Discover the Seychelles: Zanzibar to Mahe

Aboard the Silver Explorer

Note: Cruise rate includes roundtrip economy class air.

Overview

Venture from the Spice Isle of Zanzibar across the Indian Ocean to the wonders of the Seychelles, with their numerous coral atolls surrounding crystal-clear lagoons, including Aldabra, with its teeming marine life, plentiful birdlife, and distinctive island fauna including the Aldabra giant tortoise. You'll also explore otherworldly La Digue and laid-back Praslin, which, along with Mahe, are considered the "holy trinity" of the Seychelles. Along the way, enjoy thrilling snorkeling excursions over coral reefs populated by colorful tropical fish, nature walks and Zodiac cruises in search of birds, and relaxing on powdery white-sand beaches, including La Digue's legendary shores, reportedly among the most beautiful in the world.

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, Apr 16, 2022
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Arrive in Zanzibar, a tropical paradise, with swathes of long white sand flanked by tall, skinny, palm trees, and set in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Part of the Zanzibar archipelago, the island—also confusingly called Zanzibar—is found just 22 miles from mainland Tanzania. Visitors will find vestiges of both Arabic and Portuguese colonialism (the island was Portuguese until 1698 when it was seized by the Sultanate of Oman), amid the picture-perfect landscape. But there is much more to Zanzibar than meets the eye. With just one step off the ship, and you are already breathing the heady scents of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves. Rightfully known as the Spice Isle, Zanzibar was once a trading hotspot on the trading route from Arabia to Africa. At the time, the island enjoyed an influx of wealth and European bourgeoisie, with spices being traded at astronomical prices. The influences of the various colonies are glamorously reflected in the main city’s architecture. But sensual smells and beautiful beaches aside, Zanzibar has the vestiges of sinister history. The island was a capital for the slave trade in the 19th century, with an estimated 50,000 slaves passing through the Zanzibar slave market each year, with many more dying en route. The epicenter for trade was in the Market Square, in the heart of Stone Town, a melting pot of Arabic, African, and European history that today is one of the world’s most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Embark on the Silver Explorer and depart in the late afternoon.

Days 2-3, Apr 17-18, 2022
At Sea / Assumption

After a day to relax and settle into the intoxicating rhythm of life at sea, 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.

The ship will anchor off the coast of Assumption and tenders will land on the shoreline. You can independently explore the island and relax on this peaceful dot in the ocean. If you wish, join a snorkeling excursion: this place is well known for spotting damselfish, blue surgeonfish, parrotfish, butterfly fish, Trevally's turtles, and many more species.

Days 4-5, Apr 19-20, 2022
Aldabra

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 6, Apr 21, 2022
Cosmoledo

Named for a 15th century Portuguese navigator, Cosmoledo is a large coral atoll that is part of the Aldabra group of atolls in the Seychelles. Cosmoledo itself has more than 20 small islands and islets and has been repeatedly used by humans for guano exploitation, harvesting of local resources, and fishing. Abandoned in 1992, the islands not only have recovered naturally, but a conservation organization has tried to eradicate introduced species. Cosmoledo is an Important Bird Area and is home to the Indian Ocean’s largest colony of red-footed boobies, the Seychelles’ largest colony of sooty terns, as well as black-naped terns, crested terns, and red-tailed tropicbirds. Within the lagoon are several beaches waiting to be explored, while snorkelers seek out the interesting underwater world, as this atoll offers some of the best diving in the Seychelles. Elect to go birdwatching in the lagoon by Zodiac or on foot—the choice is yours.

Days 7-8, Apr 22-23, 2022
Farquhar / Poivre Island

The Farquhar Group of islands is located approximately 400 miles west of Mahe Island (where Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, is located). The most prominent of the Farquhar Group is the Farquhar atoll, which looks somewhat like a fishing hook from the sky; some have referred to it as a seahorse with its arched neck and curved tail. The sparse inhabitants of the two main islands of the atoll (Farquhar North and Farquhar South) are rarely visited but wecloming. Hawksbill and green sea turtles come to the atoll for nesting, and several of the Farquhar Group’s islands are Important Bird Areas. Goelettes, the southernmost of the atoll’s islets, holds sooty terns, brown noddies, and black-naped terns. See some of the lightest blue waters and most pristine beaches found the world over, where sport fishermen avidly catch multi-hundred-pound exotic fish. Right from the beach you can join the snorkeling team to enjoy the marine fauna of this paradisiac site. In these waters can be found green turtles, hawksbill turtles, giant trevallys, titan tiggerfish, and many others. The next day, enjoy another snorkeling excursion near Poivre Island, on the lookout for hawksbill turtles, blue-striped snappers, or even lemon sharks.

Day 9, Apr 24, 2022
D'Arros Island

The Expedition team will set a snorkel platform in the rich waters of D'Arros Island, where you'll have a chance to meet manta rays, turtles, blacktip reef sharks, barracuda, unicornfish, damselfish, surgeonfish, chromis, angelfish, butterflyfish, giant clams, sea cucumbers, and more. Or, enjoy the beach at D'Arros Island or join the Expedition Team on a birdwatching walk looking for frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, and white terns.

Day 10, Apr 25, 2022
Aride Island / Curieuse

Pristine and uncrowded, Aride is the northernmost island of the granitic Seychelles. The island hosts one of the most important seabird populations in the Indian Ocean with more breeding species than any other island in the Seychelles. Eighteen species of native birds (including five only found in the Seychelles) with more than one million seabirds breed on Aride, including the world’s largest colonies of lesser noddy and tropical shearwater, the world’s only hilltop colony of sooty terns, and the western Indian Ocean’s largest colony of roseate tern. This is also the only breeding colony of red-tailed tropicbirds east of Aldabra and huge numbers of brown noddy, white tern, and wedge-tailed shearwater can be found. It is an impressive site as thousands of great and lesser frigatebirds soar over the northern cliffs. Choose between a hike up the hill for great views or an easy nature walk to search for birds. There is also an opportunity for swimming and enjoying the beach.

In the afternoon, head to Curieuse. This small granitic island lies serenely off the northwest coast of Praslin and since 1979 has been declared a Marine National Park. Originally called Isle Rouge in 1744 by French explorer Lazare Picault because of its large areas of bare red soil, the island was renamed Curieuse in 1768 after the expeditionary ship sent by Marc-Joseph Marion Dufresne to explore Praslin and its surrounding islands. For all Curieuse’s beauty, there is sadness in its past. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the island was home to leper colonies, and ruins of the old settlement still stand along the southern coast. The former physician’s residence, now the Doctor’s House Visitor Center, is a museum of the island’s unfortunate past as well as an educational resource on the island’s natural history and conservation. Curieuse hosts a diversity of flora and fauna, making it a nature lover’s delight. It is home to a large population of the unusual coco-de-mer palms, which grow naturally only here and in Praslin, and spectacular granite rock formations dot the landscape. Several beaches are scattered around the island, which are often nesting sites for giant tortoises that come ashore to lay their eggs between September and February. The variety of natural habitats, from tall lush woodland and dry bushy scrubland to freshwater mangrove marshes, attract plentiful wildlife such as endemic birds, turtles, lizards, crabs, and insects. You'll go ashore with the Expedition Team for walks on the beach, to the ruins of the old leper settlement, or up a hill for panoramic views.

Day 11, Apr 26, 2022
La Digue / Praslin

Early morning arrival at La Digue, with its 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 include a scenic tour of La Digue to experience its daily life; birdwatching at Vueve Reserve by bike; or take a coastal walk from Anse Morron to Anse Coco.

In the afternoon, you'll move to Praslin, 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. Your options this afternoon include a guided 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 a more demanding hike in Fond Ferdinand reserve, home to four of the endemic palm trees.

Day 12, Apr 27, 2022
Mahe / DIsembark

Arrive in Mahe and disembark.

Highlights

Highlights

Discover Aldabra, the world’s second-largest atoll, with its teeming marine life
Enjoy fantastic snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, nature walks in search of birds
Explore legendary beaches, considered among the world's most beautiful

Details

Length: 12 days
Cost From: $14,300  
Arrive: Zanzibar, Tanzania
Depart: Mahe, Seychelles
Lodging: 11 nights aboard a 132-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, Hiking / Trekking, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

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