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
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
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 available from Wikimedia.
- Faróis em Macau e na Guiné
- Historic lighthouse photos from the Portuguese colonial archives.
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
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
Biosphere Reserve. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty
D3081; NGA 24588.
- Ponta Colónia
- 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 a Google satellite
view probably shows the light. 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. No photo available but 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 colonial archives have a historic
photo that probably shows the current tower. This light guides ships approaching
Bissau from the south. Located on a small island south of the mouth of the
estuary, about 30 km (20 mi) southwest of Bissau. Accessible only by boat.
Site status unknown. Admiralty D3064; NGA 24552.
- Ilhéu dos Pássaros (Porto Bissau)
- 1916. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); white flash every 5 s. 13 m (43
ft) square masonry tower, painted white. No current photo available, but
Google has a satellite
view. The colonial archives have a historic
photo, 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
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
- 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. No photo
available, but Google has an excellent satellite view. The colonial archives have a historic
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, the 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
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); three white flashes every
15 s. 13 m (43 ft) "iron tower on two superimposed pyramids," according
to NGA. Lighthouse painted white. No photo available, and Google's satellite
view of the cape does not show the tower. Located 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.
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 September 4, 2012.
Lighthouses: 10. Site copyright 2012 Russ Rowlett and the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill.