Independent flights to Douala, Cameroon. Upon arrival, enjoy a complimentary transfer to your included hotel for overnight.
After breakfast set off to explore Douala, including the colorful, open-air market where a vast array of crafts illustrate the country’s rich artistic tradition. Continue to the port and embark the Island Sky, enjoy lunch on board, and settle in.
Spend the day anchored off idyllic Bom Bom Resort on Príncipe’s northern tip. Birders and hikers set off for the interior to discover exotic endemic trees, orchids, and birds. The rest drive to supremely photogenic Santo Antonio, home to 1,500 welcoming residents, lovely Portuguese architecture, and fresh produce markets. Return to the ship for lunch on board. This afternoon Zodiacs take you to Banana Beach for a swim in the warm, crystal-clear waters with the option to snorkel among the ancient volcanic rocks.
Set out by Zodiac for the town pier at São Tomé. Drive into the interior and take a short walk through the lush forest to the stunning Sao Nicolau Waterfall. From here continue to the Monte Café Coffee Plantation for a guided tour and tasting of what some consider the world’s best coffee. You may then choose to enjoy lunch at the Bombaim plantation, view and photograph another beautiful waterfall, and continue to tiny, picturesque Trinidade Village. Or, opt for lunch in São Tomé and a tour of the town; visit the Cathedral, the National Museum, the local artisans gallery, and enjoy a folkloric dance performance.
Spend a day at sea as lecturers enlighten you on what lies ahead.
Arrive in Benin early this morning and disembark in Cotonou, the birthplace of voodoo. Board pirogues for a fascinating tour of Ganvie, said to be Africa’s largest lake village — made up of wood and thatch houses on teak stilts — and home to some 15,000 people. A traditional mask dance awaits you here; symbolizing the purification of the village and its people. After lunch ashore visit Ouidah, one of the foremost slave-trading posts between Europe and the Dan-Homey Empire. Visit the Sacred Temple and the Ouidah Museum of History.
Togo’s vibrant capital, Lome, was the only African town colonized by the Germans, the British, and the French. This morning learn more about voodoo and enjoy a rare opportunity to take part in a traditional ceremony. Also tour the city where in and among the faded colonial architecture, kaleidoscopic marketplaces hum with activity. The famous Nana Benz, in the Grand Marché, create and sell some of the world’s finest batik cloth, while the nearby Fetish Market offers curative lotions and magical potions for every need imaginable.
A country of many contrasts, Ghana’s “Gold Coast” topography includes a sandy coastline, saline lagoons, and dense rain forest. Today drive into the mountains to the Krobo region, where artists are famous for their magnificent beads made with colorful crushed glass. After watching the intricate process, try your hand and create a bead of your own. A tour of Accra, Ghana’s capital, visits the National Museum and the Krumah Mausoleum, as well as a coffin builder, specializing in fantasy coffins whose shapes include animals, fish, automobiles, airplanes, and fruit.
This morning choose a tour of the Cape Coast Castle, a World Heritage Site, built by the Swedes in 1653 and subsequently conquered by the Danes, the Dutch, the local Fanti tribe, and finally the British, who established the seat of the British administration of the Gold Coast here until 1877. Or, elect to travel into the Kakum National Park for a rain forest canopy walk that includes the longest and highest suspended rope bridge in the world. Both groups enjoy lunch at a nearby beach resort before setting off to visit the 15th-century Portuguese Elmina Fort—Africa’s oldest permanent building.
Cosmopolitan Abidjan is the economic capital of the Ivory Coast and a city tour takes you through the business district of Le Plateau, filled with gleaming sky-scrapers, chic boutiques, and outdoor cafes. Observe interesting colonial architecture and colorful markets as you continue on to Abodo, Africa’s largest outdoor laundry where hundreds of Fanicos (washers) crowd together in a stream to wash their clients’ clothes.
Our two days at sea offer the chance to relax and attend lectures on western Africa’s momentous history, diverse cultures, and natural wonders.
Today arrive in Aberdeen, a suburb of Freetown, with beautiful white sand beaches lined with lively shops and restaurants. Permission pending, visit the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. After lunch continue on to the Greatest Goal Ministries, a volunteer organization started by a Seattle medical team who founded a soccer club in Sierra Leone to help amputee war victims. Here enjoy a lively soccer match and meet with the team.
Your lecture series continues as you enjoy a relaxing day at sea.
Birders set out this morning for the Abuko Nature Reserve where more than 290 bird species can be seen — including African paradise flycatchers, violet turacos, little greenbuls, and Abyssinian rollers. A second group departs for a tour of the Makasutu Culture Forest showcasing the five ecosystems protected here. Traditional Joal tribal dancing, a pirogue ride, and palm wine tasting are highlights. During lunch sail upriver and take Zodiacs to Albreda Village and James Island, a World Heritage Site, where The Gambia’s slave history began.
Your final day in Africa brings you to Senegal’s energetic, eclectic, and cosmopolitan capital. Visit the infamous slave-trading center, Gorée Island, a World Heritage Site. Witness the contrasts between the dungeon-like slave quarters and the elegant colonial mansions of the slave traders and explore the moving 18th-century House of Slaves, the Women’s Museum, and the fortified Le Castel. Return to the ship for lunch. This afternoon join a tour of Dakar which includes the Great Mosque, French colonial buildings, the President’s Palace, and the impressive new American-African monument. After dinner, disembark the Island Sky for your late evening flight and return home.