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Cape Verde, Canary Islands, and Azores

Aboard the Greg Mortimer

Overview

Dotted throughout the northeastern Atlantic Ocean are islands of volcanic origin that were never connected to continental landmasses. Volcanic activity has shaped the dramatic features of Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, and the Azores, renowned for their exceptional biodiversity. On this voyage aboard the expedition ship Greg Mortimer, experience extraordinary birdlife, revel in striking coastal and mountain scenery while on hikes, be prepared for encounters with elegant marine wildlife in their natural habitat, and hear stories of the fascinating history of the local people and their culture with its rich African and European heritage. Optional sea kayaking is available at an additional cost.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Day 1, Apr 16, 2023
Lisbon, Portugal

Arrive in Lisbon, where you will be met and transferred to the group hotel. This evening, enjoy a light refreshment as you meet your fellow expeditioners at a Welcome Reception and Pre-Embarkation Briefing. Afterwards, dine at your leisure (dinner not included). Overnight at the Marriott Hotel Lisbon.

Day 2, Apr 17, 2023
Embarkation / Praia

Transfer to the airport for the charter flight to Praia, Cape Verde. After arriving in Praia and if time allows, enjoy some of Praia’s main sites, including a visit to the old town of Cidade Velha, the former capital of Cape Verde and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The views of the town from the fortifications of Forte Real de São Filipe are sublime. In town, you might visit Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, a church dating back to 1495, which was visited by explorers Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus who stopped in Praia soon after the church was built. A marble whipping post in the town square is a bleak reminder of the many people who were brought to Cape Verde from mainland Africa to be traded as slaves. Transfer to the port for embarkation and settle into your cabin before attending important safety briefings. Enjoy the thrill of departure the ship sets sail. This evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners and the friendly Expedition Team and crew at the Captain’s Welcome Dinner, to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure.

Day 3, Apr 18, 2023
Fogo Island, Cape Verde

Zodiacs shuttle you ashore at the port of São Filipe where you begin your exploration of Fogo Island, also known as the “black pearl” of Cape Verde for its black volcanic sand. Wander the cobbled streets of São Filipe, a colorful Portuguese colonial town, exploring the vibrant market and local museum. Leaving the charming town, drive along serpentine roads that take you higher and higher toward the entrance to Parque Natural do Fogo, where the Fogo volcano is located. At 9,281 feet, the volcano is the highest point in the Cape Verde Islands. Fogo Island is a single, massive active stratovolcano that last erupted in 2014. Fogo is Portuguese for “fire.” The dramatic landscape of Fogo has been shaped by centuries of volcanic activity, leaving a landscape of collapsed calderas, lava fields, and craters.

Day 4, Apr 19, 2023
Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde

Boa Vista is the most easterly island in the archipelago. Marine turtles, extensive sand dunes, 34 miles of beaches, and traditional music are the island’s main attractions. Between January and May, small pods of humpback whales visit Cape Verde to breed and give birth to live young, and Boa Vista is one of the best places to see them. Sal Rei is the capital of Boa Vista Island. It is a quiet, sleepy town with its charming palm-filled main square, Praça da Santa, brimming with flowers and pavilions. Santa Isabel church is located in the square and features the graves of the Jewish Ben’Oliel family, who fled persecution in Morocco in the 1800s. After exploring the town square, perhaps enjoy a stroll along the Avenida dos Pescadores (Fishermen’s Avenue), which runs along the waterfront or explore the old harbor and the boatyard.

Day 5, Apr 20, 2023
Santo Antão, Cape Verde

In Santo Antão, disembark at Porto Novo to begin your exploration of this mountainous island and its sensational landscapes. Drive north into the island’s steep mountainous interior cut by deep, rocky ravines and venture into verdant forests, stopping to view an old volcanic caldera, Cova de Paúl. You will pass through small hamlets clinging to the sides of hills, where locals roast their own blend of coffee, filling the air with its distinct aroma. Santo Antão’s ribeiras—deep, narrow canyons with near-vertical walls—are one of the island’s most impressive features. Your exploration of the island includes a walk among lush farming valleys where breadfruit, bananas, papaya, and sugar cane grow. You may also have a chance to taste grogue, Cape Verde’s national drink made from sugar cane.

Days 6-7, Apr 21-22, 2023
At Sea

While sailing north to the Canary Islands, enjoy informative and entertaining lectures from the Expedition Team, who may present talks on various “ologies,” including volcanic geology, marine biology or ornithology, and cultural geography. You may choose to spend your time editing photos of Cape Verde or simply enjoying the many wonderful facilities on the ship.

Day 8, Apr 23, 2023
El Hierro, Canary Islands

El Hierro is the smallest and most southwesterly of the Canary Islands and is located below La Palma. The island is famous for its volcanic landscape, remarkable rock formations, and diverse flora. The spectacular marine life attracts scuba divers and snorkelers from around the world. UNESCO has classified El Hierro Biosphere Reserve as part of the Man and the Biosphere Program.
 
Departing from the tiny harbor town of La Estaca, begin your ascent to El Hierro’s small, quiet capital, Valverde, meaning the “green valley.” It is the only capital in the Canary Islands that is not located on the coast. Enjoy a walk through the town where no building is more than two stories high and where there are no traffic lights. Perhaps stop to visit the beautiful 18th-century church, Nuestra Señora de La Concepción. Afterwards, continue your climb and stop at Jinama lookout. At 4,265 feet above sea level, the view of El Golfo Valley is simply spectacular. On your descent, drive to the small village of Frontera, passing lush valleys along the way where pineapple, banana, papaya, and mango are grown.
 
El Hierro is home to the El Hierro giant lizard. With a broad head, dark, robust body and long tail, the indigenous giant lizard can measure up to two feet long and has long been an emblem of El Hierro, where it lives on the island’s rocky, arid terrain. The giant lizard is close to extinction and is now protected by international law. The Centre for the Recovery of the El Hierro Giant Lizard, also known as Lagartario, is a research center that studies the giant lizard and runs breeding programs to boost numbers. You will visit the center to see these enigmatic creatures and learn about the conservation efforts to protect them.

Day 9, Apr 24, 2023
La Gomera, Canary Islands

The island of La Gomera, shaped like a near-perfect circle, is the second smallest of the Canary Islands. San Sebastian, the capital of the island, is a picturesque village and harbor. The town is best explored on foot. Enjoy an easy stroll along the main street of the Old Town, Calle Real, where the stunning church, Iglesia de la Virgen de la Asunción, is located. It was here that Columbus and his crew attended mass after loading his ships with supplies and water before setting sail for America. Today, the church is still used by crew to pray for safe passage before they depart on voyages. You will also have an opportunity to visit the church at the end of the day.
 
Today’s adventures will focus on the scenic north side of La Gomera Island and the beautiful national park, where you will learn about the local flora and fauna. Enjoy a short and easy guided walk through one of the oldest laurel forests in the world, a prehistoric ecosystem that has survived as a result of the island’s temperate climate. The area became a national park in 1981, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
 
Continue the drive to Hermigua, a beautiful, verdant valley known for its mild climate, water-filled ravines, and banana plantations. Here you can visit a handicraft center and see displays of local pottery, utensils, and looms, giving you an insight into how locals used to live. Continue the panoramic drive to the village of Agulo to visit the Juego de Bolas (Garajonay National Park Visitor Center), which has outstanding exhibitions on the geology, climate, flora, and fauna of the park. The “House of Memory” has fascinating exhibits of traditional island culture including the interior of a rural house, farming equipment, a cellar, and traditional ceramics.
 
Back in town, you can visit Iglesia de la Virgen de la Asunción, as well as the 15th-century fortress Torre del Conde, and the La Gomera Archaeological Museum.

Days 10-11, Apr 25-26, 2023
At Sea

The onboard lecture series continues with fascinating talks on the people, history, and culture of the islands visited on the voyage as well as presentations on wildlife and geology. You may choose to spend your time keeping fit in the gym, or treating yourself to a massage in the wellness center.

Day 12, Apr 27, 2023
Flores, Azores

Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the archipelago of the Azores is where three continental plates meet. It is an area that attracts large numbers of whales and adventurous sailors. Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue recognizes the Azores archipelago as a Hope Spot and says, “The Azores archipelago is a magnet for life. It really is a magical place. Launching the Azores as Hope Spot is so logical—just ask the whales. They know how special this place is. This used to be a place where whales were killed, and now people are making a living by respecting the whales and having people come out and visit them as fellow citizens of the planet.” Not only is the Azores archipelago a Mission Blue Hope Spot, many of its islands are recognized by UNESCO as places of universal value.
 
In 2009, Flores was classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The island offers a number of sublime walking trails where you can choose to follow the coastline or venture inland to see shimmering lakes of flooded volcanic calderas. There are countless waterfalls and birders can expect to see migratory species including waders, passerines, shearwaters, and terns. Flores also features some splendid Portuguese architecture including the 19th-century church Nossa Senhora da Conceição, and the Flores Museum.

Day 13, Apr 28, 2023
Graciosa, Azores

The small and lush island of Graciosa awaits with adventures of a visit to Furna do Enxofre, where you descend by spiral staircase into a 328-foot-deep cavern beneath the plug of a former volcano. This well-known volcanic feature still exudes fumes and has bubbling mud pools.
 
In 2007, Graciosa was classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Azores are internationally recognized as a spectacular destination for birdwatching. The archipelago boasts approximately 30 breeding species, with the number of occasionally seen species already approaching 400, and Graciosa is home to a number of endemic species, including Monteiro’s storm petrel. Graciosa offers wonderful walking trails including coastal hikes and a walk along the perimeter of the volcanic cone. Other popular activities offered on the island are excursions for whale watching and swimming with dolphins.

Day 14, Apr 29, 2023
Terceira, Azores

Terceira Island is renowned for its rich historical heritage. The city of Angra do Heroismo is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A walking tour includes a visit to the small but stunning botanical gardens, the town’s main cathedral, and the delightful town square. You may choose to visit Algar do Carvão, a volcanic cave showcasing magnificent stalactites and stalagmites of amorphous silica, where the upper walls are covered in ferns, mosses, and liverworts.
 
The island offers superb birdwatching and is home to a colony of common terns and roseate terns nesting in a special protected area. It is also possible to spot waders from North America here. Excursions for whale watching and swimming with dolphins are also available on Terceira Island.

Day 15, Apr 30, 2023
Disembarkation / Lisbon

Disembark in Ponta Delgada, where a charter flight awaits to transport you back to Lisbon. If time allows, you will explore some of São Miguel Island’s attractions. São Miguel features a number of delightful gardens to explore including the António Borges Garden, named after the greatest Azorean landscape architect, and the José do Canto Botanical Garden, which has collections of rare plants. Terra Nostra Park features a thermal swimming pool and more than 2,000 trees, and Ponta da Ferraria is a spa and bathing site with therapeutic springs that have been used since the 15th century. All are fantastic options to enjoy before transferring to the airport for the charter flight to Lisbon. Depart on homeward-bound flights from Lisbon.

Highlights

Highlights

Enjoy some of the best whale–watching experiences in Europe
Hike among dramatic landscapes shaped by millennia of volcanic activity
Go birdwatching in Cape Verde and the Canary Islands
Visit four UNESCO World Heritage–listed sites
Explore Tenerife-La Gomera Hope Spot in the Canary Islands

Details

Length: 15 days
Cost From: $11,295  
Arrive: Lisbon, Portugal
Depart: Lisbon, Portugal
Lodging: 13 nights aboard a 126-passenger vessel, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals aboard ship, including wine, beer, and soft drinks with dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking, Snorkeling, Walking, Wildlife and Natural History, Small Ship Cruising, Birding, Photography
Trip Level:

13-day cruise, cultural explorations, Zodiac excursions, walking tours, optional sea kayaking