Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Depart:||Durban, South Africa|
|Lodging:||15 nights aboard a 114-passenger vessel|
|Meals:||All meals on board including wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner|
|Activity:||Small Ship Cruising|
16-day expedition cruise, nature walks, Zodiac cruising, optional 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.
Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.
The animals, plants, landscapes, and people that make up the thousand-mile-long island of Madagascar are unlike anywhere else in the world. Our voyage aboard the Island Sky, with her fleet of Zodiacs for forays ashore, allows us access to wonderful places denied to larger ships, and with our onboard experts, we can learn and enjoy encounters with fabulous endemic wildlife in this immensely rich and timeless corner of the Indian Ocean. In addition to the breathtaking scenery, the area abounds with strange and wonderful plants and trees, countless varieties of birds, and abundant wildlife including the iconic lemur. The long separation from the African mainland has given rise to its amazing number of unique species of flora and fauna and our experienced expedition leaders provide insights on all we see and reveal the wonders of the world’s “eighth continent.”
Day 1, Jan 1
Mauritius / Embark
Arrive in Mauritius and embark on the MS Island Sky. We enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we set sail this evening.
Days 2-3, Jan 2-3
La Reunion / At Sea
We visit the central highlands where spectacularly rugged peaks of dormant or extinct volcanoes cradle huge amphitheatres known as cirques, where mountains tower to over 10,000 feet, and beautiful waterfalls plummet hundreds of feet. The rich soil and mellow climate produce a lush and verdant landscape that is dotted with villages and towns with a uniquely French atmosphere. Fields of sugar cane and plantations of tropical fruits, vanilla, and all manner of spices perfume the air. The following day is at sea as we cruise to the island of Madagascar and enjoy onboard lectures and relaxation on deck.
Day 4, Jan 4
Ile Ste Marie, Madagascar
Our first call in Madagascar is at Ile Ste Marie, also known as Nosy ohara. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a popular base for pirates who used the secluded bays to plunder ships returning from the East Indies. Today it is a lush tropical island with sandy beaches, coral reefs, and abundant natural beauty. This morning we explore the capital of Ambodifotatra including the pirate cemetery and the oldest church in Madagascar, built in 1837. Over lunch we will find a spot to launch the Zodiacs for a snorkeling excursion.
Day 5, Jan 5
We awake at Nosy Mangabe, a 520-hectare island reserve in Antongil Bay. Here we find one of the most diverse areas of virgin rainforest in Madagascar, which has also been an important research center since the mid-1960s, when several aye-ayes and lemurs were released into the forest. We use our Zodiacs to land on the beach next to the forest and organize a series of nature walks looking at the varied trees, plants, and ferns and also hope to spot chameleon, lizards, and black-and-white ruffed lemur. For
the birders we will keep an eye out for Madagascar buzzard, kingfisher, and paradise flycatchers.
Day 6, Jan 6
Masoala National Park
We remain in Antongil Bay overnight and enjoy a morning to visit Madagascar’s largest protected area, the Masoala National Park, which comprises coastal rainforest, flooded forests, marsh, and mangroves. Mammal species encountered include the red-ruffed lemur, the red-fronted brown lemur, the aye-aye, the greater hedgehog tenrec, the fossa, and the ring tailed mongoose. The park is also home to various species of brightly colored Mantella frogs and all manner of extraordinary chameleons. Masoala is also a refuge of the endangered Madagascar red-owl and Madagascar serpent eagle, and many endemic bird species. We return to the MS Island Sky for lunch and an afternoon at sea as we cruise along the Madagascan coastline.
Day 7, Jan 7
In the afternoon we enter dramatic Diego Suarez, a stunning natural harbor with a cosmopolitan mix of inhabitants incuding Creoles, Indians, Chinese, Comorans, and Arabs. After a brief tour of the town, we make our way to the Malagasy rainforest at Mount Amber National Park. Dividing into short and long walk groups, we go in search of lemurs and explore the rainforest. In the towering vegetation we may spot several species of lemurs, as well as endemic birds, including parrots. If this is not possible due to local conditions, we will instead visit the Domaine de Fontenay where we will explore the reserve rich with flora, fauna, and several waterfalls. On our return to our vessel we take a detour to the bay of Diego with its impressive views of the sugar loaf and also home to the indigenous baobab suareziensis tree.
Day 8, Jan 8
Nosy Tanikely / At Sea
In the morning we anchor at the Nosy Tanikely Island Marine Reserve, an uninhabited island that offers fantastic snorkeling opportunities and wonderful beaches. We can either swim in the clear waters or snorkel over the corals, keeping an eye out for reef fish, turtles, and morays. Alternatively, our naturalists will lead guided walks on the island, where we may see the resident lemurs and enjoy fantastic views from the lighthouse on the island’s highest point. Return to the ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon at sea.
Days 9-10, Jan 9-10
Mahajanga / At Sea
Set on the Betsiboka River, Mahajanga is a major port in northwest Madagascar, and is our base for a full day excursion to Ankarafantsika National Park. This deciduous forest is a haven for birds, lemurs, and reptiles, and on a choice of walks we explore with our guides. Eight species of lemur have been observed here including the famous microcebus, the smallest primate in the world. Meanwhile, more than 120 species of birds nest here, and we will keep an eye out for the Madagascan fish eagle and banded kestrel, while the 44 species of reptile include chameleon, turtles, and crocodiles that live in Lake Ravelobe. We enjoy lunch in the park and this afternoon can join further walks or visit the Durrell Breeding program, which was established at Ampijora and is dedicated to protecting the ploughshare tortoise, one of the most threatened breeds in the world. The following day is at sea as we cruise toward Morondava.
Day 11, Jan 11
From our anchorage off the town of Morondava, we use the Zodiacs to land on the local beach. From here we have a choice of excursions to explore the local region. A half day morning tour will visit the Avenue de Baobabs. Of the eight baobab species in the world, six are endemic to Madagascar. Here we will see the Adansonia grandidieri species with a row of 20-25 trees bordering the gravel road. We learn about the trees and their spiritual significance before returning to Morondova and exploring the local market. Alternatively, join a full day excursion to Kirindy Forest. Situated approximately a two-hour drive from Morondova, we will pass the Avenue de Baobabs as we travel north. Krindy is a 10,000-hectare dry deciduous forest, one of the most endangered in the world, where the flora and fauna includes many endemic species. Here we find three species of baobab, many birds, and reptiles including snakes, tortoises, and lizards, eight species of lemur including the rare pale form marked lemur and other mammals including giant jumping rat, fossa, and narrow striped mongoose.
Days 12-13, Jan 12-13
Tulear / At Sea
Our last call in Madagascar is Tulear on the southwest coast. From the port, we drive to the Antsokay Arboretum, which is entirely devoted to conservation of the plants from the southwest of Madagascar. After more than 30 years of hard work, it offers a densely kept selection of flora presenting a typical sub-arid thicket with baobab trees towering over the smaller plants. We will see the four hectare botanical garden, with its over 900 species of plants of which 90% are endemic to the region. The following day is at sea as we cross the Mozambique Channel. Our lecture program continues in the lounge, and you may want to watch for wildlife from the deck.
Day 14, Jan 14
Inhambane was an important trading post for Arab merchants and sailors as early as the 11th century. It was part of Vasco de Gama’s voyage in the late 15th century before the Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century, and in the 18th century they were joined by Indian traders. The mixture of African, Arab, European, and Indian influences
are still present today. We enjoy a morning to explore the town including the 200-year-old Cathedral of our Lady of Conception and the Governor’s Palace.
Day 15, Jan 15
Inhaca Island, Maputo Bay
We visit subtropical Inhaca Island, home to hundreds of coral species, fish, dolphins, and up to three hundred bird species. Today you can choose to either snorkel on the coral reefs where we hope to find scorpion fish, butterflyfish, and parrotfish, or alternatively join our naturalists as we search for greater sand plovers, lesser crested tern, and kingfisher.
Day 16, Jan 16
Richards Bay / Disembark
We disembark this morning and transfer to Durban for homeward-bound flights via Johannesburg.
What the Trip is Like
The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Zodiac landing crafts are used to explore the coastline and transport passengers ashore for walks to wildlife sanctuaries, scenic nature areas, and local towns and villages. There are also ample opportunities for swimming and snorkeling. Some agility is required for getting in and out of the Zodiac landing crafts.
Jan 16-31, 2016
Prices are for 2016
Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy
|Magellan Suite Forward||$10,850|
|Magellan Standard Suite||$11,495|
|Marco Polo Premium||$12,150|
|Marco Polo Corner Suite||$12,805|
|Ericikson Deluxe Balcony||$13,790|
|Explorer' Owner's Balcony||$14,610|
Trip Payment Schedule*
At time of reservation: 10%
of trip cost
100 days prior to departure: Balance
*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.
Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule
More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost
Trip Cost Includes:
- Cruise only, per person based on double occupancy, includes 15 nights aboard the Island Sky
- All meals on board including wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
- Expedition team
- Shore excursions, gratuities to crew and on excursions
- Transfers, port taxes
Trip Cost Does Not Include:International airfare, travel insurance, items of a personal nature (visas, etc.).
One of the finest small ships in the world, the Island Sky features 57 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.