This adventure explores some of the more remote and least populated areas along the West African coast. Visit the immense and serene Namib Desert, enjoy Zodiac® tours to São Tomé, and meet the forest-dwelling pygmy people of Baguieli Village. A delight for both birders and botany-lovers alike, expect sensational experiences during this epic voyage.
Please note: Voyage prices are indicative and can fluctuate - please check for details.
• See colourful salt works, gravel desert plains and spectacular rock formations
• Watch for dolphins, sea turtles, whales and seals
• Identify pelicans, flamingos, herons, kingfishers, waders, cormorants, sandpipers, plovers and many rare endemic birds including the endangered Damara Tern
• Contemplate the solemn history of slave trade sites
• Visit a stilt village, local school, and see how cocoa transforms into chocolate
• Go off-roading in 4×4 vehicles
• Tour a former whaling station and abandoned diamond-mining town
• Purchase a lucky talisman at the voodoo fetish market
Embark Silver Explorer for your 19-day Expedition: Explorer’s Africa. This unique Cape Town to Accra adventure explores some of the more remote and less visited areas along the West African coast. 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. Before we set sail a mandatory safety drill will take place. This evening, after settling in and setting sail, you will be introduced to your Expedition Team.
Attend a mandatory Zodiac briefing before our knowledgeable Lecture Staff members -experts in a variety of scientific fields- would like you to gather in The Theatre to enjoy the first in a series of informative lectures presented during the voyage. Perhaps learn some tips and techniques for taking better photos during a photographic workshop offered by our resident photographer.
Tonight, we invite you to attend a special Welcome Aboard cocktail party where the Captain will introduce his senior officers.
The small town of Lüderitz is wedged between the Namib Desert dunes and the wild Atlantic seaboard. Today we will visit the abandoned diamond-mining town of Kolmanskop. In 1908, a sparkling diamond was found among the sand and the news spread like wildfire, causing fortune hunters to converge in droves on Kolmanskop. When the town reached its pinnacle it had approximately 300 German adults, 40 children and 800 Owambo contract workers as residents. In spite of, or probably because of, the isolation of the surrounding desert, Kolmanskop developed into a lively little haven of German culture. However, richer diamond deposits were discovered further south, and operations were moved. Today it is mostly a ghost town of crumbling ruins; the stately homes, abandoned decades ago, are gradually becoming sand-covered. However, a museum has been established and a number of buildings restored. After this eventful day in the Namib Desert it is time to head back to Silver Explorer in Lüderitz.
Today we head ashore for an unforgettable off-road adventure. Travelling by 4-wheel drive vehicles, we will first observe the many flamingos that visit the Walvis Bay Lagoon, and then continue past the Walvis Bay Saltpans towards the Kuiseb Delta. The Sandwich Harbour Lagoon is a large natural tidal lagoon completely surrounded by giant sand dunes and accessible only by 4×4 – even this relies largely on the tides.
Scenic Dunes Flight:
Take advantage of an unparalleled opportunity to see the famous Sossusvlei Dunes from the air, a site very difficult to access by land. Following the (normally dry) Kuiseb River, fly over Sesriem Canyon then along the Tsauchab river valley where the freestanding but static dunes tower up to 250 metres above the plain. The dune belt runs north to south for over 70 km between Sossusvlei and the Atlantic. Upon reaching the coast, head north over deserted mining camps and seal colonies to Conception Bay and the wreck of the Eduard Bohlen (run aground in the early 40s). This optional excursion will operate only if weather/fog conditions permit.
Tonight, everyone will gather together again for a three-course meal in a spectacular desert location. Away from all habitation, there is virtually no ambient light in the coastal dunes -and the stars should be amazing. Soft lights, candles, crisp white tablecloths, sparkling chinaware and glasses enhance the special ambience of our unique and unforgettable evening.
We begin our second day in Walvis Bay with an early morning boat cruise in the protected outer lagoon area where the water is calm and abundant with bird life. Enjoy wonderful photographic opportunities as playful Haviside’s and bottlenose dolphins frolic in the boat’s wake and pelicans fly low overhead. Atlantic cape fur seals may even come aboard for a fishy snack! Other birds we will see include flamingos and cormorants. If we are very lucky, we may even see leatherback turtles, whales, or the local ‘Mola Mola’ or sunfish. We will pass fishing factories and foreign ships in the port and conclude our excursion with a taste of fresh Walvis Bay oysters and local ‘champagne’.
This afternoon the on-board photographer/videographer might have a photography-workshop showing you techniques on how to take your best photos. Our on-board Anthropologist will talk about Africa’s fascinating cultures and our Recap will sum up the experience you had in Namibia.
Binoculars 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 in Angola. Other onboard diversions include spa treatments, a workout in the Fitness Centre, and, of course, exquisite dining experiences -not only in the Restaurant but also as cooking demonstrations either in the Theatre or on the Sun Deck.
Today we will head out to the Namibe Desert to see the untouched Welwitschia mirabilis. The Welwitschia is a rare plant found in the Namibe Provence of South Angola and the Namib Desert. This exceptional plant species is generally considered to be one of Earth’s older living plants and experts suggest that it can live up to 1,000 years. The tour will continue through the desert landscape to The Arch Lagoon, also known as “the lost oasis”. The lagoon, locally known as “Lago do Arco do Carvalhao,” is formed by a magnificent rock formation, and is a unique display of art in nature. Inhabited by an abundance of birdlife, the beautiful and elegant flamingos are certainly a highlight.
Before returning to the ship, we will visit the little town of Namibe to visit the old city with its baroque architecture, old stadium and churches.
As we disembark the vessel, we will enjoy a short train-ride on the original British 1930’s Victorian cars to the city of Benguela. Founded in 1902, the British Benguela Railway had a 99-years concession. It had an extension of 1,350 kilometres crossing Angola’s territory from Lobito to the eastern border and neighbouring countries.
The city of Benguela was founded in 1617 around Sao Filipe Fortress and was one of the bases for Portuguese expansion in Africa. We will drive through the city to the most famous church in Benguela. The “Igreja do Populo” is over 100 years old, and was built by the Portuguese during the colonial era, being the first stone building in southern Angola. From there we will walk to the heart of Benguela City, where the courthouse surrounds the palm trees and baobab of the company gardens, the department of justice and the town hall. On route back to Lobito we will stop at the city of Catumbela and will visit the abandoned Sao Pedro fort for the best view of the big Catumbela River and the 1905 steel bridge –a construction by Eifel’s engineering company, which was in use until 2010. Birders will be looking for prinias, sunbirds and the White-browed Coucal.
During the afternoon we will be on our way sailing north, having time for more lectures and other on-board activities.
Luanda is the capital of Angola, and home to more than four million, making it the third-largest Portuguese speaking city in the world. This bustling city presents us with many places to explore, including the 1575 Fortress of Sao Miguel de Luanda with its striking blue tiles and collection of weapons used during centuries of conflicts of the region. Another ‘outstanding’ structure is the mausoleum for Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto. The anthropology museum houses an array of traditional masks along with art, sculptures, tools, and weaponry, as well as jewellery, clothing and musical instruments –and the Benfica market seems to have several similar items for barter and sale. We will drive to Cidade Alta, or “Uptown” – a pleasant, airy and calm suburb with several pink colonial buildings and then head to the Baixa, or “Downtown”, to view the Houses of Parliament – both new and old. Afterwards we will take boats to reach the quaint offshore island of Mussulo for a delicious lunch at a local resort –unless you prefer to stay ashore and explore more of Luanda on your own.
After sailing north along Angola’s coast and the oil-rich area of Cabinda, Silver Explorer will dock in Ponte Noire. This seldom-visited outpost will be our base for exploring this region’s attractive countryside, including the Diosso Gorge, where erosion has created a series of red rock cliffs and ridges. Near the gorge is the small but fascinating Ma-Loango Regional Museum, the residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Loango for hundreds of years, all the way into the 20th century. The museum not only houses Congolese artefacts but also has a fascinating collection of early photographs. See the famous railroad station and visit a superb handicraft market to practice your bargaining skills to obtain wooden masks before returning to the Silver Explorer.
Participate in onboard activities, relax in one of the lounges, or peruse an array of titles and topics in the well-stocked Library. Let our on-board ornithologist give you a glimpse of the fascinating birds of Sao Tome and Principe, before King Neptune will want all ‘pollywogs’ to pay homage to the ruler of the seas when Silver Explorer crosses the Equator.
Tonight, before turning in, take a stroll on deck and enjoy the solitude and splendour of the vast sea and see if you can notice a difference in the stars and constellations of the northern hemisphere’s sky.
Silver Explorer drops anchor this morning off the island of São Tomé. We plan to use our Zodiacs to go ashore and start our full-day tour of Sao Tome, the capital city to the islands of Sao Tome and Principe and the surroundings.
Our first stop will be at the impressive São Nicolãu waterfall, which not only invites to have a swim in its pool, but also is surrounded by mossy rocks, covered in liverworts, ferns, wild raspberries and impatiens that will delight botany lovers. We continue our tour higher into the mountains to the Monte Café coffee plantation, where we will be given a tour of the coffee processing facilities –obviously tasting some of the local coffee as well.
A typical lunch will be served at another plantation before returning to the city centre with its colonial architecture including the pink and white presidential palace, the 16th century Cathedral de Sao Tome, as well as Faro Sao Sebastiao, which now is the Sao Tome National Museum. We will stroll through the city streets en route to the local market, ending at the Claudio Corallo chocolate factory, where we watch a demonstration and learn about the cacao beans and how they are transformed into the purest form of chocolate.
After this full day we return to Silver Explorer and set sail for Principe and Bom Bom Island.
This morning we will go ashore at Bom Bom Island, just offshore from ‘mainland’ Principe’s north coast, to either enjoy the beaches and the facilities of the Bom Bom Resort, or to walk towards Santo Antonio, Principe’s main town.
Our on-board ornithologist and botanist will lead walks to explore the island’s wildlife and scenery –others might decide to walk all the way to sleepy Santo Antonio passing small fields of plantain, cacao and manioc and watching the daily life of this tropical island.
If you prefer to stay at the resort you can take kayaks to paddle along the shore or snorkel in the clear waters, looking for colourful fishes.
In the afternoon Silver Explorer will set sail for Kribi and our on-board historian might enlighten you about the German influence in Cameroon.
Cameroon has the oldest rainforest on the continent and some of the most diverse populations to be found in any African country. This morning we anchor off Kribi in the southern region of Cameroon. Soon after stepping out of our Zodiacs, we will embark on an exploration of the Lobe River. Using traditional dug-out canoes, our local guides and boatmen will row us upriver to Baguieli Village, where we will meet the forest-dwelling pygmy people of the region. We will be entertained with local music and dance and will have a look at their tiny school of just one classroom.
After enjoying lunch ashore at a local beach resort, we will visit Lobe Falls, one of the few waterfalls in the world that falls straight into the ocean. Birders will delight in four species of weavers seen in Kribi. Their nests can be found right opposite the Catholic Church. Flycatchers, sunbirds, kingfishers and many others are to be expected while the beach invites for a refreshing swim.
We start our half-day tour having taken the Zodiacs ashore to visit Limbe in the northern region at the foot of Mt. Cameroon. Our first stop is the Limbe Botanical Gardens founded by a group of Germans in 1892. It served as a trials and acclimatisation centre for the introduction of exotic crop species such as coffee, cocoa, rubber, oil palm, banana, teak and sugar-cane for distribution within “Kamerun” and other German colonies. In its heyday it was said to be one of the most important tropical botanic gardens in the world.
In the late morning we will gather at the “Jungle Village” for a cultural presentation of various dances from all over Cameroon. Cameroonians are famed for their skilled wooden carvings including masks, and Silversea has arranged for various craftsmen to come to display and sell their goods today. This unique opportunity will permit you to purchase some unusual souvenirs.
Before lunch on board, we will also visit the Limbe Wildlife Centre. This is home to a variety of critically endangered wildlife species and we will have the opportunity to see a variety of primate species including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, drill monkey, western lowland and Cross River gorillas, plus several species of long-tailed monkeys such as the locally endemic Preuss’s guenon. During a short lecture we will learn more about the centre’s work as well as their struggles and successes in educating the local population on the importance of conservation.
We return for lunch and Silver Explorer will set sail for Cotonou, Benin.
This leisurely day at sea is yours to enjoy. Participate in discussions and onboard activities led by the Expedition Team. Attend lectures about Benin and Togo and their role in the infamous slave trade or relax in one of the lounges with that book you’ve been meaning to read, and meet up with new friends for cocktails. Perhaps a wine seminar or teatime’s Team Trivia will call your attention.
Silver Explorer will dock this morning at Cotonou, Benin, referred to by many as the ‘Latin Quarter of Africa’. After we receive clearance from the local authorities, we 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. We will 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. An unusual feature of Ouidah is the Sacred Forest of Kpasse with its Python Temple and Voodoo statues which we will visit, as well as the small local museum.
After lunch at a local beach resort, we will travel to Lake Nokoue where we 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 was founded in the 17th century when Tofinou people fled to the lake to escape slave raiders. Ganvié is scattered and all travel between homes is done in wooden boats on the waterways that separate them. We will have the chance to see the floating market and boatloads of chattering children heading to and from school before we go ‘ashore’ at one of the houses to see a mesmerising presentation by Egungun dancers.
On our way back the welcoming Tofinou people will also show off their fishing skills.
Birders will be looking for Whiskered Terns, Little Egrets, Yellow-billed Kites and Pied Kingfishers.
Silver Explorer will dock early in the morning and we will head out for a full-day tour of Togo’s hinterland.
We start our tour driving through the old colonial town with its modern-looking independence square before reaching Ewe village after a good hour. Here we will be welcomed by traditional dancers and the local school children. This will be one of the best opportunities to learn about village life in Togo and to hand over your contribution of school supplies. Fascinating fabrics are on sale and you will be able to see how they are prepared locally.
Heading further north we will reach Kloto forest and divide into smaller groups to learn about the medicinal and commercial plants found in and near the secondary forest.
During lunch local musicians and dancers will entertain us, and souvenirs will be on offer nearby.
On our return we will have the unique opportunity to partake in a Voodoo ceremony –or at least to have a look at how these ceremonies take place.
In the evening our on-board videographer/photographer will present his/her Voyage-DVD recounting the many different sites and encounters of our West African voyage.
Following breakfast on board, we disembark Silver Explorer.
Expedition highlights and wildlife listed here are possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed. Your Expedition Leader and Captain will work together to ensure opportunities for adventure and exploration are the best possible, taking into account the prevailing weather and wildlife activity. Expedition Team members as well as guest speakers and their lecture topics scheduled for this voyage are subject to change or cancellation without notice.
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 108 metres
Passenger Capacity: 132
Built / refurbished: 1989 / 2008
Silversea’s purpose-built Silver Explorer expedition ship (formerly the Prince Albert II) has been designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both of earth’s polar regions. A strengthened hull with a Lloyd’s Register ice-class notation (1A) for passenger vessels enables Silver Explorer to safely push through ice floes with ease. A fleet of Zodiac boats allows Silversea Expedition guests to visit even the most off-the-beaten path locations and an expert Expedition Team provides insight and understanding to each unforgettable Silver Explorer cruise adventure.