Summary : St. Brandon is a beautiful and untouched string of islands barely visible on any map. Exclusive visiting rights mean two days spent exploring the pristine ecosystem virtually alone are assured. Continue through Madagascar to reach Jacques Cousteau’s “last unprofaned sanctuary on this planet”, Aldabra Island, nourishing your chance of a lifetime to visit and island with over 100,000 giant tortoises.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
$9,500 to $19,400
Embark Silver Discoverer, settle in and attend a mandatory safety drill before leaving port. During the afternoon you will be introduced to some of the important crew-members and your Expedition Team. This evening, become acquainted with the ship and enjoy the first of many fabulous dining experiences in The Restaurant.
Ply the waters of the Cargados Bank in Mauritius for two days so that you might dedicate your time to exploring the islands, coral reefs and turquoise lagoons here in true expeditionary style.
Roughly 40 islands pepper the Bank with a total land mass of 1.3 square kilometers. Meanwhile, the coral reef covers approximately 190 square kilometers. A few of the islands support coconut palms, bushes and grass, but the granulated coral sands are the star of the show. In the distant past, the Cargados Bank was one large volcano, likely formed by tectonic plates dragging over the Reunion hotspot. Explore the fascinating geology, marine life, and bird species here to your heart’s content.
Life on an expedition ship is packed with new experiences, explorations, and inspirational moments. A day at sea is no different, but the relaxed pace of sea time is a welcome balance to every voyage’s adventure. As the miles to Madagascar peel away in the ship's churning wake, you may wish to take advantage of the fascinating lecture series offered aboard. The expedition team is comprised of experts in their fields who bring their subjects to life by sharing images and videos representing a wealth of experience. Enjoy a choice of presentations on offer that will stimulate both thought and conversation aboard the ship.
Be out on deck early this morning as the Silver Discoverer enters the attractive Bay of Diego, and one of the largest natural bays in the world. Enjoy the views as you cruise the eight nautical miles towards Antsiranana, known as Diego Suarez until 1975 and still called Diego by many. Diego Suarez is actually named after the two Portuguese explorers who “discovered” Madagascar in 1506. In fact, their names were Diego Diaz and Fernando Suarez. In 1885, the beginning of the French protectorate, the French Navy built a military base here and urban growth followed. In 1942, the Allies launched Operation Ironclad and landed forces at Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay, just west of Diego Suarez. Hundreds of British soldiers fell in the Battle of Madagascar, and most of them were buried in the special British cemetery in the center of town.
From ‘Diego’ we travel to Montagne d’Ambre (Amber Mountain). This is an isolated patch of montane forest that rises from the surrounding dry region. The park is famous for its waterfalls, crater lakes, and wildlife, especially chameleons. At Joffreville, visit the Domaine de Fontenay, and its 300 hectares of parkland. This former colonial villa with its century-old manor house is the perfect place to relax after a visit to Amber Mountain National Park. Enjoy leisurely natural history walks in the private nature reserve, home to five species of lemur, leaf-tailed geckos and ring-tailed mongoose as well as 15 different waterfalls.
Local authorities will clear the ship into Madagascar on the small island of Nosy Be. Once granted clearance to enter the country, head out to Lokobe Strict Reserve, located on the southern side of Nosy Be. The reserve’s humid evergreen forests are the habitat of endangered black lemurs that only occur in this part of Madagascar. The lemurs are real beauties and while the males are black as the name suggests, the females can be told apart by their rich reddish brown coloration. In addition to black lemurs, other nocturnal lemur species live here such as the gray-backed sportive and mouse lemurs.
The Lokobe Strict Reserve is home to endemic birds including the Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher and the Madagascar Long-eared Owl. Spectacular panther-chameleons, local endemic frogs and several snakes also reside here. After hiking in the western part of the reserve, pay a visit to one of the ylang-ylang distilleries. The fragrant flowers are a basic ingredient for expensive perfumes and are steam-processed to extract the oil. There are so many pleasant fragrances enveloping the island, including ylang-ylang, cocoa, vanilla, coffee, coconut, and cinnamon, that Nosy Be’s potpourri of nature’s scents will give yet another dimension to your visit.
During lunch, Silver Discoverer will reposition to Ampangorina on Nosy Komba’s north coast.
Nosy Komba is a small, attractive volcanic island between Nosy Be and the mainland of Madagascar. The island is covered by a magnificent primal forest and has easily accessible, clean and private beaches that offer great swimming and snorkeling. The dense tropical forest, surrounded by clear waters, is home to a multitude of animals from lemurs and makis macacos, to chameleons, lizards, snakes, spiders, and 19 species of birds. Sea turtles, rays, and dolphins frequent the waters around Nosy Komba.
From Nosy Komba, Silver Discoverer sets a course to the northwest to reach Assumption Island.
Spend a morning at sea crossing a wide stretch of the Indian Ocean bound for Assumption Island. At the small, crescent shaped island (just over 11 square kilometers in size) clear into the Seychelles. After this brief technical stop, Silver Discoverer will continue on her path towards Aldabra.
Aldabra is reputedly the world’s second-largest atoll. For two days Silver Discoverer will anchor off Aldabra for the opportunity to visit this remote part of the Seychelles’ Outer Islands. Aldabra has been described as one of nature’s treasures and it will truly be a privilege to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to its extreme isolation, Aldabra is virtually untouched by humans and its distinctive island fauna includes the Aldabra giant tortoise. About two thirds of the world population of giant tortoises live on Aldabra. As Aldabra lacks freshwater and is difficult to access, the island has not been developed for tourism. Only a handful of smaller ships with special permits are allowed to call at this unique atoll.
Enjoy exhilarating drift snorkels as the incoming tide whisks you into a lagoon populated with eagle rays, turtles, and coral gardens teeming with marine life. Time and tides permitting, cruise via Zodiac through narrow channels between fossilized coral and 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 you along in the magical scene. Conditions permitting, go ashore to visit the small research station on Picard Island and photograph the mighty tortoises living on this isolated spit of land.
Perhaps a sea day is your opportunity to enjoy a late breakfast served in the privacy and comfort of your suite. Later, you may choose to join new friends to savor a sunset cocktail on the aft deck as the sun slips below the horizon. Sea days also present a perfect opportunity to enjoy a workout in the gym, indulge in a massage, or visit the salon. In essence, time at sea is time to get spoiled with the service that only Silversea can offer.
Be sure to take time out today to attend the screening of the voyage’s video recap that your Videographer has been hard at work to create for you. It will feature the highlights of this epic voyage through the seemingly infinite Indian Ocean.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Suite accommodations; Wi-Fi aboard ship; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; butler service onboard ship; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee). 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 (lemur, chameleon)