Embark on a wonderful expedition cruise beginning in the Sychelles, where you'll explore the stunning beaches fringed with palm trees and tropical flora. This special itinerary grants you two full days to swim and snorkel in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aldabra Atoll. Hop from island to island in the Seychelles and Amirante Islands, and later make your way to Madagascar, where a vast array of birds and lemurs make their home. Round out your journey with a visit to Réunion and Mauritius islands.
Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.
Days 1-2, Oct 20-21, 2018
Board your independent flight to the Seychelles.
Day 3, Oct 22, 2018
Arrive in Mahé and transfer to our hotel for brunch and an afternoon at leisure. Gather this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at your hotel.
Day 4, Oct 23, 2018
Mahé / Embark Silver Discoverer
After breakfast, visit Mahé’s century-old Botanical Garden for an introduction to 80 indigenous plant species, including five palm species, the vanilla orchid, and the rare jellyfish tree. An abundance of birds inhabit the area as well, including the Seychelles kestrel, Seychelles bulbul, and the rare, endangered Seychelles sunbird. Next enjoy a view of Mahé from the Capuchin Mission before driving inland on the San Souci mountain pass through thick forests and vanilla, cinnamon, and tea plantations. After lunch at a local restaurant, embark the Silver Discoverer and set sail.
Day 5, Oct 24, 2018
La Digue / Praslin
Giant granite boulders and swaying palms offset the postcard-perfect white beaches of La Digue. Explore this tranquil island by bike, or take a stroll along picturesque, sandy roads. Pass quaint balconied houses and shops, a vanilla plantation, and a copra factory to reach the small Veuve Nature Reserve, where you may observe the endangered Seychelles paradise-flycatcher in its native habitat. Other common sights include the yellow bittern, Seychelles swiftlet, and common waxbill. Spend time on one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful beaches, Anse La Source d’Argent, to beachcomb, swim, or simply soak in your surroundings.
After lunch on board, step ashore on Praslin to visit enchanting Vallée de Mai National Park, a World Heritage Site. The high-canopied, primeval palm forest is home to 4,000 coco-de-mer palms, which can grow over 100 feet tall and live 800-1,000 years. The palm bears the world’s largest nut, weighing 20 - 40 pounds. Several other endemic palm species, as well as the Seychelles flying fox, populate this magical valley. You may spot the rare Seychelles black parrot and other birds of notable interest, including the Seychelles blue-pigeon, cave swiftlet, and Seychelles bulbul. Various walks reveal other unique animals such as bronze-and-green day geckos, the Seychelles skink, and two forms of endemic snail.
Day 6, Oct 25, 2018
Poivre Atoll, Amirantes
The Amirante Islands are named in honor of Portuguese admiral Vasco da Gama’s 1501 visit. Take Zodiacs to Poivre Atoll for beachcombing, nature walks, birding, and a visit to the copra plantation. Snorkel or dive over coral gardens inhabited by brilliantly-hued tropical fish, as manta rays glide through the waters below and black-naped terns soar in the skies above.
Day 7, Oct 26, 2018
Enjoy a relaxing day at sea and attend lectures on the natural history of these fascinating islands.
Days 8-9, Oct 27-28, 2018
Spend two full days at magnificent Aldabra, a World Heritage Site, and a highlight of your adventure. With a perimeter of 70 miles, Aldabra is one of the largest atolls in the world, comprising four major islands separated by channels. Because of the atoll’s extreme isolation, many of Aldabra’s species are endemics. Giant Aldabra tortoises—estimated to number over 100,000—roam wild over the islands. Tides permitting, cruise by Zodiac through the narrow passes to drift through a landscape of fascinating eroded limestone topography. The tides have sculpted small islets into fantastical formations known as champignons, or “mushrooms.” Hundreds of lesser and great frigatebirds soar overhead; on land, search for the rare Aldabra white-throated rail, the only flightless bird found on any Indian Ocean island. Robber crabs, whose claws are strong enough to crack coconuts, scamper across the turf. Enjoy an exhilarating drift snorkel where the incoming tide whisks you through the pass and into a lagoon populated by turtles and eagle rays. Visit the small scientific research station on Picard Island and photograph the mighty tortoises of this magical, isolated island that few travelers ever have the privilege to see.
Day 10, Oct 29, 2018
Nosy Hara, Madagascar
The archipelago of Nosy Hara consists of 12 limestone islands with white-sand beaches, karst rock cliffs, and pristine coral reefs. Board Zodiacs to explore the fascinating geology of this region and step ashore on secluded beaches for nature walks. Spend the afternoon snorkeling to discover the amazing diversity below the waves.
Day 11, Oct 30, 2018
Diego Suarez / Mount Amber National Park
Disembark in Diego Suarez and board 4x4 vehicles for a scenic drive to Mount Amber National Park. Search for rare, localized crowned lemurs, as well as Sanford’s brown lemurs, striped mongoose, and a wealth of birds, including endemic Madagascar crested ibis and Amber Mountain rock-thrushes.
Day 12, Oct 31, 2018
Spend the day at sea attending lectures and joining naturalists on deck to search for sea birds and marine mammals.
Day 13, Nov 1, 2018
Nosy Mangabe / Maroantsetra
Nosy Mangabe is a haven for a variety of wildlife. Species commonly sighted include black-and-white ruffed and brown mouse lemurs, leaf-tailed geckos, tree frogs, and with luck, the world’s smallest vertebrate, the thumbnail-sized dwarf chameleon. Return to the ship for lunch then disembark in Maroantsetra to explore the bustling market, filled with vanilla pods, cloves, and other exotic spices as well as finely woven raffia hats and bags.
Day 14, Nov 2, 2018
Masoala National Park
Masoala is the largest national park on the island. On hikes through pristine forest search for red-ruffed lemurs, greater hedgehog tenrecs, and 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.
Day 15, Nov 3, 2018
Relax on deck and attend lectures that highlight the intriguing final ports of call.
Day 16, Nov 4, 2018
Lush, volcanic Réunion is an overseas territory of France. 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 you to a volcanic crater for magnificent views. Enjoy a traditional Creole lunch, then continue on to a vanilla plantation to discover the history and the culture of this precious orchid. Birders hope to find the endemic Réunion paradise flycatcher, Réunion stonechat, and Réunion harrier.
Day 17, Nov 5, 2018
Mauritius / Disembark
Disembark the Silver Discoverer after breakfast and set out on a tour of the island’s scenic highlights. A drive inland takes you up to, and around, the rim of an extinct volcanic crater and the Grand Bassin sacred lake. After lunch visit a magnificent waterfall which cascades over the geologically unique “seven-colored earths of Chamarel.” Birders search the indigenous forest for the endemic pink pigeon, echo parakeet, and Mauritius cuckoo-shrike. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport to board your independent homeward flight.
Day 18, Nov 6, 2018