West African Cruise

23 April 2013

Our superb little "expedition ship" the Silver Explorer (Silversea) with 100 passengers.

In chronological order:

One sea-day break from the hypnotic tranquility of the calm Atlantic ocean was being passed, rapidly -- and at the close range of about 250 yards ― by a far larger, faster cruise ship.

The Silver Whisper did not whisper when it blasted its foghorn to salute us. Our ship's reciprocal blast was a nice nautical custom except that I'd raced up to a rarely used upper deck to get a better view and stood not far from our little ship's powerful, painful foghorn.

The much larger and faster Silver Whisper speeding past us in the South Atlantic.

In the ocean off the Ivory Coast on the way to Sierra Leone, our ship stopped so we could watch a school of blue Albacore tuna (along with a few striped Frigate tuna) that had surrounded and pushed a pack of small fish (probably anchovies or herring) into a small circle near the surface.

The tuna then raced upward with jaws open and quickly filled to overflowing with their meals. Adding to the drama, a flock of terns, plus a few gulls, circled and swooped down to snack on the little fish now conveniently visible at the surface.

For the few days at sea, my book was Dark Star Safari, the famously cranky, provocative travel writer Paul Theroux's account of going overland from Cairo to Cape Town.

It starts a bit slow but becomes more entertaining and enlightening ― as well as more enraging with his depressing motif about how a half century of massive development aid in Africa has failed, instead creating passivity and dependency, while subsidizing rampant corruption. That analysis emerges more explicitly later in Chapters 15 and 17.

As usual, Theroux is, pompous and snobbish about roughing it 24/7, thereby demonstrating his superiority over five-star tourists who only see safe and sanitized glimpses of Africa and retreat to their luxury cocoons each evening. But, Dark Star Safari is still fascinating reading for anyone interested in development or Africa or travel.