Summary : Embarking in Chennai, you will sail around the Southern coast of India visiting both Sri Lanka and Trivandrum. Then, you will make your way to the Lakshadweeps for diving and snorkeling in these rarely visited islands. Back on the mainland, there will be two full days in Kochi (Cochin) to experience this delightful community’s mélange of international influences and to explore the maze of islands and waterways here via houseboats. The finale of your voyage is three days snorkeling and diving amid large pelagic fish and stunning coral gardens in the Maldive’s pristine waters.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Snorkeling
$999,999,999 to $0
Independent flight from USA to India.
Arrive Chennai in the early morning, transfer to your hotel, and enjoy the morning at leisure. After lunch, set out for an exploratory tour that incorporates both colonial history and the dynamic energy of modern life as you visit the National Art Gallery and Museum, San Thome Cathedral, the South Indian Temple, Fort St. George Museum, and drive along Marina Beach. Return to your hotel for a welcome dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, enjoy a scenic drive to one of the state’s most famed temple complexes—Mahabalipuram, a World Heritage Site, located on the coast. Its famed Shore Temple is dedicated to both Shiva and Vishnu and covered with intricate bas relief. After lunch at a local restaurant, embark the Clipper Odyssey and set sail.
Relax in the soft Indian Ocean breezes and enjoy your lecture series that lends cultural and natural history insights to the enchanting island nation of Sri Lanka.
Arrive in the eastern port of Trincomalee this morning and disembark the ship to travel overland into the lush interior for an overnight excursion. Your first stop is the 1,000-year-old World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa, the ancient resort city of kings. After lunch, explore its shrines, the unique irrigation complex, and Citadel.
Continue to Minneriya Eco Park for a 4x4 safari through evergreen forest and grasslands to the vast reservoir where you will watch for numerous mammal inhabitants—spotted and sambar deer, elephants, and elusive leopards among them. Nearly 400 avian species call the park home, including such endemics as Sri Lanka junglefowls, Sri Lanka junglefowls, Sri Lanka hanging parrots, and Sri Lanka gray hornbills. Drive on to Habarana for dinner and overnight at your lodge.
Early this morning birders set out along an avian trail in search of migratory and native species—including the chestnut-winged cuckoo, white morph Asian paradise flycatcher, and Malabar pied hornbill. After breakfast, you all drive to the amazing Dambulla Caves World Heritage Site whose centerpiece is a glistening white horizontal edifice built right beneath and into a huge cliff overhang. More than 80 caves cover the area; five contain statues and paintings relating to Buddha.
Your beautiful drive continues toward Kandy, with a stop to visit a spice plantation en route. The cool highlands served as a royal refuge from the many colonial powers and settlers who occupied the coastal regions until well into the 18th century, and Kandy became the last capital of the Sinhala kings. Explore the World Heritage Site Temple of the Tooth—one of the holiest places of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world—which houses a tooth of the Buddha encased in gold caskets. Continue to Colombo to re-board the Clipper Odyssey.
Located near India’s southern tip, Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is a pedestrian-friendly town spread out over seven hills. Visit the nearby village of Pongumoode and its surrounding rubber plantations and enjoy a rickshaw ride; learn about tapioca, from plant to harvest; and watch a rubber leaf press demonstration. Also, you will attend a Kalari Payattu demonstration, Kerala’s ancient form of martial arts.
Situated about 200 miles east of Kochi, the idyllic and ultimately photogenic Lakshadweep archipelago—36 islands and their atolls and coral reefs—comprise the smallest Union Territory of India. Stunning lagoons, colorful birds, profuse marine flora and fauna, swaying palms, and pristine beaches make this an island paradise.
During your time here you will visit several islands. Stroll along lovely, unspoiled beaches and explore the underwater realm with daily snorkel, dive, and glass bottom boat excursions. Feel the stress of the holiday season melt away as the sun slips below the horizon and enjoy a festive Christmas Day feast in paradise. Daily weather and tide conditions determine your course, with stops planned on Tinnakara, a lush uninhabited island covered with wild almond, coconut, and breadfruit trees and Cheriyam, a small islet ringed by a vast shallow lagoon. The shallow waters that surround these pristine islands are perfect for snorkeling and diving and the colorful hard and soft corals teem with hundreds of marine species.
The leisurely two-day exploration of Kochi reveals this delightful community’s mélange of international influences: Portuguese houses, the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry), the Anglican St. Francis Church, and the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that grace the beaches. You will board local houseboats for a cruise through Kochi’s maze of backwaters where you may watch locals going about their traditional day-to-day lives.
As you sail towards the Maldives, lecturers introduce you to the heritage and natural wonders of this Equatorial archipelago—made up of 1,190 coral islands. Arrive at Uligamu, the northernmost island of the Maldives, late in the afternoon.
Over the next three days, discover the special, lesser-visited places in the atolls north of Male. Superb snorkeling and diving are hallmarks of the area and the underwater topography of the region is fascinating—a dramatic landscape of thilas, pinnacles and submerged coral structures enveloped in brilliant corals and sea fans, and kandus, deep channels that run between atoll and coral-terraced reef.
Step ashore on Utheemu, the most famous of the northern Maldives, a cultural treasure-trove and the birthplace of a 16th-century sultan who fought to drive out the occupying Portuguese. His residence, a beautifully preserved wooden palace, is evidence of the islands’ former glory. The Baa Atoll, made up of about 50 islands offers rich biodiversity including large mangroves and unique ring-shaped reef forms known as faru. And, serene Olhahali Island boasts one of the finest wide lagoons in the region. During your time here, enjoy a special dinner and celebrate with a midnight toast to ring in the New Year.
Disembark this morning for a sightseeing tour of Male before checking into day rooms at your hotel. The remainder of the day and evening are at leisure. Transfer to the airport this evening for your independent overnight flight to Singapore to connect with homeward flights.
Accommodations in hotels and on board Clipper Odyssey as outlined in the itinerary; all onboard meals; all group meals on land; group transfers; services of the expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; all group activities and excursions; landing and port fees; all gratuities; emergency medical coverage (maximum benefit per paying passenger of $50,000)*; evacuation coverage (maximum benefit per paying passenger of $75,000)*.
All air transportation; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; accident/baggage/cancellation insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages, email/Internet/fax/telephone charges; scuba diving fees and equipment when required.
*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $50,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $75,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.