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Northwest Africa – Tema to Casablanca

West Africa Cruise

Summary : Experience multiple different cultures while travelling to seldom-visited places. Follow the trading routes of Henry the Navigator, see Ghana’s indigenous plant life, visit the truly sensational Marrakesh spice market and travel into the Western Sahara. The destinations are exotic and rich in culture, while days at sea allow ample time for relaxation.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Accra, Ghana

Embark the Silver Discoverer for this amazing expedition. Meet your Expedition Team and attend a safety briefing. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet some of your fellow travelers.

Day 2
Takoradi, Ghana

This morning set out to explore the Gold Coast area. Drive to Elmina Village to tour Elmina Castle, which was built in 1482 and is one of the oldest European-built structures outside of Europe. Between the picturesque old town alleys and the numerous flat-bottomed pirogue boats in the harbor, enjoy one of West Africa’s greatest photo opportunities.

Continue to the notorious Cape Coast Castle which was the seat of the British Colonial administration until 1877 when the capital was moved to Accra. First built in 1653 for the trade in timber and gold, the Castle was later used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. Visit the museum, view the dungeons that once held hundreds of men and women in unspeakable conditions as they awaited deportation across the Atlantic as slaves, and see how a tunnel that once led male prisoners from the dungeon to the beach and the waiting slave ships has been converted into a fresh water cistern.

Alternatively, travel inland to visit the Kakum National Park, a 357-square-km park comprising undisturbed virgin rainforest. Join our 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.

Day 3
Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Despite the fact that Yamoussoukro is Ivory Coast’s capital, the city of Abidjan with its port still is the commercial center of the country. The morning excursion will take you to see some of Abidjan’s highlights –like the modernistic St. Paul’s Cathedral (one of Africa’s largest cathedrals) and the National Museum. Drive to the historic town of Grand-Bassam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the first capital of the country and was chosen by UNESCO as an example of a late 19th- and early 20th-century colonial town planned for Europeans and Africans. A walk through the Foret du Banco (Banco Forest National Park) will reveal cocoa and coffee plantations in the formerly “sacred wood”.

If conditions permit try to get to the “Parc National Iles Ehotilé” east of Abidjan. This area encompasses 6 islands in a large lagoon fed by several mayor rivers. It was declared a RAMSAR site in 2005. Some 128 species of birds have been recorded. One of the islands has thousands of straw–colored fruit bats which the local population sees as a sign of their ancestor’s presence. The national park is also said to contain the nocturnal West African manatee.

Day 4 – 5
At Sea

The knowledgeable Lecture Staff members are experts in a variety of scientific fields and will keep you informed with entertaining and fascinating lectures about the European exploration and native cultures and wildlife. Attend a photography workshop and let the Executive Chef show you how special delicacies are prepared on board. Other on-board diversions include spa treatments, a workout in the Fitness Center, and, of course, exquisite dining experiences.

Day 6
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 traveled to Freetown in 1800.

During the 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 organization. In addition, it may be possible 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! Sierra Leone is a member of the World Amputee Football Association and our presence will help promote self-esteem and self-confidence of the participants.

Day 7
At Sea

Binoculars and camera in hand, head out on deck to watch for seabirds and marine mammals.Attend informative lectures that will prepare you for your visit to The Gambia. Peruse an array of titles and topics in the well-stocked Library, enjoy the finest cigars and cognacs at the Connoisseur’s Corner or indulge in any of the other special amenities offered aboard ship.

Day 8
Banjul, The Gambia

The Gambia is quite a unique country: the English-speaking country is surrounded by French-speaking Senegal and runs parallel to the Gambia River on both sides. The European history started with a Baltic German intent of colonization in the mid-17th century.

Banjul’s climate is classified as tropical wet and dry, but you are visiting during the dry season. The drive through Banjul will take you to the National Museum where you'll see displays of historical and cultural artifacts, including musical instruments. Although the exhibits and set-up might look a little ‘old’ the collections are well-presented. Like in many other African countries military coups have happened and a reminder of one of them is the massive 36 meters high ‘Arch 22’ – celebrating the coup of July 22, 1994 (hence the name Arch 22). Although meant as a gateway, civilian traffic has to go around it! Sometimes the interior can be visited to climb to the top for panoramic views of the area. A visit to Banjul’s main urban market – Royal Albert Market – will show the typical hustle and bustle of a lively market offering a large selection of nearly everything you expect, including wooden masks.

Ornithologists all over the world consider The Gambia to be a bird-watchers’ paradise where over 500 species can be seen. So, naturally there will be an excursion for the birding enthusiast guests! This morning head to the Tanji Bird Reserve where your guides lead you on a forest walk. More than 250 bird species live in the reserve, which with the Bijol offshore islands is an important stop for European migrants.

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 lucky, you may catch a glimpse of migrating baboons that make the forest their home for a number of months each year.

Day 9
Dakar, Senegal

Entering the harbor of Dakar in the very early hours Silver Explorer will pass Goree Island. Located just off the coast of Dakar it will be your morning destination.

This small island is notable in history as a major center in the slave trade and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It serves as a powerful historic symbol representing hundreds of similar posts dotting Africa’s west coast from Senegal to Angola, in which more than 12 million Africans were sold into slavery between the 15th and 19th centuries.

The primary focus will be the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) built by the Dutch in 1776 as a holding point for slaves. Now a museum, tour through the dungeons where slaves were held, and hear of how they were sold and shipped. Next, visit the IFAN Historical Museum to learn more about the history of Senegal, the Musee de la Femme (The Women’s Museum) to look at the role of Senegalese women in traditional and modern West African culture, and the Maritime Museum to better understand Senegal’s seafaring history.

To get to the island you have to take a local ferry. As the beach of Goree is a favorite destination for Dakar’s residents, you'll see many local visitors and souvenir vendors taking advantage of this service and you might have to be patient getting there and coming back.

Once back at the harbor, take a short drive through Dakar looking at some of the important buildings and monuments. The most famous and controversial is the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine. Finished in 2010 it has an exhibition and was meant to create pride among the Senegalese.

During the afternoon Silver Explorer will pass the monument heading north.

Day 10
At Sea

Lecturers prepare you for a different aspect and face of Africa: the desert and the surprising variety of Morocco. Binoculars and camera in hand, head out on deck to watch for seabirds and marine mammals or attend a cooking demonstration that will whet your appetite.

During teatime see if you solve the Team Trivia’s whimsical questions.

Day 11
Dakhla, Morocco

Dakhla is located at the tip of a thin peninsula. Head ashore this afternoon to explore and to capture a sense of this area with your camera. Historically, this was once a Spanish colony named Villa Cisneros and an Old Spanish lighthouse still stands on the outskirts of town.

Disembark the ship and depart on 4×4 vehicles across the modern part of Dakhla toward the mainland. Drive along the Laguna of Dakhla, a paradise for migratory birds, especially flamingos. As it is windy for over 300 days of the year kite-surfers and wind-surfers have joined the birds on the lagoon recently. Venture into incredible scenery until you reach a Sahraoui camp set up overlooking the Laguna and a beautiful white sand dune.

Discover for a few hours the Sahraoui culture, exclusively nomadic and centered on dromedaries, with a tea ceremony (3 small glasses minimum if you want to be polite), ride a camel, visit the replica of a Sahraoui family encampment and discover the breath-taking view from the top of the White Dune. 4x4s will be available to go birding from the campsite with the onboard ornithologist (depending on the tide and bird presence in the area). There might also be the opportunity to swim in the Laguna.

Return to Silver Explorer with a new appreciation of the remoteness of this region and the nomadic nature of the local culture.

If you prefer to stay in Ad Dakhla, a walk along the beach reveals the main industry to be fishing. The simple, rustic boats clustered together, the whitewashed buildings, chaotic streets and fabrics woven in colorful patterns make for interesting images.

Day 12
At Sea

Having left the African coast you are heading for the Canary Islands. Attend lecturers’ talks about the native flora and fauna and hear about the importance of this archipelago for European exploration of the 15th century.

A cooking demonstration on the Sun Deck will permit you to enjoy two-fold: getting new ideas for lunch or dinner invitations and being in the fresh air…

Day 13
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain

This morning disembark Silver Explorer for your exploration of Gran Canaria to Teror, considered by many to be the loveliest place on this island, and for our special land program in Morocco.

Teror features red-tiled, whitewashed houses with graceful patios and traditional carved balconies. Upon arrival, visit the Basilica of the Lady of the Pine, the patron saint of the island. Gargoyles stand guard on the sides of the church, while the inside features a vast Baroque altar and a richly clothed, wooden figure of the Virgin Mary. Since 1841, when according to legend the Virgin appeared as a vision to some local shepherds, this place has played an important role to the community. When Pope Pius XII declared her patron saint of the island, Teror became the religious capital of the island.

On your way you will also see idyllic Arucas, known as the banana capital. Its white houses stand in contrast to the dark profile of its turreted church. Home to numerous landscaped parks and gardens, the best-known and undoubtedly the one most worth seeing is the Jardin de la Marquesa (The Garden of the Duchess). This beautiful private botanical garden is home to more than 500 different species of plants from 5 continents. During the visit there will be refreshments and tasty Canary canapés.

In the afternoon drive along Gran Canaria’s east coast towards Bahia de Gando and the international airport to reach your charter flight to Agadir, Morocco.

Upon arrival into Agadir and after clearing customs and immigration you will be taken to the Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay. Before dinner at the hotel a Recap & Briefing will be held with the Expedition Team.

Day 14
Agadir, Taroudant / Marrakech, Morocco

This morning enjoy an orientation tour of the modern part of Agadir, Morocco’s largest seaside resort. Even though an earthquake destroyed much of the old Agadir in 1962, part of the ancient Kasbah Agadir Oufella Fort still remains and offers an amazing vantage point to see Agadir’s bay and ports. Continue by coaches to Taroudant, a beautiful walled city that used to be the first capital of the Saadian dynasty and is one of Morocco’s oldest cities. Taroudant is sometimes fondly called the “Grandmother of Marrakech”. Unlike Marrakech however, Taroudant contains almost the entire city within its walls. Some 6 kilometers of ramparts with 9 gates will give you a feeling of how most caravan towns must have looked. On arrival enjoy a typical Moroccan lunch at Dar Zitoune, a local restaurant.

In the afternoon travel to exotic Marrakech. Rich in history and known for its tradition of hospitality, it is the third-largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat. Arrive at your hotel Naoura Barrière in the early evening.

Dinner will be at the Palais Soleiman, a beautifully maintained former palace of the lords of Marrakech.

Day 15
Marrakech, Morocco

The day will be dedicated to explore Marrakech in depth. Renowned for its architectural wonders, historical monuments, the mystic medina and its thrilling souks, the city was known as “The Ochre City” which gave the country its name.

On your tour stop at the Koutoubia Mosque - its minaret inspired the architects of the Giralda of Seville and the Hassan Tower of Rabat - and visit the Ben Youssef Medersa, the biggest school in the Maghreb (west) and one of Marrakech’s jewels.

Have lunch at the Lotus Privilege, a Moroccan restaurant with a touch of Art Deco.

In the afternoon take a fascinating walk through the Medina, the heart of Marrakech. Stop at Le Jardin Secret, a former palace delicately renovated and decorated. Le Jardin Secret has an exotic and an Islamic garden based on the traditional layouts. Continue to the Jamaa El Fna to find a permanent theater of musicians, acrobats, snake charmers, food stalls and storytellers - truly spectacular. There you can also discover the labyrinth of souks. You can browse through the antique, spices, textile and carpet shops. The many colorful souks have local and Berber handicrafts in leather, brass, copper, silver, and gold for you. Not only souvenir hunters will have a wonderful time experiencing local life.

Visit the magnificent and tranquil Majorelle Gardens, designed by the French artist Louis Majorelle. It was built around a small Art Deco workshop and painted a bright blue with lush greenery, palm trees, cacti, still pools and shady nooks.

In the evening transfer to Marrakech Palm Grove, to a private Berber camp that will lead you back to the times of “1001 Arabian Nights”. A red carpet with musicians and dancers awaits you, leading you to a village of tents set up especially for us. The whole surrounding, the atmosphere, the delicious food and the music, a fire juggler and a show on horseback will have you believe Rudolph Valentino might just be around the corner.

Recap & Briefing will be at the camp, overnight at Naoura Barrière.

Day 16
Marrakech / Casablanca

After breakfast at your hotel, depart for Casablanca, Morocco’s largest metropolis and its industrial hub.

In the late morning arrive in Casablanca. Already on your way to have our lunch at Le Pilotis you might discover the city’s rich architectural heritage made from a blend of French-colonial design and traditional Moroccan style known as Moresque architecture.

After lunch visit the Hassan II Mosque. A landmark and highlight of the city, this phenomenal building is one of the largest mosques in the world. Opened in 1993 it was partly built on reclaimed land and almost half of it actually lies over what was Atlantic Ocean. The visit to this exceptional building will be followed by an orientation tour of Casablanca, ending at the Hyatt Regency Casablanca and our check-in.

In the evening our farewell dinner will be at Le Rick’s Café.

Day 17
Casablanca, Morocco

Following breakfast, you will be transferred to Casablanca airport for your flight home.

Notes

This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Included:
Suite accommodation; onboard meals; butler service; complimentary beverages served throughout the ship (an assortment of complimentary wines, champagne and spirits); onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suites. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry and spa options, fuel surcharge may apply.

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