Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Arrive:||Port Louis, Mauritius|
|Lodging:||1 night hotel, 11 nights aboard 114-passenger expedition vessel|
|Meals:||All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore|
|Activity:||Small Ship Cruising, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History|
12-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours, snorkeling
Choosing the Right Trip
We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.
We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.
Spectacular scenery, cultural encounters, superb snorkeling, and a dizzying array of wildlife await us on this extraordinary journey. Our voyage brings us across the sea from the volcanic peaks of Mauritius and Reunion to the colorful chameleons and pristine coral reefs of Madagascar, where we enjoy a special exploration of its diverse ecosystems, amazing wildlife, and enchanting archipelagos. The rugged Comoro Islands and the “spice isle” of Zanzibar are a fitting grand finale to our fantastic ocean expedition.
Fly to Mauritius
Fly to Mauritius and transfer to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure. We gather this evening for a welcome dinner and briefing.
Mauritius / Embark Island Sky
After breakfast we embark on a tour of the island’s scenic highlights. A drive inland takes us up to and around the rim of an extinct volcanic crater offering magnificent views over the entire island. We continue through lush landscapes to the Black River Gorges National Park, where thick indigenous forest provides habitat for the endemic pink pigeon, echo parakeet, and Mauritius cuckoo-shrike. After lunch, we discover the magnificent Chamarel waterfall that cascades over the “seven-colored earths of Chamarel.” On our return, we take in the spectacular scenery of the west coast as we pass quaint fishing villages. An alternate excursion is a hike through Ferney Valley, a natural reserve inside one of the last indigenous forests in Mauritius. This forest shelters a variety of endemic and native species, such as the Mauritius kestrel, one of the world’s rarest birds, and a number of critically endangered trees. We enjoy a typical Creole lunch before proceeding to the coastal village of Mahebourg. Here we have free time to stroll the historic waterfront and peruse the colorful shops. This afternoon we board the Island Sky and settle into our cabin as we set sail for Réunion.
St. Denis, Réunion
Lush, volcanic Réunion is an overseas territory of France. We explore St. Denis, a small colonial town whose pervasive French and Creole ambiance is reflected in picturesque town squares. A breathtaking drive into the island’s dramatic mountains brings us to a volcanic crater with solidified lava. After lunch, we continue to a vanilla plantation where we discover the history and the culture of this precious orchid.
Our lecturers introduce the extraordinary natural history of Madagascar. Be sure to be on deck to watch for the dolphins often seen cruising these waters.
Nosy St. Marie (Nosy Boraha), Madagascar
Two tour options are available today. Those with an interest in natural history begin with a drive aboard 4x4 vehicles through lush vegetation. We then board traditional dugout canoes for a leisurely cruise through a maze of mangroves, and enjoy a refreshing swim in a calm lagoon or relax on the lovely beach. A delicious lunch of local cuisine rounds out the day. Or, choose a cultural tour that visits the Pirate Cemetery, the residence of the French colonial governor, the oldest Catholic church in Madagascar, built in 1837, and the main town of Ambodifotatra. We continue to a beautiful coconut plantation with giant granite boulders looming over the sea for lunch and a swim from the white-sand beach.
Masoala National Park
Located in Madagascar’s most biologically diverse region, Masoala is the largest national park on the island. On hikes through pristine forest we hope to encounter such mammal species as the red-ruffed lemur, the red-fronted brown lemur, the greater hedgehog tenrec, the fossa, and the ring-tailed mongoose. The park is also home to various species of brightly colored mantella frogs, a variety of extraordinary chameleons of all sizes, and many endemic bird species including the endangered Madagascar red-owl and Madagascar serpent eagle.
Maroantsetra / Nosy Mangabe
We disembark in Maroantsetra and explore the bustling market, filled with vanilla pods, cloves, and other exotic spices as well as finely woven raffia hats and bags. After lunch on board we explore Nosy Mangabe, a natural reserve and sanctuary of the world’s rarest lemur, the nocturnal aye-aye. Bring your camera for some exciting opportunities to photograph black-and-white ruffed and brown mouse lemurs, leaf-tailed geckos, tree frogs, or maybe even a Madagascar ground boa. We also hunt for the world’s smallest vertebrate, the thumbnail-sized dwarf chameleon.
Our lecture series continues, recapping our experiences and preparing us for the wonders that lie ahead.
Diego Suarez is the largest city in northern Madagascar. Located on an impressive bay, it served as capital of the French colony in the late 1800s, and is graced with wide streets and colonial architecture. We board 4x4 vehicles for a scenic drive to Montagne d’Ambre National Park. Often shrouded in ethereal mist, this mountain paradise boasts forests with huge green tree ferns, crystal-clear crater lakes, waterfalls, and a wealth of wildlife. We enjoy close encounters and unsurpassed photographic opportunities with rare, localized crowned lemurs, as well as Sanford’s brown lemurs, northern sportive lemurs, striped mongoose, and a wealth of birds, including the Madagascar crested ibis, Amber Mountain rock-thrush, cuckoo-roller, and other endemics.
An archipelago of 12 limestone islands with white-sand beaches, karst rock cliffs, and pristine coral reefs, Nosy Hara is recognized by locals as Madagascar’s best snorkeling site. The offshore waters are particularly known for their variety of coral—plate, brain, and staghorn. Nosy Hara is one of only eleven World Wildlife Fund coral marine ecoregions in the world, and the sandy islands are nesting sites for green and hawksbill turtles. We board Zodiacs to explore the fascinating geology of this region and step ashore on secluded beaches for nature walks. We can discover the amazing diversity below the waves during snorkel, dive, and glass-bottom boat excursions.
Nosy Komba / Nosy Be
We go ashore at Nosy Komba, a peaceful fishing village that is close to a small reserve for dimorphic black lemurs. Here we can observe the engaging, semi-tame black lemurs up-close for excellent photographic opportunities. A short hike inland reveals a variety of birdlife, including bee-eaters, Malagasy kingfishers, and Madagascar foddies. With luck, we may spot a Parson’s chameleon, one of the world’s largest. During lunch on board, the ship repositions to nearby Nosy Be where we visit a ylang-ylang plantation to learn how these waxy yellow flowers are distilled into highly perfumed essential oil. In Hellville we peruse colorful displays of fresh produce and exotic spices at the market. We then snorkel or dive at nearby Nosy Tanikely, a marine island reserve whose healthy reefs are frequented by turtles, reef sharks, and large schools of colorful fish.
Mayotte, Union of the Comoros
Mayotte is an overseas territory of France, yet geographically it remains part of the Comoros group. Mamoudzou is the largest town on Mayotte, and exhibits a mixture of cultures. French-colonial architecture and First World technology and infrastructure contrast with African and Muslim dress and customs such as face painting. We take a tour of this charming capital and the nearby botanical gardens. Or, take a drive to the Dziani Crater at the heart of the island for nature walks to observe the rich birdlife and beautiful views.
Moroni, Grande Comore
Ruggedly beautiful, Grande Comore’s landscape is dominated by the world’s largest active volcano, Mount Karthala. We disembark in Iconi, one of the oldest settlements on the island, and take a short drive to view the ruins of an 18th-century palace. Heading through scenic countryside, we arrive at a plantation where we learn about the cultivation of ylang-ylang and exotic spices. Our tour ends in Moroni, where we visit the small museum, medina, and colorful market with a wide array of fruit, spices, and handicrafts. This afternoon we snorkel or dive off the coast amid a variety of colorful corals and fish.
Relax on deck and attend lectures that enlighten our intriguing final port of call—Zanzibar.
This morning we explore the nature trails of Jozani Natural Forest Reserve to spot the photogenic red colobus monkey—an extremely rare species endemic to the island. We also keep a lookout for Skye’s monkey, duikers, and more than 40 species of birds, including the African paradise flycatcher, mangrove kingfisher, and the endemic Fischer’s turaco. In the afternoon we tour one of the many spice plantations, famous for their production of nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves.
Zanzibar / Disembark / Depart
We disembark this morning to explore the labyrinthine alleyways of old Stone Town, with fascinating fort, souks, cathedrals, mosques, and sultans’ palaces. After lunch at a local restaurant we head to the airport for your independent flight home, arriving the next day.
What the Trip is Like
The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest. There are shore excursions featuring walks, and it is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active.
Nov 28-Dec 16, 2014 Island Sky
2014 Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy
Sole occupancy Category 2: from $20,380
Sole occupancy Category 3: from $20,980
- All cabins feature ocean views and have two twin beds that can be reconfigured into one queen, a sitting area, en suite bathroom, large wardrobes, vanity table, small refrigerator, television, personal safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, individually controlled air-conditioning and heating, and American-style outlets (two flat prongs) at 110 volts
- Magellan Deck cabins are 230 square feet and have two to four portholes
- Columbus Deck cabins are 240 square feet with large picture windows
- Marco Polo Deck cabins range between 225 to 240 square feet and feature large picture windows
- Erikson Deck cabins are 270 square feet including private balconies
- Explorer Deck cabins are 325 square feet including private balconies
Trip Payment Schedule*
At time of reservation: 25%
130 days prior to departure: Balance
*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.
One of the finest small ships in the world, the Island Sky features 53 spacious, outside-facing suites with marble-appointed bathrooms. Each suite includes a flat-screen TV with DVD player, hairdryer, individually controlled air-conditioning, and mini-fridge. High quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day aboard the Island Sky, with an on-board atmosphere more similar to a yacht than a cruise ship. Having undergone significant refurbishment in 2010, she features a large lounge, a library and bar, and an elegant dining room as well as spacious outside decks. The ship’s relatively small size lets her drop anchor in remote areas and in small ports where larger ships can’t go, and the fleet of inflatable zodiacs offers access in wonderfully remote places. Island Sky has a staff and crew of 75.