Summary : Every story must have a beginning, a middle and an end, so start your narrative with a visit to Yala National Park to enjoy a lecture by the inspirational Professor Sarath Kotagama, well-known Ornithologist and Environmentalist. Continue with the pulchritude of the Maldives and their palm-fringed beaches and halcyon seas. Complete your tale by searching Curieuse Island for the legendary Coco de Mer.
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 tea leaves by local women to the weighing, processing and packaging at the factory. A tea tasting will follow to give you the opportunity to sample the varieties available.
Later in the morning explore the ancient Muslim port of Galle. Different political influences from Europe are evident in Galle Fort, which was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British up 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 distinctive local seafood barbecue accompanied by Sri Lankan Baila musicians. The resort also offers you a chance to 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. 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. It is also home to Sri Lankan elephants.
While in the park, enjoy a Champagne forest brunch with a renowned Sri Lankan naturalist who will offer a brief lecture on the ornithological and ecological importance of Yala National Park. Following the day’s activities return to the ship and carry on to Hambantota.
Hambantota is one of the gateways to Sri Lanka. Rich in resources it is moving progressively into a central role in the development of the southern region of Sri Lanka. Traditionally an agricultural area, the region is also known for having some of the country’s most skilled jewelers and crafts people. Briefly stop in Hambantota to clear out of the country.
Make full use of your small, maneuverable ship while you cover the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean. Your lecturers will offer talks preparing you for our visit to the Maldives, be it about the historical aspects or natural history. In addition you can unwind, relax, and make use of the gym or Spa, and other amenities Silver Discoverer has on offer.
Uligamu is one of the northernmost inhabited islands of Haa Alif Atoll and the Maldives. Because of 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, providing the island more efficient and non-polluting energy.
After Silver Discoverer is cleared into the Maldives in Uligamu, we will have an opportunity to look around this small community of some 300 inhabitants.
The Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve comprises 75 islands, 13 of which are inhabited by a population of approximately 12,000 people. Corals are common in the area and 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 also frequent the area which was designated as a Marine Protected Area in 2009.
Explore the shallow lagoon including a small vegetated sand cay on the western corner of the reef. The lagoon is dominated by sand and has no direct channels to the ocean. This makes it a favorite site for turtles and seabirds that nest ashore. On the south-eastern side, a small bay attracts marine 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, an uninhabited island located at the southern end of Baa Atoll. The island, lagoon and the surrounding reef area is all protected by law. Olhugiri is one of two islands in the entire Maldives that boasts regularly roosting frigatebirds, mainly Lesser Frigate (Fregata ariel), and Red-billed Tropicbirds. The island’s beaches are also used by turtles for nesting.
Male is one of the smallest capitals in the world in terms of its physical size, yet a third of the country’s population live in Male. Different from any other island in the country, Male has high-rise buildings and paved roads. . A stroll around the fish market and the local market at the northern waterfront offer an insight into the local trade of this area.
Male also houses a handful of architectural gems that you will have an opportunity to see on your tour of the city. The Grand Friday Mosque opened in 1984, is one of the largest in South Asia admitting over 5000 people. Today, buildings around the city reflect its heritage. For example, the Sultans Palace was built to house the Presidents of the Maldives and is still used. The Sultan’s Park and national Museum are also highlights. Built over the remains of the old Sultans palace; the park is one of the few green spots in Male. The national Museum lies inside the park and houses many cultural artifacts, ranging from stone objects to fragments of royal antiquities from the Buddhist era to the rule of Islamic monarchs.
During lunch, Silver Discoverer will relocate five miles and thereby leave civilization behind. By early afternoon go ashore at Kuda Bandos, a small and peaceful little sandy island. The uninhabited spot has perfect beaches and the snorkeling is spectacular. Unwind on the beach or continue your underwater explorations.
Atolls are a geographical marvel, and Maldivian reefs are home to the richest biodiversity in the region. The Maldives account for 5% of the world’s reefs where thousands of fish swimming around the vivid corals can be just a few feet, sometimes just inches away from you.
Meemu Atoll has a population of 6500 inhabitants who are concentrated on nine of its 33 islands. Set like pearls on a necklace, the islands circle the lagoon. This morning visit a small Maldivian paradise with palm-fringed beaches, mangroves and a reef for snorkelers who will want to explore the underwater realm.
Let your Marine Biologist introduce and orient you to the wonders lying below the water, while your Ornithologist looks for terns, boobies, gulls and herons. In fact, more than 160 species of birds are known in the Maldives.
The Maldives are made up of 1190 islands, of which 200 are inhabited. Addu is the southernmost of the Maldives’ atolls and Addu City is one of only two cities in the Maldives. Since Addu is some 540 kilometers south of Male, there is even an international airport on Gan, one of Addu Atoll’s islands.
Hithadoo is the westernmost part of Addu City and has the morning to explore both land and sea. The Expedition Team will accompany you on walks looking for birds and other wildlife, while your marine biologist will be there to show you some exceptional reefs and underwater creatures.
To cover the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, be at sea for three days.Your lecturers will offer talks preparing you for your visit to the Seychelles. Attend seminars and workshops on offer, join discussions, relax on the outer decks, or make use of the Gym and Spa.
Your Executive Chef and his or her team may offer demonstrations of the preparation of special culinary highlights, while the bar team will likely entertain and educate you further about wines and spirits.
Arriving in the late morning, Silver Discoverer will be cleared into the Seychelles before you can explore Praslin Island. This is the site of the fabulous Vallée de Mai, one of Seychelles’ two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Disembark via Zodiac to the picturesque Baie Ste Anne jetty. From here 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 10 km by 3.7 km. 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 Vallee de Mai headed for the Cote d’Or Beach. Have time for a swim or stroll along this beautiful beach before returning to the ship for the evening.
Aride is the northernmost island of the granitic Seychelles and is largely covered in native woodland, including the endemic Wright’s Gardenia, a shrub with beautifully scented flowers found nowhere else in the world. In addition, the island hosts one of the most important seabird populations in the Indian Ocean, with more breeding species than any other island in the Seychelles. Over one million individual seabirds can be found breeding on Aride. This includes the world’s largest colonies of Lesser Noddy and Tropical Shearwater, the world’s only hilltop colony of Sooty Terns, and the western Indian Ocean’s largest colony of Roseate Tern. The island also has the only breeding colony of Red-tailed Tropicbird east of Aldabra and huge numbers of Brown Noddy, White Tern and Wedge-tailed Shearwater. Thousands of Great Frigatebirds and Lesser Frigatebirds soar over the northern cliffs.
During lunch Silver Discoverer repositions to Curieuse Island with its tragic history. Curieuse was a leper colony until 1965 and the doctor’s residence, which dates from the 1870s, is a museum and educational center today. More than 500 tortoises walk around the island amidst eight different species of mangrove trees. Birders will look for the Seychelles Black Parrot in rare and protected Coco de Mer trees. Whatever you choose to do on Curieuse Island, be sure to make the most of your final outing of the 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; 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 Expeditions, © Bruno Cazarini (rocks and surf, fish)