start: Canchungo or Cacheu
Vehicle: car / boat
length: 1 day or more
season: nov - jun
warning in foot or canoe passing
A wonderful park where you can see the greatest mangrove swamp, water & land animals, culture and local traditions.
It covers an area of 80.000 hectares along the estuary of the Rio Cacheu and almost 70% of it is covered by mangroves and sandbanks. This is the largest area in West Africa with such features.
The main goal in establishing the park was the preservation and conservation of the mangroves ecosystem, which is extremely important for the reproduction of fish and reptile species and of shellfish, while the sandbanks play host to great numbers of migratory birds.
Life in the Park - the traditions
Another objective of the park is to assist the local population with land management in order to guarantee food security in a sustainable way.
For this reason, visiting the Park is an opportunity to admire nature and local traditions.
Areas to explore local traditions are villages in the vicinity of Cobiana, popular with visitors for the native rituals.
Ceremonies such as Fanado (adulthood), Toca choro (funerary), Luta (traditional fighting) are noteworthy. See the FOLK AND HANDICRAFTS page for more explanations.
- Land animals
Spending the night in one of the IBAP lodging, or leaving before sunrise from Canchungo or Cacheu, you can watch native wildlife at down, such as leopard, hyena and gazelles. Although there are not easy to spot, the chances increase at the end of the dry season, when the grasses and the low vegetation are bent for better viewing; on the other end, wildlife can better see visitors and hide. In any case always rely on Park guides.
- Birds and small animals
Birds of many species can be seen (flamingos, gauzes, pelican,…), as well as small animals like the chamaleon.
The amount of birds seen depends not as much on the time of the day as the season of the year, in connection with migration. We suggest to rely on the Park guides.
- Marine animals
There are many marine species: Nile crocodile, salt water hippopotamus, dolphins and manatees.
They are very difficult to spot, because you might have to wait on a boat at certain times of the day in locations suggested by the Park guides. But the thrill, for those lucky enough to see them, will be a huge pay back for the hours spent waiting.
- Traditions - Mato Sagrado
The most interesting part of the Park is the area in the vicinity of Cobiana, with the villages of Peche, Caame, Balimbom and Benia.
Entry is not granted to all visitors: this is the heart of the "Mato sagrado" (Sacred Forest) and you must abide to rules and limitations that may vary with respect to the events. However with arrangements made in advance it is possible to visit the sacred sites, except the ones more private.
Small places of worship near the villages are also interesting, with carved figurines and small huts for the ancestors.
- Walking itineraries
Noteworthy are the forest trails in the area of Bachil Fanho. Red dots on the downloadable map show the route. Download the Park map.
The areas of Cobiana and Bachil Fanho can also be reached by crossing the Rio Cacheu, if coming from the northern part of the Park, if São Domingos is your base. See also RIO CACHEU MANGALS page.
Getting there, lodging and dining
Access to the park is very easy.
On the paved road you reach Cacheu from Bissau in less than 2 hours.
There are hotels and restaurants both in Cacheu and Canchungo, all of unpretentious and modest quality.
It may be interesting to visit the Park in conjunction with the Cacheu Festival (see CACHEU FOOD FESTIVAL page).
For directions on how to visit the park: call or write to the address on the CONTACTS page.