for 30 years : USD 5
Freetown, the lively capital of Sierra Leone, is steeped in history and culture. In 1787, British philanthropists founded the "Province of Freedom" which later became Freetown, a British crown colony and the principal base for the suppression of the slave trade. By 1792, 1200 freed slaves from Nova Scotia joined the original settlers, and the city began to grow as the new home for freed slaves. The city became the capital of British West Africa between 1808 and 1874, and was the base for the Royal Navy's mission to enforce the ban on the Atlantic slave trading. In more modern times, Freetown saw a lot of fierce fighting during the Sierra Leonean civil war, and in ultimately unsuccessful attacks from the rebel armies. Today, Freetown is a thriving and bustling city and the centre of Krio culture in West Africa. There are some wonderful highlights nearby, including the famous Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the mountains overlooking the city.