The Experience

DAY 1-2: U.S./Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal/Embark
Fly overnight to Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores, where we embark National Geographic Explorer. (D on Sep. 22) Please note: All day-by-day breakdowns are a sampling of the places we intend to visit, conditions permitting.

DAY 3: Sao Miguel, Azores
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! (B,L,D)

DAY 4: Faial, Azores
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 1957. 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 Cafe 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. (B,L,D

DAY 5: Santa Maria, Azores
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 in 1493. For those interested in getting some exercise, there are hiking trails that will allow us to experience the scenery and atmosphere of the island. (B,L,D)

DAY 6: At Sea
En route to Madeira your expedition team will tell lively tales about the Golden Age of Exploration. These waters are full of marine creatures and seabirds; head up to the bridge and pick up a pair of binoculars. Take time to catch up on your reading in the library, have a massage or attend a wellness session. (B,L,D)

DAY 7-8: Madeira, Portugal
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. (B,L,D)

DAY 9: At Sea/Canary Islands, Spain
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. (B,L,D)

DAY 10: La Gomera, Canary Islands
La Gomera is considered to be the departure point of Christopher Columbus journey to the New World. On this unspoiled island, we spend time at Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO site, to hike and stretch our legs. (B,L,D) DAY 11-12: At Sea
We keep a constant lookout for seabirds and marine creatures, stopping to observe them or perhaps film them with the ship’s underwater camera. During your days at sea, plan to engage in a variety of activities. Read in the ship’s library, enjoy a rejuvenating massage, work out in the gym, listen to talks from our staff, or simply relax. (B,L,D)

DAY 13-14: Cape Verde
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! (B,L,D)

DAY 15-16: Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde/Disembark/U.S.
Disembark in Praia, the bustling capital of Cape Verde. The Old Town was founded by the Portuguese in 1460, and was once the most prosperous city of the Portuguese sea-borne empire, owing to the transatlantic slave trade. 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. (B,L,D)
Guests who choose the complimentary Atlantic crossing to Salvador, Brazil will continue aboard National Geographic Explorer on a leisurely six-day ocean crossing (Oct. 6-12) with time to relax, recharge, hear talks from our staff, and watch for whales and other marine life. Arrive in the baroque city of Salvador, Brazil on Day 22 (Oct. 12) for disembarkation and transfer to the airport for an overnight flight home. (B,L,D)

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