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Driving Directions Guinea-Bissau

GUINEA-BISSAU, formerly a Portuguese territory but granted inde­pendence in 1974, is located south of Senegal on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. The republic’s territory includes over 60 coastal islands, including the archipelago of Bijagós.

It is a stunning country with a deeply indented and island-fringed coastline and a low, marshy plain, rising slightly to a plateau and hills on the border with neighbor­ing Guinea. Mangrove swamps and tropical jungles cover the land near the coast, giving way to savannah-type grassland on the plateau.

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The climate is tropical, with abundant rain from June to November but hot, dry conditions for the rest of the year. The forests contain commercially valuable trees, but the majority of the people are engaged in subsistence farming. The country’s principal aim is to become self-sufficient in food, and the main crops grown by its subsistence farmers are rice, groundnuts, cassava, sugar cane, plantains, maize, and coconuts.

Fishing is an important export industry, although cashew nuts are the principal export. Peanuts, palm products, and cotton are also a source of export revenue. Years of Portuguese rule and civil war have left Guinea-Bissau impoverished, and it is one of the poorest states in West Africa.

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Guinea-Bissau is located on the coast of West Africa, where many islands are found on the extended continental shelf. The country is made up of the mainland, the Bisagos Islands (Arquipélago dos Bijagós), and various coastal islands. The mainland consists of a coastal plain and a transition plateau forming the Bafatá Plateau (Planalto de Bafatá) in the center and the Gabú Plateau (Planalto de Gabú), which borders the Fouta Djallon highland region of neighboring Guinea.

Guinea-Bissau faces the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Coral reefs and islands dominate the coastal region.

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In 1996, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the Bisagos Islands (Bijagós Archipelago) and parts of the coastal region as a biosphere reserve. A biosphere reserve is a terrestrial or coastal ecosystem that serves as a living laboratory to test and demonstrate techniques that manage an integrated system of land, water, and biodiversity. The reserve in Guinea-Bissau includes several islands with mangroves, swamp forests, estuaries, mudflats, intact palm groves, hippos, green turtle breeding sites, manatee, dolphins, winter ground for wading birds, and key natural resources for the local population.

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