As Lindblad Expeditions pulled its ship into port in Liberia, Ralph Hammelbacher, Lindblad’s vice president of expedition development, said he had the Somali pirates to thank for the idea. “In a perverse kind of way, the Somali pirates have done West African tourism a bit of a favor,” said Hammelbacher. “A number of ships that would otherwise be in the Indian Ocean are now on the West African coast because of piracy.”
The 148 passengers on board Lindblad’s National Geographic Explorer were the largest group of tourists to dock in the Freeport of Monrovia, Liberia, since the 1970s. The passengers were on a 37-day expedition cruise along the West African coast that departed from Cape Town, South Africa, on March 20.
In Monrovia, the ship was greeted by a community grateful for the tourism business. To show their appreciation, officials from the ministries turned out to welcome the arrival, waving from the docks, joined by dancers and drummers dressed in red, white and blue. The welcoming committee included Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Boakai, as well as Elizabeth Hoff, deputy minister for information, culture and tourism; and Karl Albrecht, chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy, and his wife.
“There was high excitement aboard the ship, it was a great experience for our guests,” said Hammelbacher, “After all, the purpose of our expeditions is to introduce our guests to people who are making a difference in the places we visit. So, it was an honor for us to meet the vice president of Liberia, and really interesting to hear about his commitment to rebuilding his beautiful country.”