Summary : From fiddler crabs to people, mangroves support a wealth of life. And the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest is no exception. Hike, cruise by Zodiac and explore this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site—the largest mangrove forest in the world. Bookended by visits to rural fishing villages, serene temples, natural harbors, and eclectic cities, this journey will leave you satiated, yet thirsty for more.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$9,800 to $18,200
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 Discoverer Lounge or on the open decks.
Today, Silver Discoverer will head along India’s east coast in a northeasterly direction. Meet some of your fellow explorers on the outer decks, helping the naturalists look for seabirds and marine life. You can also attend one of several presentations offered by the experts, or learn about the preparation of culinary highlights presented by the Chef.
This evening the Captain will invite you to the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail and your Chef and Restaurant Manager would like to see you in The Restaurant for a special Welcome Dinner.
Early in the morning, Silver Discoverer will enter the only natural harbor on India’s east coast, going alongside in Visakhapatnam. Sometimes called “Goa of the East”, the French and English had an interest in this city, the harbor, and India’s oldest shipyard.
Despite the Metropolitan Region claiming more than 5,000,000 people, Visakhapatnam is considered one of the cleanest cities in India. The beautiful hills of the Eastern Ghats flank the city on the northern and western side, and the Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary is just north of the city. Different animals can be observed, including the Indian Paradise Flycatcher, quails, partridges, Indian Peafowl, spotted deer and Indian jackals. The nocturnal Indian leopard is found here, too. Visit the Eco Park and look for its fauna and flora.
Another interesting geological feature, actually considered one of India’s geo-heritage sites, is an area north of Kambalakonda: the red sand dunes known as Erra Matti Dibbaw.
The region has had a strong Buddhist influence in former times, as attested by the many archaeological remains, but today Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are the main religions.
Continuing along India’s east coast, your lecturers will take the opportunity to present topics related to the Bay of Bengal and the upcoming visit to the Sundarbans.
Attend a seminar, or relax on the outer decks, letting your Bar Team prepare the refreshment of your choice.
If you think you need some exercise, The Gym will be at hand; if you are more inclined to have a massage, visit The Spa.
Silver Discoverer will be sailing through the Sundarbans up the Mongla River to reach Mongla Port, one of Bangladesh’s important seaports.
While you travel up the river, spend time on the outer decks to get a first impression of the world’s largest mangrove forest. Alternatively, attend lecture presentation or talks to know more about this fascinating part of the Indian subcontinent.
Named after the Sundari trees, the Sundarbans is an area reaching from Bangladesh into India. While the Indian part is a National Park, Bangladesh’s part consists of three Wildlife Sanctuaries. The Sundarbans ecosystem is quite unique, and it is the largest halophytic mangrove forest in the world. It represents the largest mangal diversity in the world with 81 mangal plant species and it provides habitat for the threatened Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). The Indian core area (Sundarbans National Park) has been designated as a World Heritage Site in 1987; the three Wildlife Sanctuaries in Bangladesh were inscribed in 1997. The whole area has the largest amount of the famous Bengal tigers—an estimated 350 of them roam the Sundarbans. These animals however are very hard to see. Other wildlife species present are macaques, Indian grey mongoose, leopard cats, Ridley sea turtle, wild boar, jungle cat, flying foxes, and spotted deers (Chital). The mangrove ecosystem of the Sundarbans is considered to be unique because of its flora and fauna. It is also unique as the mangroves are not only dominant as fringing mangroves along the creeks and backwaters, but also grow along the sides of rivers in muddy as well as in flat, sandy areas.
During the three days you will spend here, Silver Discoverer will be mainly based in the Pashur River. You will be accompanied by local guides and rangers, and the intent is to go ashore at Hiron Point for natural history walks and possibly an exploratory Zodiac cruise. This is where you will pick up local rangers. After your first impressions, head back to Silver Discoverer to escape the mid-day heat. During the late morning, while the ship will reposition to Kokilmoni, attend an informative talk about the Sundarbans by one of the local lecturers.
During the afternoons, take to the Zodiacs to look for aquatic mammals that frequent the tidal waters, including the Ganges dolphin, Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin, Irrawaddy dolphin and finless porpoise. While on land, you might see wild boar, spotted deer, and rhesus macaques.
Birders will be on the look-out for White-bellied Sea Eagles, Brahminy Kites, Intermediate Egrets, Indian Pond Heron, as well as Collared and Black-capped Kingfisher. As the best time for wildlife observation here is around sunset, stay out until late.
Depending on where the Captain has repositioned the ship, you might again board Silver Discoverer near the Kokilmoni Forest Station, where the ship will stay overnight.
In the very early morning of your second and third day in the Sundarbans, you can join a ‘first light’ Zodiac cruise into the mangrove forest. The narrow channels are known to have Stork-billed and Brown-winged Kingfisher, Oriental Magpie Robins, White Wagtails, and many other birds. During your cruises you will take time to drift, which will permit you to hear birdsong all the better.
You might also see some of the local fishermen active on the river. In time for late breakfasts, return to Silver Discoverer and attend more lectures about the Sundarbans, while the ship repositions to Harbaria Forest Station or other points of interest. At Harbaria join a combined Zodiac cruise and natural history walk. Well maintained boardwalks permit you to enter the mangrove forest without engine-noise. Rhesus macaques are regularly seen, but this walk will give a great opportunity to see the different plant species your lecturers talked about: cedar mangrove, cannonball mangrove, sea holly, sea mango, blinding mangrove, nipa palm, and Phoenix palm. Not only will your botanically inclined guests love to take the boardwalk and pathways (groups are always accompanied by one of the rangers), but anybody interested in Nature will want to take this unique opportunity to walk through the world’s largest mangrove forest.
At Moheshkhali, see the real rural Bangladesh.
During the morning, take the Zodiacs to go ashore and to explore the small village with its school and temple. To get a feeling of how the locals live, take local transport (rickshaws and tuk tuks) and visit a Buddhist temple, meeting the monks and getting to know the daily routine of the apprentices and monks themselves. Later visit the school (where any donations will be very welcome) and a group of Burmese weavers will be showing you how they use traditional equipment. The cotton products these ladies prepare will be on offer as well. Visit a small Rakhayn (Burmese) community at Thakur Tala village before heading back by Zodiac to have lunch aboard Silver Discoverer. Moheshkhali is not at all touristy and your visit should be a good opportunity for you to interact with local communities.
In the late afternoon, the hope is to once again take to the Zodiacs, this time to see life on the river banks. See fishermen in little boats or with nets from the shore, and pass areas where small wooden ships are being repaired. Go ashore at Sonadia Island to see one of the fishing camps and get to see the oxen after which the island is named (Mahisa is buffalo in the local language).
St. Martin’s Island and Chera Dwip are Bangladesh’s southernmost islands and are actually connected at low tide. These are the only coralline islands and as such have been protected with only limited access for many years.
Turtles come to nest on the beaches, and the beach morning glories and palm trees give the impression of a South Sea island.
Go ashore to explore the small island and depending on the tide you can swim and snorkel.
Once Silver Discoverer’s has arrived in its first port in Myanmar, you will have a look at the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine State and one of the most important ports along Myanmar’s Bay of Bengal coast.
Visiting the capital, see the Shwezedi monastery, quite important in Myanmar’s modern history. Since Myanmar has recognized more than 135 ethnic groups, the Rakhine State Cultural Museum gives a good overview of this particular ethnic group.
Explore the Kalandan River by Zodiac during the afternoon. Take the Zodiacs not only up the river, but into smaller channels and see one of the local villages. Further inland the river forms the border between India and Myanmar.
With its 15 miles of white beaches, fringed by palm trees, Ngapali has attracted visitors who look for an unspoilt coast and simply want to relax. Go ashore during the afternoon and decide whether you want to unwind on the beach or perhaps do some exercise and hike in the nearby rainforest.
While Silver Discoverer sails along the coast of Ayeyarwady, one of Myanmar’s regions, lecture staff will be on hand to offer a selection of informative and interesting talks and presentations.
The Spa and Gym are other options to spend your time, and you can be pampered by the Bar and Restaurant Teams. The choice is yours.
In the afternoon, the onboard Videographer/Photographer will present the Voyage-DVD.
Silver Discoverer will sail up the Yangon River, and go alongside in the very heart of Yangon. See one of the largest reclining Buddha in the world at the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda and will visit the world-famous 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda. The top of the stupa is said to be adorned with more than 5,400 diamonds and more than 2,300 rubies. So much gold and so many gold leafs have been applied to the pagoda over the centuries that it is estimated the stupa has more gold than the Republic of Myanmar has officially as gold reserves. Venerated as a symbol of architectural perfection the glittering golden stupa is considered the appearance of Gautama Buddha in the present world—certainly a highlight.
To celebrate your arrival into Yangon and the end of the voyage, enjoy a very special evening ashore. At the end of your excursion you will be driven to the Karaweik Palace Restaurant where a myriad of Myanmar flavors along with a cultural presentation of Myanmar traditional music and dances will be another highlight of our voyage.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; use of 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, © James Godfrey