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Rivers of West Africa: Dakar To Dakar
December 2023 marks the triumphant re-launch of Variety Cruises West Africa routes, and to celebrate, Variety Cruises has the great honor of collaborating with the venerable Explorers Club in order to innovate and expand the Lamin Koto School, so that it may serve as a prototype for education in the region.
The Rivers of Gambia & Senegal, 7-night cruise sure to satisfy your curious minds. Experience outstanding wildlife viewing on a yacht cruise along the West Africa Coast and upstream the Gambia River, deep inside the African continent. Discover the waterways of Senegal and Gambia with visits to no less than 4 Natural Reserves: Sine Saloum Delta, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a birdwatcher's paradise; Djiffere fishing village; River Gambia National Park; Wassu mysterious stone circles, another UNESCO World Heritage site; Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve and Kiang West National Park in Gambia.
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As Richard Garriott, the president of the Explorers Club explains, “We were inspired to join forces with Variety Cruises to work towards our goals to promote scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space through research and education, and our projects are geared towards achieving that mission.”
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Aerial view of a river crossing tropical forest
Day 1 | Saturday
Meet us on board between 3PM and 4PM. Spend some time getting to know your home at sea and fellow voyagers, then join us for a welcome dinner before we set sail southwards, towards the Saloum River Delta. Overnight at sea.
View of Variety Cruises ship in the sea
Day 2 | Sunday
Dolphins, crocodiles, turtles and manatees. Keep your eyes peeled for all of these and more as we venture into the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal. A UNESCO biosphere reserve, this important birding area is home to around 200 different bird species including flamingos, pelicans and raptors. From here, join our optional excursion to JOAL FADIOUT JOAL FADIOUT best Fadiouth, an island built on and of clam shells. Come afternoon, we begin our sail to Banjul, The Gambia. Overnight in Banjul.
Local people in a boat in West Africa
Day 3 | Monday
Banjul is The Gambia’s capital city and gateway to the 700 mile Gambia River. We’ll sail the river this afternoon, but first join our optional half day tour of Banjul itself, plus the town of Bakau; known for its kachikally crocodile pool and botanic garden. Mid-afternoon we sail upstream on the Gambia River to Tendaba. Overnight docked in Tendaba.
A group of people on a boat on a river in Gambia
Day 4 | Tuesday
Today, we offer two optional excursions. Both begin in Tendaba, a small Muslim fishing village with a population of around 600 people. It’s reachable from our ship by motor pirogue - small canoe-like boats. In the morning we’ll walk from Tendaba to Batelling to visit the Kiang West National Park - home to many rare species of bird as well as Guinea baboons, Senegal bushbaby and marsh Mongoose. When you’re all primate-d out, we’ll jump in a safari truck heading back to the ship, via Tendaba, and passing local villages as we go. In the afternoon the excursion is to Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve - with six major bolongs (creeks) and remarkable birding and boating opportunities. Overnight docked in Tendaba.
A group of tourists tranfered with local boat
Day 5 | Wednesday
Early morning we continue our journey upstream on the Gambia River, heading to the bustling port town, Kuntaur. This is the last inland stop navigable for ocean-going ships. Yes, even our small ship. The optional excursion this afternoon is a motor pirogue journey further inland to Baboon Island, a part of The Gambia National Park. Listen and learn as a local park ranger teaches us all about the park's flora and fauna. Then, as we drift slowly and peacefully back towards Kuntaur, keep a look out for the chimpanzees at a rehabilitation project en route. You may also spot hippos, crocodiles, Red Colobus monkeys, and more. An exceptional dance, the Kankurang, is performed on our return to Kuntaur. The Kankurang is believed to dispense justice and ward off evil spirits. Overnight docked in Kuntaur.
trourist trasfered in local boat with a Variety Cruises' ship in the background
Day 6 | Thursday
We hope you’ve slept well as we have a varied and active optional tour today. First to Janjanbureh via bus and local ferry. Janjanbureh is one of the oldest towns in The Gambia, formerly known as Georgetown. Wander the streets and take in the laid back vibes before we head back to the bus and on to our second destination: Lamin Koto. Here, you’ll see a new school in the process of being built, thanks to generous donations from Variety Cruises and our clients. From here we’ll visit the mysterious stones of Wassu, a sacred burial ground thousands of years old, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch we sail downstream to the small fishing village, Kaur. Explore and see how local Gambians live here today. Lastly, join us in the evening for our signature Captain’s Farewell Dinner as we sail downstream, back towards Banjul.
View of a woden brigde to a tropical island
Day 7 | Friday
One more day in The Gambia, with lots more to learn and discover. This morning we anchor at Kunta Kinteh Island. Strategically located in the middle of the Gamibia River, the island has a dark history in the slave trade, the story of which has been told to the world via author Alex Haley’s book, Roots. A local guide will teach us about the history, after which you’ll have some time to walk around before we head back to Banjul. Tonight we host Gambian Night on board, complete with a concert performed on the kora, a west African string instrument. Overnight at sea, heading towards Dakar.
Monkeys in Costa Rica with Variety Cruises
Day 8 | Saturday
Breakfast and disembarkation.
West Africa Cruise map

In case of severe weather conditions our expertly designed routes are adjusted ensuring your safety & comfort by applying our rich marine knowledge, garnered since 1949. Stay flexible – Adventure on.

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    A school at lamin koto
    Lamin Koto School
    In 2011, honoring Variety Cruises’s groundbreaking itineraries in the rivers of West Africa, the company launched the Lamin Koto School in The Gambia. After discussion with the local communities, and under the leadership of the late Lakis Venetopoulos, previous leader of the cruise line and second-generation of the same owner family, Variety Cruises launched the community-run school in order to make education more accessible to remote areas and enrich living conditions while respecting local traditions. The company has continued to support the school ever since maintaining the legacy that Venetopoulos started. The year 2019 brought the inauguration of a new building, with Variety Cruises supporters Tony and Tiffany Reiner and Marco Maranghello in attendance. In 2020, a new well was installed, in order to bring clean water to the village of Lamin Koto and its surroundings. Also in 2020, Variety Cares partnered with Inside Out, a participatory platform that helps individuals and communities to make a statement by displaying large-scale black and white portraits in public spaces, on a portrait project to bring awareness, build community, and support education and clean water in the area.
    The rose museum at Lami Koto
    The Rose Museum
    As part of the expansion of the Lamin Koto School, Variety Cares is proud to announce the transformation of an abandoned building in Lamin Koto into a museum that will further boost the local community. Designed by ADD, the institution is named “The Rose Museum” in honor of its founder, the late Triantafyllos Venetopoulos, the second generation to helm Variety Cruises, whose first name means “rose” in Greek. Honoring his spirit, and the values of both Variety Cruises and the Explorers Club, the museum will be dedicated to exploring the world outside its walls. It will exhibit significant, unique objects donated by the Explorers Club, including a piece from NASA's spaceship, a flag of the Explorers Club that went to space, and a piece of a comet, alongside maps, books, compasses, and other educational materials donated to the museum from a variety of sources including Variety Cruise customers.
    People transferred with local boats
    The New York Times said:
    "The trip may be described as a leisurely week-long excursion that departs from Dakar, Senegal; sails south along its Atlantic coast; east into Gambia, an English-speaking sliver of land in the middle of Francophone West Africa; and up the Gambia River. It goes as far as is navigable by any boat larger than a pirogue, a long, wide canoe that is essential to travel here. This cruise can be loosely defined under prolific wildlife, the polar opposite of the typical big-ship cruise that stops at sophisticated ports of call. The African wildlife on view is a key attraction of this river cruise. "Crocodiles and Culture on a Cruise in West Africa" THE NEW YORK TIMES | March 14, 2014
    Wherever we sail, we do so with purpose. Our mission is to create life-enriching experiences at sea for our guests, and a better world for us all. We’re transparent about carbon emissions, always aiming to improve our footprint. Our journeys are designed to get you closer to the things that matter: whether that’s an island reachable only by boat, or by ensuring your adventure honours and gives back to local communities. We always have fun at sea, but we do it responsibly.
    Children's hand in the hands of an adult
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