Expedition to the Seychelles: Cape Town to Mahe

Aboard the Silver Cloud

Note: Cruise rate includes roundtrip economy class air.

Overview

Cruise from the craggy coasts of Cape Town, South Africa, to the placid shores of Mahe, Seychelles. Beginning in Cape Town, weave your way north to Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, and Richards Bay, where you’ll be embued in ancestral Zulu and Xhosa culture. Two sea days bring you to Mozambique Island, and its heady mix of cultures. Travel on to the perfumed islands of Comoros and Madagascar for more adventure and discovery, including encounters with Madagascar's famed lemurs. Your cruise ends with explorations of Aldabra, famous for its huge population of giant tortoises, and the other islands of the Seychelles.

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.

Itinerary

Day 1, Mar 28, 2023
Cape Town, South Africa / Embark

Sprawling across an endless, staggeringly blue coastline, and watched over by iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town is without doubt one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A blend of spectacular mountain scenery, multiculturalism, and relaxed ocean charm awaits in the Mother City, where you can venture out to rolling vineyards, dine in laid-back sea suburbs, or spend days exploring cool urban culture. Cape Town’s natural splendor fully reveals itself as the cable car rears sharply to the top of Table Mountain. From the summit, 3,500 feet above sea level, you can let the scale of the panoramic vistas of the city rolling down toward the ocean wash over you. Another heavenly perspective waits at the top of Lion's Head’s tapering peak. A sharp hike and an early start is required, but the views of the morning sun painting Table Mountain honey-gold are some of Cape Town’s finest. Cape Town’s glorious sunshine and inviting blue rollers can be a little deceiving—these oceans are anything but warm at times, with nothing between the peninsula’s end and Antarctica’s icy chill. This cool water has upsides though, bringing a colony of adorably cute African penguins to Boulders Beach. Boarded walkways offer the perfect vantage point to see the cute creatures dipping into the sea and lounging in the sun. Nearby, journey to the end of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, where you can stand at the bottom of this mighty continent, watching out over the merging waves of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Cape Town’s beauty is counterpointed by the ominous island form, which sits four miles offshore from the bustling restaurants and lazy seals of the lively V&A Waterfront. A living history lesson, you can sail in the ships that transported prisoners out to Robben Island, before a former prisoner tells of the traumas of life on this offshore prison. Your guide will show you the cramped cells, and render Mandela’s long walk to freedom in heartbreaking, visceral clarity. Embark on the Silver Cloud and depart in the late afternoon.

Days 2-3, Mar 29-30, 2023
At Sea / Port Elizabeth

After a day to relax and settle into the intoxicating rhythm of life at sea, arrive at Port Elizabeth (PE). Loved by wealthy South African families as a holiday destination, it is a natural haven with unspoiled beaches, rolling sand dunes, and the warm Indian Ocean lapping at your feet. It's also a post-industrial migrant city with a rich heritage. PE is also called Nelson Mandela Bay, and there is much here that celebrates him—starting with Route 67, a collection of 67 artworks honoring the 67 years that Mandela dedicated to achieving South Africa’s freedom. Known as “the friendly city,” Port Elizabeth is enjoying an urban regeneration, spurred on by the youth of the region that want to put it back on the map. Think vibrant creative projects spilling out wherever you go, a pedestrianized central zone, galleries selling local artworks, restaurants serving South African fusion food, award-winning buildings that house museums, restored Victorian terraces. PE’s proximity to the excellent nature parks at Addo and Lalibela make it an ideal destination for wildlife lovers. Both of these parks are a little way from PE but both offer a chance to revel in South Africa’s no-holds-barred natural beauty. This is the real reason why people come to South Africa—for a chance to see the fabled Big Five. Addo even boasts the Big Seven (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard, as well as the great white shark and southern right whale).

Your choice of explorations today include a 4WD safari in Addo Elephant Park, Pumbo Private Game Reserve, or Kariega Private Game Reserve; a small boat cruise on Algoa Bay to see the largest colony of African penguins on the planet; and a guided safari on the Addo River-—great birdwatching!—in custom designed, comfortable, and safe canoes (no paddling experience needed).

Day 4, Mar 31, 2023
East London

The British built the port of East London on the Buffalo River in 1847 to service their military forts and troops in disputes over land with the Xhosa people. European settlement expanded and East London grew. Settlers usually walk in the footsteps of others who lived on the land before them. Here, many people must have resided over the years as the oldest footprints in the world, at 200,000 years, were found nearby. Most of the eight million Xhosa people live in Eastern Cape Province. They are a proud tribe with a rich and ongoing culture that they celebrate with vibrant clothing, music, and dance. Beaded jewelery is important for many reasons—decoration for dancers, special ceremonies, and indicating the social status of women. Today they live in an Africa with modern opportunities and challenges, and ongoing links to their past. The city has several natural attractions for residents and visitors alike. Sandy beaches are popular with residents, who also enjoy water activities on the sheltered and picturesque Buffalo River. Like many areas of South Africa, game parks are popular for local wildlife lovers. Speaking of nature, near to East London is where the first living (well, freshly dead in an angler’s catch) coelacanth known to science was found in 1938. This lobe-finned fish had been only known from 66-million-year-old fossils. It is more closely related to four-legged land animals than typical ray-finned fish. This place has history.

Birders will enjoy taking a scenic walk through the Nahoon Estuary along the Dassie Trail. You can also choose a 4WD game drive in Mpongo Private Game Reserve or Inkwenkwezi, a world-class game reserve; head to the former homeland known as the Transkei to Khaya La Bantu, an open-air Xhosa museum where you can get a brief cultural immersion into Xhosa culture; or paddle a kayak on the Nahoon River to explore the calm tidal estuary and its abundant birdlife.

Day 5, Apr 1, 2023
Durban

Durban has always been a beach city but it was the massive investment for the 2010 World Cup that really put it on the map. A huge revamp of the promenade has brought with it some fantastic eateries that serve up all kinds of “chow” from traditional bunny chow to bobotie, (a sweet spiced mince dish with egg topping). Expect Asian influences wherever you go, too. Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India. Although there is little evidence, it is known that the city of eThekwini—Durban in Zulu—was inhabited by hunter-gatherers as early as 100,000 BC. It was first sighted by Vasco da Gama in 1497, but it was not until 1824 that the British settlers raised the Union Jack. This was after King Shaka gifted “25-mile strip of coast a hundred miles in depth” to Henry Francis Fynn after Fynn helped him recover from a stab wound. It remained part of the British Commonwealth until 1960, when it became part of the Republic of South Africa. The city’s Euro-African heritage remains to this day.

Today's excursions include an exploration of the endemic and richly layered Indian influence in Kwa-Zulu Natal; a safari in the wildlife conservancy of Tala Private Game Reserve; city sightseeing tour with a visit to a brewery offering artisanal beers; meeting a sagoma (indigenous traditional healer), with a food and beer tasting; a high tea experience at a lovely beachside hotel; discovering the history of Nelson Mandela and the Zulu people at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, with a side trip to Howick Falls. Selected excursions are optional scenic helicopter flights over Durban.

Days 6-9, Apr 2- 5, 2023
Richards Bay / At Sea

Considered as the official gateway to Zululand, Richards Bay has morphed from being a tiny fishing village into a bustling harbor town. Today, the 11 square-mile lagoon is the major port of the region (and also the deepest in Africa), a growth spurred on by the significant mineral deposits, wonderful wetland scenery, unspoiled beaches, and game reserves. Located on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Richards Bay was founded in 1879. British Rear Admiral Sir Frederick William Richards eponymously named the port after landing there during the Anglo-Zulu colonial wars. Despite its superlative natural setting, Richards Bay was long considered a southern African backwater, with as little as 200 residents as recently as 1969. This number grew when it was proclaimed a town, but even today it is relatively underpopulated, with fewer than 60,000 calling the province home. The town’s Zulu heritage is omnipresent, so be sure to search out the local arts and crafts. If African culture is not your cup of tea, the hinterland offers fascinating flora and fauna, including a chance to see the incredibly rare white rhino along with the bucket list Big Five. Richards Bay’s attractions can be found closer to port, too—the 217 miles of coastland, also known as “Dolphin coast,” are a joy for divers and beach lovers alike.

Several excursions are available during your two days here: snorkeling and a nature drive at Cape Vidal; a game drive in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve; a cruise along Lake St. Lucia, home to the Nile crocodile and hippos; and birding in St. Lucia Wetlands Reserve, a recently proclaimed World Heritage Site. Days 8 and 9 are at sea.

Day 10, Apr 6, 2023
Island of Mozambique

Densely populated Mozambique Island is small at only 1.9 miles long and less than 650 yards wide. The Portuguese had already settled here by 1507, and the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere is found here: the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte. Fort São Sebastião also dates back to the 16th century. Historical buildings on the northern side of the island include the Palace and Chapel of São Paulo, built in 1610 as a Jesuit College, later converted to be the Governor’s Residence and now a museum. The majority of the residents today live in reed houses in Makuti Town at the southern end of the island. In addition to the old Christian churches there are several mosques and even a Hindu temple on the island. For the last 55 years a 1.9-mile bridge has connected the island to the mainland.

Shore excursions here include sailing on an elegant dhow, a traditional sailing vessel often found on the Indian Ocean, and a sightseeing tour to discover the island's rich history and interesting architectural heritage—the island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Days 11-12, Apr 7- 8, 2023
Moroni and Anjouan, Comoros

Arrive at the ancient town of Moroni, the capital of the Comoros and the main port of the island. One of your excursions here is a tour of the Old Quarter, Grand Friday Mosque, and the Comoros Market. If you're up for a challenge, elect to take a hike from Lamnavaliya Crater (panoramic views of the northern coastline) to the Chain du Dragon, a remnant of an eroded volcanic cone thought to look like a dragon's backbone, and from there to a third crater, Lac Sale. Other options include hikes in the lush rainforests or a scenic drive along the morthern coast to visit Lac Sale and to swim and relax at Chomoni Beach.

Day 13, Apr 9, 2023
Nosy Komba / Nosy Be

The small volcanic island of Nosy Komba is set between Nosy Be, the island of perfumes, and the mainland of Madagascar. Covered by a magnificent primal forest, the island is home to all kinds of trees, plants, and flowers, but lemurs are one of the main attractions. Not to be neglected and often hiding in the dense tropical forest is a multitude of other animals including maki macacos, chameleons, lizards, snakes, spiders, and 19 species of birds. Nosy Komba has easily accessible, clean, and private beaches that offer great snorkeling. Sea turtles, rays, and dolphins frequent the clear azure waters surrounding the village of Ampangorinana and Nosy Komba. If you've ever wanted to go somewhere that is remote and exotic, then you have come to the right place. The two right places in fact, as the islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Komba offer a chance to revel in nature that is uncommon, even in the Indian Ocean. There is a saying in Madagascar “same, same but different” and nothing could be more illustrative when describing Nosy Be and Nosy Komba. Both feature fertile forests sheltering endemic species, but while Nosy Be (meaning Big Island) attracts holiday makers in search of a rustic, unhurried destination, Nosy Komba literally translates as Lemur Island, leaving nothing to the imagination when considering its main attractions. The aforementioned forests are without a doubt the jewel in both the islands’ crowns. The heady scent of ylang-ylang trees, vanilla, and pepper gave Madagascar its moniker of the perfumed isle, and exports of spices and scents continue to be a pivotal part of the island’s economy. The island is essentially French-speaking, after the queen of the Boina Sakalava tribe called upon the French from the nearby Reunion (thus inviting colonial rule) in 1841. If making the 20-minute boat trip to Nosy Komba (actual name Nosy Ambariovato) and the lemur park, then be prepared to be enchanted. The arboreal primates, with their enormous eyes, soft fur, and long curling tails are both charismatic and friendly. Add cheeky to the list too, especially if you have any fruit in your hands. They’ll jump right out of the trees and take it from you.

Explorations today include hiking in Lokobe Strict Reserve, known for its black lemurs and the beautiful Nosy Be panther chameleon; walking in Nosy Komba's Black Lemur Sanctuary, home to Madagascar's most famous residents, the black lemurs (macaco); seeing lemurs on Nosy Komba, then repositioning to Nosy Tanikely for swimming, snorkeling, and beachcombing; taking a scenic tour of Nosy Be including exploring a wildlife and botanical garden; or enjoying cultural encounters at Marodoka, a former Kiswahili village.

Day 14, Apr 10, 2023
Assumption

Arrive at Assumption, a small, crescent-shaped island about 4.3 square miles in size. Considered one of the Outer Seychelles Islands, Assumption is part of the Aldabra Group, lying approximately 600 miles southwest of Mahé, in the Indian Ocean. These outer islands are not made from granite, like their larger sisters Mahé, Praslin, or La Digue, but rather are coralline formations. Once a part of the French colony Réunion, then a member of the British Indian Ocean Territories, Assumption today is governed by the Seychelles. A rough and arid island, shaded only by shrubs and palm trees, Assumption is redeemed by a spectacular reef with huge coral heads and a white ocean floor. Jacques Cousteau said he'd never seen any other place on earth with the same clarity of water or diversity of reef life. He filmed large parts of his documentary The Silent World here, and held audiences across the globe spellbound by the magic that lay beneath the sea. A notable feature of this island is the Assumption Island day gecko, a subspecies of gecko found only on this island. Assumption is also a known nesting site for turtles and rare birds. Because Assumption Island was found to be rich in guano, coveted for its phosphorous fertilizing abilities, it was essentially plundered in the early 1900s. The island today has an interesting geography that includes a gorgeous 3-mile-long white beach, a rocky coastline, caves, and two very large sand dunes prominent on the southeastern coast of the island, one of them reaching 104 feet high. There is a very small settlement with less than 10 registered inhabitants, mostly in place to service the small landing strip used by scientists with permission to study neighboring Aldabra Atoll. The settlement is surrounded by casuarina trees and there is an abandoned coconut palm plantation to its south.

Assumption Island has pristine beaches and has been ranked best beach in the worrld twice. Join the snorkel team about 100 yards from shore to the coral reef area, an area well known for spotting damselfish, blue surgeonfish, parrotfish, butterfly fish, Trevally's turtles, and many more species.

Days 15-17, Apr 11-13, 2023
Aldabra / At Sea

Part of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles, Aldabra is reputedly the world’s second-largest atoll and has been described as “one of nature’s treasures” and a “sanctuary.” The inner lagoon teems with marine life such as eagle rays and sea turtles. It is possible to snorkel and drift along with the tide passing in or out of the lagoon as massive numbers of fish come and go through the same channels. Narrow channels between fossilized coral islands are fringed in mangrove forests supporting large colonies of nesting boobies and great frigatebirds. Its distinctive island fauna includes the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea). Approximately two-thirds of the world’s population of giant tortoises lives on Aldabra—some 100,000 out of a reported 150,000. Because of its extreme isolation in the Indian Ocean, and due to a lack of fresh water, the island has not been developed for tourism. No airport has been built, and only a handful of smaller ships with special permits are allowed to call at this unique atoll.

A number of excursions are available during your two days here: Take a Zodiac cruise along the coastline past booby and frigatebird colonies; enjoy easy nature walks; and snorkel in the clear azure waters in search of green turtles, blacktip reef sharks, rays, groupers, angelfish, butterflyfish, and parrotfish. Day 17 is at sea.

Day 18, Apr 14, 2023
Praslin / La Digue

Praslin is one the Seychelles’ most beautiful islands. Anse Lazio, the island’s beach, is a repeated winner for world’s best. The lush jungle that makes up the island’s interior has it all: bubbling brooks, winding paths, and towering trees that provide welcome respite from the sun. This is the true heart of the island; not only is the jungle home to the endemic black parrot (fewer than 1,000 of these birds are in existence) but also the famous coco de mer, the world's heaviest nut, grows abundantly in the wild. Neighboring La Digue boasts long ribbons of perfect beach, lush inland forests, and enough kaleidoscopic coral reef to make any diver weak at the knees. Because of La Digue’s proximity to both Praslin and Mahe, it is considered part of the holy trinity of the Seychelles. But that is not to say that it’s a hot spot. On the contrary, life is taken at a slow pace here—transport is by bicycle or ox-cart (there are rumors that motor taxis exist but for now that’s just hearsay), entertainment is a slow walk on paths shaded by tropical flowers, and life hums to the rhythm of bygone days. That is the true attraction of La Digue, the very other worldliness of the island, the feeling that nothing has changed since the 18th century. In fact, some of the residents (called Digueois) still carry the names of their forefathers, who arrived as slaves with the French colonialists in 1789. The island’s beaches are, of course, legendary. The jewel in La Digue’s crown (and there are so many) would have to be La Anse Source d’Argent, frequently considered as one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. This is truly the Holy Grail—a long string of powdery, white sand, bordered by the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Scattered around the beach and shore are smooth granite boulders that form coves and caves and provide home for some of the most colorful underwater life you’re ever likely to see. Excursions today include a scenic tour of both islands to experience their Old World beauty and charm, with stops to walk in Praslin National Park, home to a forest of coco de mer palms; a scenic drive to Anse Lazio, with time to swim, snorkel, and relax on the beach; or take a coastal walk from Anse Morron to Anse Coco.

Days 19-20, Apr 15-16, 2023
At Sea / Mahe

After a day at sea, arrive at Mahe and disembark.

Highlights

Highlights

From Cape Town, travel up the coast and visit Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Richards Bay
Enjoy fabulous snorkeling and lemur encounters at Nosy Be and Nosy Komba, Madagascar
Zodiac cruises, nature walks, celebrated beaches, and more snorkeling in the Seychelles

Details

Length: 19 days
Cost From: $17,500  
Arrive: Cape Town, South Africa
Depart: Mahe, Seychelles
Lodging: 18 nights aboard a 254-passenger vessel, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals aboard ship, including wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
Activity: Snorkeling, Walking, Wildlife and Natural History, Special Interest, Small Ship Cruising, Birding
Trip Level:

18-day cruise, cultural explorations, Zodiac excursions, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and walking tours