West African Pelagic

Cape Verde Shearwater (Ben Mines).
Cape Verde Shearwater (Ben Mines).

Dates: 30 April-12 May 2018

Price: From £1,775 per person sharing a cabin

Join us on this incredible journey aboard the MV Plancius from the Cape Verde Islands to The Netherlands, travelling via the Canary, Salvage and Desertas Islands northwards through the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel. This is currently the last planned sailing of this acclaimed voyage, and a guaranteed departure.

Starting in sub-tropical waters and continuing into temperate seas, this affordable itinerary will appeal to all seabird (and cetacean) buffs for its list of highly desired Western Palearctic tubenoses, potentially saving a lot of money compared to the series of multi-island visits otherwise required to see the same species.

Highlights could include Fea’s and Bulwer’s Petrels (with Deserta’s and Zino’s also possible), Cape Verde, Boyd’s and Barolo Shearwaters, and White-faced, Cape Verde and Madeiran Storm Petrels. Wilson’s, Leach’s and European Storm Petrels, Grey Phalarope, Red-billed Tropicbird and Brown Booby could also be on the cards, along with all four skuas, Sabine’s Gull, Royal and other terns, and of course the odd surprise or two out on the ocean – on past voyages these have included White-tailed Tropicbird (2011) and Scopoli’s Shearwater (2013). There is undoubtedly more to be found in spring in these vast but often under-explored waters, as demonstrated by two of the few regional records of Black-capped Petrel, and South Polar Skua is surely another possibility.

Our voyage will start in Praia, Cape Verde, from where we sail north-east towards the coast of West Africa, and then north through the Canary Islands, onwards via the Salvage and Desertas Islands and north into the Bay of Biscay. There are no planned landings but we hope to Zodiac cruise close inshore to a few islands if time and sea conditions permit, and we will also offer optional land birding on Cape Verde prior to sailing (see below).

Cetacean enthusiasts will have plenty to keep them busy, with more than 12 species of whale and dolphin possible. The line-up from previous voyages includes Blue (2013 only), Sperm, Bryde’s, Humpback and Short-finned Pilot Whales, False Killer Whale (2013 only) and Orca (2011 only). We’ve also encountered many dolphins including Atlantic Humpback (2013 only), Bottlenose, both Pantropical and Atlantic Spotted, Long-beaked (2011 only) and Short-beaked Common, Rough-toothed (2011 only), Risso’s and Striped.

Many more species of whale and dolphin are likely too, including various beaked whales. A few Mediterranean Monk Seals can still be found around the Deserta Islands. Other marine life such as turtles, sharks, Ocean Sunfish, flying fish and flying squid should also be encountered.

The MV Plancius is a very comfortable expedition cruise ship with superb wildlife viewing in all directions and at all deck levels. She carries a maximum of 114 passengers in quadruple, twin and superior twin cabins, all with shower and toilet, a window or port hole. There is a restaurant and a spacious observation lounge and bar with panoramic windows on deck 5. The ship has internet access and a passenger email system if required.

The day before we set sail there is an optional birding excursion by bus to seek the endemic Cape Verde Swift, Cape Verde Warbler and Iago Sparrow, as well as Alexander’s Kestrel (a potential split from Common Kestrel). We will also visit a reservoir for herons, where there is a good chance of Bourne’s (or Cape Verde Purple) Heron, another potential split, and other waterbirds too. Cream-coloured Courser and Brown-necked Raven were also seen in 2013. During the voyage itself, a planned Zodiac cruise off Raso could produce the endemic Raso Lark, restricted to this tiny islet, while in the Canary Islands, Salvages and Desertas other Macaronesian landbird endemics could include Plain Swift, Berthelot’s Pipit and Atlantic Canary.

If you’ve never tried a bird and wildlife cruise before, this is an excellent place to start, especially as generally calm seas and warm weather can be expected most of the time.



Day 1: embark vessel and sail from Praia, Cape Verde.
Day 2: at sea in Cape Verde waters, early morning Zodiac cruise off Raso planned, afternoon at sea.
Day 3: at sea heading north-east towards the coast of Africa.
Day 4: at sea.
Day 5: sailing in the waters of the Canary Islands.
Day 6: Salvage Islands, perhaps Zodiac cruise, afternoon at sea, and Desertas Islands later in the day.
Day 7: Atlantic Ocean, at sea, via seamounts.
Day 8: at sea.
Day 9: at sea, off the Iberian coast.
Days 10-11: at sea, Bay of Biscay and into the English Channel.
Day 12: English Channel.
Day 13: Disembark Vlissingen, Holland.

NB: As applies to all expedition cruises, the exact sea itinerary will be subject to weather, local conditions and government permissions.


This tour is operated for Birdwatch and BirdGuides by WildWings (fully bonded and licensed through the CAA, ATOL licence 5429). The price includes voyage with cabin accommodation as booked, including all meals, tea and coffee, Zodiac cruises if applicable, port taxes, services of ship’s team, daily seawatching sessions and evening log (at sea), services of tour leader and ship’s other naturalists and guides, pre-voyage information pack and day-by-day bird and marine mammal checklist; not included are flights, visa for Cape Verdes (approx €40 per person payable in cash on arrival), crew gratuities (suggested €15 a day on board ship), meals on Praia, optional morning birding excursion on day of sailing, travel insurance, other pre- and/or post-voyage hotels if required, other drinks and items of a personal nature. Pre-voyage package: c£445 per person includes one-way flight from Lisbon to Praia, 28 April 2018 departing at 21:50, transfers on arrival, two nights 4* hotel sharing a twin with private facilities, room only, full day birding excursion by bus on Praia. Single room supplement £90. Heathrow flight supplement from £140pp, Manchester flight supplement from £190pp. Post-voyage: Vlissingen is only about three hours by train to Amsterdam Airport, fares from £26. From Amsterdam you can fly back to a number of UK airports, eg Heathrow from £95 pp, Gatwick from £55 pp plus flights to Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast and elsewhere. For further information or to make a reservation, please call WildWings on 0117 965 8333 or email tours@wildwings.co.uk.



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