Summary : An archipelago of virgin islands waiting to be discovered, the Cargados Shoals are one of the last places on earth left untouched by the march of modernization. Exclusive rights to the area mean that Silver Discoverer is the only ship to take you to this unique piece of paradise. Experience this hidden jewel of the Indian Ocean before immersing yourself in the scent-filled scenery of Madagascar and beyond.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$8,950 to $17,450
Arrive in Port Louis and embark Silver Discoverer. Settle in and attend a mandatory safety drill before leaving port. During the afternoon you will be introduced to crew-members and your Expedition Team.
In the evening enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.
The Silver Discoverer will ply the waters of the Cargados Bank in Mauritius for two full days so that you might dedicate your time to exploring the islands, coral reefs and turquoise lagoons here in expeditionary style. Roughly 40 islands pepper the Bank with a total land mass of 1.3 square kilometers. Meanwhile, the coral reef covers approximately 190 square kilometers. A few of the islands support coconut palms, bushes and grass, but the granulated coral sands are the star of the show ashore. In the distant past, the Cargados Bank was one large volcano, likely formed by tectonic plates dragging over the Reunion hotspot. Be prepared to explore the fascinating geology, marine life, and bird species here to your heart’s content over the next two days.
Life on an expedition ship is packed with new experiences, explorations, and inspirational moments. A day at sea is no different, but the relaxed pace of sea time is a welcome balance to every voyage’s adventure. As the miles peel away in the ship's churning wake, you may wish to take advantage of the fascinating lecture series offered aboard. Your expedition team is comprised of experts in their fields who bring their subjects to life by sharing images and videos representing a wealth of experience. More entertaining and relevant than most university lectures, the choice of presentations on offer through your sea days will stimulate both thought and conversation aboard the ship.
Be out on deck early this morning as the Silver Discoverer enters the attractive Bay of Diego, and one of the largest natural bays in the world. Enjoy the views as you cruise the eight nautical miles towards Antsiranana, known as Diego Suarez until 1975 and still called Diego by many. Diego Suarez is actually named after the two Portuguese explorers who “discovered” Madagascar in 1506. In fact, their names were Diego Diaz and Fernando Suarez. In 1885, the beginning of the French protectorate, the French Navy built a military base here and urban growth followed. In 1942, the Allies launched Operation Ironclad and landed forces at Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay, just west of Diego Suarez. Hundreds of British soldiers fell in the Battle of Madagascar, and most of them were buried in the special British cemetery in the center of town.
From ‘Diego’ travel to Montagne d’Ambre (Amber Mountain). This is an isolated patch of montane forest that rises from the surrounding dry region. The park is famous for its waterfalls, crater lakes, and wildlife, especially chameleons. At Joffreville, visit the Domaine de Fontenay, and its 300 hectares of parkland. This former colonial villa with its century-old manor house is the perfect place to relax after a visit to Amber Mountain National Park. Enjoy leisurely natural history walks in the private nature reserve, home to five species of lemur, leaf-tailed geckos and ring-tailed mongoose as well as 15 different waterfalls.
Today, in true expedition mode, explore the easternmost part of Madagascar. As part of your exploration visit the national park, landing the Zodiacs on the unspoilt beaches, or perhaps visit a local community and learn about the traditional life in this remote part of the island. Your Captain and Expedition Leader will work together to find the best possible experience.
Before breakfast, Silver Discoverer will anchored in front of tiny Nosy Mangabe. Part of the larger Masoala National Park complex and formerly a Dutch basis for the slave trade, the island has been protected since 1965. The Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve is a tropical rainforest preserve and your forays ashore today will be primarily to see lemur species in the dense and hilly forests. Keep your eyes out for mouse lemur, gray mouse lemur, Eastern woolly lemur, white-fronted brown lemur, and black-and-white ruffed lemur among others. There are also several fascinating birds such as the Madagascar Buzzard and Paradise Flycatchers to look out for, as well as reptiles and amphibians including leaf-tailed geckos, frogs, small snakes and even an endemic boa.
During the early afternoon Silver Discoverer will set a course for Mananara where, weather depending, land by Zodiac in the late afternoon to visit this vibrant and small fishing community. After some leisure time exploring the streets and markets, board pickup trucks to drive out of town towards Aye-Aye Island. To reach the island travel across a river in dugout canoes. As the sunsets go in search of a nocturnal lemur, known as the Aye-Aye. These tiny, rare lemurs can only be found on Madagascar, and at first glance look nothing like any other lemurs. They possess big eyes, slender fingers, and large, sensitive ears. Aye-Ayes have pointed claws on all their fingers and toes except for their opposable big toes, which enable them to dangle from branches.
Aye-ayes spend their lives in rain forest trees and avoid coming down to earth. They are nocturnal, and spend the day curled up in a ball-like nest of leaves and branches. The nests appear as closed spheres with single entry holes, situated in the forks of large trees. During your night-time expedition the hope is to get memorable glimpses of this unique little animal.
This morning, embark on a walking tour of Ambodifototra, the main town on Ile Ste Marie (Nosy Boraha) a narrow granitic island 57 km long and 8 km wide that is located off the east coast of Madagascar. An atmosphere of peace, tranquillity and pure natural splendor prevails on the island. Lush vegetation and sandy beaches shaded by coconut palms are interspersed by many small villages. Tranquil bays and coves protected by coral reefs all lend themselves to a dreamy feeling that is emphasized by the ‘joie de vivre’ of the Malagasy.
During lunch, Silver Discoverer will reposition to Ile aux Nates, to go ashore on unspoiled tropical beaches with fine white sand, coconut trees scattered along the shore, and a turquoise lagoon protected by coral reefs and inhabited by a variety of exotic marine life. Enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the warm waters, or go in search of the group of black and white lemurs which has been settled here. Perhaps you will be inclined to hunt for one of the rarest orchids worldwide known as the ‘Queen of Madagascar’ (Eulophiella roempleriana), which blooms from November to January.
A full day of new encounters followed by a delicious dinner aboard Silver Discoverer is perfect way to wrap up our time in Madagascar!
Members of the Expedition Team are ever-vigilant during sea days and spend hours on the bridge and out on deck with binoculars and cameras in hand. They watch for seabirds, marine mammals, schools of feeding fish, and any other unexpected wildlife interactions to share with guests on the outer decks at a moment’s notice. Take advantage of the fresh air and boundless vistas and spend time today with experts in search of breaching whales, dolphins or soaring seabirds.
After breakfast, go alongside in La Possession, on the north western side of La Reunion. Two national parks have been created to protect the Island’s nature and UNESCO has given World Heritage status to the “pitons, cirques and ramparts of Reunion Island.” For birders the ‘La Roche Ecrite Nature Reserve’ is of prime interest as it was created on the slopes of the 2,276 meter Roche Ecrite to protect the endemic and endangered Reunion Cuckooshrike.
On a full-day tour visit the central highlands where spectacular and rugged volcanic peaks cradle huge amphitheaters known as cirques, and where mountains tower to over 10,000 feet as cascading waterfalls plummet hundreds of feet. On your excursion visit the active volcano “La Fournaise.” One road, followed by a good track, leads up to Bellecombe Pass situated over the caldera’s cliffs and offers a good point of view over the northeast part of the caldera. From there a stairway path descends from the pass to the caldera floor. A number of footpaths ascending the lava shield inside the caldera are marked, but access depends on the volcanic activity.
This afternoon, enjoy a typical creole lunch ashore before exploring further with some time for independent exploration in St. Denis, a charming town with a wonderfully French atmosphere. This surely marks another highlight of your voyage and a fantastic way to cap the expedition.
In the evening return to Silver Discoverer and set sail for Mauritius.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
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.
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, © Bruno Cazarini (lemur, chameleon)