The Bijagos islands, one of the destinations you can visit on a West Africa expedition cruise

West Africa expedition cruises

The west coast of Africa offers the adventurous traveller an incredible amount of variety, from booming cities to bleak deserts, from steaming mangroves to laid back tropical islands. Anthropologists and curious travellers alike have long been drawn here by the unique cultures of the region, from the hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari to the voodoo religion of Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Our insight

West Africa cruising

Travelling overland through West Africa is a difficult and often frustrating endeavour, even for the most intrepid adventurer, with long distances to cover, tourist infrastructure that is basic at best, and an obstacle course of bureaucracy and corruption to tackle at many border crossings. An expedition cruise, on the other hand, takes all the stress out of visiting this fascinating part of the world, and allows you to visit cities and regions that few tourists have ever seen.

West Africa cruise itineraries are actually pretty rare, and most ships only pass this way as part of a repositioning voyage between Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, or vice versa. Travelling the length of the continent will normally take around 3 weeks, following the coast from Cape Town to Lisbon or the Canary Islands, while shorter voyages will start or end in a West African port such as Accra in Ghana or Dakar in Senegal. Some itineraries will focus more on Cape Verde or the Canary Islands, and you will also sometimes find transatlantic cruises that start or end in West Africa.

If the main aim of your visit to Africa is to see wildlife then a West African cruise may not be the best option, although there are still some fascinating habitats and ecosystems; Namibia is particularly rich in birdlife, and there is also plenty of game inland. You may also have the opportunity to visit colonial towns and former slave markets in rarely visited countries such as Angola, or learn about the unique Voodoo religion at the fetish markets of Togo and Benin. Further north, your expedition may take you to the fringes of the vast Sahara Desert or the colourful souks of Morocco. West Africa is also home to some truly stunning islands, from the idyllic beaches of São Tomé and Principe to the rugged volcanic scenery of Cape Verde and the Canary Islands.

When you visit is really dictated by when the cruise lines are passing through the region, which tends to be in spring or autumn, when the weather is warm and mostly dry. The height of summer is generally best avoided, with high humidity, frequent heavy rains along the coast and unbearably high temperatures in the Sahara and the Sahel.

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