Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cruise Weekly: Go West Africa

MS Expedition
15th century Portuguese ruins in Principe
Desert ruins at Kolmanskop Namibia

from aboard G Adventures inaugural West Africa voyage on MS Expedition


Once upon a time the post-Antarctic reposition was a mad dash up the
Atlantic with maybe a stop at Tristan de Cunha, Ascension or Cape Verde.
Nowadays, with the pressure on adventure cruise companies to find new
territories for their growing legions of "been-there-done-that" repeat
clients, coupled with the slowly opening doors of West African nations, this
journey is fast becoming a must-do in its own right.

Earlier in CW [www.cruiseweekly.com.au] we examined the various operators
currently executing or planning itineraries along the West African coast
from Cape Town as far as Morocco. Previously unheard of ports and countries
are now appearing on sailing schedules. Angola, Congo, Ghana and Senegal are
just a few of those once forbidden lands now welcoming visitors. CW is
fortunate to be travelling with G Adventures [www.gadventures.com] as their
vessel, the MS Expedition, works its way from stunning Cape Town, all the
way to Dakar over three weeks.

"This is a true expedition," says Lyn Mair, leader of the team of highly
experienced staff who have spent the last two years painstakingly assembling
the itinerary, "even though we believe we've crossed every tee, Africa is
certain to throw up some surprises." And Lyn should know. She's been leading
tours around Africa and the islands for decades.

Reaching the midway point of our journey, we've already moved north from the
relative civilisation of Cape Town, through the desolate wastes of Namibia,
the recovering nation of Angola and today, the suspicious and brooding
former French territory of Congo, where Africa did deal us a few wild cards.

The sturdy, ice-strengthened, 130 passenger MS Expedition is certainly more
at home in polar waters, but shows no reluctance operating in the warmer
climes of equatorial Africa. Okay, the air conditioning is working overtime
and the Zodiacs are still piled on deck, but the 40 year old girl hasn't
missed a beat, cruising effortlessly up to her top speed of 14 knots.

I'm going to go on record and predict this route, with its myriad
variations, will dominate the must-do lists of veteran expedition cruisers
for the next few years. This sold out voyage follows the pattern of other
operators like Hapag-Lloyd, Lindblad National Geographic and Zegrahm who all
report strong demand from clients already bored with the 'ho-hum' Antarctic
Peninsula and Svalbard.

Impressions? So far it's been a remarkable voyage with plenty to keep
restless minds occupied both at sea and on land. The shore excursions have
included cultural experiences, historical sites and a taste of natural
beauty or, in the case of the bizarre Welwitschia plant of Namibia, natural
ugliness. It should be said this is not a voyage for all tastes. It's
unpredictable, uses many untested land agents and operators, a bit expensive
and chock full of surprises. If you are comfortable cruising with a dash of
the unknown and can roll with whatever falls in your lap, then it might be
just your cruise. A fan of midnight buffets, ballroom dancing and Las Vegas
shows? Maybe not so much for you. That said, the likes of Silversea and
Azamara are not unfamiliar with these waters either.

Speak to your ICCA agent about West Africa and follow Rod's progress at
www.expeditioncruising.com

For more detail on this itinerary, see www.gadventures.com > West Africa

More images at www.flickr.com/photos/rodeime



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