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Wildlife and Cultures of South Africa, Mozambique, and Madagascar

Madagascar Cruise

Summary : Embark on a voyage that is extraordinary in its diversity and scope, visiting five countries and a remarkable number of different habitats. Beginning in Cape Town, South Africa, and ending in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, you'll see Cape Town; the wildlife of South Africa's bush country; Mozambique's capital and extraordinary coast and marine life; the lemurs and other wildlife of Madagascar, along with its renowned baobab trees; and the cultures and wildlife of Mayotte in the French Comores. Incredible wildlife including the possibility of spotting the "big five" (rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards, and buffalo), epic undersea experiences, and superb photo ops await on this active and engaging adventure.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling


Free Chronicle: Receive a free video chronicle of your trip, compliments of ExpeditionTrips!
Free Subscription: Complimentary 1-year subscription to National Geographic Magazine (one per booking).

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$999,999,999 to $0

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Day 1 – 2
U.S. / Fly overnight to Cape Town, South Africa

Arrive in Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city, set between Table Mountain and the blue waters of Table Bay, and transfer to the Table Bay Hotel, situated at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at the ocean’s edge. This evening, there’s a welcome reception and dinner at your hotel.

Day 3
Cape Town / Embark

Take the cable car (weather permitting) to the top of Table Mountain, with tremendous views all around the Cape Peninsula. Then visit renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, showcasing the Cape’s flora (including a great collection of proteas) in a beautiful setting. As a special treat, you’ll have a musical performance by one of South Africa’s leading groups before embarking National Geographic Orion in the late afternoon. Sail along the Atlantic coast and round the Cape of Good Hope this evening.

Day 4

The seaside town of Hermanus is your base for a choice of activities. Visit the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, renowned for the beauty and diversity of its plant life, and walk through the fynbos (“fine bush”) in search of flowers and wildlife that includes birds, baboons and mongoose. Or dive with great white sharks (from a steel cage) in Gansbaai (additional cost). Explore the town of Hermanus on foot.

Day 5
Mossel Bay / Knysna

From Mossel Bay, take an excursion along the coastline to Knysna, gateway to South Africa’s “Garden Route.” Cross the Knysna Lagoon by ferry to explore the private Featherbed Nature Reserve, and take a leisurely downhill walk with great views through forest, seeing the steep sandstone cliffs and ancient Khoi Khoi sea caves. There are many bird species and great views across Knysna Lagoon. After a buffet lunch under a canopy of milkwood trees, return to Mossel Bay and sail.

Day 6 – 7
At Sea

Spend these days sailing along the South African coast, with talks by staff and the chance to prepare for the exciting days ahead.

Day 8

Durban is South Africa’s third-largest city and a multicultural center known for its Indian and Zulu populations. The hinterland is a stronghold of Zulu culture and rich in nature, and offers some interesting excursions. Visit a Zulu village, meet the people of the community and see a performance of dancing and drumming. At Eshowe, visit the Zululand Historical Museum (Fort Nongqayi) and other locales of interest. Alternatively, you may wish to tour the center of Durban, seeing its Golden Mile, harbor, city hall and an Indian spice market.

Day 9
Richards Bay / iSimangaliso Wetland Park / St. Lucia

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage site, protects remarkable habitats near the coast, including wetlands, savannah, forest, woodlands, beaches and reefs. The centerpiece is Lake St. Lucia, whereyou’ll go out by boat in search of large groups of hippos, crocodiles, fish eagles, and much more. Among the park’s habitats are forested dunes and papyrus marshes. You’ll also look for black rhinos in the Eastern Shores Nature Reserve. Stay at a lodge at St. Lucia.

Day 10
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi National Park

Drive to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, one of Africa’s premier game parks. It’s renowned for wildlife that includes the “big five” (rhinoceros, elephant, lion, leopard, and buffalo), along with giraffe, antelopes, cheetah, and outstanding birdlife. White rhinos can be seen here, and there’s a chance of spotting black rhinos, too. Take a game viewing drive in an open four-wheel drive safari vehicle in this superb habitat. Return to National Geographic Orion in the late afternoon.

Day 11
Maputo, Mozambique

This afternoon, tour Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, a city full of character and charm, known as Lourenço Marques during the colonial era. You'll visit the fortress of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (completed in 1787), the colorful Central Market, the fine Museum of Natural History, Iron House, and the Botanical Garden, as well as Maputo’s historic railway station.

Day 12 – 13
Exploring the Inhambane Area

Spend these days in the Inhambane region of Mozambique, settled by the Portuguese as early as the 1530s. Conditions permitting, take local boats in search of whale sharks, bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, and turtles. Whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, can reach a length of 40 feet and a weight of 20 tons. They do not pose a danger to humans, and if conditions permit the adventurous will be able to snorkel with the whale sharks of the area. You may also explore the historic colonial town of Inhambane. Enjoy a walk along the town’s lanes, admire the architecture, and visit the Inhambane Maritime Museum.

Day 14
At Sea

Sail eastward across the Mozambique Channel toward Madagascar, with a chance to learn about some of the wildlife you’ll be seeing in the coming days.

Day 15 – 16
Toliara & Isalo National Park, Madagascar

Dock in Toliara, Madagascar, and set off on the long drive to Isalo National Park. This spectacular habitat has striking sandstone cliffs, with unusual formations and great vistas. Visit the well-known “window rock” in the late afternoon. Because you’ll spend the night at a lodge near the park, you’ll have the afternoon and following morning to explore this beautiful and diverse region. Search for ring-tailed brown lemurs. Look for colorful birdlife. The plant life is unusual too, with endemic species including palms and aloes. Drive back to Toliara and rejoin your ship for the sail northward.

Day 17
Morondava / Avenue of the Baobabs

From Morondava, drive to the renowned “Avenue of the Baobabs”—a large stand of photogenic Adansonia grandidieri trees, and one of the classic sights of Madagascar. These beautiful, endemic trees can grow to 100 feet, and individual specimens may be hundreds of years old. You’ll have plenty of chances to view and photograph them, and to see the people who make the region home.

Day 18
At Sea

Enjoy the day at sea relaxing and enjoying the seascapes from the ship's deck.

Day 19
Mahajanga / Ankarafantsika National Park

From Mahajanga, drive to Ankarafantsika National Park, a superb deciduous lowland forest. Enjoy a walk in the forest to look for lemurs including Coquerel’s sifakas, along with horned and rhinoceros chameleons, frogs and the turtles which breed here. Birds include banded kestrel, rufous vanga, and Madagascar fish eagle. Ravelobe Lake has Nile crocodile and waterbirds. The flora is interesting as well, with a number of native medicinal plants. Return to your ship and sail to Mayotte.

Day 20
Mayotte, French Comoros

Although located geographically within the Comoros Group, Mayotte is a territory of France. Your visit shows you French colonial architecture, colorful local cultures and a distinctive style of dress. You’ll see the fragrant ylang-ylang tree, cultivated here, whose oil is prized by perfumers. You may choose an extended walk to look for birdlife, or else to go diving or snorkeling if conditions permit.

Day 21
At Sea

Your last day is a chance to reflect on all you’ve seen and done, to look at photographs your shipmates have taken, and to enjoy a farewell reception and dinner.

Day 22 – 23
Dar es Salaam / Disembark / U.S.

Disembark this morning and continue on the extension to northern Tanzania. Or tour Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city and commercial capital, in the morning. It has a picturesque harbor and a mix of African, Muslim, and South Asian influences. Transfer to the airport in the afternoon for flights home, arriving the next day.


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Photo Expeditions:

The photo team, a National Geographic Photographer and a Photo Specialist, will enhance your voyage by working with you on photo composition and exposure; helping you develop your own unique vision; showing you how professionals edit and store images while on the go; and sharing the stories behind some of their greatest images. Whether expert or interested beginner, you'll find added benefits such as walks ashore and Zodiac cruises dedicated to photography, presentations on the creative and technical aspects of photography, and one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the field.

Scuba Diving Requirements: Scuba divers must be certified by an internationally recognized dive association prior to the voyage, and certification cards and logbooks must be shown on board. Divers must have logged 25 dives in total and made a dive within the 12 months preceding the voyage.

Accommodations as indicated; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages aboard the ship; all shore excursions and sightseeing; transfers to and from group flights; tips (except to ship's crew), taxes and service charges; services of a ship physician and expedition staff; use of kayaks.

Not Included:
Air transportation; passport and visa expenses; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, email, laundry, etc.; gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion; scuba diving surcharge; fuel surcharge may apply.

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