Summary : Virtually unknown to the outside world, the Mergui Archipelago is a bucket-list destination for any serious traveler. With only a few of the 800 islands sparsely populated, the area is rich in biodiversity, mangroves, coral reefs, and exotic plants. Whether you swim among colorful reef fish, hike the lush jungle or search for leopards in Yala, this is an experience not for the average tourist.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark the ship and meet your Expedition Team. Enjoy time to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet fellow travelers.
Depart for an excursion to a nearby tea estate for a complete tea experience. The tour of the tea estate will introduce you to the fascinating process of tea production, starting from the picking of the leaf by local women to the weighing, processing and packaging the leaf at the factory. A tea tasting session will follow, where one will have the opportunity of tasting different varieties of tea.
Later in the morning explore the ancient Muslim port of Galle. The different political influences from Europe can be seen at the Galle Fort, which has been occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British until the late 19th century. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, it is surrounded by the sea on three sides. Walking along the narrow streets one can best absorb the atmosphere of this living fort. Along these same narrow streets some of the colonial Dutch architecture has survived. The 18th century Dutch church has a splendid wooden memorial to one of the commanders of Galle, but you will also see the Arab quarter with its distinctly Moorish touch.
For lunch drive to Unawatuna Beach Resort at one of Sri Lanka’s best beaches for a Sri Lankan seafood barbecue, accompanied by Sri Lankan Baila musicians. You can also enjoy a dip in the ocean.
Kirinda is located just south of the Yala (Ruhuna) National Park — your main point of interest for the day. Yala’s history as a wildlife sanctuary goes back more than 114 years and it was declared a National Park in 1938. Situated in the southeast of Sri Lanka, the park covers 979 square kilometers. 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. Its importance for birds is shown through the Kumana Bird Sanctuary. Another important factor of the park is the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants in it.
Yala has a variety of ecosystems — from moist monsoon forests to marine wetlands — so not only birders will want to visit this exceptional National Park. While in the park, enjoy a Champagne forest brunch where a renowned Sri Lankan naturalist will give a brief lecture on the ornithological and ecological importance of Yala National Park.
Trincomalee is your starting point for two options for full-day tours today – both visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The first option is to drive to the capital of the former Kingdom of Polonnaruwa. Dating back to the 12th century the ancient city is an excellent example of ancient irrigation systems. Its ruins and statues are still standing today. 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 Sirigiya- the city of the Rock Fortress. Sirigiya is Asia’s best-preserved city center dating back to the first millennium. Various features have been overgrown by the forests and can still be excavated. Formerly the image of a lion had been constructed at the base of the outcrop of reddish gneiss known as Lion’s Rock. The rock was used for the construction of King Kasyapa‘s palace, but unfortunately the head collapsed and today only the feet and claws can be seen.
On arrival in Sirigiya visit the museum. 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 Sirigiya 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’.
A sumptuous Sri Lankan lunch – well deserved after the climb- will be served at a nearby hotel before returning to Silver Discoverer.
Having spent the first part of your voyage in Sri Lanka it is now time to head over to India’s Andaman Islands. Let your lecturers revive the exploratory voyages of the Portuguese, Dutch and English of the 15th to 19th century. From the early spice traders to the later merchants, so many interests were there for the western world. Find out how this has influenced and if it still influences India and Sri Lanka.
These two days at sea will also be a perfect way for you to get prepared for the Andaman Islands and you can attend lectures that will let you understand the special history and natural history of the Andaman Islands. Be sure to take time out to relax on deck, make use of the gym, or visit the Spa.
In the late morning arrive at Port Blair, the Andaman Islands’ main town and only port of entry. Once cleared into India officially, look at this quaint and friendly Indian town that seems to have been transported in a time capsule from the 1940s to the 21st century.
You will have a choice to see three museums in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ capital on South Andaman Island. These museums cover the islands’ various aspects: the Samudrika Marine Museum, run by the Indian Navy, has exhibits about corals, shells and fishes, even an aquarium. The Anthropological Museum has exhibits relating to the life of the four local tribes of the Andaman Islands and the two groups on the Nicobar Islands. After some light refreshment and a specially arranged presentation about the indigenous tribal communities by an anthropologist there will be a brief Nicobar tribal dance performance.
The Cellular Jail, where a dark chapter of the British use of the Andaman Islands as a place to exile political opponents is shown. Built in the late 19th, early 20th century, it could house 693 inmates in single cells. The prison was set up in such a way that no inmates could communicate with each other. Three of the seven wings still exist and together with the central watchtower have been declared a national monument. Ms Rashida Iqbal, the curator, will explain about the prison and the inmates that were imprisoned here after their struggle for India’s independence.
During the morning explore South Cinque and some of the most spectacular beaches in the Andaman Islands. This is a specially designated National Park Area with many opportunities for underwater exploration or simply relaxing on one of the beaches. Make the most of your morning visit and snorkel from the beach or from anchored Zodiacs. Snorkelers will want to see snappers, Napoleon wrasses, tuna, moray eels, crayfish, nudibranches, eagle rays, stingrays, octopus, Moorish idols, star fish, lionfish, and many more.
Your afternoon destination is North Cinque Island, which is actually a group of three islands that are partly connected by sandbanks. Here too, you will have excellent possibilities to swim and snorkel.
In the evening Silver Discoverer will be in front of Ross Island, which the British had selected as the capital of the islands between 1858 and 1941. Today the island has the old buildings, the church, printing press, government offices, Chief Commissioner’s house, and cemetery in ruins and trees overgrow many areas. Silver Discoverer will clear out of the Andaman Islands and India at Ross Island.
While Silver Discoverer covers the distance from the Andaman Islands to the Mergui Archipelago your lecturers will keep you entertained with stories of adventure and facts of natural history. Perhaps you would like to exercise in the Gym, or have a Spa treatment. Since you have been to Sri Lanka, an important tea producing country, why not sample some of the different varieties we have on board while attending Team Trivia.
Silver Discoverer will reach Myeik in the morning and after clearing the ship into Myanmar, start your exploration of this important coastal town with its checkered history and many ethnic groups.
Myeik is one of the two entry ports for the Mergui Archipelago located to the southwest. The town has a long and proud nautical history and because of the English, Dutch and French interests in trading in the 16th to 19th century is said to have one of the best kept collections of wooden colonial era buildings in South-East Asia. Despite the fact that the town is the largest of southern Myanmar with some 250,000 inhabitants the area and waters surrounding it are relatively unspoilt. Two little islands in front of Myeik offer interesting views and a 72m long Buddha can be found there. Pearl farming is done here and the town also hosts one of the largest fish markets in southern Myanmar.
Silver Discoverer will anchor in front of Lampi Island in the early morning. During this day in the Mergui Archipelago explore the Lampi Marine National Park and take advantage of Lampi Island. Declared an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003, the Lampi Marine National Park protects evergreen and mangrove forests, beaches and dunes, coral reefs, sea grasses and a rich biodiversity of over 1000 recorded species.
The uninhabited Lampi, apart from having occasional fishing nomads stop over, is large enough to hold wild animals. With rainforest and a fringing coral reef, Lambi’s outstanding beauty is enhanced by spotting macaques, dusky langur and lesser mouse-deer, as well as four species of hornbills, eight different kingfishers, White-bellied Sea Eagles and some of the other 215 bird species recorded. Kyun Tan Shey and the surrounding islands offer beaches regardless of tides. More than 50 white sand beaches and fringing reefs wait to be used for snorkeling, bird-watching or just relaxing. At this spectacular island you will have the choice of a jungle walk, exploring along a mangrove estuary or snorkeling. The sea grass meadows surrounding Lampi provide important food for green sea turtles and dugongs.
In the afternoon visit lush Bo Cho Island to the south of Lampi. Bo Cho Island is a sacred home for the Moken (Sea Gypsy) and a small Moken resettlement zone has been established here which has turned into a year-round Moken village. The people are so connected to the ocean that their houses are all built on stilts near the shore where they can keep a watchful island on their boats and the sea. Some 1000 Moken people have made Bo Cho their home and a basic infrastructure supports them. A yearly festival to honor their culture and way of life takes place on Bo Cho. See their homes and see their unique boat designs. We also might get to see how the Moken catch their fish.
Frost IKawthaung, Myanmarsland is in the ‘Mid-Group’ of the Mergui Archipelago. Tiny Frost Island in particular is known for large fig trees growing right on the beach and hundreds of hermit crab residents on its powdery white-sand beaches. The Moken are the only human inhabitants of this area. A chance to meet them is always a possibility. Frost Island is also rich in options for snorkeling among schools of brightly colored tropical fish thanks to the surrounding coral reefs, clear waters, and a long sandy beach on the northern shore.
In the afternoon Silver Discoverer will reach Kawthaung, our point of exit from the Mergui Archipelago before reaching your final port in Thailand.
During the afternoon enjoy the Videographer’s presentation of the voyage recap on DVD. Enjoy those marvelous takes and moments of our voyage through the “Mythical Lands of Bengal.”
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 (bird)