Africa on Silver Explorer March and April 2015

These two maps are clickable for the ports we visited

These two maps are clickable to get to that destination

Click on thumbnail image to get a larger photograph

Our holiday entailed about a month away from home, incorporating a week in the winelands of the Cape, followed by the trip by Silversea Explorer from Cape Town to Accra. The detailed itinerary is here

This was our 4th voyage on Silverseas, the others being Cape to Cape, Fiji to Tahiti and Cairns to Auckland . So you might say that we do like Silverseas.

However inevitably we have met problems - Mick Fogg was a positively dreadful Expedition lead on Fiji to Tahiti. And the "bean counters" are doing there best to erode the pure luxury of Silverseas, to wit, the wines served in the restaurants are of shocking quality (I can get better for 5 here in Spain) and many other short cuts ar being made (for example the things called scallops on menus are not scallops but cookie cut stingray tails). There does not seem to exist a proper way of giving the company a feedback. If the Expedition Leader had his wits about him, he would get this sort of feedback. Filling up a response form at the end of the trip is not the answer.

Another odd saving made by the bean counters was to cut out any lecturer on the history of the area. It really is not good enough to force feed us birds and plants, but not to mention the political and economics of the countries we were traveling through. It was naive to think that local guides could have given us anything approaching the truth of their countries recent history, in countries where one family had ruled for maybe 40 years. No changing a botonist or a birder for a lecturer on history was what I needed.

This voyage up the West Coast of Africa turned out to be very different to the others we have done on the Explorer. In particular the zodiacs were only used twice to get us ashore, in the other ports were tied up to the quayside. However this did not detract from the experience for me. I was impressed by the organisation of the shore agents in all the ports, and the quantity of well chosen sights that we were shown in a very short stop in each port. Organising in Africa cannot be an easy job. The police escorts we had in nearly all countries north of Namibia was fun, and perhaps an insight into the presidential lifestyle of your average African dictator.

When I look back now, only two weeks after leaving the ship, I have (almost) forgotten the long bus rides on bumpy roads, and remember more the places we drove to see. It was a good mix, and as with any group tour, there were things that I could have done without - like the so called craft markets, which seemed to be full of mass produce (probably Chinese) wooden carvings.

Highlights to me were the Wine Tram and Academie Street Hotel in Franschhock, the night dinner in the desert in Namibia, the Benguela train, the ethnic museum at Pointe Noire, the walk at Principe , the floating village in Benin , the primary school in Togo and the coffin shop in Ghana plus the crossing the equator ceremony on Explorer . Odd mix when you look at it!

We went to West Africa on the Explorer, as I felt it was not a viable (read that safe) alternative to go by ourselves. Africa was fascinating. The countries were very different, Cape Town an international city, Namibia a well run country, Angola with its oil wealth, the Republic of Congo and Sant Tao & Principe without oil and quite poor. Togo and Benin and Ghana with booming populations and problems to confront on democracy.

I am glad I took this trip on Explorer. I don't think I would want to go to those countries again, but they were well worth visiting.

And finally, whatever I think about Silverseas mean minded accountants, the staff on board were, as always a joy. Always smiling, invariably helpful. Silversea should be proud of them


David Grant Holidays