West African Odyssey – South Africa to Morocco

West Africa Cruise

  • National Geographic Explorer
  • Luxury Expedition Ship
  • 148 Capacity
  • 37 Days
  • View Departure>
  • Price from
  • $999,999,999

Summary : West Africa’s many facets combine to make a whole even greater than the sum of its myriad parts. There is incredible diversity here, along with a richness of culture, both traditional and modern, that is nothing short of inspiring. There is much wildlife, and a great sweep of geography, from the maritime climate of South Africa; the deserts of Namibia; the tropics and savannas of much of the coast (with some volcanic landscapes added to the mix); and finally the desert of Western Sahara and the vibrant city of Marrakech, Morocco.
All departures aboard the National Geographic Explorer are Photo Expeditions, see end of page for details.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography

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Itinerary
Day 1
Depart Home

Fly overnight to Cape Town, South Africa.

Day 2
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 and Alfred Waterfront, with the rest of the day free to explore. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner.

Day 3
Cape Town / Embark

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.

Day 4
At Sea

There is time to indulge in a massage, a workout in the gym, or catch up on some reading in the library.

Day 5
Lüderitz, Namibia

See the mining “ghost town” of Kolmanskop and tour Lüderitz.

Day 6 – 7
Walvis Bay & Swakopmund

Among the variety of excursions that awaits you: 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.

Day 8 – 9
At Sea

Time at sea to hear talks about the intriguing history and exciting future of the destinations you will visit. Also, enjoy the many amenities aboard the National Geographic Explorer, from relaxing on the sun decks to savoring a delicious meal in the dining room.

Day 10
Lobito & Benguela, Angola

Visit the picturesque town of Benguela, with pastel-colored Art Deco colonial buildings and a lovely setting.

Day 11
Luanda

Explore the Angolan capital of Luanda, or venture to Kissama National Park in search of wildlife.

Day 12
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.

Day 13
At Sea

Time at sea today allows you to take advantage of the amenities aboard the National Geographic Explorer.

Day 14
Libreville, Gabon

Cosmopolitan Libreville has a great deal to see, and you may also visit one of the wilderness areas located surprising close to the city.

Day 15
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; view a blowhole, have lunch at a fine restaurant at a plantation house, and go for a swim. Also, plan to tour the facilities of the Voice of America, which has a major transmitting facility here.

Day 16
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. You’ll 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).

Day 17
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. Also, you’ll 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, you’ll see the waterfalls, then visit a primary school. You’ll also have time to enjoy one of the beaches, and if conditions permit, do some kayaking.

Day 18
Limbé

You’ll 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, you’ll visit the marvelous Limbé Wildlife Centre, 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.

Day 19
At Sea

Enjoy today at sea with time to take advantage of the National Geographic Explorer, your home-away-from-home during this epic voyage.

Day 20
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.”

Day 21
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. You’ll 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. Also, visit a nearby school. You’ll explore Lomé, seeing the outstanding Museum of the Gulf of Guinea and the friendly artisans’ market.

Day 22
Accra, Ghana

Bustling Accra, Ghana’s capital is always lively and full of interest. You’ll 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 you’ll visit a workshop where brightly painted caskets may include giant fish, beer bottles, cars and more. You’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, you may welcome a Ghanaian notable for dinner and conversation.

Day 23
Cape Coast, Ghana

A variety of absorbing experiences await you today. The National Geographic Explorer will 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 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. There are several other surprises for this day.

Day 24 – 25
At Sea

There will be much to discuss about the past 23 days exploring from South Africa to Ghana, as well as talks preparing you for the incredible days ahead.

Day 26
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. You’ll 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.

Day 27
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is also rebuilding rapidly since the end of its civil war, and this friendly country possesses an exuberant spirit. You’ll 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.

Day 28
At Sea

Enjoy time on the National Geographic Explorer while traveling to The Gambia.

Day 29
Banjul, The Gambia

The country of Gambia straddles the Gambia River, and you dock at the capital of Banjul, where the river flows into the Atlantic. Among your 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. You may also have a visit on the ship by an American official who will talk about current issues in the region.

Day 30
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.

Day 31 – 32
At Sea

These days are spent relaxing at sea, enjoying the amenities of the ship, hearing talks from the expedition staff, and absorbing all that you've seen and heard so far.

Day 33
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 flamingoes, and enjoy a local lunch in a tent set up especially for the occasion. Tour the town and visit the market street.

Day 34
El Hierro, Canary Islands

The smallest and least visited of the Canary Island Group, El Hierro is a hidden gem, making it a perfect stop on the expedition and a chance to experience some place different. A natural paradise, El Hierro boasts lush vegetation, unique wildlife, breathtaking hiking trails, and stunning lava formations. Each corner of the island reveals something spectacular, whether strolling through a small village or taking in the view atop the towering sea cliffs.

Day 35
At Sea

Your final day at sea allows time to relax and reflect on all that you have seen and learned.

Day 36
Disembark Agadir / Marrakech, Morocco / Hotel

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.

Day 37
Marrakech / Return Home

Your journey ends in Marrakech. Board flights to return home.

Notes

Photo Expeditions:
The photo team, a National Geographic Photographer and a Photo Specialist, will enhance your voyage by working with you on photo composition and exposure; helping you develop your own unique vision; showing you how professionals edit and store images while on the go; and sharing the stories behind some of their greatest images. Whether expert or interested beginner, you'll find added benefits such as walks ashore and Zodiac cruises dedicated to photography, presentations on the creative and technical aspects of photography, and one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the field.

Included:
Accommodations aboard ship or in hotel per iterinary; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages aboard the ship, some meals ashore; all shore excursions and sightseeing; transfers to and from group flights; tips (except to ship's crew), taxes and service charges; services of a ship physician and expedition staff; use of kayaks.

Not Included:
International air transportation; extensions; passport and visa expenses; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; items of a personal nature; gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion; fuel surcharge may apply.