National Geographic Expeditions and PONANT: Cape Verde ·

National Geographic Expeditions and PONANT: Cape Verde

As cruise companies continue to expand their exploration of the world to include locations previously considered off the beaten path, Cape Verde has become a prized addition to the traveller’s list of destinations visited. The islands of this island nation some 600 kilometres off the coast of Senegal are among the most starkly beautiful in the world.

A stop in Cape Verde has become almost routine on trans-Atlantic repositioning cruises but few are the cruises that actually focus on these alluring islands and the unique people who inhabit them. A crossroads of cultures for centuries, the history of Cape Verde is visible as much in the faces of the local populace as in the vestiges of colonial architecture that remain in such places as Cidade Velha, the first settlement in what were uninhabited islands when Portuguese explorers arrived way back in the 1400s. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cidade Velha is located on the outskirts of Praia, the nation’s capital located on the island of Santiago.

Praia serves as the point of embarkation for National Geographic Expeditions and PONANT’s cruises encompassing several islands in the archipelago. What better way to visit multiple islands than by luxury ship? Given the distances and logistics involved, it would be a challenge to visit multiple islands on one’s own, especially outlying islands such as Fogo and Santo Antão, but National Geographic Expeditions and PONANT make it easy and wonderful. As is expected on small-ship cruises, special experiences and personalised attention are offered in abundance on a voyage where every day is a highlight of the trip.

While Cape Verde’s cities of Praia and Sal are perhaps more familiar to international travellers and their travel agents booking them on flights to or through these international airports, the other islands of Cape Verde offer even more exceptional experiences to the travellers who go the extra (nautical) mile on board PONANT in the company of expert scientists and photographers who know the flora and fauna of the islands.

The island of São Vicente is considered the cultural heart of Cape Verde (which in Portuguese is called Cabo Verde). This is due in no small part to the vibrant music scene that flourishes here. The island’s airport is named after the late Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora, whose soulful voice became a worldwide sensation and most famous representative of her country’s morna style of music. São Vicente’s capital, Mindelo, is set on a scenic bay surrounded by mountains. The main attraction of Mindelo, though, is the pulsing nightlife; the sleepy town by day becomes a hotbed of musical activity by night.

A short distance away from São Vicente is the island of Santo Antão, regarded by many as the most beautiful island in Cape Verde. Receiving more rainfall than the other islands, the lush vegetation of Santo Antão’s northern region is a green contrast to the rocky (but still impressive) landscapes found on the rest of the island and on other volcanic islands in the country. The jagged peaks descend sharply from their lofty heights, roads twisting and turning between them to deliver astonishing panoramas to those visitors lucky enough to make it to the island. National Geographic Expeditions and PONANT take you there.

The most obviously volcanic of the volcanic islands is Fogo, which means ‘fire’ in Portuguese. The volcano and lava fields surrounding it are an impressive sight; the area is a national park and serves as a reminder that volcanoes are powerful features of the Earth’s landscape.

PONANT has offered cruises around the islands of Cape Verde for several years. The new partnership with National Geographic Expeditions showcases the splendid nature and culture of this isolated country with more expertise than ever before on ships more luxurious than ever before. Options to visit Cape Verde include cruises just among the islands of this one nation or paired with the exotic Bijagós Islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau; PONANT is the only cruise company in the world to visit the country of Guinea-Bissau. Many PONANT cruises in this part of the world begin or finish in Dakar, one of Africa’s most appealing urban destinations.

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