Freetown to Dakar Overland

BETWEEN Freetown and Dakar
COUNTRIES VISITED – 5 Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia and Senegal
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From EUR540 Kitty paid locally Visas
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Trip Overview

An awesome overland adventure between Freetown, Sierra Leone and Dakar, Senegal through Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bassau, Senegal (Casamance) Gambia and Senegal. This amazing trip offers incredible trekking, waterfalls, music, beaches and wildlife mixed with West African traditions and culture on this off the beaten track adventure! Overlanding West Africa were the first ever truck-based overland company to successfully take an overland truck-based trip through Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone in 2012. The first few days of the trip will be spent in the more developed parts of Sierra Leone and Guinea as we journey close to the Atlantic coastline between Freetown and Conakry and stop en route to take in the sights. You’ll get to experience the ‘assault on the senses’ that West Africa is so famous for. As we start heading upcountry in Guinea there will be some challenging drives for short stretches but you’ll be rewarded with some incredible scenery in the Guinean highlands (the Fouta Djalon region). There will be one or two ferry crossings en route, and if bridges are washed out we will have to ford rivers. Though the Chinese have begun to grade and pave some of the road between Guinea and Guinea Bissau, they are still some way from completion and driving through the Guinean highlands could get interesting (muddy if the rains come early, dusty and bumpy if the roads are still dry!) The last two weeks of the trip will be pretty easy-going, with relatively short drive days on reasonable roads. We will have quite a relaxing paced itinerary with plenty of time to relax as we journey through the Casamance region of Senegal and into Gambia.

Freetown to Dakar Overland

Overlanding is one of the best ways to see West Africa. Overlanding West Africa are the West Africa specialists, an independent company that focuses solely on West Africa, offering longer itineraries to really explore as much of each country as possible. This amazing trip offers incredible trekking, waterfalls, music, beaches and wildlife mixed with West African traditions and culture on this off the beaten track adventure!

Powered by Overlanding West Africa

Highlights, Inclusions and Options

  • Soak up the nightlife, music and unique atmosphere of Freetown, the buzzing capital of ‘Sweet Salone’
  • Relax on some of the best beaches in the world around the Freetown peninsula, with options to visit the Tacaguma Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Charlotte Falls, and Banana Island if you want to
  • Spend a week traversing Guinea’s Fouta Djalon taking in the stunning scenery; trek to forested ravines, pristine waterfalls, traditional Fula villages, escarpments, and craggy mountainsides, in this most beautiful part of West Africa
  • Overland through the Guinean highlands en route for the Guinea Bissau/Guinea border
  • Overnight at the beautiful Saltinho waterfalls en route for Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau
  • Absorb yourself in the old colonial port city of Bissau and experience the buzzing arts and handicrafts scene
  • Spend a week overlanding through the beautiful Casamance region of Senegal – take a Pirogue ride along the creeks and mangroves, visit the beautiful islands dotted along the river, join the locals on a fishing trip, or hire a bike and take to the pistes around the villages of the estuary – a relaxing time in a part of Senegal few others visit
  • Witness a traditional ‘Koumpo’ dance, watch a Djembe troupe performance, take drumming lessons, or relax on the beach in northern Casamance.
  • Camp on the banks of the Gambia River, take boat trips to spot wildlife in the Baobolong Wetlands and the Kiang West National Park, and watch a Gambian Griot give a Kora performance. You can even try playing the Kora yourself!
  • Explore cosmopolitan Dakar with its excellent arts and crafts scene, superb music, museums, galleries, and mosques, or take a trip to Ile de Goree
  • Why not visit more of northern Senegal, Mauritania, Western Sahara, and Morocco with us? Join us on our Dakar to Marrakech trip in 2017 to see even more of this magical part of the African continent!


Weeks 1-2: Freetown and the Fouta Djalon

After meeting the group in Freetown we will obtain some visas for later on in the trip. You will have time to explore this fascinating city, always a hive of activity amongst the crumbling colonial architecture. You will also have the opportunity to explore the beautiful beach-lined peninsula just a short drive from where we base ourselves. One of the beaches here was the setting for one of the famous adverts for the chocolate bar ‘Bounty: A Taste Of Paradise’ in the 1980’s. We’re sure you’ll agree with that sentiment too!

You could also take a speedboat to Banana island with its breathtaking views of the coastline, visit the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary and/or Charlotte Falls, or simply beach hop along the peninsula. When the sun goes down Freetowners’ like to party – so if that’s your thing you’ll find plenty of street parades, beach bars and nightclubs to dance in until dawn.

Heading out of Freetown we say goodbye to English speaking Sierra Leone and bonjour to French speaking West Africa as we journey into Guinea. Expect a long day of travelling as we head towards Conakry, crossing a border noted for its bribe-hungry officials!

Guinea is starting to build a democratic future following a volatile transition period after the lengthy Presidencies of Sekou Toure and Lansana Conte. Even before the military coup lead by Dadis Camara, Guinea seldom made it onto the ‘traditional’ overland routes through West Africa, and for the most part remains unspoiled.

We’ll spend two nights in a town outside of Conakry at a beautiful campement set amongst the foothills leading to the Fouta Djalon. We base ourselves here to enable us to get visas for later on in the trip.

From the Conakry area we head north towards Mamou via Kindia, climbing into the Guinean highlands and a stunningly beautiful part of Guinea known as the Fouta Djalon. Time permitting, a few hours could be spared to climb up to the top of Mount Gangan for a wonderful panoramic view of Kindia and the surrounding countryside.

We will spend 7 days exploring the Fouta Djalon, the traditional lands of the Fula people of Guinea. The highland climate here is cooler than the rest of the country and ideal for walking and hiking.

Basing ourselves between a number of different towns over the 7 days, we will have plenty of time to take in the natural wonders dotted around this beautiful region. Highlights include:

  • Great trekking with stunning scenery: canyons, escarpments, waterfalls and mountains
  • Visit small villages to watch local people ply their trades and see the Fula people in traditional dress
  • Cool off under pristine waterfalls and swim in beautiful lakes
  • 2 nights in a Fula village in the surrounding mountains, a perfect base for some awesome trekking or a relaxing time exploring the village!

The roads off the main ‘highway’ are often impassable for an overland truck so a mixture of hiking and taxi rides is the best way to travel around the area while we base ourselves at camp in one of the towns.

With so many different options available over the 7 days, we’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want to do. Paying entrances to waterfalls, any necessary guides, or getting a taxi to local areas of interest will be at your own cost – but don’t worry, the costs are relatively small. Bear in mind that very few tourists pass through this area so there are no neat trekking packages to choose from with established routes or trained guides! All trekking options are relatively easy, varying from one or two hours upto a full day. The choice is yours!


Week 3: Guinea Bissau And Casamance

Heading north west from the Fouta Djalon towards Guinea Bissau, the roads will start to get more challenging. We will be driving though the Guinean highlands between Labe and Koundara. We will bush camp on the way, stop to shop in local markets and fill up the water tank, and take in the stunning scenery that this part of West Africa is so famous for.

Guinea Bissau has had a turbulent past, but in recent years relative stability has returned and the number of travellers visiting this little known country is growing. Whilst lacking the quantity of ‘attractions’ that neighbouring countries can boast of , Guinea Bissau will charm you with its off the beaten track feel and welcoming people. We spend just a few days traversing the country. Once into Guinea Bissau we will spend a night at the beautiful Saltinho Waterfalls near Mampata to wash away the dust from the roads. We stay at a beautiful campement offering stunning views over the falls. With luck you will get the chance to see the fishermen casting their nets into the rapids and women doing their laundry amongst the rocks!

From here we head west to the capital Bissau where you’ll have a chance to explore one of Africa’s most relaxed capital cities! Bissau Velho, the old Portuguese colonial centre of Bissau, is noted for its pastel-coloured buildings and backstreet cafes. The fishing port at dawn is an incredible sight as the boats launch into the Atlantic and return with their catch at sunset, a must see! You can take the opportunity to enjoy some of the luxuries on offer before the journey ahead, and see the great range of wooden products on offer in the artisan’s market.


Week 4: Casamance, Gambia and Senegal

Leaving Bissau we drive north into the tropical southern part of Senegal known as the Casamance. This southern part of the country is quite a contrast to the rest of Senegal – both topographically and culturally speaking (the people are mainly Jola or ‘Diola’ and non-Muslim). The Casamance has seen a large slump in tourism since the troubles of the late 1980′s and 1990’s, so the local people are most welcoming to travellers that venture this way.

This section of the trip will be pretty relaxed. Most drive days will be relatively short, with chances to stop along the way to take photos of this beautiful part of Senegal. We will spend best part of a week staying at various campements, all situated in the most beautiful parts of this beautiful region. There will be a number of different options for things to do, including:

  • Pirogue rides along the creeks and mangroves that are rich in birdlife
  • Climb above the forest canopy on rope ladders for incredible views of the Casamance
  • Boat rides to small islands
  • Walks in the rice fields and forests
  • Bicycle rides around the pistes and traditional villages of the estuary
  • Visit markets where artisans are selling their arts and crafts
  • Take a fishing trip and maybe bring back some fish to share for dinner!
  • Or you can simply relax on the beach – watch the fishermen bringing in their catch and mending their nets, wander into a nearby village to observe artisans at work , or maybe call in at the bar for a glass of the local brew, you decide!

In northern Casamance we will spend a couple of nights in a small village known for its music, drumming and reggae parties. We hope to see a traditional Koumpo dance and also a Djembe troupe performance. Drumming lessons will be available for those that want to take them, and there will be time to relax on the stunning beach. We will also visit a nearby coastal town, famous for its enormous fish market and smoke houses, an incredible sight!

From Casamance we continue north into Gambia. Once across the border we will stop for a night at the compound of a Griot family which serves as a school of music. Griots are praise singers, historians, story tellers, entertainers and musicians, whose traditions are passed down between generations. We hope to witness a Kora performance, and have the chance to try our hand at playing a variety of local instruments. We will follow the southern side of the river Gambia and head east for a night at Tendaba Campement. We’ll stay two nights at this tranquil riverside camp to relax with the option to take boat trips to spot wildlife in the Baobolong Wetlands and the Kiang West National Park. This protected reserve of mangroves boasts an outstanding wealth of birdlife, impressive enough to excite even the non-bird watcher! We also hope the village will turn out for a lively evening of dancing and music around the truck.

A ferry ride will take us over the river Gambia to the town of Farafenni, where we will cross the border into the northern part of Senegal. Making for the capital Dakar, we hope to stop at the Sine Saloum delta en route (time permitting). We should arrive into Dakar mid afternoon for a chance to explore this cosmopolitan and vibrant city. Take the opportunity to wander and visit some of the sights. Absorb yourself in art galleries and vibrant markets, enjoy the nightlife, or take in some of the troubled history of the slave trade on the Île de Gorée, a great way to end our trip from Sierra Leone to Senegal!

Please Note: This trip can be combined with our Accra To Freetown trip for the ultimate West Africa Overland adventure!

There are more detailed trip notes specific to each departure date available, contact us and we will be happy to send them to you.

Freetown to Dakar Overland