Learn African jungle skills in Guinea Bissau
You can get a rare opportunity to live in a jungle village in Guinea Bissau, a country rarely travelled by Western tourists. Our Gambian friend, Lucas Jattacan arrange your visa and take you by bush taxi across the Cassamance region of Senegal to Sao Domingo, a wild Bissau border town where you will spend the night. Next morning, using local transport, a four hour journey takes you to your destination, the village of Cassalol, where you will be spending the next few nights. The village has no electricity or running water but there is a sweet water well, though purification tablets are recommended. In the village and in the forest you will be taught the basics of jungle living, from building a shelter, lighting a fire, tracking animals and identifying which plants are edible and which suitable for medical treatment. The men of the village climb the palm trees to tap the fruit and make palm wine, which is available all day. One of the principle crops harvested is cashew, that can also be made into an intoxicating drink but only during the cashew season. The main food grown is rice, that too is seasonal and has to be carefully stored. You will be invited to join the women in picking the rice plant, if you arrive during the winter months.
Lucas will be your guide and instructor, he's from the village but now a Gambian resident, still earning his living as a palm tapper.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Adventure Travel
Juffureh is a small village on the banks of the River Gambia. It was founded by the Taal family in 1455. It was made famous as the birthplace and home of Kunta Kinte, the slave who was taken from his home and shipped to America in 1767.
Kunta Kinte was the central character in the book “Roots”. Alex Haley, a descendant of Kunta Kinte, wrote the book in 1976. The book tells the story of Kunta Kinte being taken from his home and sold into the slave trade.
The slave trade thrived in this area of West Africa at the mercy of the British, Portuguese, Spanish and the French. The slaves were transported from here to America, Europe and the West Indies. Many of them died on board the ships in terrible conditions before they reached there.
Alex Haley wrote his best-selling book after hearing stories from his grandmother Cynthia; she was freed from slavery in 1865. He traced his ancestry back to Gambia.
A museum, which is in the British built, Maurel Freres, building dating back to 1840, details the slave trade in The Gambia. Maurel Freres was a Lebonese trader who used the building as a warehouse.
The British built an outpost here in 1680, next to the French outpost, Albreda.
It is now a pilgrimage site for Afro-Americans. They come here to trace their African roots.
Barra is one of the main ports in The Gambia. The ferry between here and Banjul is one of the few crossing points of the immense Gambia River, it is a main link between the North and South of the country. The ferry carries passengers and cars. There are also small boats that take people across. To get in these boats local men hoist you onto their shoulders and place you in the boat. I was mortified when I had to do it.
Within the town there is a large groundnut factory and a fort, Fort Bullen. The fort was built in 1820 to stop slave ships from going up river. The fort was reused during World War II. It was used as an allied observation point. It is now a museum.
James Island lies 20 miles from the sea, up the River Gambia. It measures 360 ft in length and 200 ft wide. The nearest land is 1 mile from the north shore at Albreda. The island was originally settled on by Baltic Germans, it was under the rule of the Duke of Courland, from present day Latvia.
The Germans bought the island from a local chief in 1651. They named it “St Andrews Island”.
The fortifications were built of local sandstone, with the buildings made from wood and thatch.
Buildings included:- barracks, store rooms, granaries and a Lutheran church (a pastor had been sent out to the island)
A jetty jutted out from the North-East shore, there was also a small landing on the South-East side, this was opposite the entrance to the fort.
Canoes and rowing boats were used to bring supplies and fresh water to the island, there was no spring or water supply on the island.
The three main corners of the island had horseshoe shaped batteries, with 5 or 6 embrasures (small gaps in the walls) in each battery. Other guns were mounted along the straight walls of the fort.
There would have been about 70 guns protecting the island. During the early 1700’s the walls were 17 feet high and very thick.
The tower was 40 feet high but it carried no guns, it had 4 storeys with lodgings on the upper floors and a surgery on the ground floor.
there are no springs on the island.
BIJILO FOREST PARK
OPEN DAILY FROM 7am-6pm
The park is set in 125 acres of forest. Borassus palms line the 3 mile network of paths through the park. Here you will see the “green monkey” in abundance. This is the common monkey in The Gambia, it is sometimes known as the Callithrix monkey. There are also some rarer Red Colobus monkeys. 1/3 of all The Gambia’s butterflies live in the park along with a varied birdlife.
I walked to the park from my hotel, stopping at the Senegambia hotel, which is a short walk away, for lunch.
I didn’t take a guide inside the park as I wanted to just wander around on my own. The monkeys were quite friendly and took peanuts from me very gently. I bought the peanuts from a juice seller just outside the park.
This restaurant and hotel complex is where I stayed for lunch during the 4 in 1 day tour. The food was a buffet and very nice. After lunch I sat in the shade on a deckchair, reading and drinking beer. Cows wandered up and down the beach, apparently they were looking for fruit, left by the fruit ladies.
The Gambian mangroves run for 80 miles up the Gambian River. The roots of these trees are buried deep into the mud. The trees grow in salt water, they can grow up to 80 feet in height. A huge array of wildlife live amongst the mangroves, with Kingfishers, Comorants and Herons. Fishing is big business, with Seabass, Catfish and Yellowtail fish along with Lobster and Shrimp.
Wood from the trees is used as firewood or it is sometimes carved into souvenirs for the tourists.
THE RIVER GAMBIA
This is the 4th largest waterway in West Africa, it is 600 miles long.
Salt deposits from the Atlantic Ocean travel up river for about 110 miles. The estuary at the mouth of the river is 12 miles wide, a regular ferry links Barra, on the North shore, with Banjul, on the south shore.
During the dry, summer months, the stream is not very wide, even at high tide. During the wet season it swells and cuts off part of Kotu beach.
During the summer, at high tide, a young man with a small boat ferries people across the stream for a small fee.
The stream, heading towards the village has an array of birds and fish.
KOTU BEACH AND POINT
The beach at Kotu is wonderful, from Kololi, the beach stretches for two miles northwards towards Kotu and Kotu stream ( a small river that cuts off the beach at high tide). This is the most populated beach in the Gambia. Along the shore there are bars, fruit ladies and juice bars.
Local football teams use the beach in the late afternoon for training.
Walking along the beach through the day is quite relaxing, and the sunset is beautiful.
The sand is soft, clean and great to walk on, although it can get quite hot and there are sometimes jellyfish lying on the beach waiting for the tide to come back in.
FAJARA WAR CEMETERY
The cemetery holds 200 graves, the casualties of World War II.
I took a taxi from my hotel to the Cemetery, the cost was 500 Dalsis (£10). This included 2 hours waiting time.
My father served in Africa during WWII, he was in East Africa, where he received the Africa Star.
The cemetery was very well looked after, two gardeners where weeding and watering the grass whilst I was there. There was an assortment of military nationalities buried here; English, Gambian, Canadian, West African and Nigerian.
At the outbreak of the war Germans working in West Africa are said to have been leaving The Gambia when their aeroplane crashed just after take-off.
President Roosevelt stayed for a short while in The Gambia, on his way to Casablanca. This helped alleviate fears in the country as it was surrounded on three sides by Senegal, a French colony. France was partially occupied during the war by the Nazi’s.
Gambia was used as a training ground for Allied troops during the war, most of the troops were then sent to Burma. Gambian troops were of particular value to the Allied war effort. The people of The Gambia raised funds to help pay for a naval ship, HMS Gambia to be built. The ship visited The Gambia in the year 2000, before being decommissioned.
A visitor’s book is available to sign.
Bakau translated means “big place”. This is the third largest town in The Gambia, behind, Serekunda and Big place. It has a fruit and vegetable market and a fishing beach.
Bakau was founded in the 17th Century around the Kachikally area. Lemos Coelho, the Portuguese explorer was the first European to mention this town, he landed here in 1669. He used Bakau as a base for three years when explored the Gambia River. Coelho noted that there was a European slave trading post here. One of the first schools in The Gambia was opened here in 1882, founded by Hannah Kilhan, a Quaker.
PIROGUES (SMALL FISHING BOATS)
You will find pirogues and small fishing boats everywhere along the coast in The Gambia.
The brightly painted boats are often bobbing about in the water, catching a variety of fish including; flying fish, yellowtail, snapper, catfish, rockhind, mullet and sea bream.
When the boats land on the beach with their catch, women in brightly coloured clothes, help bring the fish ashore. The fish is then sold in local markets or to local restaurants. The women are paid for their work with fresh fish, they would either sell the fish or take it home to cook for their families.
Some local restaurants have their own boats to ensure a supply of fresh, cheap fish.
TANJI SMOKING CENTRE
Very close to the beach where the fish is landed in Tanji, there is a smoking centre for fish to be processed before being sent to restaurants, hotels and export.
The fish is first laid out over hot coals and left for about 3 days, being turned a couple of times during that time. Once smoked, the fish is then either sold in local markets or hotels. Some of the fish is exported to other neighbouring countries.
Fish is also dried here in the sun, during the summer months, it has to be carefully monitored, as if the fish gets wet during the drying period, it will spoil and would have to be destroyed.
TANJI FISHING VILLAGE
This is the busiest fishing town in The Gambia. The beach is busy throughout most of the day, with a constant delivery of fish from the abundant supply of the Atlantic Ocean. Once on the beach, the boats are unloaded, the fish was then taken ashore, in baskets and wheelbarrows. From the shore, the fish is taken to the smoking centre, the market or the holding freezers.
Dozens of broken freezers sit on the beach at Tanji. The ingenious people have old, none working, freezers near to the beach, they use these freezers to store the catch that is caught in the late afternoon. The fish is put into the freezers along with ice from the local “ice factory”. It is stored overnight, then dispensed the next morning to the markets or the smoking centre.
The market is very close to the beach where the fish is unloaded from the boats. The market is busy and hectic, with many types of fresh fish and seafood on sale.
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