Arrival in Dakar (February 15th)
Cosmopolitan Dakar can be considered one of West Africa’s capitals, a hub for culture and trade. Beachside boulevards, all-night sabar drum parties and nightclubs, kaleidoscopic fabrics and fashion, and delicious Senegalese food are a few of the things you will find in this city situated on the Atlantic Ocean.
Dakar is one of the most accessible cities in the region. Its airport is served by multiple international carriers. You need to arrive in the city by the Saturday before the trip. While the trip does not begin until the following day, we will have a pre-departure orientation that evening. Accommodation is up to you, and it is not covered in the trip expenses. We can make recommendations depending on your budget.
Day 1 (February 16th) – Drive to Fatick
Transport will be provided to the town of Fatick, where we will get oriented with the bikes. Fatick, a charming town surrounded by salt marshes, is historically important for the Serer ethnic group. Many of Senegal’s most well known drumming and dance innovations came from this area. A small town with little in the way of traffic, Fatick is also a great place to get comfortable on the scooters.
Once everyone has gotten the hang of things, we will drive down to the heart of the Sine-Saloum, the beautiful delta region of Senegal featuring the Saloum river and numerous crisscrossing waterways and mangroves. We will stay at the Keur Saloum lodge, which sits directly on the water and offers everything from bird-watching to kayaking, not to mention an expansive swimming pool next to the bar and restaurant.
Day 2 – Crossing into the Gambia
Gambia is a sliver of a country sandwiched between two sides of Senegal. A former British colony, it is a fascinating place with its mix of ethnic groups, coastal and inland river geography, wildlife and the always entertaining capital city, Banjul.
After breakfast, we will ride to the Gambian border. On the way, you will have the option of stopping at the Fathala game reserve to go on a lion walk or a game drive if either interest you (this is not covered in the trip cost, but we can organize the activities for you).
Afterwards, we will check out of Senegal and then get our Gambian visas before continuing on to Bara, where we will cross the Gambia River on a ferry, an experience in itself. Once in Banjul, we will head to Serrekunda where we will stay at a hotel on the beach.
The rest of the day is yours to do whatever you would like in and around Banjul and Serrekunda. You can cruise the Senegambia strip, or head straight for the beach. Gambia is a small English-speaking country with a very welcoming population. You won’t have any problems getting around here.
Day 3 – Entering Casamance
The day will begin with an easy morning ride to the Gambia/Senegal border followed by a river crossing into Casamance. Afterwards, we will ride on sand track through the jungle to Abené, a chilled out village of small cafes, boutiques and reggae bars steps away from the ocean. In Abené, we will stay at the Little Baobab jungle eco-lodge for one night.
Once we have arrived at the Little Baobab, the rest of the day will be yours to explore. We can organize drumming and/or dance classes, and even cooking classes if you would like. You can also simply enjoy a cold beer on the beach. Of course, some of Abené’s sights are not to be missed, such as the enormous and sacred Bantam Wora tree:
We can also guide you to local shops, bars and restaurants. Casamance, and Abené in particular, has distinguished craftsmen and women who produce locally made clothing and pieces of art.
In the evening, there will be live music and dancing at the Little Baobab, and we will be treated to excellent home cooking from the proprietor, Khady.
Days 4 and 5 – Heading south into the mangroves
We will have a relaxed morning in Abené before heading down to Kafountine, a village on the beach 9 kilometers away. We will have a delicious lunch at one of Kafountine’s cafes before heading out for a beach ride. After a short cruise on the beach, we will hop onto a boat and head into the mangroves of the Casamance. The birdlife will be spectacular, and we will also have the chance to see crocodiles and dolphins if we are lucky.
Depending on the tides, we will either do a bush camp in a grove of baobabs on the beach (tents will be provided) or head straight to the island of Carabane, which feels like it’s straight out of the Caribbean. Think hammocks, palm trees and fresh oysters.
Days 6 and 7 – Heading further south into the Casamance
The following morning, we will continue on the boat to the town of Elinkin where we will once again hop on the bikes. We will then head down the beautiful coast of the Casamance, cruising through jungle paths and mangroves. This final bit of adventure will also involve a river crossing or two. We will arrive in Djembering, where the beach mingles with palm and mammoth Fromager trees. We will stay at a campement near the beach here, enjoying an evening barbecue of fresh fish and palm wine.
Days 8-13 - Bissau
We will be staying near the old city of Bissau, with its decaying and unexpectedly beautiful buildings from the Portuguese colonial period. We will arrive just in time for Carnival, the biggest party of the year in Bissau and the biggest party in West Africa. Regional dance troupes compete over a period of weeks in months in order to be able to travel to the capital to win the top prize. With daily parades and street parties, the ambience is unmatched. This one of the world's great festivals and it makes this trip a truly special excursion.
Getting out to the islands
We will have the opportunity to visit the extraordinary Bijagos islands, without a doubt one of the more unique places in the world. The islands are known for their matriarchal societies and cultural independence from mainland Bissau (the Portuguese struggled to conquer the islands). They are also known for exceptional wildlife – it is one of the only places in the world where you can come across salt water hippos. We will have several days on the islands to explore. Fishing, hiking, birdwatching and wildlife spotting will all be possible, along with simply lazing on the beach. We will be staying on the main island of Bubaque, at a beautiful lodge perched on a cliff with a view of Rubane Island and the blue waters below. A full service bar and restaurant along with a swimming pool will all be available.
Back to Ziguinchor and Dakar
After taking the boat back to mainland Guinea-Bissau, we will have a short ride on the bikes to Ziguinchor, the capital of the Casamance. Arriving in Ziguinchor, we will first head to Hotel Le Perroquet, where will enjoy a cold beverage on the sandy patio that overlooks the Casamance River. Afterwards, you will have the option to take a trip up the river, searching for dolphins, flamingos, and other bird life. Following that, the evening is yours to explore Ziguinchor or to relax at the hotel.
The following day, we will have a relaxed morning with a bit of time to wander around before we board the overnight ferry that will take us back to Dakar. We will arrive in Dakar the following morning, at which point the trip will be over, but you are welcome to join us for one final drink on the beach.
What to Expect
Riding – this trip has a difficulty of easy to moderate. Most of the roads are in good shape, and we will not be sharing the road with any rush hour traffic. In fact, most of the time, we will be sharing the road with cows, kids walking home from school and donkey carts. We will have one difficult stretch of sand track after crossing into the Casamance, but we will take it slow, and it’s only a few kilometers. To go on this trip, you must have a driver’s license, and you need to have a DOT or ECE 22.05 certified helmet.
Language – We will be spending time in French, Portuguese and English speaking countries. Don’t speak French or Portuguese? Don’t worry. Many people speak at least a bit of English, and even if you do get stuck, a trip leader will always be close by. You will also have a chance to learn some local languages, such as Wolof and Diola.
Weather – This is a drier, cooler period for most of West Africa. There will be plenty of sun, though, and some days will be quite warm.
Lodging – This trip will have a mix of bush camps, eco-lodges and hotels. At the eco-lodge, there will be bucket showers and composting toilets. The bush camps will not have any facilities (we will not be bush camping for consecutive nights). The hotels will have regular toilets, showers, fans, and where possible, air-conditioning. While the first night in Dakar is not included in the trip price, all other accommodation is included.
Food – Western style food will often be available, but we will encourage you to try as much of the local cuisine as possible. Rice and sauce dishes and fresh seafood all feature heavily. The local barbecued chicken, marinated and cooked over a charcoal fire is a real treat: In Guinea-Bissau, we will have no shortage of fresh seafood, including prawns and oysters. At the bush camps, we will be cooking together and having barbecues. When we are staying at hotels, you will have the option of eating at the hotel or going out on your own. At the eco-lodge, delicious home cooked meals will be provided by Khady, who runs the lodge, but you are also welcome to try the little restaurants and cafes around Abené. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided daily, but if you want to go out and eat on your own, it will be at your expense. Vegetarian options will be limited, but we can make a plan provided you notify us in advance of the trip.
Schedule and Logistics – if you are expecting a by-the-minute schedule that will be respected to the letter, this is not the trip for you. West Africa is a great place for honing your patience and learning how to improvise. It’s important to keep an open mind and be ready for anything. If you have the right attitude, you will learn to love the different challenges that may arise.
What is included in the trip price
- All accommodation except for the first night in Dakar
- All fuel costs and any other transport we may use (including the ferry from Ziguinchor)
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner every day (if you want to eat outside of the provided group meal, it is at your expense), except for the last lunch and dinner on the ferry.
What is not included in the trip price
- Any visa costs
- Optional activities (for example, visiting the Fathala wildlife reserve in Senegal)