If you could browse through a Guinea-Bissau tourist brochure you'd definitely find idyllic pictures of Bijagós Islands gently swaying palm trees along powdery golden beaches and azure lagoons promising a cheerful splash. Complete with a cooling breeze from the ocean and a sip of fruit cocktail, these enticing photos would make you want to dash a few bits and pieces into your suitcase and rush to the airport. The Eden-like spots are really there but to reach them is a kind of DIY daredevil escapade, though.
This tiny West African country was long under Portugal rule. In fact, it was not until 1974 that it finally shook off the colonizer's shackles and started an independent existence. Free but shaken by 1998 civil war, military junta imposed in 1999 and September 2003 coup, Guinea -Bissau has been desperately trying to recover from the continuing period of political instability for years. With an economic and social infrastructure in ruins, widespread poverty and a risk of becoming a "narco-state", as described by the UN, the country experiences an unenviable condition.
The hopes are high here and a fair dose of optimism about the future is felt all around, though. No wonder, for there is pretty much in stock for prospect tourists. One day, adventure hungry travelers and vista connoisseurs will appreciate the pristine settings of Bijagos Archipelago offering not only superb nature but also incredible snorkeling. They'll enjoy Bissau's colonial architecture and mango-shaded streets lined with lively cafes and joyfully plunder the covered street market. They'll dive into the rich marine life thiriving in the deltas and archipelagos and come nose-to-nose with wildlife in the celebrated Cantanhez Natural Park in Jemberem. As the country's motto reads- "Small in size - big in reputation"- Guinea Bissau exerts not a singular charm to be found by devoted explorers of Africa's hidden gems.