After several days spent exploring the Mediterranean coast of Spain, we arrived in the beautiful country of Portugal. Our first port of call was the lively coastal town of Portimão (in the Portuguese Algarve), a popular summertime destination for sunbirds from further north.

Guests onboard National Geographic Explorer split up into three groups for their excursions. Hikers departed for the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, a 3.5-mile route with spectacular views of the rugged coast, limestone cliffs, picturesque beaches, and natural caves. Those interested in learning firsthand about one of Portugal’s leading industries, the harvesting and production of cork products, drove inland to visit a cork factory and plantation. And finally, there was a longer option of spending a morning and afternoon off the ship experiencing both nature and local culture. This included taking small local boats to visit the famous Benagil Cave, a visit to a local pottery studio, and a delicious tapas style lunch at a typical Algarvian wine estate.

After we returned from lunch, our expedition leader, Emma, had arranged for a last-minute Zodiac tour to a local beach where guests enjoyed a leisurely soak in the Portuguese sun. After dinner, I gave a lecture about fado, an iconic music style often called “the blues of Portugal” because of its poignant and nostalgic quality.