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The Indian Ocean – UNESCO Atolls, Islands, and Spices

Indian Ocean Cruise

Summary : Visit the Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, pronounced the ‘last unprofaned sanctuary on this planet’ by Jacques Cousteau with over 100,000 giant tortoises living on the island! Discover the history and spices of Zanzibar. Observe giant tortoises, and watch for dolphins and whales. Enjoy the beaches and underwater-world of vast lagoons and tropical islands on this trip of a lifetime!

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


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Day 1
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Embark the 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 the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager invite you to the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.

Day 2
At Sea

Unwind from your travels to the Silver Discoverer and relax on the open decks, visit the Spa or gym. Follow the lecturers in their presentations about the natural history of the Indian Ocean’s islands and animals.

Tonight the Captain will invite you to the Captain’s welcome cocktail party while the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager will invite you to The Restaurant and the welcome dinner.

Day 3
Uligamu, Maldives

The Maldives are made up of 1,190 islands, of which 200 are inhabited. Atolls are the perfect place to unwind on a beach and watch the waves lapping onto the sand. These islands are also a geographical marvel, where thousands of fish swimming around the vivid corals are just a few feet away from where you sit.

Uligamu is 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.

With only 300 inhabitants, this small island has been selected as the first in the Maldives to use a combination of renewable energies via wind turbines and solar panels.

Day 4
Hanifaru / Olhugiri, Maldives

The Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve comprises 75 islands, 13 of which are inhabited by a population of approximately 12,000 people.

Maldivian coral reefs support a high diversity of reef animals, including some 250 species of soft and hard corals and 1,200 reef and reef-associated fish species. Hanifaru Bay and its resources were designated as a Marine Protected Area in 2009. Hawksbill and green turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and different species of seabirds use the reserve. Napoleon wrasses and tawny nurse sharks frequent the area. Since this is also a Core Area of the Biosphere Reserve scuba diving activities within the area are not allowed.

A small vegetated sand cay is located on the western corner of the reef and the lagoon is relatively shallow, dominated by sand and has no direct channels to the ocean. Turtles and seabirds utilize the island for nesting purposes. On the south-eastern side a small bay attracts mega fauna and at certain times over 250 individual manta rays and several whale sharks have been recorded actively feeding in this area –obviously, such numbers are exceptional.

In the afternoon, visit tiny Olhugiri. Olhugiri Island is an uninhabited island located at the southern end of Baa Atoll. The island, lagoon and the surrounding reef area are protected. Olhugiri is one of two islands in the entire Maldives with regular roosting frigatebirds, mainly Lesser Frigate (Fregata ariel), and Red-billed Tropicbirds. The island’s beaches are used by turtles for nesting.

Day 5
Meemu Atoll, Maldives

Meemu Atoll has a population of 6,500 inhabitants and 33 islands, of which 9 are inhabited. Set like pearls on a necklace the islands circle the lagoon, which snorkelers will want to inspect at Maalhaveli — to see amazing underwater creatures. The surrounding coral reefs and dive sites are virtually pristine, with intact and healthy corals and an abundance of aquatic life where manta rays, turtles, reef sharks and all manner of tropical reef fish can be seen.

During the afternoon, head south. The lecturers will introduce you to further wonders lying ahead, both above and below the water.

Day 6
Addu Atoll, Maldives

Addu is the southernmost of the Maldives’ atolls and Addu City is one of only two cities in the Maldives.

Explore both land and sea. The Expedition Team will accompany you on walks looking for birds and other wildlife, while the Marine Biologist(s) will be there to show you some exceptional reefs and underwater creatures.

Day 7 – 9
At Sea

To cover the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, you will be at sea for three days. The lecturers will offer talks preparing you for your visit to the Seychelles, be it about its historical aspects or natural history. In addition you can unwind, relax, and make use of the gym or Spa, or any of the other amenities Silver Discoverer can offer.

Day 10
Mahe, Seychelles

Silver Discoverer will clear into the Seychelles in Victoria, on the island of Mahe, during the morning.

Explore Mahe which is home to almost 90% of the country’s inhabitants. The forests have rare endemic plants found only in the Seychelles. Apart from the forests there are three Marine Parks protecting underwater life.

A visit to the nation’s capital Victoria would have to include ‘Big Ben’, the local version of England’s iconic building. To get an idea of the wide variety of plants found in the tropics, stroll through the Botanic Gardens. A good viewpoint towards Morne Seychellois, the island’s highest point, is from the former Capuchin Mission.

Day 11
La Digue / Praslin, Seychelles

La Digue probably is the best-known island of the Seychelles since its rock formations are spectacular. The huge granite boulders that are scattered along the shore resemble modern art sculptures and have been featured in many books and on many postcards. Apart from its brilliant white beaches and strangely shaped rocks, the island has a nature reserve and colonial houses — all making for excellent photography. Take a step back in time and visit L’Union Estate — see a traditional copra mill and kiln and watch the antics of the estate’s population of giant land tortoises or stroll around the Plantation House framed by giant granite boulders in landscaped gardens. This is classified as a National Monument.

The estate is also home to the cemetery of the original settlers of La Digue and to one of the most pristine beaches in the Seychelles — the legendary Source d’Argent — among the most photographed beaches on earth.

During lunch Silver Discoverer will re-position and anchor off Praslin Island, the site of the vibrant Vallée de Mai, one of Seychelles’ two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Disembark after lunch via Zodiac to picturesque Baie Ste Anne jetty, to drive up the scenic coastal road through a quaint fishing village and dense forest of contrasting shades of green, to Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. With a population of 6,500 people, Praslin, Seychelles’ second largest island, measures only 10km by 3.7km, but it has substantial tracts of tropical forests with over 6,000 Coco-de-Mer palms with enormous fan-shaped fronds. These trees can grow more than 100 feet tall, living 800-1,000 years and are home to endemic birds, such as the Seychelles Bulbul and the Seychelles Black Parrot. During your walking tour, you will discover this mystical World Heritage Site famous for the Coco de Mer — the largest seed in the plant kingdom weighing up to 40 pounds. Capture the cathedral feel of this primeval forest and listen for the high-pitched whistles of the Black Parrot. Later, depart Vallée de Mai for Cote d’Or Beach, where you have time for an afternoon swim or stroll along this beautiful beach. Enjoy afternoon refreshments before heading back to Silver Discoverer in time for dinner.

Day 12
Desroches Island, Seychelles

Desroches Island is one of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles and the main island of the Amirante Islands. Located 230 km southwest of Mahé, it has a land area of only 3.24 km², but 15 kilometers of fine sand beaches. The northern part of the island is run as a coconut plantation and farm, and there is a settlement on the northern shore. The first coconut plantations were started in 1875 and copra is still processed on the island before being transported to Mahé. Spend the morning exploring Desroches’ beautiful beach, returning to Silver Discoverer for lunch.

During the afternoon, the lecture program will prepare you for another spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 13
At Sea

Lecturers will continue to provide several talks and seminars to prepare you for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aldabra Atoll.

The atoll of Aldabra is one of the best-researched atoll ecosystems in the world as a scientific research station was established there and research has gone on and is going on -and our Marine Biologist, Botanist and Ornithologist will all want to explain what makes the island and its inhabitants so special.

Day 14 – 15
Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles

Part of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles, Aldabra is reputedly the world’s second-largest atoll and has been described as “one of nature’s treasures”, a “sanctuary”, and it will truly be a privilege to be able to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Because of its extreme isolation, Aldabra is virtually untouched by humans. Its distinctive island fauna includes the Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea). About two thirds of the world population of giant tortoises lives on Aldabra. As Aldabra lacks freshwater and is difficult to access, Aldabra has not been developed for tourism. No airport has been built, and only a handful of smaller ships (with special permits) are allowed to call at this unique atoll.

Silver Discoverer will anchor off Aldabra for two days. Enjoy exhilarating drift snorkels as the incoming tide whisks us into a lagoon populated with eagle rays, turtles, and coral gardens teeming with marine life. Time and tides permitting, we cruise via Zodiac through narrow channels between fossilized coral islands, and cruise between mangrove-covered islands to observe large colonies of nesting boobies and Great Frigatebirds soaring overhead. As the tides pump water in and out of the lagoon, massive numbers of fish come and go through channels to feed. Snorkel in these same channels, allowing the current to carry us along a magical scene.

Go ashore to visit the small scientific research station on Picard Island and photograph the mighty tortoises living on this isolated island that few travelers have the privilege to see.

Day 16
At Sea

Silver Discoverer will head for the Spice Islands -as the archipelago around Zanzibar was known in former days. Lecturers will prepare you for a visit to Zanzibar and its truly surprising history of European and Arabian influence and the trade that made Zanzibar famous.

Day 17
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Today you visit the last UNESCO World Heritage Site of our voyage: Stone Town — a fine example of a Swahili coastal trading town. At the City Market, see and smell the tropical fruits that are on offer and the freshly ground spices. Within walking distance is the Anglican Church, built over the old Great Slave Market. Slaves from all over East Africa had once been brought here and had been kept in underground chambers.

The next stop will be a spice farm in the countryside. To get there you will drive past the Old Arab Fort.

At the spice farm you will have a guided tour and can taste some of the exotic spices and fruits grown here. The different plants are grown for food flavoring, for cosmetics, as dyes and for traditional medicine. The visit to the spice farm will be followed by lunch at a beach resort and free time at the beach for swimming, beachcombing or relaxation.

Alternatively you might want to go swimming and snorkeling at a Sandbank. To get there you will be taken by traditional sailing dhows. The crystal clear waters invite you to explore the underwater world, looking for coral and fishes.

Day 18
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

After breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.


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

Diving Program: 
The program is complimentary; however, space is limited and thus booking early is recommended. Dives are dependent upon the conditions. Divers must have a current Advanced Open Water Dive License or equivalent from an accredited Certification Agency which will need to be provided before embarking the vessel. Certification must be active and logbooks must show evidence that each guest has been diving within 12 months prior to the voyage. Medical Dive Travel Insurance for evacuation, medical treatment and repatriation is required. Guests must bring their own BCD vests and regulators. Weight belts, tanks, masks and fins will be provided free of charge onboard Silver Discoverer.

Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; diving; 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, © Bruno Cazarini (rocks and surf, fish)

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