West Africa Cruise - Cape Town to Marrakech
Day 1 Cape Town, South Africa
Welcome to Cape Town, the most cosmopolitan city on the continent and one of the most stunning urban areas on Earth! Today is an arrival day, so there are no planned activities. Your arrival transfer is included.
Day 2 Cape Town (1B,1L,1D)
Our tour today starts with the cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain. The plateau at 3 km wide has its highest point over 1,000 meters, and provides spectacular views of the surrounded landscape. Lunch at the Seaforth Restaurant before visiting Boulder Beach, a beautiful sandy beach dotted with massive granite boulders. Since 1982 it has been the home of over 3,000 tunnel nesting African Black footed penguins. From here we make our way along the equally famous Chapman’s Peak road, a scenic drive like no other, pausing periodically to take in the sea vistas and cozy oceanside settlements, before entering the larger, more ethnically diverse towns of Hout Bay and Kommetjie. We also have the opportunity to visit the boulders site where a small colony of African, or Jackass penguins cling to viability in a small breeding colony that is heavily protected. After this we enjoy a drive back towards Cape Town, skirting the Constantia Winelands before making our way to the MS Expedition, for embarkation at approximately 4pm
Day 3 At Sea (1B,1L,1D)
Days at sea will be filled with a fascinating and entertaining educational program presented by our expert expedition team. Lectures and presentations on the history, anthropology, flora and fauna of the region will be interspersed with seminars on painting, photography and music.The Expedition has ample public space in the lounge and library, and you can always join new friends in the ship’s popular pub. Alternatively, spend time relaxing on the ship’s deck or scanning the horizon with binoculars and camera in search of seabirds and marine life. As always, high-end dining experiences will be enjoyed in the ship’s dining room. Capping off the day, winemaker David van Neikerk describes his method of making Sparkling Wine in South Africa, and everyone gets to toast with a glass of his very own Sparkling Wine.
Day 4 Luderitz, Namibia (1B,1L,1D)
Within minutes of disembarking from MS Expedition on the southern coast of Namibia, we encounter ascending blocks of architectural evidence that the seaside town of Luderitz had indeed been founded by German settlers who brought their culture with them to southwest Africa. From the brightly painted houses of Berg Street (built 1909-11) to the elegant 1910 Goerke House on the hill, it was also evident that a substantial number of the early 20th century newcomers to this remote seaport had achieved financial success from endeavors related to the nearby diamond fields. But the visitors of 2013 will find that these days the colorful European-style buildings repose along sleepy inclined avenues where the era of bustling prosperity that produced them a century ago, has long since been absorbed into the mists of the offshore currents. Just a few miles north, we travel through the dwellings of the mining ghost town of Kolmannskuppe. Glancing at faded museum photographs, listen for faint echoes of German life from the arduous era of the diamond industry.
Day 5 Walvis Bay, Namibia (1B,1L,1D)
Morning at sea may provide an opportunity to see fur seals and Cape Gannets Upon arrival in Walvis Bay we’ll have the opportunity to explore the landscapes of the Namib Desert. We begin by setting off to see the fantastic Welwitchias – a living fossil that has existed since the day of the dinosaur. At first glance it looks like a misshapen dried up dying plant – but upon closer inspection we could see the adaptations that have made it such a successful and long lived plant found only in the Namib Desert. Soon after, we're off to look at the Moonlandscape – which is yet another portion of the desert with formations of such unusual peaks and valleys stretching off into tomorrow. Marvel at the vastness of the world’s oldest desert
Day 6-7 At Sea (2B,2L,2D)
Spend your days at sea emersed in our educational lecture series along with cultural art and musical workshops. Or, simply kick back to a documentary film. For those looking for entertainment into the evening, you will find live music in the Polar Pub.
Day 8 Lobito (Benguela), Angola (1B,1L,1D)
Today we'll enjoy a visit to the quaint town of Sao Felipe de Benguela in Angola. Benguela was founded by Portuguese in 1617 has a big part in the history of the slave trade. The tour for the day covered the two towns of Lobito and Benguela, both cast in the unique Portuguese/African style, veneered slightly, but only very slightly, by the fresh paint of modern architecture and construction, and displaying the usual Portuguese national obsession with tree lined avenues and lovely central parkways and public spaces We pause at the 16th century fort of San Pedro site on a hilltop guarding the old crossing on the Catumbela River. This offers great views of the surrounding city. Also view the 1905 steel bridge that had been responsible for so much congestion, and the governor’s residence opposite.
Day 9 At Sea (1B,1L,1D)
Day 10 Pointe Noir, Congo (1B,1L,1D)
Today, we visit the Congo’s Pointe Noire. On the agenda today are visits to the cliffs of Diosso Gorge, the museum and the city’s very lively market. We begin the day by going to the Diosso Gorge to look at the red sand stone gulley, created by natural erosion. Then head over to the Diosso Scientific and Cultural museum where enthusiastic museum guides provide us a tour of the collection.
Day 11 At Sea (1B,1L,1D)
Day 12-13 São Tomé and Príncipe (2B,2L,2D)
This Portuguese colonial island nation is a tropical paradise of beaches, waterfalls, forests and friendly people. We’ll visit the capital, São Tomé—once an important slave-trade post—and explore a nearby plantation. São Tomé is famous among birders, with over 140 species identified in the surrounding area. On a birding excursion, try to catch a glimpse of the islands’ endemic inhabitants. The next day we explore Príncipe via Zodiac boat to experience its beaches, waterfalls and rainforests. A swim in the tropical waters is a great way to relax. Birdlife, including many endemic species, is abundant here and we’ll keep our eyes out for African grey parrots. Our day will take us to an old Coffee Station called Monte Café, reinvigorated by foreign money. We'll stay for lunch before moving on to the quaint town to explore the a fort at the entrance to the harbour. Like going back in time to the colonial era, and the inhabitants had just picked up and left. After, a quick stop at a small shop to buy some local chocolate and gifts we head back to the pier to board the ship.
Day 14 At Sea (1B,1L,1D)
Sit back and listen to the lecture series continue. Scan the horizon through the lens of your binoculars, or join in on a possible wine tasting event
Day 15 Cotonou, Benin (1B,1L,1D)
On the surface Cotonou seems like any other noisy and colorful African city, an impression reinforced as you move through endless labyrinth of dusty streets clogged with informal markets, trading kiosks and roadside industries. The city lacks natural resources, but what it does not appear to lack is entrepreneurial energy. Every conceivable commodity and enterprise is available somewhere not too far from anywhere else. We arrive at our first destination. Gamvié, described as the Venice of West Africa, is a little less than that, but nonetheless it is an extraordinary community atop the tidal Lake Nueké where historically, refuge was sought against the predation of the slave catching troops of Dahomey. Today it remains an independent water community reliant on small scale trade and fishing, existing around a small, self contained stilted village. We visited the site in a series of small boats, embarking at a bustling but rather odorous waterside market from where we weave our way through busy fishermen and paddling market ladies. From Gamvié we make our way through the congested countryside to the fascinating town of Ouidah. The sad history of Ouidah is that it once served at as the main entrepot for slave embarkation to the New World, and a great deal of local focus and commemoration has been given over to memorializing this shameful trade. Ouidah is also the center of the local Voodoo culture, with colorful and symbolic statuary representing various aspects of the faith to be found everywhere within and around the town.
Day 16 Lome, Togo (1B,1L,1D)
Following breakfast we all disembark for a day of learning and discovery in and around the city of Lome. Anticipate and action-filled day punctuated with the color and vitality of the Ewe and Akan people, who founded the city in the 18th century. Our first stop of the day is the International Museum of Guinea. This is a small converted residence that holds treasures that will amaze anyone. Expert in African arts and culture or not we will are privileged to see rare, authentic artifacts from across West Africa that span centuries. Following this, we visit an artisanal market nearby for shopping before returning back to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon we travel out of town to the Akato Viepe village to meet the chief and experience village life. Upon arrival we are met with the welcoming face and venture into learning about patrilineal communities, their farming practices, and the role of different people in the village. Leave feeling inspired by a day in Togo and return to the ship filled with new knowledge and a burning desire to return.
Day 17 Accra, Ghana (1B,1L,1D)
Today's excursion takes us from the port at Tema to the busy capital of Accra. Our first stop is at a casket-maker’s shop where caskets are carved to depict the beliefs, hobbies and life stories of the deceased. Later, we’ll visit a local school to interact with the children and staff before heading off to a local market, the national museum and the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. Wildlife enthusiasts may choose to visit the Shai Game Reserve instead to view baboons, green monkeys and antelope as well as an abundance of birdlife: Senegal Parrots, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters and Vieilot's Barbet. After the reserve, we'll witness local bead-making and give it a try ourselves.
Day 18 Takoradi, Ghana (1B,1L,1D)
From the dock at the Ghanaian town of Takoradi, we’ll explore a region steeped in the sad history of the slave trade. A visit to Elmira Castle and Cape Coast Castle brings us face-to-face with the horrible conditions of the dungeons and quarters slaves inhabited while awaiting their fate. Although this site was established by the Swedes in 1653, it was not until the 1700s, when it fell under the control of the British, that it reached its peak of output as a commercial slaving depot. The castle itself, although forbidding from the outside, is surrounded by the pleasant aspects of local fishing activity, and the relatively clean and pleasant precincts of Cape Castle village. A visit to the West African Historical Museum is included in our visit to Cape Coast Castle. Alternatively, travellers may visit Kakum National Park to witness its 100-foot-high Canopy Walkway. From high above the treetops, the Walkway gets us incredibly close to the flora and fauna of the region.
Day 19-20 At Sea (2B,2L,2D)
Day 21 Freetown, Sierra Leone (1B,1L,1D)
Today, we disembark in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is recovering from a civil war that almost tore the country apart, but today it is a progressive African state with a great future. Tourism is part of the recovery process. We’ll explore the city, the Tacagumu Chimpanzee Sanctuary. With so many interesting aspects to the city tour what immediately strikes travelers is the combination of bustle, clutter, seething traffic and population, and of course the ever present informal sector industry. Many of the streets retain their old colonial era names, such as Gloucester Road, Wilberforce Street, George Street and Regent Street, all very oddly juxtaposed against this swarming West African city. Our first stop is the Sierra Leone National Museum, close to the famous Cotton Tree. A nearby war memorial may also be of considerable interest, rendering a sense of the extent to which this tragedy has been imprinted on the psyche of this city.
Day 22 At Sea (1B,1L,1D)
Day 23 Bijagos Archipelego, Guinea-Bissau (1B,1L,1D)
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Bijagos Archipelego off the coast of Guinea-Bissau is one of the most unexplored places on Earth. The island’s inhabitants are descendants of an ancient culture that practices an animist religion. Tides will dictate our experience here, and we’ll utilize our fleet of Zodiacs to explore traditional villages, uninhabited islands and mangroves. Birders will delight in the variety of species to be found here.
Day 24 Banjul, the Gambia (1B,1L,1D)
Today’s a special day for the bird lovers among us! The Gambia is known for its abundant birdlife: Over 500 species! Today, we’ll visit the Abuko Nature Reserve for a walk with our guides. Birds, monkeys and crocodiles inhabit the area. Alternatively, travellers also have the option to visit the museum of a local artist. Before arriving at the museum, we’ll visit the Serrekunda market, one of Africa’s busiest. At the museum, the artist herself will give us a guided tour of the space and its works while giving us some insight into her life as an African artist. For lunch, we’ll participate in a cooking class with a local woman who will show us how to make traditional Gambian cuisine. Later, we’ll visit a fruit distillery to learn about local liqueurs and be treated to a tasting.
Day 25 Dakar, Senegal (1B,1L,1D)
Today we disembark in Dakar, Senegal; a bustling and energetic West African capital. We’ll visit the infamous slave-trading post of Gorée Island and learn about the history of the region and its importance to the slave trade. The tour includes visits to the dungeons and slave quarters, the traders’ opulent homes, the House of Slaves and Le Castel, offering a fascinating look into this dark time. We’ll also visit the IFAN Historical Museum to learn more about the history of Senegal. After lunch, we’ll explore Dakar’s incredible markets, Great Mosque and colonial architecture before returning to the ship.
Day 26-27 At Sea (2B,2L,2D)
Day 28 Dakhla, Western Sahara (1B,1L,1D)
Dakhla in the country of West Sahara , although administered by Morocco, Is our opportunity to touch the western edge of the great Sahara Desert . The Western Sahara is a tropical desert! Hot and dry but cooled by the breeze off the Atlantic Ocean. This combination of cool and hot can often create a fog layer out at sea. A pastoral nomadic life style is common here, as most make a living fishing and or mining. We are planning a full day tour here to see this edge of the saraha and if possible some of the nomadic peoples who live there.
Day 29 At Sea (1B,1L,1D)
Day 30 Fuerteventura, Canary Islands (1B,1L,1D)
A day at sea brings us to Fuereventura Canary Islands. This particular island is part of the newly designated UNESCO bioreserve. It is believed the first settlers came from North Africa soon to be followed by Spainish, Portguese and French! Today of course it is a meca for those escaping winter colds further to the north. You will see why when we tour the islands beaches. Like the rest of the canaries, it is an ancient volcanic island – that has eroded. The climate on Fuerteventura is pleasant throughout the year. The island is also often referred to as the island of eternal spring. The sea adjusts the temperature making the hot Sahara winds blow away from the island.
Day 31 Agadir to Marrakech (1B,1L,1D)
We then making our last open sea passage back to the continent landing in Agadir, near the foot of the famous and wildly snow capped Atlas Mountains. (30 degrees north similar to the Florida Georgia border or central texas) 146 miles to Marrakech. In 1960 it was completely destroyed by earth quake – now totally rebuilt it is a modern city and the beach destination of choice for many! We transfer to Marrakesh stopping along the way for lunch and arriving into Marrakech in time to take a guided walk down the Medina – the ancient central market, with shopping stalls, Visit the extraordinary Djemaa el Fna square—a human carnival filled with magicians, snake charmers, acrobats, water sellers and food stalls.
Day 32 Marrakech (1B)
After breakfast, depart for the airport and flights homeward.