We are on the seventh and penultimate article on our series of top African romantic getaways. This destination is a hideout from the crowd. Located in the scenic country of Guinea-Bissau with a heavy Portuguese influence; the Bijagos archipelago is simply put – a gem!
Bijagós Archipelago: Africa’s Romantic Getaway to Pop the Question
Bijagós Archipelago is a tranquil haven of 88 palm-fringed-islands in the Atlantic Ocean, with only 23 of them inhabited. It belongs to Guinea-Bissau, a tiny, less popular former Portuguese colony in West Africa wedged between Senegal and Guinea.
The archipelago is a verdant tropical speck with miles of deserted, but spectacularly pristine white beaches, unique culture, peculiar feats of nature—like a rare herd of saltwater hippopotamuses and endemic tortoises, as well as unspoiled fauna and flora.
With perfect heat, sand, palm trees and water thronging with fishes plus unspoiled beaches, life is easy for the islanders. For lovers and adventurous travellers who get here, I welcome you to magical paradise— Bijagós promises an attractive and interesting quotient of West Africa. Bijagós Archipelago, says Adam Nossiter of New York Times, is “a stripped-down simplicity of living, (loving), eating, dressing and existing that can only be a tonic for anybody oversteeped in complicated Western urban life.”
Despite all the alluring characters of Bijagós Archipelago beaches, the Islands are not a conventional destination for a beach vacation. However, being there gives a feeling of removal you cannot get by jetting down to the Caribbean. This is the exact romantic taste of the archipelago. The removal affords the luxury of listening to the birds and the waves, clearing your ‘head’ on the sand of the beaches or/and treating yourself and your partner to a special dish made with some of the Islands’ school of fish as you prep yourself for the big question: “will you marry me?”
Actually, if you want to pop this ‘big question’ on the archipelago, choose either Bubaque or Rubane— there is nothing stopping you from visiting both anyway! Orango, João Vieira and Poilão have the most typical natural environment in case this is ideal for you—by the way; each island has its own beauty.
To raise the ante before popping the big question, here are some activities you can do.
Spend a few days in Bissau
If you are flying into Guinea-Bissau, you are most likely to land at Bissau the Capital of the West Africa state. Spending a few days there before heading to Bubaque won’t be a bad idea. Should you be lucky to visit when the interesting Bissau carnival, (also known as carnival Bijagós in Bubaque) holds, this will be a good opportunity to feel the vibe of this country. The carnival holds in all the country’s region though that of Bissau is more colourful and interesting.
Join the people as they parade the streets in masks made of animal heads, with painted bodies or clad in clothes with bright colours. Enjoy the music, taste the wine and beer, try the dance steps but don’t miss the announcement of the winning masks and election of the Queen of the Year Carnival which climaxes the carnival. Be a part of these before heading to Bubaque in Bijagós Archipelago.
If your partner won’t mind and if s/he can ride, your best bet is to hire a bike for the 18km ride across the island to see them all.
If you don’t want that, Bubaque is home to the Unesco reserve headquarters where you’ll hear something about the rare saltwater hippopotamus which thrives on the westerly island of Orango. You’ll also hear about the island of João Viera, located to the south of Bubaque. It is an important place for breeding the rare species of sea turtles and you can visit it by canoe.
NB: Festival Bubaque, which has placed this island on the entertainment map of Africa, will hold around Easter you can stop by to share in the fun.
Visit the Museum
As part of the suspense, you can also visit the small museum in Bubaque. It’s an opportunity to learn about the islands’ history and see items from Bijagós culture, including some decent masks.
This beach is about 15km from town by road (make the trip in a car or bicycle). I’ll call the beach an ideal private picnic site; it is long, white, homeless and usually deserted (even by fishermen). Pack your drink and food because you’ll not probably find anyone to provide these for you. Spend quality time here with exotic birds as your company. If I were you, I’ll get to the next destination before popping the ‘question’.
You can see Rubané from the port in Bubaque, but you should actually get there too. The Island of Rubané is separated from Bubaque by a narrow strip of sea but you can get there on an interesting boat trip. Rubané is replete with palm trees and mangroves that provide shade in warm and humid weather. This island is notable for its beautiful beaches and they provide the ideal place to pop the question. Just a suggestion: Pop the question right after you have tried fishing, Rubané is fisherman’s paradise and you should have a feel of what that means!
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