- Go off-roading in 4x4 vehicles and see colourful salt works, gravel desert plains and spectacular rock formations
- Identify pelicans, flamingos, herons, kingfishers, waders, cormorants, sandpipers, plovers and many rare endemic birds including the endangered Damara Tern
- Tour an abandoned diamond-mining town and contemplate the solemn history of slave trade sites
- Visit a stilt village, local school, and see how coffee is produced
Optional Excursion: Fly low over the famous Sossusvlei Dunes
Day 1 — Cape Town, South Africa
Embark Silver Cloud for your 18-day Silversea Expedition: Explorer’s Africa. 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 and other important members of the crew.
Day 2 — At Sea
Our knowledgeable team members -experts in a variety of scientific fields- would like you to gather in the Theatre Lounge to enjoy the first in a series of informative lectures presented during the voyage. Perhaps learn some tips and techniques to take 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.
Day 3 — Lüderitz, Namibia
From the small town of Lüderitz, wedged between the Namib Desert dunes and the wild Atlantic seaboard, 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, Kolmanskop developed into a lively little haven of German culture. When richer diamond deposits were discovered further south operations were moved. Today it is mostly a ghost town; the stately homes, abandoned decades ago, are gradually becoming sand-covered. However, a museum has been established and a number of buildings restored. While in Kolmanskop enjoy oyster tasting and a glass of sparkling wine.
After this eventful day in the Namib Desert it is time to head back to Lüderitz for a short walking tour of the town and its three most important landmarks, Goerke Haus, Felsenkirche and the Lüderitz Museum.
Days 4–5 — Walvis Bay, Namibia
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 Silver Shore excursion will operate only if weather/fog conditions permit. Visit Silversea.com/MyVoyage to make reservations in advance of your voyage.
One of your destinations during our two days in Walvis Bay is the Namib Naukluft Park. Passing endless waves of sand dunes, the scene that comes to mind when you think of African deserts, you will finally enter the Welwitschia Drive, where the landscape is dotted with the extraordinary Welwitschia mirabilis. Unique to the Namibe Desert, this prehistoric plant has adapted to its harsh habitat. It only produces two leaves in its lifetime which can be over 500 years. After stopping to view and discuss these amazing and resilient desert plants in their dramatic landscape, the tour continues to what can best be described as ‘lunar landscape’. Enjoy the breathtaking views, before heading onwards to a local community where you will enjoy an orientation tour of the school, having the opportunity to interact by giving some of your time to the children and community.
You will then drive to a pristine location where refreshments await you before returning to Walvis Bay to rejoin the Silver Cloud.
We will also be operating a full day shuttle service to Swakopmund, located 19 miles north of Walvis Bay at the mouth of the Swakop River. Upon arrival you can explore this quaint town, a beach resort area and a fine example of German colonial architecture, on your own. Founded in 1892 as the main harbor for German South-West Africa, a good part of the population still speaks German today. Several buildings, including the Magistrate’s Court, or Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht, the Lutheran Church and the old Railway Station building -now the main reception area of the Swakopmund Hotel- will give an idea of the former splendor.
Another excursion in Walvis Bay will be an early morning boat cruise in the protected outer lagoon area where the water is calm and abundant with birdlife. Enjoy wonderful photographic opportunities as playful Heaviside’s and bottlenose dolphins frolic around the boat and pelicans fly low overhead. 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. 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’.
Day 6 — 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 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, The Grill and La Terrazza, but also as cooking demonstrations.
Day 7 — Namibe, Angola
Today we will head out to the Namibe Desert looking for Welwitschia mirabilis, an endemic plant found only in the Namibe Province of South Angola and the Namib Desert. Continuing through desert landscape we will reach The Arch Lagoon -“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. The lagoon will only have water if it has rained sufficiently during the wet season.
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.
Day 8 — Lobito, Angola
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” 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 company gardens, the department of justice and the town hall. The gardens are lined with beautiful palm trees and flowers and offer a picturesque setting.
En route back to Lobito we will stop at the city of Catumbela and will stop at the abandoned Sao Pedro fort for some photos, and will see the big Catumbela River and the 1905 steel bridge –a construction by Eiffel’s engineering company, which was in use until 2010.
Once back at the pier there will be a festival with traditional dances and singing.
During the afternoon we will be on our way sailing north, having time for more lectures and other on-board activities.
Day 9 — Luanda, Angola
Luanda is the capital of Angola, and home to more than four million, making it one of the largest Portuguese speaking cities 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 – the Benfica market seems to have several similar items for barter and sale. We will also 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.
Days 10-11 — At Sea
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 onboard Ornithologist give you a glimpse of the fascinating birds of Sao Tome and Principe. King Neptune might want all ‘pollywogs’ to pay homage to the ruler of the seas before Silver Cloud crosses the Equator.
Take a stroll on deck and enjoy the solitude and splendour of the vast sea and at night see if you can already notice the stars and constellations of the northern hemisphere’s sky.
Day 12 — São Tomé, São Tomé and Príncipe
Silver Cloud drops anchor this morning off the island of São Tomé. We plan to use our Zodiacs to go ashore and start our tours of Sao Tome, the capital city to the islands of Sao Tome and Principe and the surroundings.
One of the stops 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 São Tome, as well as Faro São Sebastião, which now is the São Tome National Museum. We will stroll through the city streets en route to the local market.
For those who would like to explore other aspects of the island of São Tome on their own, a half day tour of the city of São Tome will be offered, giving time for some independent exploration.
In the evening Silver Cloud will set sail for Principe and Bom Bom Island.
Day 13 — Bom Bom Island, São Tomé and Principe
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 onboard Ornithologist and naturalists 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 Cloud will set sail for Limbe and our onboard Historian might enlighten you about the German influence in Cameroon during the Briefing & Recap.
Day 14 — Limbe, Cameroon
We start our tour after taking 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 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 sugarcane 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.
We will also visit the “Jungle Village” for a cultural presentation of various dances from all over Cameroon. Cameroonians are famed for their skilled wood 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 very unusual souvenirs.
We will also visit the Limbe Wildlife Centre. This is home to some critically endangered wildlife species and we will have the opportunity to see a variety of primate species including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, drill monkeys, 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.
For those bent on getting closer to Mount Cameroon, a drive to Buea, the former capital of German Cameroon, and the Mount Cameroon National Park with a hike on its lower slopes through forest and savanna awaits.
Silver Cloud will set sail for Cotonou, Benin in the evening.
Day 15 — At Sea
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.
Day 16 — Cotonou, Benin
Silver Cloud will dock this morning at Cotonou, Benin, referred to by many as the ‘Latin Quarter of Africa’. Today’s full day tour will head out on tour to Ouidah and Lake Nokoue.
The town of 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. Historically, Ouidah was also 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.
We will also travel to Lake Nokoue where we will board small motorboats to visit Ganvié, a fishing village made up of bamboo houses resting on teak stilts, perched above the water. The village was founded more than 200 years ago when Tofinou people fled to the lake to escape slave raiders. 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, before we go ‘ashore’ at one of the houses to see a mesmerizing presentation by Egungun dancers.
Lunch will be had at a beach resort.
Birders will be looking for Whiskered Terns, Little Egrets, Yellow-billed Kites and Pied Kingfishers.
Days 17-18 — Lomé, Togo
Silver Cloud will dock early in the morning and we will head out for tours of Togo’s hinterland.
We start one of our tours driving through the old colonial town with its modern-looking independence square before reaching one of the many museums and one of the markets for a look at the old and modern life of Togo.
Another of the tours will head for Ewe village, where 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 will be 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.
You will also have the unique opportunity to partake in a voodoo ceremony –or at least to have a look at how these ceremonies take place when we are invited in one of the suburbs to see this practice.
Our onboard Videographer/Photographer will present the Voyage-DVD recounting the many different sites and encounters of our West African voyage.
Day 19 — Accra, Ghana
Following breakfast on board, we disembark Silver Cloud in Tema, Ghana’s largest seaport and Accra’s harbour.
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.
You will need to have a valid Yellow Fever Certificate in order to board this expedition. Local authorities will not allow us to embark any person without this certificate. As we are travelling through some malaria areas you will want to consult with your local medical practitioner or travel clinic regarding the need for malaria prophylaxes.
Your passport will need at least two completely empty, side-by-side pages for entry into South Africa. You might be denied entry into South Africa should you not have this.
You will require visas for all of the countries visited during this expedition. Silversea has made arrangements with local authorities for visas to be issued upon arrival in each port. Your shipboard account will be charged with the fees charged to us. (Visas will cost approximately USD$30 to USD$50 per person, per port.)
When packing, you will want to bring lightweight, sensible clothing to wear ashore, and remember to leave any jewellery or other valuables safe on board in your suite. It may be best to just leave these items at home. Visit our online retail partner Ship to Shore at www.shiptoshore.com for a comprehensive list of suggested items for your West Africa expedition.
Before leaving home, make sure to change some money and break larger bills so that you have all small dollar and euro bills. Coins and large bills will be useless; ATMs/Cashpoints are few and often not functional.
We also encourage you to bring a donation of school supplies or second-hand children’s clothing for our visits to local villages. Much-needed supplies include pens, pencils and writing tablets. Supplies will be collected on board by the Expedition Team and distributed on your behalf during the voyage.
Though none of the countries we visit provide a formal qualification for tour group guides, we do hire local guides in order to support the local community. It is also important to remember that among the thousands of languages spoken in Africa, local guides often speak English only as a lingua franca – a common language learned in order for speakers of different native languages to better communicate with each other.
Please ask your guide’s advice first before taking any photographs. Some of the international embassies and government buildings that we may see during our time ashore may be deemed as military or state defence objects, and thus photography is not allowed. Ignoring these rules can be considered a serious offence.
In the western regions of Africa, the general infrastructure varies from fine to fair to, well … lacking. Roads are not always smooth or clear of debris and when we use local transportation, it will be the best available, but this may not be saying much.