AF6 Hidden Gems Of Africa


Game viewing safaris in some of Africa's most remote and least-visited places; Huge range of landscapes, climates, wildlife, languages and cultures; Great variety in local cuisines, many with intriguing influences from Europe and Africa; Friendly local peoples, as yet unaccustomed to mass tourism

Full Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival in Maputo
Arrive in Maputo, Mozambique.

Maputo (previously called Lourenzo Marques) is the sprawling capital of Mozambique with a population of about two million people and a large harbour. Under Portuguese influence, Lourenzo Marques became one of Africa's most beautiful and fashionable cities with an impressive skyline of tall buildings and a cosmopolitan Portuguese/African atmosphere.

Overnight Maputo.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Maputo: City Tour
Today we'll embark upon our Maputo city tour. We will visit the Praca, the star-shaped structure in the centre of the plaza that holds the remains of Mozambique's revolutionary and post-independence heroes. The most important landmark is the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Conceiao (Our Lady of Conception), which was the nucleus of the original settlement. Another imposing building is the Central Railway Station, an enormous structure looking more like a palace for kings than a siding for commuters. We also visit the Central Market and Museum of Natural History.

An interesting and instructive aspect of Maputo is its public art, largely focused on revolutionary themes and often expressed as a mural. Many of the city's murals were painted following independence from Portugal. This new period was marked by spontaneity, and many colourful and complex murals were painted, the most famous of which is the 95m (285 ft) long mural opposite the Praca dos Herois Mocambicanos, commemorating the Revolution.

Overnight in Maputo.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Maputo - Beira - Gorongosa National Park
This morning we fly from Maputo north to Beira from where we transfer by road to Gorongosa National Park.

The rehabilitation of Gorongosa National Park in Central Mozambique represents one of the great conservation opportunities in the world today. Gorongosa is a region of high species diversity and ecological features found nowhere else. The 4067 square kilometer Park is located at the southern end of the Great East African Rift Valley. The park includes the valley floor and parts of surrounding plateaus. Rivers originating on nearby 1862-meter Mount Gorongosa water the plain.

Gorongosa National Park offers something for everyone interested in African wildlife and spectacular scenery. There is lion, elephant, buffalo, and many kinds of antelope, with frequent sightings of sable, impala, oribi, bushbuck, reedbuck, kudu, nyala, waterbuck, and (less frequently) zebra, hartebeest and eland. Lake Urema and its waterways support healthy populations of crocodiles and hippos.

We stay at the Girassol Gorongosa Lodge, constructed in 1941 and host to thousands of visitors from all over the world until 1981, when Mozambique's civil war shut it down. It was mostly destroyed during the war but re-opened in 1995.

Trained guides take us on game-viewing drives, traversing various ecosystems, including floodplains, forest, and lowland savanna.

Overnight at Gorongosa National Park.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 4 Gorongosa National Park
We have an early morning game drive followed by a walk and boat ride to the community of Vinho. It is a 30-45 minutes walk to the Pungue River, with some birding along the way. At the Pungue River there will be a short trip in a small boat and along the way we will greet many of the park's employees. We will also visit the new school and hospital that has been recently built in the community.

Overnight at Gorongosa National Park.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 5 Gorongosa - Beira - Nampula - Mozambique Island
An early drive back to Beira to connect with our flight to the central Mozambique city of Nampula. From there we travel by road +/- three hours east to Mozambique Island, a World Heritage site. Prior to 1898, this was the capital of colonial Portuguese East Africa. With its rich history and sandy beaches, the island is one of Mozambique's fastest growing tourist destinations.

The island was a major Arab port and boat building in the years before Vasco da Gama visited in 1498. The name of the island is derived from Musa Al Big, an Arab trader who first visited the island and later lived there. 1This name was subsequently taken to the mainland country which is modern-day Mozambique, and the island was renamed Ilha de Mocambique (Island of Mozambique). The Portuguese established a port and naval base in 1507 and built the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte in 1522. During the sixteenth century, the Fort São Sebastião was built, and the Portuguese settlement (known as Stone Town) became the capital of Portuguese East Africa as well as an important missionary centre. It withstood Dutch attacks in 1607 and 1608 and remained a major post for the Portuguese on their trips to India.

Time permitting we will begin our sightseeing program upon arrival (at the discretion of your Tour Leader).

Overnight in the vicinity of Mozambique Island.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Mozambique Island
Today we tour the island.

The island in itself is not very big, about 3 km long and between 200 and 500 metre wide. Most historical buildings are at the island's northern end. The majority of the residents live in reed houses in Makuti Town at the southern end of the island. We have the full day here to explore this tiny island on foot with its collection of historic buildings. The Palace and Chapel of São Paulo, built in 1610 as a Jesuit College and subsequently used as the Governor's Residence, is now a museum. The Museum of Sacred Art, housed in the Church of the Misericórdia run by the House of Mercy, displays an excellent Makonde crucifix. Other historic buildings include the Church of Santo António, the Church of the Misericórdia, and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte. The island, now entirely urbanised, is also home to several mosques and a Hindu temple.

During our time here, we will also board the Arab style dhow boats to explore one of the neighbouring islands and spend time in the local town.

Overnight in the vicinity of Mozambique Island.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Mozambique Island - Tete, Mozambique - Zomba Plateau, Malawi
This morning we transfer by road back to Nampula and fly to Tete. From here we cross the border into Malawi and drive to the Zomba Plateau via the town of Blantyre.

Set on the very edge of the great Zomba Plateau, a table-top mountain of 2000 m rising above the old capital of Malawi, Zomba town, it has its own micro-climate and a huge bio-diversity with vast tracts of cedar, pine and cypress. The plateau top is criss-crossed by streams and there are tumbling waterfalls and still lakes. There are driveable tracks right round the top from which are views of such splendour that they were described in colonial times as "the best in the British Empire".

Our accommodation is imaginatively designed, built with handmade bricks incorporating fine arches throughout the public areas and neat gardens spill down the mountainside. Guests can fish for trout in the nearby dam, go horse riding or tour the forested wilderness which is part of the extraordinary beauty of the plateau. The hills and valleys we are are part of the greater African Rift Valley System.

Overnight on the Zomba Plateau.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Zomba Plateau - Liwonde National Park
After breakfast we drive to Liwonde National Park.

Wildlife includes quite large numbers of elephants and the river attracts countless hippos and crocodiles. Antelope include kudu, sable and bushbuck. There are leopards and hyeana and the occassional visiting lion. Black rhino has been re-introduced. Birdlife is exceptionally varied.

Mvuu Camp is situated on the banks of the Shire River and has spacious chalets for a maximum of 34 guests. The unspoilt nature on Liwonde National Park is one of its great attractions. There is a great range of wildlife to see including rare black rhino and some really large crocodiles in the river. For birdwatchers, Liwonde is a "must" with over 400 species.

After lunch we will embark on a game drive in the national park starting from 1600 hrs.

Overnight at Liwonde.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 9 Liwonde - Senga Bay, Lake Malawi
This morning we'll enjoy a boat safari on the Shire River. Thereafter we will drive to Senga Bay in the central part of Lake Malawi.

This is an attractive and relaxing spot on the shore of Lake Malawi. The long sandy beach is everything you could hope for, and the surrounding area is relatively rich in wildlife, making it a worthwhile place to relax and enjoy. Optional activities include snorkelling, a fishing village tour, a crocodile farm, and boat trips to Lizard Island.

Overnight in Senga Bay.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Senga Bay - Lilongwe, Malawi - Johannesburg, South Africa
After a leisurely morning, we depart Senga Bay and drive to Lilongwe International Airport for our early afternoon flight to Johannesburg (a necessary stop in order to connect to Gabon).

Overnight in Johannesburg.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Johannesburg & Soweto, South Africa - Libreville, Gabon
This morning we have a tour of the city of Soweto.

Soweto unto itself is actually one of the largest cities in Africa with an estimated population of 2 million. It also has one of the most dubious histories of any city in Africa, as it was the site of some of the more infamous events during the struggle against apartheid. The name "Soweto" simply stands for South Western Township, due to its location outside Johannesburg. It was here that thousands of black workers were forced to live in order to provide labour for the gold mines.

We will see the good, the bad, and the ugly of Soweto -- from affluent neighbourhoods to shanty towns; the world's largest hospital, Baragwanath; and the former homes of Soweto's Nobel Laureates, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. We also visit the excellent new museum dedicated to the victims of the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

Later we return to the airport for our mid-afternoon flight to Libreville, the main city and capital of Gabon, located on the north shore of the Gabon Estuary. It is built on a succession of hills overlooking a well-sheltered port. The former European sector (modern in appearance and the site of the principal administrative and commercial buildings) climbs a plateau that rises from the sea; traditional African villages partially surround this community, ending at the estuary. The Mpongwe tribe lived in the area long before the French took control of the land in 1839. The city was founded as Gabon in 1843 as a trading station. Freed slaves were sent there from the ship L'Eliza. In 1848 the city was named Libreville (French for "Freetown"), and was the chief port of French Equatorial Africa from 1934 to 1946.

Overnight in Libreville.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Libreville - Pongara National Park
This morning we head for Barracuda warf for our boat transfer to Pongara Lodge in Pongara National Park.

Our eco-lodge is located inside the Pongara National Park on the Atlantic coast. Here we find ocean beaches, mangroves, lagoons, savannahs and coastal rainforests containing elephant, buffalo, antelope, monkeys, and a huge variety of birds.

With just six bungalows, the look and feel of the lodge is rustic, while still being very comfortable and exclusive. As well as a gorgeous beach, there's plenty of scope for nature walks, fishing, and whale-watching. Our time here is somewhat free-form in order to take full advantage of our setting and the various animal and plant species, some of which are seasonal. The lodge staff will expertly manage our experience.

Overnight at Pongara National Park.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 13 Pongara National Park - Libreville
After a morning of eco-related activity, relaxation and lunch at Pongara, we return to Libreville. On arrival we will have a city tour of Libreville: National Museum, administrative center, business district, Nkome church, and craft market.

Named for the freed slaves that helped build the port town, Libreville has grown into an elegant and wealthy capital city since Gabon gained independence in 1960. It's also a city awash in oil money and almost totally unrecognisable as an African capital to anyone who's been travelling elsewhere in the region.

Overnight in Libreville.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 14 Libreville, Gabon - Sao Tome & Principe
This morning we transfer to the airport for our 2-hour long flight to Sao Tome and Principe*, one of the world's smaller independent countries located 140 km off the coast of Gabon in West Africa. Both the islands of Sao Tome and the island of Principe are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range. Sao Tome, the larger southern island, is situated just north of the equator and was named in honour of Saint Thomas by Portuguese explorers who arrived at the island on his feast day.

Of Sao Tome and Principe's total population estimated at about 165,000 about 159,000 live on Sao Tome and 6,000 on Príncipe. All are descended from various ethnic groups that migrated or were forcibly brought to the islands by the Portuguese rulers since 1485.

Our Sao Tome sightseeing tour starts with a visit to the Fortress of Saint Sebastian for an introduction to the colonial history of Sao Tome and Principe. Later we'll drive to the Cathedral, an important landmark in the history of Catholicism in Africa; Independence Square, where independence from Portugal was declared in 1975; the Municipal Market and a few other important buildings reflecting the architecture of the colonial times.

* Though our touring does not actually touch the relatively inaccessible island of Principe, this itinerary makes reference to the country by its full official name.

Overnight in Sao Tome.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Sao Tome: East Coast
We explore the east coast of Sao Tome today, driving past Santana where we will be able to see the islet of Santana. In Agua Ize, we will stop at the viewpoint. Later we visit the plantation house of Agua Ize to see cocoa processing. We continue to the famous natural blowhole of Boca do Inferno, and then stop at the village of Ribeira Afonso before taking a break at the Beach of 7 Ondas. At the plantation house of Sao Joao, we will have time to explore a typical colonial plantation and also see an art gallery and processing centres for making different products like jams and liquors from the local produce.

Overnight at Sao Tome.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 16 Sao Tome: Northern Plantations
This morning we drive up into the mountains to an elevation of 800m (2,600 feet) above sea level where the air is fresher. At Pousada de Boa Vista, we will have a panoramic view of the city of Sao Tome, weather permitting. We have the option of walking about 45 minutes to the scenic waterfall of Saint Nicolas through the secondary rainforest. We will descend to the coffee plantation of Monte Cafe, where we see the colonial buildings of what was once the biggest and most prosperous coffee plantation of Sao Tome. Coffee of high quality was exported to the whole world from here. Finally, we will see the processing of coffee by traditional and modern means.

Overnight at Sao Tome.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 17 Sao Tome - Praia, Cape Verde
Today we connect with our flight north to Cape Verde (Cabo Verde), an isolated archipelago located off the coast of West Africa.

With the nation's capital of Cidade de Praia (Praia for short), Santiago Island, the largest of the Cape Verde islands, has had a strong influence on the history of the entire archipelago. More than half of the Cape Verdeans now live on Santiago. With an area of 990 sq. kilometres, Santiago is probably the most diverse island in terms of its landscape, where one can find fine sand beaches, craggy mountains, dry steppe grasslands, as well as fertile valleys and plateaus. Cape Verde has been very strongly influenced by West Africa in terms of its culture. It was the centre for the international slave trade with the neighbouring continent for many years. Music styles, such as funana and batuco, which one hears everywhere, are a potent reminder of this fact.

Overnight in Praia.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 18 North of Praia
Today's tour takes us north to see Cidade da Ribeira Grande de Santiago, the former capital of Santiago (previously called Cidade Velha), which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009. The city is overlooked by a fortress, Fortaleza Real de Sao Felipe, which serves as a reminder of Portuguese colonial rule. The romantic little houses of Rua Banana also display architecture typical of Portugal, were rebuilt true to the original within the scope of a UNESCO project. The fact that the Cidade de Santiago was the centre of the international slave trade during its heyday when it was still called Ribeira Grande, is attested to by the pillory (Pelourinho), an obelisk close to the city centre.

The Nossa Senhora do Rosario church, whose construction began in 1495, is located above the northern part of Rua Banana. With its baptismal of alabaster, it's the oldest colonial church in the world. The floral motifs in stone in the latticework vault of the chapel are evidence of Moorish influences, as are the numerous azulejos (painted tiles).

Finally, we drive to Tarrafal, a small fishing village in the north of Santiago Island with its own pretty little bay lined with palms. More infamously, Tarrafal was the site of the Campo da Morte Lenta -- "Camp of the Slow Death" -- a prison camp in the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, set up by the dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936), where opponents of his right-wing authoritarian regime were sent.

NOTE: The order of our Cape Verde sightseeing may vary at the discretion of your Tour Leader.

Overnight in Praia.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 19 Praia City Tour - Departure
This morning we'll have a half-day tour of Praia.

With its roughly 100,000 inhabitants, the capital of Praia is the government and economic centre of the country. The core of the old town, built on a plateau, has magnificent houses from the colonial era. The Praca Alexandra de Albuquerque, the Nossa Senhora da Graca church, the food market, Palace of Justice, Museo Ethnografico, Presidential Palace, Parliament building in the Achada de Santo Antonio section of the city, and the old town fortress of Bateira, are some of the sights that we will see on our tour.

Departure from Praia, Cape Verde.

NOTE: If you are booking your own air, you can depart any time today, though if you choose a morning departure you will miss today's sightseeing tour. If you book your air with Adventures Abroad, we will be aiming for a late afternoon / early evening departure.

Meal plan: breakfast