Lighthouses of Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau is the former Portuguese Guinea, a small country wedged into the south side of West Africa between Senegal and the Republic of Guinea. Since becoming independent in 1974, the country has suffered from unstable governments and a civil war during the late 1990s.

Most of Guinea-Bissau is quite low. Two large estuaries, the Rio Cacheu and the Rio Géba, separate the country into separate regions. The islands known as the Bijagós are scattered off the coast, obstructing navigation. The Portuguese built a number of lighthouses in Guinea to guide ships through these waters into the ports of Bissau and Bolama. Almost no information on these lighthouses is available, so visitor accounts and photos would be very welcome.

Lighthouses in Guinea-Bissau are maintained by the Capitania dos Portos, Serviços de Marinha. The lights are reported to be in poor condition, although the port authority worked to renovate them in 2007-08.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume D of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 113.

General Sources
Lighthouses in Guinea-Bissau
Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
World of Lighthouses - Guinea-Bissau
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Faróis em Macau e na Guiné
Historic lighthouse photos from the Portuguese colonial archives.

Bissau Catedral Light
Bissau Catedral Light, Bissau, 2003
(lens is on the right side of the roof of the left tower)
photo copyright Pat and Cat Patterson, Cycling Around the World; used by permission

Bolama Region (Bijagós Islands) Lighthouses
Note: The Bijagós (Bissagos Islands) were claimed by both Portugal and Britain during the colonial period. U.S. President Ulysses Grant served as an arbitrator in 1870 and awarded the islands to Portugal.
Poilão (Ilhéu do Poilão)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 27 m (89 ft); three white flashes every 15 s. Approx. 24 m (79 ft) square pyramidal skeletal tower carrying a triangular slatted daymark. No current photo available, but the colonial archives has a historic photo that shows the present tower or an earlier and similar tower. A distant Google satellite view may show the location of the tower. Poilão is the southernmost islet of the Bijagós, so this is a landfall light for vessels arriving from the south. Located at the southern tip of the island. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty D3080; NGA 24596.
Ilha Roxa (Ponta Barel)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 26 m (85 ft); three white flashes every 15 s. 14 m (46 ft) square masonry tower, painted white with a red cross on the seaward (east) side. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse was built as the landfall light for Bolama. Located on the east side of the island, which is part of the Arquipélago dos Bijagós Biosphere Reserve. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty D3081; NGA 24588.
Ponta Colónia (Bolama)
Date unknown (1920s?). Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); two white flashes every 10 s. 12 m (39 ft) square masonry tower, painted white. No photo available, but Bing has an indistinct satellite view. The light guides ships to Bolama, the historic former capital of Portuguese Guinea, about 50 km (30 mi) south of Bissau. Located at the end of a long, narrow peninsula sheltering the port of Bolama, about 7 km (4 mi) south of the town. Site status unknown. ARLHS GUI-004; Admiralty D3072; NGA 24568.
Ilha Galinhas
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 9 m (30 ft); three white flashes every 15 s. 9 m (30 ft) square white concrete tower with gallery. A small sunset photo (a little less than halfway down the page) is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located just off the northeastern tip of Ilha Galinhas, marking the west side of the entrance channel for the Rio Géba estuary. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D3065; NGA 24556.
Pedro Álvares
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); white flash every 5 s. 11 m (36 ft) square masonry tower with gallery, painted white. No current photo available, but the historic photo at right probably shows the current tower, and Bing has a satellite view. This light guides ships approaching Bissau from the south. Located on a small island south off the mouth of the Rio Géba estuary, about 30 km (20 mi) southwest of Bissau. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty D3064; NGA 24552.
Pedro Álvares Light
Pedro Álvares Light, undated Creative Commons photo
Arquivo Científico Tropical Digital collection

Bissau Lighthouses
Ilhéu dos Pássaros (Porto Bissau) (2)
Date unknown (station established 1916). Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); white flash every 5 s. 13 m (43 ft) hexagonal cylindrical masonry tower, unpainted. A 2012 view from the estuary is available, and Google has a satellite view. The colonial archives have a historic photo of the original lighthouse, a square tower, and the lighthouse is pictured on a 1948 navigation chart of Bissau. Located on a small island in the Rio Géba estuary about 7 km (4 mi) southwest of Bissau. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS GUI-003; Admiralty D3058; NGA 24524.
* Bissau Catedral (Range Rear)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 36 m (118 ft); green light, 2 s on, 7 s off. Light mounted on the north tower of the cathedral. Thanks to Pat and Cat Patterson for the photo above, Michel Craig has a photo, Robert Dorian has another photo, Wikimedia has a 1995 photo, and Google has a satellite view. This is the rear light of the range guiding ships to the Bissau docks from the Rio Géba estuary. The front light is a square metal tower 320 m (350 yd) south southeast. Located two blocks north of the waterfront in downtown Bissau. Site open, church open, tower status unknown. Admiralty D3060.1; NGA 24544.

Biombo Region Lighthouse
Ponta Biombo
Date unknown (station established 1920s?). Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); white flash every 5 s. 13 m (43 ft) round masonry tower, painted white. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. The colonial archives have a historic photo of the original lighthouse (also seen at right), which seems consistent with the Google satellite image. Located at the northwestern entrance to the Rio Géba estuary, which leads to Bissau. Site status unknown. ARLHS GUI-002; Admiralty D3056; NGA 24512.

Cacheu Region Lighthouses
Caió
1906. Active; focal plane 42 m (138 ft); two white flashes every 10 s. Tall round stone tower, height unknown, painted with black and white horizontal bands. A historic view (almost 1/4 the way down the page) is available, and Google has an excellent satellite view. The colonial archives have a historic photo showing a square skeletal tower atop a round masonry tower; it's possible that the skeletal section was replaced with an extension of the masonry section. This is the landfall light for Bissau. According to a news account out of Angola, this historic lighthouse was restored in 2007 after being out of service since 1997. Located on an islet off the southwestern tip of the Ilha de Jeta, a large, mangrove-covered island off the town of Caió in the western part of Guinea-Bissau. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS GUI-001; Admiralty D3050; NGA 24500.
Cabo Mata (Rio Cacheu) (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); three white flashes every 15 s. 13 m (43 ft) white concrete post rising from a square pyramidal concrete base. No photo available, but Bing has a satellite view. The tower was formerly described as an "iron tower on two superimposed pyramids" in the NGA list. Located a short distance offshore on the south side of the entrance to the Rio Cacheu, about 25 km (15 mi) southwest of the town of Cacheu. Site status unknown. Admiralty D3042; NGA 24484.
Farol de Biombo
Ponta Biombo Light, undated Creative Commons photo
Arquivo Científico Tropical Digital collection

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Senegal | South: Guinea

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Posted September 5, 2005. Checked and revised December 12, 2014. Lighthouses: 10. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.