Summary : Much more than a honeymooner’s haven, the Indian Ocean Islands are not only white sands and clear seas. Picturesque and paradisiacal, of course, but also a breeding site for frigatebirds, red-billed tropic birds and nesting turtles. Five new destinations allow you to stray from the travel brochures and get to know the small uninhabited islands and villages, as well as the chance to enjoy a unique Keralan experience.
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.
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. 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. Therefore Hanifaru Bay and its resources were designated as a Marine Protected Area in 2009. 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 megafauna 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 is protected. Olhugiri is one of two islands in the entire Maldives with regular roosting frigatebirds, mainly Lesser Frigatebirds, and Red-billed Tropicbirds. The island’s beaches are used by turtles for nesting.
One of the northernmost little islands in the Maldives, Vangaaru offers picture perfect white sand beaches, a barrier reefs, and on land tall coconut trees. If you are keen on snorkeling you might encounter manta rays or moray eels. Black sea cucumbers scour the sandy bottom for food while and snorkelers will have views of myriads of fish. A stroll onshore will reveal countless hermit crabs and innumerable shells, and the occasional shorebirds.
Just slightly to the east of Vangaaru, 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. 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, helping the island through more efficient and non-pollutant energy distribution.
While Silver Discoverer is cleared out of the Maldives in Uligamu, have a look at the community of some 300 inhabitants.
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 about 10.6 km long and is the second largest island in the Lakshadweep Group and is almost completely covered with coconut trees.
Not only will Minicoy be your entrance point to India, this morning's stop 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 lion fish to angel fish 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 hawks bill turtles. It is believed that several shipwrecks initiated construction of the 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.
Perumal Par, a submerged bank has some of the most beautiful and virgin reefs in the world. One can discover a whole new underwater world at this reef in almost total solitude. Not too far to the east are Thinnakara Island and Bangaram Island, both sharing a vast lagoon and coralline banks, the actual lagoon area amounts to 125 square kms.
Thinnakara is a tiny teardrop shaped island whose panorama encompasses the magnificent lagoon, sun-drenched sand and the enchantment of swaying palms, spectacular marine flora and fauna. A shallow lagoon enclosed by a coral reef surrounds the island. Here the sun, sand and surf cast a spell on its visitors. The crystal clear water, the coral reef and blue lagoon perform magic. A sense of well-being may well take over, as one discovers the graceful school of fish, hermit crabs and seabirds in lush coconut groves.
Cheriyam is one of the easternmost islands in the Lakshadweep Archipelago. Together with Kalpeni it sits on the same eastern side of an atoll of roughly 26 square kilometers. Cheriyam is the northernmost of the two, and although owned by the 49 families of Kalpeni, it has only 10 inhabitants. A road leads from the small settlement to a lighthouse on the northern tip.
Officials and representatives of Kalpeni will come to meet us and umbrellas, chairs and tables will have been set up to relax on the beach and under the trees. The reef wall drops steeply and is alive with fish. The island has clear, shallow lagoon waters not only ideal for sea cucumbers but also for relaxing moments in the water. Perhaps you will choose to relax in the shade, take walks on the wonderful beach, explore a little inland amongst the coconut groves, or snorkel off by Zodiac and swim from the beach.
Beypore is located in Kozhikode at the mouth of the Chaliyar River. Historically, it was an important trade and maritime center during the days of the early Arab, Chinese and later the European voyages. 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 may witness wooden Dhows being built or proceed to Feroke Tile factory. Feroke is the cradle of the tile industry in Kerala. 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 & dye, block and screen printing are taught.
Continue to Calicut for a Kalaripayattu performance – 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 a sumptuous Mopilah lunch which will be specially catered by a celebrity chef – Mrs. Faiza Moosa. After the lunch, be driven to the busiest street in Kozhikode to try a variety of local Halwa. Today the street bustles with shops that sell anything and everything including locally famous sweets and banana chips.
The next two days are spent in southern India’s port of Cochin, in the state of Kerala. Because of the location between China and Europe and the spice trade, the port and town have had many foreign powers interested in this area. Since Cochin was an important spice trading center and had easy access to the sea it used to be called “Queen of the Arabian Sea”. Once cleared into India, be welcomed with a traditional Kerala shinkari melam, a group of 18 musicians playing traditional instruments.
Setting out from the port, 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. 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” a typical Keralan snack with tea, south Indian coffee and fruit juices will be served.
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. The Christians of Kerala are known for their cuisine 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 a celebrity chef. The Mopilah are Muslims from the Malabar region and known for their food.
From the gallery you will take local Tuk-Tuks (open 2-seater taxis) to reach the Mattancheri Palace built by the Raja of Kochi. Visit the Palace, walk to the Jewish Synagogue and Dutch Palace and will have some spare time to wander around looking at souvenir and antique shops before being taken back to Silver Discoverer by local boats.
Visit the largest wooden palace in India, dating back to the 16th century. The palace is a fine specimen of Keralan architecture with antique interiors, intricate rosewood carvings and sculpted décor. The sheer size, style and materials are overwhelming. The palace used to feed 2000 people on a daily basis with a hall able to accommodate everyone.
During the afternoon Silver Discoverer will leave and head for Sri Lanka and Galle.
During the morning your on board Videographer will screen your documentary-style voyage video.
Once Silver Discoverer has cleared into Sri Lanka, 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 we will also see the Arab quarter with its distinctly Moorish touch.
Enjoy a High Tea at the Rampart Hotel before returning back to Silver Discoverer.
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)