Set sail on an unforgettable adventure into the heart of Cape Verde and the picturesque Bijagós islands during a 9-day Expedition Cruise.

Begin your journey on the island of Santiago and discover the rich history of this diverse island. Explore the expansive museums, unique neighbourhoods and lush hillside parks that offer refuge from the lively streets below.

Aboard the luxurious L'Austral, travel north towards the island of Mindelo, the cultural capital of Cape Verde and Fogo Island, which is home to the country’s most active volcano. Whilst in Fogo take the opportunity to visit the historic centre of Ribeira Grande, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and hike around the caldera in the foothills of Pico de Fogo.

Enjoy the pristine sandy beaches in Boa Vista before heading towards the Bijagós archipelago. Located off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, this archipelago is one of the most preserved and protected on the planet and PONANT is the only cruise line granted access to this spectacular Archipelago.

Classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it is made up of 88 islands, most of which are uninhabited and nestling in the heart of an environment that is largely untouched by humans, allowing fauna and flora to thrive.

During your expedition, enjoy frequent landings via Zodiac® where you will be led by a team of expert naturalists and introduced to some of the region’s most spectacular landmarks and landscapes. You will be joined on board by a National Geographic Expert and Photographer who will enrich your trip with lectures and workshops.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard Ponant’s L'Austral ship, part of the Sisterships fleet. View full details including deck plans and features onboard here.

Trip highlights

Enjoy exclusive access to Bijagós Archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and one of the most preserved and protected archipelagos on the planet. PONANT is the only cruise company with permissions to sail into this breath-taking region.

Explore the historic centre of Ribeira Grande in Santiago, Cape Verde, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visit traditional villages and meet with local Bidyogo people in the Bijagós archipelago, who continue to practice ancestral traditions and protect the thriving fauna and flora on the islands.

Discover the rich biodiversity of the Bijagós Islands, including a great variety of birds, marine turtles and the rare saltwater hippopotamus.

Travel alongside a National Geographic Expert and Photographer who will host lectures and workshops on the destination as well as offering one-to-one sessions on how to improve photography skills.

You will have the chance to participate in a beach clean-up to help protect the pristine environment of the Bijagós Islands and its inhabitants.

Itinerary - 8 Days

1 Praia, Cape Verde

Begin your Expedition Cruise in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde situated on the southern coast of Santiago island. Before embarkation, explore the islands rich history and lush landscapes gaining an insight into where Cape Verde history began. Visit the old centre where the Ethnographic Museum presents the diversity of the archipelago’s cultural origins as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore the cities unique historical buildings with transom windows. Wander along the districts planted with Tamarind and Albizia trees and for a truly authentic experience make your way to the colourful African market where locals come together to shop and socialise. Plus you don’t want to miss the rich live music scene that takes over the city when the sun goes down.

2 Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde

Regarded as Cape Verde’s cultural capital, Mindelo is located on the shores of the north-west coast of São Vicente. With roots in Portuguese traditions explore the pastel-coloured houses away from the port, grand colonial buildings in the historical district and the cities musical past with live morna music being performed in the bars of the old town.

Other landmarks to explore include the historic facades of the old Governor's Palace and the bustling municipal market, which offers travellers an authentic insight into local culture. Just by the port, you can find one of the best beaches in the area, with turquoise waters and stunning views of the Santo Antão Island.

3 Fogo, Cape Verde

The island of Fogo is fiery in name and nature. Situated in the south-west of the archipelago, Fogo is home to Cape Verde’s most active volcano. The foothills of Pico de Fogo are ideal for hiking and offer unmatched views from above with the surreal experience of wandering along the active crater’s caldera. Begin the trail in the small town of Chã das Caldeiras where you can see recent lava flows and older ones sprouting with new growth. Hiking along the rocky coastline, you’ll come across picturesque Mosteiros and the historic town of São Filipe, where elegant colonial houses overlook the Atlantic Ocean.

4 Boa Vista, Cape Verde

Cape Verde’s wildest island, Boa Vista is renowned for its desert-like landscapes, white sand beaches and emerald waters. Dubbed “sand dune island”, it is particularly well-known for being an important nesting ground for loggerhead turtles as well as the warm waters popular with humpback whales who have their young and nurse them until they’re strong enough to brave the Atlantic.

Boa Vista is popular with water sport enthusiasts such as surfers and windsurfers as well as divers and snorkellers who are looking to explore the rich underwater world on offer.

5 At Sea

During your day at sea, make the most of the crew onboard L'Austral. Catch up with our onboard National Geographic Expert and Photographer as they give greater insight into the destination via lectures and workshops or visit the photo gallery area where you can take a look at some of the professional photos that have been taken during your trip so far. Take this opportunity to learn more about the lifestyle and traditions of the Bijagós communities before arriving on this remote archipelago. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below alongside a naturalist.

6 -8 Bijagós Islands, Bijagós

The Bijagós archipelago was declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1996. It is known for its rich fauna, including marine turtles and hippopotamus. The Bijagós Islands are the jewel in Guinea-Bissau's crown, an archipelago of 88 islands that is one of the most preserved and protected on the planet. PONANT is the only cruise line granted access to this spectacular Archipelago that is home to an area of extraordinary biodiversity. The Bijagós are unspoilt with wild landscapes that are incredibly well protected by the local community.

During your expedition, meet with the local people of Caravela and Carache Islands who have adapted to and live in harmony in with the local environment. Witness their ceremonies and rituals and understand their way of life with further presentations onboard.

If we are lucky, and depending on the sea and weather conditions, we will also be able to visit Orango Island, the largest and most mysterious island in the archipelago, famed for its abundant biodiversity - including the rare saltwater hippopotamus - and its magnificent landscapes. During Zodiac® outings, we will set off to discover this preserved environment, look out for wildlife and learn more about the home of the Bijogo people, the true custodians of this sanctuary. Moreover, you will have the chance to participate in a beach clean-up to help this unique environment and its inhabitants.

Depending on the sandbanks position, we may be able to reach Bolama, the closest island to the mainland, Bolama city which was formed in 1871 and became the capital city of the Portuguese Guinea from 1879 to 1941, before it was transferred to Bissau. This marvellous city keeps stunning colonial architecture and is a living representation of the region’s history.

9 Dakar, Senegal

The final destination during our Expedition Cruise is Dakar, at the tip of the African continent that offers richly diverse districts, an appealing cultural scene and rich natural surroundings.

After disembarkation, visit the island of Gorée that for centuries was home to the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast and an incredibly moving place to visit and is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alternatively, explore Madeleine Islands' National Park which offers spectacular pristine and unspoiled nature and wildlife.

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