My experience on Ilha Bubaque is almost a little bit embarrassing for a seasoned traveller like myself. I definitely let the conditions get to me, and although the island was amazing I was miserable most of the time I was there. Sure, having malaria anywhere will likely get you down a bit. And the fact that the rainy season was in full tilt while I was there made it really hard. In general, Guinea-Bissau beat me up a little bit and the core of that fight was spent on Ilha Bubaque. That being said, it’s one of the places I really want to get back to someday. There are remote beaches, friendly people and if you have some money there are even opportunities to get out and see some saltwater hippos or go on fishing excursions. The tourism infrastructure on the island is much better than you might expect as well with a number of good hotels around.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 40-50USD per day
Things to do on Ilha Bubaque
The island has quite a bit to entertain backpackers, and none of the activities are all too expensive. Don’t come here expecting to get out and see the saltwater hippos though. Well, unless you have a thick wallet.
- Museum: There is a small museum in town that has some decent stuff including some masks. There is also some information on the history of the people from the islands.
- Villages: You can rent a bike in town and cruise around to some of the villages in the region. People will gladly show you around but will likely ask for some money to do so.
- Praia Bruce: It’s about 20km from town to Praia Bruce. I attempted to ride there on a peddle bike but my bike locked up on me about half way there. Of course, it’s a long ride there and back, but there are some interesting villages and farmlands along the way.
- Ilha Rubane: You can see Rubane from the port in Bubaque. The beaches there are beautiful and although it’s much more expensive to stay there, it’s worth a day trip. You can hire just about any pirogue driver down at the port to take you there.
Where to Eat on Ilha Bubaque
Most hotels and guesthouses in town double as restaurants. If you’re in town during the rainy season the chances are that these are the only places for you to get grub. However, in the dry season when tourism levels are higher there are a couple other restaurants open.
- Chez Dora: The Portuguese owner here will make you some great dinner, but you’ll likely have to stop by an hour or two beforehand to let her know. If you’re staying at the guesthouse, she’ll likely just assume you’re eating there.
- Bela Vista: This place overlooking the old port serves more as a bar, but it does also do some decent grub, mostly fish.
Where to Stay on Ilha Bubaque
There are a lot of options in terms of guesthouses and hotels in Bubaque and they range from somewhat luxurious to quite decapitated. If you ask around as well, I’m told that there are many families that will put you up in their homes.
- Chez Dora: This is where I stayed and it was perfect for me. The staff speaks Portuguese and French. The atmosphere is great and the rooms are very thatched huts with their own bathrooms. A single room was 10,000CFA when I was there.
- Les Dauphines: Apparently the best place to stay in town this place was closed for the slow season when I was there, although would have been out of my budget range anyways. I’m told it has a pool and wifi (although you’ll have to pay for the wifi). It’s 30,000CFA a night.
Getting off the Island
Unless you have money, it’s a bit of a challenge to get to and away from Bubaque. And if you’re hoping to explore surrounding islands as well it might take you days to find a boat that will take you. Personally, I spent 2 days in Bissau waiting for transport, and had to spend an extra night on the island waiting to get off of it. Below are your options:
- Pirogue: This is how I got to and from the island. It’s uncomfortable and slow (about 5-6 hours) but will get you there. These boats leave basically every other day but be sure to ask at the port the day before. Definitely the cheapest option at about 3,000CFA
- Ferry: The ferry is slow as well, but definitely more comfortable and there is more room to spread out. It takes about 4 hours and costs about 8,000CFA. The only issue is that it only goes twice a week. It leaves Bissau on Fridays and returns on Sundays meaning if you travel this way you’re pretty tied into spending 2 nights on the island.
- Speedboat: You can hire a speed boat to get to you to/from Bubaque but be prepared to pay for it. You’re likely to spend about 200,000CFA each way pear boat (seats as many as 4 people), but only takes a little over an hour.
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