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Guinea Bissau Holidays

  • Photo by Bruno Zanzottera
  • Photo by Bruno Zanzottera
 

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This small, coastal West African country – officially the Republic of Guinea Bissau - is bordered by Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south and east. Once a Portuguese colony (when it was known as Portuguese Guinea), Guinea Bissau gained independence in 1974 following a protracted war of independence. In the late 1990s a bloody civil war raged through the country, damaging the economy and infrastructure. The war ended in 1999 but political instability continued with a series of coups and the death (from natural causes) of President Sanha in January 2012.

Today, Guinea Bissau remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The main source of foreign exchange is from the growing of cashew nuts. This humble crop is responsible for generating around 20% of the country’s income and supporting 85% of all jobs. Currently relying on fairly traditional agricultural methods, it is thought that with the introduction of more modern equipment, the fertile land is capable of producing much higher yields.

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So far, tourism is very under-developed. Guinea Bissau receives a relatively low number of foreign visitors but intrepid travellers are drawn by the natural delights of the Bijagos Archipelago. Made up of 88 main islands lined with beautiful white-sand beaches, the archipelago is a haven for wildlife including rare salt-water hippos, turtles, Nile crocodiles, manatees and many species of bird. Such is the variety and importance of the islands’ ecosystems and wildlife that in 1996 UNESCO designated the archipelago a Biosphere Reserve.

As well as the wildlife, 23 of the islands are also home to indigenous people who are culturally unique to those that live on the mainland and whose isolation has helped them to retain strong animist cultural traditions. The Bijagos people have a matriarchal society with female priests and where women choose their husbands who have little right to refuse the proposal. It is only the women who can initiate divorce and the men are forced to keep the children. Their faith prohibits any sort of economic development in sacred areas which has led to the preservation of many beaches, small islands and areas of mangrove and allowed wildlife to thrive. With few tourist visitors, don’t be surprised if curious children come up to you to try and determine who and what you are.

 

Places of interest in Guinea Bissau