West African Odyssey Cruise

Day 1

    Cape Town, South Africa

    Arrive in beautiful Cape Town, celebrated for its great seaside location and vistas. Check in to the Table Bay Hotel, on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with the rest of the day free to explore. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner. (D)

    Day 2

      Cape Town/Embark Ship

      For a spectacular view of the Cape, take a cable car to the top of the city’s landmark, flat-topped Table Mountain (weather permitting). Then visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, known for its remarkable collection of Cape flora. Embark National Geographic Explorer and sail northward to begin your voyage. (B,L,D)

      Day 3

        At Sea

        (B,L,D)

        Day 4

          Lüderitz, Namibia

          See the mining “ghost town” of Kolmanskop and tour Lüderitz. (B,L,D)

          Days 5-6

            Walvis Bay & Swakopmund

            Among the variety of excursions that await: seeing the unique plants and landscapes of the Namib Desert, a cruise on Walvis Bay for its dolphins and outstanding birdlife, a visit to the town of Swakopmund, with its German architecture, and a bush dinner out in the desert. (B,L,D)

            Days 7-8

              At Sea

              (B,L,D)

              Day 9

                Lobito & Benguela, Angola

                Visit the picturesque town of Benguela, with pastel-colored Art Deco colonial buildings and lovely setting. (B,L,D)

                Day 10

                  Luanda

                  Explore the Angolan capital of Luanda, or venture to Kissama National Park in search of wildlife. (B,L,D)

                  Day 11

                    Pointe Noire, Congo

                    Lovely, seldom-visited Ponte Noire is your base for visiting the Tchimpounga chimpanzee sanctuary, if open, or the city and attractive surrounding countryside. (B,L,D)

                    Day 12

                      At Sea

                      (B,L,D)

                      Day 13

                        Libreville, Gabon

                        Cosmopolitan Libreville has a great deal to see, and plan to visit one of the wilderness areas located surprising close to the city. (B,L,D)

                        Day 14

                          São Tomé, Sao Tome & Príncipe

                          São Tomé is the capital of the archipelago nation of São Tomé and Príncipe — once an important entrepot for the slave trade, but today a friendly place with a relaxed lifestyle, where Portuguese colonial history is apparent. You’ll have a choice of excursions: to explore the capital city; to see plantations that were once the mainstays of the economy but are now in disrepair; to venture along the island’s scenic east coast; or to go on a birdwatching excursion in search of some of the endemic species for which São Tomé is known. (B,L,D)

                          Day 15

                            Príncipe

                            The small island of Príncipe is the definition of a tropical paradise — a green locale with spectacular beaches and forests that harbor a number of bird species unique to here. Anchor just offshore, then spend the day swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, birdwatching and visiting the tiny, sleepy capital, Santo Antonio (which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest city). (B,L,D)

                            Day 16

                              Kribi, Cameroon

                              The pleasant town of Kribi is lined with golden-sand beaches, and the nearby Lobé River ends at the seashore in a series of picturesque waterfalls. You’ll be poled in pirogues (dugout canoes) up the Lobé, lined with indigenous trees and shrubs. Visit a small village of the Bagyeli “pygmy” people, learn how they live, and have a chance to talk with them, with your guides providing interpretation. At the mouth of the river, see the waterfalls, then visit a primary school. Enjoy one of the beaches, and if conditions permit, do some kayaking. (B,L,D)

                              Day 17

                                Limbé

                                Drive along the lower slopes of imposing Mt. Cameroon to visit a tea plantation and learn how tea is harvested and processed. In lieu of visiting the tea estate, the truly fit have the option of a steep ascent and descent of Mt. Cameroon’s lower portion, walking first through farmland and then through the rain forest. In Limbé, visit the marvelous Limbé Wildlife Center, a research facility that houses and rehabilitates large numbers of gorillas, chimpanzees and other primates, and walk through the Botanic Gardens — also an excellent birding locale — to see a variety of West African and exotic trees and shrubs. (B,L,D)

                                Day 18

                                  At Sea

                                  (B,L,D)

                                  Day 19

                                    Cotonou, Benin

                                    Drive to the interesting town of Ouidah, a center for the animist “voodoo” religion that is widely practiced in the region, and also a place which had a long history in the slave trade. Visit the tranquil Sacred Forest to see statues representing some of the deities, and continue to the Portuguese fort, now a fine museum devoted to slavery and the attendant links between Benin and the Americas. Follow the route along which slaves were driven, from the town down to the ocean. In the afternoon, take motorized pirogues across Lake Nokoué to the village of Ganvié, built on stilts in the middle of the lake. The busy residents make their living by fishing in the lake, and you’ll see the fish traps and the workings of the village, where practically all transport is by boat. At the lake’s edge is a colorful market, where residents of Ganvié buy produce and other essentials and sell fish to “mainlanders.” (B,L,D)

                                    Day 20

                                      Lomé, Togo

                                      The region to the north and west of Lomé (and across the border into Ghana) is home to the Ewe people, whose traditions include a profound veneration for their ancestors and also weaving the renowned kente cloth. Visit an Ewe village, meeting the chief and local residents, and have a chance to stroll around and get a good sense of what life is like there. Visit a nearby school. You’ll also explore Lomé, seeing the outstanding Museum of the Gulf of Guinea and the friendly artisans’ market. (B,L,D)

                                      Day 21

                                        Accra, Ghana

                                        Bustling Accra, Ghana’s capital is always lively and full of interest. Visit the fine National Museum, with an outstanding collection of artifacts and crafts, and the mausoleum of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president. Some Ghanaians choose to be buried in colorful caskets that reflect their occupations or passions, and we’ll visit a workshop where brightly painted caskets may include giant fish, beer bottles, cars and more. We’ll plan to visit a school and also an exceptional gallery with traditional and contemporary art. Alternatively, you may wish to visit the Shai Hills Reserve in search of baboons, kob and birdlife, and the Aburi Hills Botanic Garden. Back aboard ship this evening, plan to welcome a Ghanaian notable for dinner and conversation. (B,L,D)

                                        Day 22

                                          Cape Coast, Ghana

                                          A variety of absorbing experiences awaits you today. Dock at the Ghanaian town of Takoradi and visit Cape Coast Castle, a World Heritage Site, from where tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of slaves were dispatched through the “Door of No Return.” The images of the dungeons and at fine quarters occupied by the overseers are haunting. The beach below the castle is a beehive of activity, as fishing boats come and go and fishermen work at repairing their nets. You’ll also see the impressive exterior of Elmina Castle. The adventurous among the group can visit Kakum National Park, whose canopy walkway, suspended high over the rain forest, is not for the faint of heart. Local guides will show you the plants and birdlife of the forest. (B,L,D)

                                          Days 23-24

                                            At Sea

                                            (B,L,D)

                                            Day 25

                                              Monrovia, Liberia

                                              Liberia has made remarkable strides in rebuilding during the short time since its civil war ended in 2005, and an upbeat, optimistic spirit pervades the country. Meet with local officials to hear about the important work that is taking place and explore Monrovia, seeing Providence Island, where the Americo-Liberian settlers landed; fine objects in the National Museum; a school; Liberia’s oldest church (built in 1839); and you’ll enjoy great views from the top of Ducor Hill. Or if you wish, you can be paddled along a small river outside town to enjoy the mangroves and local communities. (B,L,D)

                                              Day 26

                                                Freetown, Sierra Leone

                                                Sierra Leone is also rebuilding rapidly since the end of its civil war, and this friendly country possesses an exuberant spirit. Tour Freetown, seeing the National Museum, the “Big Market,” the massive cotton tree that is Freetown’s symbol and a number of other stops. In the afternoon, visit the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Or you may choose to explore the beautiful peninsula on which Freetown lies, which has picture-postcard beaches, good swimming and snorkeling and interesting communities. (B,L,D)

                                                Day 27

                                                  At Sea

                                                  (B,L,D)

                                                  Day 28

                                                    Banjul, The Gambia

                                                    The country of Gambia straddles the Gambia River, and dock at the capital of Banjul, where the river flows into the Atlantic. Among the activities today: exploring the important Abuko Nature Center, known for its birdlife and monkeys; taking a boat among the mangroves of the Tanbi Wetlands to look for water birds; touring the National Museum; and seeing a lively local market and a place where batik and tie-dyed clothing is made. Hope to arrange a visit to the ship by an American official to talk about current issues in the region. (B,L,D)

                                                    Day 29

                                                      Dakar

                                                      Dakar is one of Africa’s most vital cities. Tour the city, seeing the crafts market, cathedral and, presidential palace, and watch fishing boats return with their catch. Visit Gorée Island, a World Heritage Site that was a key hub for the slave trade. See traditional and contemporary art, or choose birdwatching. Visit a local club for great Senegalese music. (B,L,D)

                                                      Days 30-31

                                                        At Sea

                                                        (B,L,D)

                                                        Day 32

                                                          Dakhla, Western Sahara

                                                          At tranquil Dakhla, the Sahara meets the sea. Venture into the desert to the White Dune, swim in the lagoon, look for flamingos, and enjoy a local lunch in a tent set up especially for the occasion. Tour the town and visit the market street. (B,L,D)

                                                          Day 33

                                                            Tenerife, Canary Islands

                                                            Tenerife has the highest mountain in the Atlantic and in Spain, the 12,198-foot volcano Teide. Explore this World Heritage Site, seeing its extraordinary landscapes and the flora and fauna that have adapted to the unusual conditions. You’ll also see some of the island’s historic sites. (B,L,D)

                                                            Day 34

                                                              At Sea

                                                              (B,L,D)

                                                              Day 35

                                                                Disembark Agadir / Marrakech, Morocco

                                                                Disembark in the white-washed Moroccan seaside city of Agadir, and drive to Marrakech for a spectacular end to your journey. Visit the Koutoubia mosque and the extraordinary Jemaa el Fna square — a human carnival with magicians, snake charmers, acrobats, water sellers, and food stalls. Enjoy a gala farewell dinner and stay at the fine Sofitel. (B,L,D)

                                                                Day 36

                                                                  Marrakech / Return Home

                                                                  After breakfast this morning, connect to your independent return flights home. (B)
                                                                  Travelers under the age of 18 save $500 per person.
                                                                  Cruise fare includes:
                                                                  All accommodations aboard ships or in hotels per itinerary or similar, all meals and nonalcoholic beverages aboard ship, meals on land as indicated, air transportation where indicated as included, shore excursions, sightseeing and entrance fees, special access permits, transfers to and from group flights, use of snorkeling equipment and wet suits, use of kayaks (where available), gratuities (except to ship’s crew), taxes and service charges, services of a ship physician on most voyages, and services of the expedition staff.

                                                                  Not included in cruise fare:
                                                                  Air transportation (except where shown as included), extensions, passport, visa, immigration fees, scuba diving (where available), meals not indicated, baggage/accident/travel protection plan, items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, e-mail, and laundry. Gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion.