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India and Sri Lanka

Indian Ocean Cruise

Summary : Prepare to be amazed as an exciting journey of contradictions awaits. From large Indian cities to unspoilt little island gems in the Laccadive Sea and to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, this will be a voyage into the Laccadive Sea and Bay of Bengal that truly combines nature and culture. Mother India—and her teardrop—will never seem the same agai.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Mumbai, India

Embark the ship and meet your Expedition Team. Enjoy time to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet fellow travelers. In the evening enjoy the first of many fine dining experiences in The Restaurant and relax in the Lounge or on the open decks.

Day 2
Mormugao (Goa), India

This afternoon, drive from Mormugao, Goa’s most important harbor, to Velho Goa (“old Goa” in Portuguese) to be able to see the Bom Jesu Basilica and the churches and convent of old Goa which have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Quite close to the Bom Jesu Basilica is the gigantic Se Cathedral built in Portuguese-Gothic style. Its bell, known as the “Golden Bell” for its sound, is said to be one of Goa’s largest.

You could also visit one of Goa’s famous spice farms to see, smell and taste some of the local spices and to find out how black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, chilies, and coriander look like before consumption or see the landscape and fluvial system from sea level in a kayak.

Day 3
At Sea

Silver Discoverer will take a southerly course through the Laccadive Sea to reach the Lakshadweep Islands –formerly known as the Laccadive Islands.

The Hotel and Galley Teams will do their utmost to pamper you while at sea, and your Expedition Team will have several presentations and talks, as well as the Recap & Briefing at hand to inform and to entertain you.

Day 4
Thinnakara, Lakshadweep Islands, India

Thinnakara Island and Bangaram Island share a vast lagoon and coralline banks. Thinnakara is a tiny teardrop shaped island within the magnificent lagoon. The sun-drenched beaches and the swaying palms form a perfect backdrop to the spectacular marine flora and fauna. The shallow lagoon with crystal clear water, the coral reef and blue lagoon invite to spend the entire day in the water, swimming or snorkeling, discovering graceful schools of fish in the water, or looking ashore for hermit crabs on the beach and seabirds in the lush coconut groves.

Day 5
Suheli Island, Lakshadweep Islands, India

Silver Discoverer will reach another of the rarely visited atolls of the Lakshadweep Islands. South of Thinnakara, this atoll has three little islands at the northern, eastern and southwestern corner of the reef.
The Marine Biologists will be looking for the perfect snorkeling site and the other experts will be there to help you. Conditions permitting, expect to be offering walks along the beach, beachcombing, looking for birds or explaining the local botany ashore during the morning.

In the afternoon, Silver Discoverer will be heading in an east-southeasterly direction towards mainland India, giving the team of experts another chance at presenting interesting topics, relevant to the area.

Day 6 – 7
Cochin India

Have a leisurely breakfast and attend a pertinent lecture presentation about one of the many facets of India while you approach the state of Kerala and southern India’s port of Cochin. Because of the location between China and Europe and the spice trade the port and town with the easy access to the sea used to be called “Queen of the Arabian Sea”.

Around mid-day, expect to be welcomed with a traditional Kerala shinkari melam, a group of musicians playing traditional instruments.

Use the afternoon and the following day to get a better insight into this port and the surrounding area and drive through one of India’s most beautiful and tranquil landscapes to visit Alleppey, the “City of Canals” or “Venice of the East”, located south of Cochin between the Arabian Sea and Lake Vembanad, India’s longest lake.

Alleppey’s port was opened to foreign trade by the British in the late 18th century to end the Dutch commercial supremacy in Cochin. Today prawn farming and coconuts form the basis for the city’s economy. You will board a houseboat and cruise the river, lake and canals, collectively known as “the Backwaters”, and have a look at old colonial warehouses and typical thatched local homes. Brilliant green paddy fields where farming is done below sea level, will give way to views of village life and glimpses of churches, mosques and temples. Cruise the “Backwaters” and enjoy a typical Keralan snack with tea, south Indian coffee, and fruit juices.

After the cruise reach a special location, beautifully illuminated by hundreds of oil lamps giving it an earthly spiritual feel for an exclusive Mohiniyattam performance that will be done by Keralan women in traditional attire. After this exceptional presentation, you will be treated to a special Syrian Christian dinner, mixing Indian and European influences.

The following morning board local cruise boats to reach Fort Cochin. In Cochin walk through the Heritage city to see the wonderful array of architectural styles dating back to the Portuguese, British and Dutch periods, before the East India Company took over in 1814. There are Portuguese churches including the oldest Portuguese church in India going back to the year 1503, a Jewish synagogue, as well as mosques and Hindu temples. During the walk visit the Indo-Portuguese Museum and finally the David Hall Gallery. Here a prominent historian will talk about the history of Cochin and the spice trade, followed by a Kalaripayattu (martial arts) performance.

Following the performance you will be treated to a special Mopilah lunch catered by celebrity chef Mrs. Faiza Moosa. The Mopilah are Muslims from the Malabar region and known for their food. While you are there, Mrs. Moosa will present autographed copies of her cookbooks.

From the gallery you will take local Tuk-Tuks (open 2-seater taxis) to reach the Mattancherry Palace built by the Raja of Kochi. Visit the Palace, walk to the Jewish Synagogue and Dutch Palace and have some spare time to wander around Jew Town, looking at souvenir and antique shops before being taken back to Silver Discoverer by local boats.

Day 8
Vizhinjam, India

Today you can head north for Thiruvananthapuram, the “Evergreen City of India”. It is the largest city in this part of India and also the capital of the state of Kerala. The Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the world’s richest temple, can be found in Thiruvananthapuram. Uncounted objects in gold and silver, some of them studded with precious stones have been guarded inside the temple in various vaults that are rarely if ever opened. Estimates of the objects’ value seen so far on few occasions supervised by members of the Indian government and the royal families involved go into the billions of US-dollars. Unfortunately for the group, these objects are not for viewing, nor is the temple to be entered (unless you profess Hindu faith), but outside views are quite spectacular too.

Instead of Thiruvananthapuram you might chose to drive south to Chakala to visit Padmanabhapuram, the largest wooden palace in India, dating back to the 16th century. The palace is a fine specimen of Keralan architecture with antique interiors, intricate rosewood carvings and sculpted décor. The sheer size, style and materials are overwhelming—the palace used to feed 2,000 people on a daily basis with a hall able to accommodate everyone. Part of this excursion is a typical Sadya lunch and a Kathakali dance performance.

Sadya is a festive vegetarian meal served on banana leafs and is usually reserved for important temple festivals or other special celebrations. The Kathakali dance has evolved over the last 400 years to become the most popular and sacred dance drama of Kerala. Rigorous training is needed to attain complete control of the body to be able to render all its nuances through hand gestures and facial expressions. The themes presented usually center on the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, two of the great Indian epics.

During the evening, Silver Discoverer will leave and head for Sri Lanka and Galle,

Day 9 – 10
Galle, Sri Lanka

While Silver Discoverer is sailing through the Laccadive Sea on a southeasterly course, your experts will offer talks and presentations about Sri Lanka.

The Chef might explain some of the secrets behind the preparation of culinary highlights, or the Bar Team might tempt you with special cocktails or wine tasting. The outer decks are there to relax and unwind, although you might also want to help the naturalists looking for marine life or seabirds from the bridge.

After lunch, Silver Discoverer will approach Galle and Sri Lanka.

As soon as the ship has been cleared into Sri Lanka, the aim is to explore the ancient port of Galle and surrounding area. Visit Galle and its magnificent fort. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 as the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions, it is surrounded by the sea on three sides. Some of the colonial Dutch architecture has survived and the National Museum of Galle uses a building going back to 1656, the oldest remaining Dutch building in the fort. The three galleries have collections not only going back to the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods, but also include displays of the 15th century expeditions of Chinese Admiral Zheng He.

On Day 10, visit a working tea plantation near the small village of Akuressa. This privately owned property is the only organic tea factory in southern Sri Lanka. The head planter will introduce you to the fascinating process of tea production. You will walk the fields, see the picking of the tea leafs by the local women and partake in a tea tasting session.

Afterwards head for the sea and enjoy a special seafood barbecue lunch at what is considered one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. A group of Sri Lankan Baila musicians will perform during the lobster, king prawn, tiger prawn, crab fish and shellfish barbecue.

Golden sand, a protected bay, and excellent swimming will later permit you to return refreshed to Silver Discoverer.

Day 11
Kirinda, Sri Lanka

Early in the morning, start from the fishing port of Kirinda for a visit to Yala National Park. Yala began as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and in 1938 it was declared a National Park. Situated in the southeast of Sri Lanka, a wide variety of wild animals live in the park, including one of the highest densities of leopards in the world. Of the 215 bird species known six are endemic. Another important factor of the park is the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants in it.

Within the park, travel by 4WD vehicles with local trackers and naturalists and learn about the leopards, with information on the animal, its habitat, and the conservation work that has gone (and is going) on to protect the animals.
You will have a Champagne brunch at a scenic spot in the forest. As a special treat, one Sri Lanka’s leading conservationists will talk about birding and conservation in Sri Lanka.

Day 12 – 13
Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

From Trincomalee there will be two options for full day tours. Both destinations are UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the first option is to drive to the former capital of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa. Dating back to the 12th century, the ancient city is an excellent example of how irrigation systems were planned to be able to maximize the use of rain. Its ruins and statues are still today overpowering. The excursion to Polonnaruwa will include a visit to the museum where by special arrangement the museum’s curator will be at hand to answer any questions.

A special buffet lunch will be arranged in the wilderness, and while you have your meal, a traditional Sri Lankan folk show will take place for you.

Alternatively travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sigiriya- the city of the Rock Fortress. Sigiriya is Asia’s best-preserved city center dating back to the first millennium. Its particular interest goes back to the 5th century, when parricidal King Kassapa fled to the peak of reddish gneiss known as Lion’s Rock. This massive column of rock was used for the construction of his palace. It is known that the area had been in use for centuries and was used as a Buddhist monastery after Kassapa died. A massive wall defends part of the lower city. Various features have been overgrown by the forests and while one part has not yet been fully excavated, the other part is known to have been the aristocratic quarter with terraced gardens, canals and fountains.

On arrival in Sigiriya, visit the museum to get a good overview of the fortress, its history, the objects found and those excavated. Here too the museum’s curator will be at your disposal to answer any questions that you might have regarding the legendary citadel.
To see the top one has to climb special staircases. At the summit of the rock is the fortified palace with its ruined buildings, its cisterns and its rock sculptures. Apart from the archaeological remains of the palace and city, Sigiriya is famous for the “Mirror Wall”. The surface of the rock had been polished to such an extreme that one could see one’s reflection. Halfway up the rock, within an inaccessible rocky shelter in the vertical wall of the western face, are rock paintings known as ‘The Maidens of the Clouds’, 21 beautiful female figures. The climb is not easy and takes approximately 2 hours.

A sumptuous Sri Lankan lunch—well deserved after the climb—will be served at a nearby hotel before returning to Silver Discoverer.

Day 14
At Sea

Your final day at sea will give you a chance to attend last presentations or seminars, taste some culinary specialties—perhaps comparing Sri Lankan and Indian food. Edit your many photos before the onboard Photographer/Videographer presents the official Voyage-DVD, highlighting the many interesting objects, animals, sights seen, and activities done.

Day 15
Chennai, India

After breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.

Notes

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

Included:
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; butler service; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee); 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and View Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Vista, Veranda, and Medallion Suites. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; optional shore excursions; government fees and taxes; passport and visa expenses; some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes and cigars; laundry or valet services; items of a personal nature such as boutique purchases, medical care, and spa services; fuel surcharge may apply.

Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Ralph Lee Hopkins (turtle)

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