Tema (Accra), GhanaKe Nako! (It is time!) Today is the day! Embark the Silver Explorer for your much anticipated expedition: “West Africa Cultural Adventure”. This unique itinerary explores some of the more remote and less visited areas along Africa’s western coast, and while some of the ports might present challenges such as poor infrastructure, the pay off will be truly one-of-a-kind experiences and lifelong memories. Once onboard, meet some of your fellow explorers as you become acquainted with the ship’s luxurious amenities. This evening, after settling in and setting sail, you will be introduced to your Expedition Team.
Dock early in the morning and head out to explore the lush Plateaux Region north of Lome. Your destination is Kpalime, situated nearby Mount Agou, the highest point in Togo. Here meet a local etymologist and his team for an educational walk in the Kloto Forest, during which you will identify many of the endemic birds and butterflies and learn about the local usage of plants.
During lunch in the forest, your friends from Kouma Village will introduce you to the local Ewa culture with a performance of traditional song and dance. Your next stop is at a bush school in a traditional Ewa village where you will meet the teacher and school children. Learn about the difficulties and importance of education in these rural areas. Before returning to Lome, stop at a local village on the outskirts of the city to learn more about voodoo and possibly experience a voodoo ceremony. After a long day out return in time for dinner on board.
Cotonou is referred to by many as the ‘Latin Quarter of Africa’. After receiving clearance from the local authorities, head out on tour to Ouidah, a town typically and profoundly African. Ouidah is known as the religious capital of the country due to the numerous festivals with singing, chanting, drumming and dances that take place here. These celebrations bear witness to a tradition of beliefs and local superstitions interpreted over hundreds of years.
Historically, Ouidah was one of the busiest of the West African slave embarkation points, and an important reminder of the slave trade that occurred along these shores. Walk along the “Route des Esclaves” down to the shoreline where there is an imposing arch with bas-relief sculpture to memorialise the people who were shipped out from here.
After lunch at a local beach resort, travel to Lake Nokoue where you will board small motorboats to visit a fishing village built on stilts. Ganvié village is made up of bamboo houses resting on teak stilts, perched above the water. The village is scattered and all travel between homes is done in wooden boats on the waterways that separate them. Have the chance to see the floating market and boatloads of chattering children heading to and from school. The welcoming Tofinu people like to show off their fishing skills.
At SeaKnowledgeable Lecture Staff members are experts in a variety of scientific fields. Gather in The Theatre to enjoy the first in a series of informative lectures presented by our onboard Expedition Team. Perhaps learn some tips and techniques for taking better photos during a photographic workshop offered by your resident photographer.
This morning set out to explore the Gold Coast area. Drive to Elmina Village where you will tour Elmina Castle, which was built in 1482 and is said to be the oldest European-built structure outside of Europe. Between the picturesque old town alleys and the numerous flat-bottomed pirogue boats in the harbour, enjoy one of West Africa’s greatest photo opportunities.
Continue to the notorious Cape Coast Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. First built in 1653 for the trade in timber and gold, the Castle was later used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Visit the museum and view the dungeons that once held hundreds of men and women in unspeakable conditions as they awaited deportation across the Atlantic as slaves.
Alternatively, travel inland to visit the Kakum National Park, a 357-square-km park of undisturbed virgin rainforest. Join your natural history staff and local guides for a walking tour through the forest and on a canopy walkway, offering an opportunity to see much of Ghana’s indigenous plant life, as well as rare butterflies, birds and game.
Following the morning tours, enjoy lunch at a nearby oceanfront resort and a final afternoon together, relaxing on Ghana’s magical beaches.
At SeaBinoculars and camera in hand, head out on deck to watch for seabirds and marine mammals. Attend informative lectures that will prepare you for the upcoming ports-of-call and the adventures that lie ahead. Other onboard diversions include spa treatments, a workout in the Fitness Centre, and, of course, exquisite dining experiences.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Arrive late morning in the bustling West African city of Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone. In 1787, British philanthropists founded the ‘Province of Freedom’, which later became Freetown, a British crown colony and the principal base for the suppression of the slave trade. By 1792, 1,200 freed slaves from Nova Scotia had joined the original settlers, the Maroons. Another group of slaves rebelled in Jamaica and travelled to Freetown in 1800.
During your afternoon tour anticipate visiting a local community clinic where you will see the work of volunteers and the Greatest Goal Ministries, a US non-profit organisation. In addition, hope to attend a soccer match arranged by the Greatest Goal Ministries, played on the beach near Lumley. All soccer team members were affected by the horrible civil war and have lost one or both of their legs and form part of an amazing amputee soccer club! Hope to visit the Tacaguma Chimpanzee Sanctuary to learn more about these primates and their struggle to survive in a country where the bush meat trade is still a very serious problem.
Banana Islands, Sierra LeoneThe Banana Islands are comprised of two main islands: Dublin Island and Ricketts Island, which are linked by a causeway and uninhabited. Ricketts Island has some great forest areas to explore on foot and go in search of the numerous fruit trees – mangoes, bananas, papaya, citrus fruits, coconuts and starfruit. Hope to see some wildlife too including reptiles, birds, and grey long-tailed monkeys who fish for crab with their tails! Conditions permitting, guests may opt to go snorkelling from the Zodiacs.
Bijagos Archipelago, Guinea-Bissau
Few people have ever heard of, let alone visited the cluster of islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. The 88 semitropical islands, of which only 26 are inhabited, are a UNESO Biosphere Reserve In 1996 due to their high level of biodiversity. The islands are an exciting paradise for birders and botanists alike, while for those who enjoy getting to know native cultures, the islanders maintain a matriarchal society and still practice their traditional animist faith.
Your visit to this region will be dictated entirely by the tides and weather. The tidal differences are huge here, and each tidal period offers different activities. Together, the Expedition Leader and Captain will take advantage of the conditions to provide the best possible experience whether it is swimming and beachcombing on a remote uninhabited island, visiting a traditional village that can only be reached during high tide, or cruising by Zodiac amongst the mangroves. The Bijagos Archipelago offers true expedition cruising and your visit here is sure to be a memorable experience.
Banjul, The Gambia
Ornithologists all over the world consider The Gambia to be a birdwatchers’ paradise where over 500 species can be seen. So, naturally birding enthusiast guests will enjoy an excursion! This morning head to the Abuko Nature Reserve where your guides lead a forest walk. More than 500 birds live in the reserve, as well as monkeys and crocodiles. At the Reserve’s zoo see lions, hyenas, reptiles, antelopes, bush ducks and crown cranes.
Alternatively, visit the Makasutu cultural forest situated on the banks of a beautiful meandering tributary of the River Gambia, and encompassing many different ecosystems including dense forest, savannah and mangrove regions. The forest is home to hundreds of varieties of birds, three species of monkeys, monitor lizards, pygmy deer, and mongoose to name but a few – and, if you are lucky, catch a glimpse of migrating baboons that make the forest their home for a number of months each year.
Dakar, SenegalFollowing breakfast on board, disembark the Silver Explorer.