Immerse yourself in the theme of island exploration and make plenty of discoveries of your own: secluded archipelagos, whale-watching, island cultures and ancient lore. Indulge your passion for islands on this one-of-a-kind adventure aboard National Geographic Explorer. Explore three archipelagos known as the Macaronesia region: the Azores, Madeira, and the Canaries. Then voyage to isolated Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa. Travel back in time to a slice of centuries past as we explore the natural and cultural aspects of some of the most remote islands in the world.
Fly overnight to Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel in the Azores, where we embark the National Geographic Explorer.
At the heart of the Atlantic Ocean is a lush, mountainous archipelago that combines the breathtaking landscapes of Hawaii with the charm and culture of old-world Europe. We devote three days to the Azores. There is plenty to lure us. Rolling pastures to volcanic peaks. The villages are lovely, the museums intriguing. Today we explore the Furnas Valley and its famed hot springs, hiking the trails or perhaps visiting a tea plantation or the lovely garden of Terra Nostra. And we will have a tasting of Azorean cuisine. Savor a traditional cozido lunch, naturally cooked from the volcanic activity—underground!
The Azores are a whale-watching mecca, where more than 20 different types of cetaceans can be spotted. We go in search of these gentle giants in the channel north of Pico and Horta islands. Once ashore on the island of Faial, we head to Capelinhos, where we can see how dramatically the landscape changed when the volcano at the western end of the island erupted in the 1950's. Farms and villages were covered with ash, adding an extra two square kilometers of land to the island. Later, stroll along the marina, visit the excellent scrimshaw museum, and raise a glass at Peter’s Café Sport, a legendary pub where sea adventurers historically dropped off their mail. For those interested, we can arrange for scuba diving beneath startlingly clear water. Or see some of the countryside on foot with a guided hike.
Like the Maasai trackers of East Africa, our local whale experts have centuries of ties to their surroundings and an instinct for scouting its wild inhabitants. They will guide us on our morning whale-watching. In the afternoon, we go ashore at Santa Maria, historically significant as the first landfall of Christopher Columbus on his return from the Americas. For those interested in getting some exercise, there are hiking trails that will allow us to experience the scenery and atmosphere of the island.
Often referred to as the ‘floating garden of the Atlantic,’ Madeira has beautiful scenery, with a delicious climate. Walk in the Laurisilva forest, endemic to Macaronesia and now a UNESCO Site. Wander along the levadas (former irrigation channels) that network the island or visit the Botanical Gardens. Sample Madeira’s seafood and hear a performance of authentic Fado singing. Have a tasting of the famed Madeira wines, and browse the exquisite embroidery and wicker crafted here. Zodiac cruise around the nearby islands of Desertas, a nature reserve, to see the multi-colored coastline geology and search for the rare endangered monk seal.
After a morning at sea, arrive in the lush, European-flavored Canary Islands. All are of volcanic origin, reflected everywhere in the landscapes. The Canary Islands are known for their sunny climate and historical heritage. La Palma is known as Isla Bonita, the “pretty isle,” for its lush mountain slopes set against azure waters. Head up to the edge of a small crater for beautiful views and visit the church of Our Lady of the Snows, with its Spanish-Moorish architecture.
La Gomera was the departure point of Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World. On this unspoiled island, we spend time at Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to hike and stretch our legs.
The spectacular mountainous volcanic islands of Cape Verde comprise one of the world’s smallest independent nations. See impressive landscapes on Santo Antao: terraced hillsides, eucalyptus forests, and deep valleys. Visit the island of Fogo, and add volcano-gazing to your life list. We drive 5,000 feet up the volcano to sample the local wine at its source: inside the caldera!
Disembark in Praia, the bustling capital of Cape Verde. The Old Town was founded by the Portuguese and was once the most prosperous city of the Portuguese sea-borne empire. This morning we see the old fortress, cathedral and the pelourhino, a relic of the slave trade. Or you may want to hike the green and mountainous countryside. Dotted with small villages, it offers an insight into daily life on the island. In the late evening we transfer to the airport for our flight home.
Choose complimentary airfare from Boston to the Azores and returning from Cape Verde to Miami, or a bonus six-day Atlantic crossing to Salvador, Brazil aboard the National Geographic Explorer.
Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts — from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes, and local culture. See one of the members of our extraordinary team below.
Cotton Coulson is an award-winning photographer and Contributing Editor to National Geographic Traveler magazine. Cotton began his photography career at National Geographic when he was 21 years old, and has photographed more than 20 stories for National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler.
Cotton will join the following departure:
Sep 21 - Oct 06, 2014
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single cabin add $3,650 in Category 2 and $3820 in Category 3.
Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Please call for airfare estimates.