DAY 1~ PHILADELPHIA/WASHINGTON D.C./EN ROUTE
This afternoon your journey begins as you board your overnight flight via Washington D.C. (Meals Aloft)
DAY 2~ DAKAR
Begin your journey in the city of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, a vibrant, lively city situated on the Atlantic coast. Dakar boasts some fine beaches, excellent music, wonderful markets and interesting museums. Highlights include the IFAN Museum which displays art and cultural artifacts from the entire West African region. The best markets include the traditional Marche de Tilene which is less touristy than the other main markets in town.
Your afternoon is spent discovering the rich history of this region as you tour the main monuments, bargain at local markets, and discover local art galleries.
Your home is located in the quiet Dakar Almadies in the Capo Verde Peninsula and enjoys ocean front views. Le Meridien President is an attractive, luxury hideaway with modern facilities and warm service. The hotel has 372 rooms surrounded by 104 acres of luxuriant green foliage. Half of the guest rooms feature breathtaking views of the sea and the other half of the luxuriant emerald-green golf course. Rooms feature all amenities, including hairdryer, direct dial telephone, satellite/cable television, minibar, tea and coffee making facilities, air conditioning and a safe. The rooms also feature either a balcony or a terrace. The Jardins de l'Océan and Manguier serve diverse yet equally tempting cuisine, ranging from a tasty seafood selection to traditional African delights. Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel.
Overnight at LE MERIDIEN PRESIDENT HOTEL. (Meals Aloft; D)
DAY 3~ DAKAR~GOREE ISLAND
Get set to discover the slave history of West Africa as you ferry to Goree Island, infamous in history as one of the points from where slaves were shipped to the new world. In the beginning of the 16th century the island was seized by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British all of whom participated in the trade. Forts and cannons attest of the island's violent past. Most of the buildings were used as warehouses or slaves' houses, and today many have been turned in to museums. A visit to the Maison des Esclaves, the memorial monument to slavery with the guns on which Victor Schölcher sat to celebrate the law officially ending slavery, will definitely open your mind towards this period. Visit the museum, the slave house, St. Charles’ church and walk in the alley of Goree.
After that moving and informative tour, enjoy a walking tour in the island dotted with cafés, and handicraft markets. Discover the painter’s workshops and at the end of the day, visit an African Art Gallery exhibiting work from 20 African countries. Return to Dakar in the late afternoon where the rest of your day is at leisure. Your dinner tonight will be at La Pointe des Almadies where you can taste some succulent African food. Overnight at LE MERIDIEN PRESIDENT HOTEL. (B,L,D)
DAY 4~ DAKAR~ BANDIA NATIONAL FOREST/PINK LAKE
Venture into the Bandia National Forest (1,235 acres of baobabs and acacias) and discover the African fauna. Admire the abundance of plants and animals that fill this pristine natural area. Bandia Reserve is the first private reserve in Western Senegal, created in 1990, and located 40 miles from Dakar near Sally and Mbour. Bandia is an ecological success through the surprising regeneration of its flora and reintroduction of large African mammals that had once disappeared: giraffe, white rhino, zebra, Roan antelope, waterbuck, kudu, oryx, impala, Cape eland, Lord Derby eland, kob, West African forest buffalo, warthog, crocodile, green Vervet monkey and Patas monkey, all call the forest home. Besides animals, visitors to Bandia Reserve can see some giant baobab trees, in particular the astonishing baobab elephant (Adansonia digitata).
Continue from the forest to the shores of Lac Rose, or Pink Lake. Located in the Cape Vert Peninsula that lies north east of Senegal's capital Dakar, the lake's unusual appearance is caused by a salt-loving green micro algae called Dunaliella Salina that resides in the lake, known for its high concentration of the mineral. Tucked between the ocean and sand dunes, this salt lake shifts colors from purple to mauve. The color is particularly visible during the dry season. Drive around the lake and visit the Fulai villages and salt extraction area. Return to your Dakar hotel in the evening.
Overnight at LE MERIDIEN PRESIDENT HOTEL. (B,L)
DAY 5~ DAKAR~ BOAT EMBARKATION
Visit the Musée de l'Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire or IFAN Museum of African Arts in Dakar, one of the oldest art museums in West Africa. The museum has an impressive display of masks, statues, musical instruments and agricultural implements from all over West Africa and provides an excellent overview of styles, without bombarding you with more than you can take in.
Continue with your visit to the Village des Arts de Dakar, comprised of several artists' studios and a gallery space that hosts rotating exhibitions. You will have the opportunity to explore the grounds and the gallery and visit the studios, where you meet with the artists, see their artistic process, and view completed works.
In the afternoon board your state-of –the-art cruising vessel, Harmony V. This 183 ½ mega-yacht features large and comfortable cabins, fine dining and an exceptional crew. The 25 cabins are located on the Main deck (9 cabins) and on the Upper Deck (16 cabins). Enjoy the spacious sun deck, the indoor and outdoor lounge, as well as an American bar on the upper deck. The boat complies with EUROSOLAS safety regulations, ISPS (International Ships Port Safety Code) ISM, (International Safety Management), while its powerful engines, generators and state of the art twin stabilizers will allow for safe and comfortable cruising. Tonight you sail southward towards the Saloun River Delta. Overnight aboard the M/Y HARMONY V. (B,D)
DAY 6~ SINE-SALOUM DELTA/DJIFFERE/BANJUL
Arrive at the Sine–Saloun Delta in Senegal, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and an important birding site, designated by Birdlife International for its numerous bird species. The Delta comprises almost 700 square miles of the Senegalese coastal belt, being a mixture of open water, permanent islands and seasonal or tidal flats. Sailing through here this morning you are definitely going to see some of the reserve’s many bird species, including the Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Pink-backed Pelican, and Little Stint in the mangrove swamps and mudflats lining the waterway — along with such aquatic animals as marine turtles, dolphins, West African manatees, and crocodiles. Known as the world’s most important breeding site for the Royal Tern, the delta also hosts scores of Great White Egrets as they overwinter.
Today, visit the primitive village of Joal Fadiouth, set on an island made of clam shells. Board small local boats for a 20-minute row across the shallow bay to the granary huts on stilts; then re-board the boat for a five-minute ride to the sea-shell cemetery; then a five-minute walk to the wooden bridge to the small island of Fadiouth. Marvel at the crafts made by the locals from the very same clam shells that the village rests on. Early in the afternoon drive back to Djiffere and return to the ship by pirogues. Cruise towards Banjul, the capital city of The Gambia, a sleepy and picturesque seaport at the mouth of the Gambia River where it enters the Atlantic. Overnight aboard the M/Y HARMONY V. (B,L,D)
DAY 7~ BANJUL
In the morning, choose to take a tour of the Abuko Nature Reserve, Gambia’s first nature reserve and home to over 290 bird species, Nile crocodiles, and such mammals as green monkey, red colobus, bushbuck, and Maxwell’s duiker. Continue on to Makasutu Culture Forest, a private reserve and The Gambia’s most prominent eco-tourism project. Comprising riparian forest, savannah, mangroves, and wetlands, the reserve hosts Guinea baboon, antelope, and small carnivores, along with abundant birdlife. Explore Makasutu by bush walk and by carnivores, along with abundant birdlife. Explore Makasutu by bush walk and by dugout canoe, and also experience Gambian life up close through encounters with an Islamic holy man and a palm tapper.
An alternative tour is a visit to Katchikally’ the sacred Crocodile Pool in Bakau, an ancient site where over a hundred crocodiles thrive in the sacred pool, as well as their botanical garden. The pool has been in existence and owned by the Bojang family, the first settlers in Bakau, for over 500 years. Not only is the pool the home of approximately 70 crocodiles, but it is also considered to be a sacred place for people facing difficulties in life like job problems, or barren women, who will either drink or bathe from the pool water to overcome these difficulties. You will have a chance of touching a friendly crocodile.
Both groups end up with a tour of the town of Banjul. This is an orientation tour for the visitor seeking to get acquainted with local life; an ideal day to brush shoulders with the friendly people while discovering the sheer delights that The Gambia has to offer. It is a private trip which takes you in and out of The Greater Banjul area. A specialist guide will come along to introduce you to local customs and traditions as well as tell you the history of the nation. From Banjul Port, you will visit Albert Market – a daily market and crafts market, where all the sights and colors of Africa will come to you as never before.
After lunch on board, cruise down towards St. James Island, a World Heritage Site and once an important slave trade port in Gambia. The island was made famous by Alex Haley’s book, Roots, the famed story of Kunta Kinte. Explore the island before returning to your vessel and sail towards Tendaba. Overnight aboard the M/Y HARMONY V. (B,L,D)
DAY 8~ TENDABA
Board your small motor pirogues into Tendaba on the South Bank of the Lower River Division. It is a small fishing village of mainly Muslim faith with approximately 600 inhabitants whose main occupation is fishing. From here board safari trucks and travel to Kiang West National Park, which is mainly composed of Guinea savannah and woodland that is ideal for hiking. Kiang West boasts over 250 species of birds, many of which are difficult to observe anywhere else. Other residents of the park include Guinea baboons, bushbuck, warthogs, Senegal bushbaby, marsh mongoose and manatees.
Return to Tendaba camp and board the pirogues back to the vessel. In the afternoon, you may choose to take an excursion to the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve which lies across Kiang West and features six major bolongs (creeks) that provide great birding and boating opportunities. Numerous rare and migratory birds also reside here including the Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Finfoot and Brown-necked Parrot. Sightings of Nile crocodiles, African clawless otter and West African manatee are possible here, while warthogs, hyenas, jackals and baboons could be seen in the dry areas.
Overnight aboard the M/Y HARMONY V. (B,L,D)
DAY 9~ TENDABA/KUNTAUR
Savor a leisurely and scenic day on the river as you sail to the bustling Gambian port town of Kuntaur, the last inland stop along the river that is navigable for ocean-going ships. As you continue sailing, the river gets narrower and meanders the further you go upriver and is lined with lush vegetation. You will see traditional thatched huts and villagers as they fish, pound millet, mend their nets, and tend their dugout canoes. Early this afternoon you reach Kuntaur, a traditional market for groundnuts (peanuts), The Gambia’s main export crop.
Board a large motor pirogue for a cruise on the Gambia River. Stop by the southernmost tip of Baboon Island where a national park ranger will join you as you cruise around Gambia National Park. About 100 miles east of the Atlantic coast, the vegetation changes from swamps to thick forests, and many islands appear in the river. Five of these, the largest of which is Baboon Island, form a park known for its chimpanzee-rehabilitation project designed to re-acclimate chimps from labs and zoos to return to the wild.
Explore the park by boat (tourists are forbidden from going ashore to prevent damage to the environment) and see up close its diverse ecosystems, including lush jungle rainforest, reeds, savannah, and mangrove swamps. It’s a steamy, evocative riverscape that harkens to an earlier, undisturbed Africa. In addition, see the chimpanzees living here, a result of a successful rehabilitation project to rescue chimps that had been mistreated in captivity. Other park residents that you may encounter include the aardvark, West African manatee, Nile crocodile, African clawless otter, monkeys, baboons, antelope, and crocodile. The park also represents the last refuge for the endangered hippo in The Gambia. Colorful birdlife also call the park home, including the Palmnut Vulture, African Fish Eagle, African Finfoot, pelicans, hornbills, barbets, shrikes, egrets, ibis, and parrots.
Return to Kuntaur to partake in an ancient ceremony featuring dancers and a spiritual leader wearing a Kankurang mask. The wearer of the mask is said to have spiritual powers to dispense justice and ward off evil spirits. Overnight aboard the M/Y HARMONY V. (B,L,D)
DAY 10~ KUNTAUR/JANJANBUREH/KAUR
This morning board your pirogues and travel to the sleepy port of Janjanbureh, one of the oldest towns of The Gambia and formerly called Georgetown. The vehicles will take you on a tour around this picturesque town (the old ‘second’ city of colonial days) situated in the rural heartland in McCarthy Island Division (North Bank Division), approximately 175 miles up-river where the "real country" can be experienced. Places to visit in Georgetown include the slave house, market and the first Gambian boarding school (Armitage School) or a primary school. You will be thrilled with a short recount of the history of Georgetown by the village head and Member of Parliament. A short visit of Janjanbureh camp will allow you to possibly see the monkeys and baboons. Then, drive from Janjanbureh camp to Kuntaur where you will re-board the pirogues back to the vessel after an eventful full-day exploration tour.
Continue onto Lamin Koto to see a local school built by Variety Voyages, the provider of your cruising vessel. Experience first-hand how travelers like you can help support local communities and conserve the environment through smart tourism practices. Afterwards, visit Wassu, a World Heritage Site, where mysterious stone circles form a megalithic site, believed to be an ancient burial ground. In the afternoon, sail downstream towards Kaur to observe how locals live today. Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner aboard your ship. Overnight aboard the M/Y HARMONY V. (B,L,D)
DAY 11~ KAUR/BANJUL/DAKAR
Depart from Kaur in the morning and return to Banjul, passing by schools of dolphins and wildlife in the surrounding rainforest. In the evening, enjoy a Kora instrument concert, a last reminder of the wonders of the Gambian culture as you set sail back to Dakar. Overnight aboard the M/Y HARMONY V. (B,L,D)
DAYS 12/13~ DAKAR/PHILADELPHIA
Arrive Dakar this morning and transfer back to LE MERIDIEN PRESIDENT HOTEL where a dayroom is available for you. Enjoy some leisure time to perhaps have a walk to the nearby “la Pointe des Almadies” artisanal market for your last-minute shopping. Late tonight, board your flight back home, arriving the USA next morning, bringing with you fond memories of a rich culture and beautiful landscapes of West Africa. (B, Meals Aloft)