Join us for this remarkable journey along the south west coast of Africa that promises to be a voyage unlike anything else the MS Caledonian Sky has undertaken in recent years. Leaving bustling Cape Town, we traverse Namibia’s bleak but beautiful Skeleton Coast before arriving into the former Portuguese colony of Angola which, with tourism in its infancy, is largely unexplored by all but the most intrepid of travellers. Following a relaxing two days at sea we arrive in the two-island nation of Sao Tome and Principe, famous for its natural beauty and birdlife, for two full days of exploration before reaching our final destination of Gabon.
Some of the most memorable highlights will include exploring the dunes and lagoons of Namibia’s Walvis Bay and watching the sky turn pink as tens of thousands of flamingos take flight as well as visiting the quaint colonial towns. From Mocamedes, our first call in Angola, we will venture inland to the Namibe desert with the opportunity to see some of the oldest plants on earth, Welwitschia, and we have an afternoon to explore Luanda, Angola’s fascinating capital and once a major city in the Portuguese trading empire.
In Sao Tome & Principe natural wonders abound from beautiful untouched beaches to jungle-covered mountains and the emerald waters are a biodiversity hotspot. Principe still retains the atmosphere of an undiscovered place and, anchoring off beautiful Bon Bon island, we will visit the island’s capital city, the world’s smallest, and learn about cocoa production on a plantation visit. Finally, we make the short hop to Gabon and the vibrant capital city of Libreville where we have the morning to explore before returning to the UK or, alternatively, you may wish to extend your time here with a two night stay in Pongara National Park.
Without doubt the only comfortable means of experiencing the region’s many wonders is by small ship and we are fortunate in having such a special vessel as the MS Caledonian Sky for our exploration. Adding further to your enjoyment will be our experienced onboard team who will be able to inform you of the marine life, birdlife and culture of the regions we will be discovering.
Arrive this morning and transfer to the Table Bay Hotel (or similar). Settle in to your room which will be available upon arrival and spend the rest of the day at leisure to explore independently along the Waterfront or relax and enjoy the hotel facilities. Meet your fellow travellers tonight at a welcome dinner in the hotel.
After breakfast, we check out and visit Table Mountain, the city’s most celebrated landmark, taking the cable car which offers spectacular views of Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill in the foreground. From the summit, the natural protected area stretching from Signal Hill to Cape Point has been managed under the custodianship of the National Parks Board. This area has one of the highest concentrations of endemic plant and animal species in any area of its size, containing a staggering 2,285 plant species. Afterwards, enjoy a local lunch before embarking MS Caledonian Sky later in the afternoon. Sail this evening.
Relax on board as we start our journey along the African coast.
Sandwiched between the Namib desert and the South Atlantic, Luderitz is an isolated settlement and one of the few towns and sheltered harbours on the Namibian coast. First landed by Portuguese mariners in the 15th century, it was not until 1883 when the land was bought by a wealthy merchant, Adolf Luderitz, that the town developed as part of German colonization of the region. Arriving over lunch, we will take an afternoon walking tour to include the Luderitz Museum and the colonial buildings including the Goerke Haus and Felsenkirche. Nearby, visit the ghost town of Kolmanskop where the first diamonds were found in Namibia in 1908. Sparking a “diamond rush” the town grew in the ensuing years, peaking in the 1920s, until the discovery of richer deposits further south. By the 1960s the population had left and the town is now at the mercy of the weather and encroaching sand dunes. Alternatively, nature lovers can join a local boat tour to Halifax Island and see the resident African penguins as well as seabirds, seals and hopefully humpback whales.
Continuing north we spend the morning at sea before arriving at the main coastal town of Walvis Bay, our base for the next day and a half. During our time here we will visit Swakopmund, Namibia’s seaside resort on the west coast, and a place of singular charm. It resembles a small Bavarian village nestling between the desert and the sea and enjoys a restful and relaxing atmosphere. The source of Swakopmund’s continental vibe is the graceful Art Nouveau buildings many of which, including the Lutherian Church and old railway station, are national monuments. We will also have the opportunity to drive past the imposing sand dunes to the Welwitschia Plains in the Namib-Naukluft Park and we hope to see the prehistoric Welwitschia Mirablis plants, unique to this region, as we drive through the lunar landscape. Those feeling active may wish to take 4x4 vehicles to Sandwich Harbour, a tidal lagoon located in the Namib-Naukluft Park surrounded by huge sand dunes which run into the ocean. Here we can experience the isolation and scenery which the Skeleton Coast is famous for. Alternatively, opt to take a cruise in the Walvis Bay Lagoon and see some of the wildlife including flamingos, pelicans, seals and dolphins.
Spend the day at sea, maybe join a lecture or find a spot on deck as we continue towards Angola.
Over lunch we arrive at our first call in Angola. The town of Mocamedes was founded in the mid 19th century by the Portuguese but cut off from the rest of the country until the construction of the Namibe railway in 1905 and today it is one of Angola’s busiest ports. We venture inland to the Arco Lagoon, a wonderful freshwater oasis located in the Namibe desert bordered by distinctive rock formations and we will also see the nearby rare Welwitschia plants, considered to be some of the oldest on earth at up to 1000 years old. Explore the old city on a short sightseeing tour passing the church of Santo Adriao and the military fortress before rejoining the MS Caledonian Sky later in the afternoon.
Continue our cruise north this morning and arrive at the port city of Lobito in the early afternoon. The town was created in 1903 as the sea terminal to the Benguela railway, developed to link with the mineral rich regions in Angola and over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Built by a British concession, the railway became a major source of trade, linking with the port and providing the quickest routes to transport minerals to Europe. Today we travel in some of the original Victorian carriages as we take the train line between Lobito and Benguela. The city of Benguela was founded in 1617 around the Sao Filipe Fortress and was one of the bases for Portuguese expansion in Africa. We explore the town on a sightseeing tour viewing the Portuguese colonial buildings including the Igreja de Populo and the pretty gardens surrounding the town hall.
After a morning at sea we arrive in the Angolan capital at lunchtime. In the 19th century it was one of the most successful cities in the Portuguese Empire with the port being a major trading centre for ivory, cotton, coffee and cocoa as well as being a key port in the slave trade. With access to vast natural resources including oil and diamonds, the city has recovered from the damages of the Civil War which ran from 1975 to 2002. A city tour will reveal the 16th century San Miguel Fort, the National Museum of Anthropology, Remedios Church, parliament buildings and the unique obelisk of the Agostino Neto Mausoleum dedicated to Angola’s first president who fought for independence.
Our lecture programme continues as we sail towards the equator and the islands of Sao Tome and Principe.
We will experience the benefits of our small ship as we spend a full day on each of the islands of Sao Tome and Principe which are well off the usual tourist route. Fortunately the islands have yet to succumb to mass tourism and we can enjoy their beautiful beaches, tropical rainforests and colonial architecture in relative peace. Colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th century, they were originally a holding centre for slaves en-route to the Americas. However, in the 1800s coffee and cacao plantations grew and by 1908 they became known as the Chocolate Islands being the world’s leading producer of cacao. Today, production has slowed but the islands still produce high quality coffee and cacao. We will anchor off Sao Tome and land using the ship’s Zodiacs. On a full day tour we will visit one of the plantation houses or “rocas”. In the interior we will discover waterfalls and hope to see some of the many orchid species in the botanical gardens and endemic birdlife. Meanwhile in Sao Tome city we will see the National Museum, cathedral and visit the bustling markets.
Today we arrive at the smaller of the two islands at 136 square kilometres and with a population of just 6,000 residents. In 2012 the waters around the island were classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and from our anchorage off Bom Bom Island we will use ship’s Zodiacs to land. For those who wish to explore the island we will take a scenic drive including time in one of the world’s smallest capital cities of San Antonio and also visit one of the island’s cacao plantations at Terreiro Velho. Alternatively, relax on the beach and swim in the clear waters.
Disembark this morning by Zodiac and spend some time in the city of Libreville. We will see the Presidential Palace, St Michel Cathedral and the city museum with a great collection of tribal crafts, masks and stone carvings. After lunch we transfer to the airport for our scheduled indirect flight to London leaving this evening.
Itineraries are subject to change.
Suites on the Castle Deck measure 22.7 square metres and feature four port holes, en-suite bathroom with shower and spacious wardrobes.
Caledonian Superior Suite
Suites on the Caledonian Deck measure 21.6 square metres and feature en-suite bathrooms with bath tub and shower (except for suites 329, 330 and 331 which feature only a shower), spacious wardrobe and large window.
The Premium Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a spacious wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower (cabins 431 and 432 feature a bathtub) and a large window.
Bridge Deluxe Balcony Suite
Balcony Suites The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Promenade Prem. Balcony Suite
The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Promenade Owner's Corner Suite
The two corner suites on the Promenade Deck measure 22.6 square metres and feature one window facing to the side and two forward facing portholes, a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom with shower.
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 90 metres
Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites)
Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012
The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows.
If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere.
Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub.
Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort.
The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request.
With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board.
For your comfort, safety and security
The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only.
Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.