Join International Expeditions as we tour West Africa, sailing aboard the 34-guest yacht Callisto, our newest West Africa cruise ship . This is the Gambia cruise and West Africa tour that few travelers have experienced — the Bijagós Archipelago, where nature is holy; the fishing village of Joal-Fadiout, entirely constructed from crushed sea shells; and the exuberant musical traditions of Dakar. Accompanied by historians and naturalists, you will weave through riverine forests in The Gambia, cruise to Guinea’s isolated Soumba Waterfalls, and learn to feel the pulse of the vibrant cultures and cities in your own soul.
West Africa Tour of Beguiling Bijagós
Even for a lifetime adventurer, the Bijagós Archipelago is one of the world’s most obscure places. Few outside anthropological or conservationist circles have ever heard of this tropical 88-island chain off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. IE’s West Africa cruise spends three days in this “undiscovered” archipelago, where the people’s animist beliefs have helped to preserve the lush islands’’ biodiversity.
Expert West Africa Tour Expedition Team & Guides
Your West Africa cruise expedition will be accompanied by an outstanding expedition team: Naturalist Marius Burger; Study Leader Donald Wright; Expedition Leader Peter Graham, whose many years of experience include serving as Expedition Leader in some of the remotest places in the world and leading several West Africa tours; and IE Director of Program Development Bill Robison. You will also be joined by excellent local guides on land, specialists who will illuminate the things you see, as well as a professional staff of 18 aboard Callisto.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
U.S. / En Route
Fly to Dakar, Senegal.
Thursday, February 23
Dakar, Senegal | Embark Callisto
Arrive in Dakar, the dynamic capital of Senegal, and transfer to the port to board Callisto. Once a small settlement on the Cap Vert peninsula, Africa’s westernmost point, Dakar has grown into a great metropolis that now occupies the entire peninsula and beyond. Sail from Dakar in the late evening. (D)
Friday, February 24
Saloum River | Djiferre | Joal-Fadiout
After sailing along Senegal’s coast, Callisto will enter the Saloum River and anchor near the village of Djifere. Landing ashore on local motorized pirogues, drive to the fascinating fishing village of Fadiout, where the houses are built of crushed shells. After exploring Fadiout, cross the wooden bridge spanning an estuary to Joal, the birthplace of the great Senegalese statesman, Sédhar Senghor, to watch the hauling-in of the colorful fishing boats. (B, L, D)
Saturday, February 25
Part of the Mali Empire from the 13th to 15th centuries, and a colony of Portugal from the beginning of the 16th century to 1974, when it gained independence, Guinea-Bissau is one of the smallest and least visited countries in West Africa. Explore Bissau, the country’s friendly and peaceful capital, focusing on Bissau Velho (Old Bissau), whose streets are lined with houses dating from the colonial period. Visit the fish market, and the Centro Artistico Juvenil, where local artists specialize in wood carvings. (B, L, D)
Sunday – Wednesday, February 26 - 29
Spend four days exploring the Bijagós Archipelago, a cluster of 88 pristine and seldom visited islands, of which only 23 are inhabited. The islands have been settled since prehistoric times by the Bijagós people, a matriarchal society in which women choose their husbands, and the community is guided by female priests. Before the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century, the islands were vital in the trade routes along West Africa’s coast and were known for their oceangoing canoes that could carry up to 70 people. Fiercely independent, the Bijagós navy defeated the Portuguese when they attempted to conquer the islands in 1535. In fact, the Portuguese were unable to take control of the archipelago until 1936. The 25,000 Bijagós who live on the islands today still practice their ancient traditions and speak their ethnic language, in addition to Portuguese. The islands contain an impressive biodiversity and abundant flora and fauna, in recognition of which they have been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The pristine nature of the islands has been preserved partly due to the Bijagós’ animistic faith, which prohibits economic activities in the many sacred areas, including bans on permanent construction. Our itinerary in the archipelago will be governed by the tides, which in some places can be up to 20 feet. We expect to visit several of the most important islands, including Orango, which is home to a rare species of saltwater-dwelling hippos; the small island of Poilao with its baobabs and ceiba trees and Caravela, with its white sand beaches. In addition to discovering the natural riches of the islands, we will also have the opportunity to visit villages, meet the friendly Bijagós people, and learn about their traditions, which have remained unchanged through the centuries. There will be opportunities to swim in the crystalline waters and enjoy the pristine white-sand beaches. (B, L, D)
Thursday, March 1
Banjul, The Gambia
Founded by the British early in the 19th century, Banjul is the capital and commercial center of The Gambia. Disembark in the morning and drive to the Abuko Nature Reserve, one of the last surviving examples of tropical riverine forests in the country. Within its confines are about 300 species of birds, as well as red colobus and callithrix monkeys. Continue to the Makasutu Culture Forest, a private nature habitat with beautiful woodland and waterways. Enjoy lunch at the reserve. Return to Banjul to visit the National Museum, whose exhibits illustrate the history and culture of the country. (B, L, D)
Friday, March 2
Tendaba | Kiang West National Park | Baobolong Wetland Reserve, River Gambia
From the village of Tendaba, situated on the south of the riverbank, explore two of The Gambia’s most important wildlife reserves. In the morning, drive to the Kiang West national park, where mangroves, creeks, and mudflats alternate with dry woodland and grassland. Kiang west is notable for its more than 250 species of birds. Alternately, visit a nearby village and learn about Gambian village life. In the afternoon, board local boats to navigate the waterways and maze of islands that comprise Baobolong Wetlands Reserve, a notable bird sanctuary and a wonderland of mangroves, some of which are over 60 feet tall. (B, L, D)
Saturday, March 3
Dakar, Senegal | Gorée Island | Dakar
Once a small settlement on the Cap Vert peninsula, Africa’s westernmost point, Dakar has grown into a great metropolis that now occupies the entire peninsula and beyond. Explore Dakar, starting with a short ferry ride to historic Gorée Island, which played a significant role in the Atlantic slave trade. First settled by Europeans in the 15th century, the island, with its narrow alleyways and colonial buildings, is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Return to Dakar for a tour of the city including a visit to the Village des Arts, including a specially-arranged visit to a contemporary artist’s studio. In the evening, enjoy a musical performance, for which Senegal is justly famous. Spend the night docked in Dakar. (B, L, D)
Sunday, March 4
Dakar | Disembark | Fly to USA
Enjoy a morning tour of Dakar including a visit to the IFAN Musuem of African Arts, one of West Africa’s best, the explore the Marche Soumbedioune, a craft market with the best variety of artisan workmanship. Transfer to the airport for the evening return flight to the U.S. Dinner and day rooms will be provided at the Hotel Pullman Dakar Teranga. (B, L, D)
Monday, March 5
Arrive in the USA.
Revised November 17, 2011
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Options and Extras
What’s included in the price of IE’s West Africa travel package?
- Ten nights aboard the 34-guest yacht Callisto
- Welcome & farewell cocktail receptions aboard Callisto
- House wine, beer & soft drinks with lunch and dinner aboard Callisto
- Open bar aboard Callisto throughout the West Africa expedition cruise
- Complete program of excursions & activities as shown in the itinerary
- The services of a professional Expedition Leader, Study Leader, local guides & expedition staff
- Baggage handling
- Transfers on group arrival & departure dates
- Port dues & ship embarkation taxes
- Tips to porters, guides & drivers
- Complete pre-departure materials to help you get the most out of your expedition
Click here for complete terms & conditions.
Are visas required for travel to West Africa?
Visas are required for U.S. citizens, although the requirements and when the visa must be obtained varies by country.
For travel to Senegal there are no visas required.
The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea visas will be obtained while on the cruise through the Callisto’s staff. The cost is approximately $300 per person.
Your Sierra Leone visa must be obtained in advance. International Expeditions will include a visa package in your confirmation documents. The cost is approximately $230 per person.
What inoculations are required to participate in the West Africa expedition cruise?
All travelers on this journey, regardless of nationality, are required to show evidence of yellow fever vaccination. The CDC also recommends that all travelers to West Africa be up-to-date on vaccinations for measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), poliovirus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Malaria is present in the areas where we are traveling, and guests are encouraged to take malaria medication. Note that chloroquine is NOT an effective anti-malaria drug in West Africa. Guests should consult with their physician regarding both the inoculations and to determine which malaria medication is right for them.
What is the best time to travel to West Africa?
The best time to visit West Africa is October through March, with December and January being the most crowded. The weather is subtropical, with distinct dry and rainy seasons. From mid-November to mid-May, coastal areas are dry, while the rainy season lasts from June to October. Inland the cool season is shorter and daytime temperatures are very high between March and June. Sunny periods occur on most days even during the rainy season.
Average Temperatures (Hi/Low)DestinationFebruaryMarchDakar77/6276/63The Gambia77/6276/63Bissau91/6793/70Bijagos Archipelago78/6880/72Conakry91/6892/70Freetown86/7587/75Average Rainfall (inches)DestinationFebruaryMarchDakar0.00.1The Gambia0.00.0Bissau0.10.0Bijagos Archipelago0.00.0Conakry0.00.1Freetown0.10.5