Summary : The subcontinent of India remains a mystery to all—whether you have never been or know it well. The astounding, not to mention outstanding, variety of culture and nature never fail to charm all who fall under its spell. Begin by taking in the untouched Lakshadweep islands as you gather momentum towards colorful Bollywood, this is a voyage that is both graceful and spiritual, from the Maldives to Mumba.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$7,300 to $13,600
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.
The Maldives are made up of 1,190 islands, of which 200 are inhabited, and during the morning Silver Discoverer will head for Uligamu, one of the northernmost inhabited islands of Haa Alif Atoll and the Maldives. Based on its location the island is visited by many yachts on their way into or out of the Arabian Sea.
Expedition Staff will start the lecture series during the morning, preparing you for the underwater world you will encounter during the next few days in the Maldives and Lakshadweep Islands.
Disembark after lunch, and while you might want to have a look at the small community of some 300 inhabitants, the Marine Biologist will be looking for the perfect snorkeling spot southwest of the village.
The island has been selected as the first in the Maldives to use a combination of renewable energies via wind turbines and solar panels in a micro grid, hoping to help the island through more efficient and non-pollutant energy distribution.
South of the village is a nice beach and offshore are some good snorkeling sites where damselfish, rabbitfish, surgeonfish, angelfish, butterfly fish and chromis can easily be seen. Hawksbill turtles and even manta rays were present during previous visits.
Largely unexplored and unknown, both above and below the water, the Lakshadweep Sea is home to 36 little islands, one of the most spectacular tropical island systems. Most of the islands are inhabited only by birds and hermit crabs. The precious heritage of the Lakshadweep’s ecology and culture is supported by an extremely fragile ecosystem.
The southernmost island of the group in the Lakshadweep, Minicoy, is geographically isolated from other islands. The culture here is a mix of Maldivian and South Indian. Minicoy is the second largest island in the Lakshadweep Group and is almost completely covered with coconut palms.
Not only will Minicoy be the entrance point to India, this visit can be used to explore the island with its many coconut palm trees and nice beaches. The island itself is the southern part of a tear-shaped atoll. In the unspoiled waters of the lagoon, living coral reefs of vibrant blue, green, and yellow ring the island and are home to many colorful reef fish, from lionfish to angelfish to butterfly fish. In the clear blue water, you will see a spectacular display of ocean life, including squid, octopi, sea cucumbers, rays, crabs, and even green or hawksbill turtles. Several shipwrecks in the area initiated construction of a lighthouse in 1885. These wrecks are virtual underwater museums and fish species found here are said to be larger than average normal size found elsewhere.
Today Silver Discoverer will reach another of the rarely visited atolls of the Lakshadweep Islands. The 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 ashore, conditions permitting. Ashore the hope is to offer activities such as walks along the beach, beachcombing, looking for birds or explaining the local botany.
North of Suheli are Thinnakara Island and Bangaram Island—both share a vast lagoon and coralline banks. Thinnakara is a tiny almond 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 morning 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.
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.
Beypore is located in Kozhikode at the mouth of the Chaliyar River. Formerly known as Calicut it was an important center for Malabar trade in spices and textiles. The shipbuilding yard at Beypore port is famous for its traditional construction of the ‘Uru’ or the Arabian trading vessel. This tradition of shipbuilding is nearly 1,500 years old, and the craftsmanship of the workers here is exceptional.
You will either witness wooden Dhows being built or will proceed to Feroke Tile factory. Feroke is the cradle of the tile industry in Kerala. Then proceed by coach to the nearby weaving Center Tasara, a creative and experimental weaving center where hand weaving and all related textile activities including, dyeing, batik, tie and dye, block and screen printing are taught.
Continue to Calicut, to a venue for an exclusive use and refreshments followed by a Kalaripayattu performance which is the training in the traditional style of combat. The rituals include the worship of certain Hindu gods inside the Kalari, the arena. After the Kalaripayattu performance, treat yourself to another sumptuous Mopilah lunch.
After the lunch, you will be driven to the busiest street in Kozhikode to try a variety of local halwa (sweet meats). Today the street bustles with shops that sell anything and everything including locally famous sweets and banana chips.
Silver Discoverer will sail on a northerly course, giving you time to attend a seminar or talk, relax on the outer decks, make use of The Gym or let yourself be pampered in The Spa.
Experts will want to share information regarding your upcoming port and its Portuguese heritage. Even the name of the largest city in Goa reflects the early European history, honoring Portugal’s most famous explorer Vasco da Gama.
Today 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.
During the late morning, Silver Discoverer will arrive at Murud-Janjira, one of the most unusual old fortifications along India’s coast. This island fortification set on an oval rock just offshore from Rajapuri defended the entrance to Rajapuri Creek. Built in the 17th century and apparently never defeated, it is said to have housed more than 570 cannons at one stage including some of India’s biggest cannons.
Go ashore to explore the interior of this marine fort, looking at the bastions, cannons, the two freshwater ponds, and the remains of the officers’ quarters, the mosque and the palace.
Quite early, Silver Discoverer will go alongside in Mumbai. There will be several interesting choices for you: see ancient sites relating to Buddhist worship in the Kanheri Caves located in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park or the network of the sculpted Elephanta Caves (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) on Elephanta Island, a cave temple complex dedicated to Shiva with magnificent sculptures, including the masterpiece of Shiva, representing the three aspects of Shiva as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.
You can also look behind the façade of Mumbai’s daily life by visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly the Victoria Terminus), one of India’s busiest train stations built in the Gothic style dating back to 1887-1888, traveling with a local train, visiting a local market, or trying some of the world’s best teas in a local tea house in Mumbai. While you do so you are bound to see the dabbawallah delivering meals or perhaps the washers at Dhobi Ghat, considered the world’s largest outdoor laundry.
If you would like to compare American or European film-making with India’s industry, have an in-depth look at one of the Bollywood studios and try your hand at dancing with a professional Bollywood dance team.
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, © Ralph Lee Hopkins (turtle)