Summary : Enjoy world-class snorkeling and diving in the Seychelles, home to some 850 species of rainbow-hued fish. Spend two full days exploring the magnificent 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. Photograph a variety of sublime vistas, including La Digue, where huge granite boulders and swaying palms frame the picture-perfect white-sand beaches. Discover the unique flora and fauna of Madagascar, including photogenic lemurs, colorful chameleons, and over 100 species of birds. Visit the far-flung islands of Réunion and Mauritius, which boast stunning scenery and a fascinating mélange of cultures.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Snorkeling
Groups of 8 or more people save 10% per person off the cost of the expedition.
$999,999,999 to $0
Board your independent flight to the Seychelles.
Arrive in Mahé and transfer to your hotel for brunch and an afternoon at leisure. Gather this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at your hotel.
After breakfast, visit Mahé’s century-old Botanical Garden for an introduction to 80 indigenous plant species, including five palm species, the vanilla orchid, and the rare jellyfish tree. An abundance of birds inhabit the area as well, including the Seychelles kestrel, Seychelles bulbul, and the rare, endangered Seychelles sunbird. Next enjoy a view of Mahé from the Capuchin Mission before driving inland on the San Souci mountain pass through thick forests and vanilla, cinnamon, and tea plantations. After lunch at a local restaurant, embark the Silver Discoverer and set sail.
Giant granite boulders and swaying palms offset the postcard-perfect white beaches of La Digue. Explore this tranquil island by bike, or take a stroll along picturesque, sandy roads. Pass quaint balconied houses and shops, a vanilla plantation, and a copra factory to reach the small Veuve Nature Reserve, where you may observe the endangered Seychelles paradise-flycatcher in its native habitat. Other common sights include the yellow bittern, Seychelles swiftlet, and common waxbill. Spend time on one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful beaches, Anse La Source d’Argent, to beachcomb, swim, or simply soak in your surroundings.
After lunch on board, step ashore on Praslin to visit enchanting Vallée de Mai National Park, a World Heritage Site. The high-canopied, primeval palm forest is home to 4,000 coco-de-mer palms, which can grow over 100 feet tall and live 800-1,000 years. The palm bears the world’s largest nut, weighing 20 - 40 pounds. Several other endemic palm species, as well as the Seychelles flying fox, populate this magical valley. Keep an eye out as you may spot the rare Seychelles black parrot and other birds of notable interest, including the Seychelles blue-pigeon, cave swiftlet, and Seychelles bulbul. Various walks reveal other unique animals such as bronze-and-green day geckos, the Seychelles skink, and two forms of endemic snail.
The Amirante Islands are named in honor of Portuguese admiral Vasco da Gama’s 1501 visit. Take Zodiacs to Poivre Atoll for beachcombing, nature walks, birding, and a visit to the copra plantation. Snorkel or dive over coral gardens inhabited by brilliantly-hued tropical fish, as manta rays glide through the waters below and black-naped terns soar in the skies above.
Enjoy a relaxing day at sea and attend lectures on the natural history of these fascinating islands.
Spend two full days at magnificent Aldabra, a World Heritage Site, and a highlight of your adventure. With a perimeter of 70 miles, Aldabra is one of the largest atolls in the world, comprising four major islands separated by channels. Because of the atoll’s extreme isolation, many of Aldabra’s species are endemics. Giant Aldabra tortoises—estimated to number over 100,000—roam wild over the islands. Tides permitting, cruise by Zodiac through the narrow passes to drift through a landscape of fascinating eroded limestone topography. The tides have sculpted small islets into fantastical formations known as champignons, or “mushrooms.” Hundreds of lesser and great frigatebirds soar overhead; on land, search for the rare Aldabra white-throated rail, the only flightless bird found on any Indian Ocean island. Robber crabs, whose claws are strong enough to crack coconuts, scamper across the turf. Enjoy an exhilarating drift snorkel where the incoming tide whisks you through the pass and into a lagoon populated by turtles and eagle rays. Visit the small scientific research station on Picard Island and photograph the mighty tortoises of this magical, isolated island that few travelers ever have the privilege to see.
The archipelago of Nosy Hara consists of 12 limestone islands with white-sand beaches, karst rock cliffs, and pristine coral reefs. Board Zodiacs to explore the fascinating geology of this region and step ashore on secluded beaches for nature walks. Spend the afternoon snorkeling to discover the amazing diversity below the waves.
Disembark in Diego Suarez and board 4x4 vehicles for a scenic drive to Mount Amber National Park. Search for rare, localized crowned lemurs, as well as Sanford’s brown lemurs, striped mongoose, and a wealth of birds, including endemic Madagascar crested ibis and Amber Mountain rock-thrushes.
Spend the day at sea attending lectures and joining naturalists on deck to search for sea birds and marine mammals.
Nosy Mangabe is a haven for a variety of wildlife. Species commonly sighted include black-and-white ruffed and brown mouse lemurs, leaf-tailed geckos, tree frogs, and with luck, the world’s smallest vertebrate, the thumbnail-sized dwarf chameleon. Return to the ship for lunch then disembark in Maroantsetra to explore the bustling market, filled with vanilla pods, cloves, and other exotic spices as well as finely woven raffia hats and bags.
Masoala is the largest national park on the island. On hikes through pristine forest search for red-ruffed lemurs, greater hedgehog tenrecs, and ring-tailed mongoose. The park is also home to various species of brightly colored mantella frogs, a variety of extraordinary chameleons of all sizes, and many endemic bird species including the endangered Madagascar red owl and Madagascar serpent eagle.
Relax on deck and attend lectures that highlight our intriguing final ports of call.
Lush, volcanic Réunion is an overseas territory of France. Explore St. Denis, a small colonial town whose pervasive French and Creole ambiance is reflected in picturesque town squares. A breathtaking drive into the island’s dramatic mountains brings you to a volcanic crater for magnificent views. Enjoy a traditional Creole lunch, then continue on to a vanilla plantation to discover the history and the culture of this precious orchid. Birders hope to find the endemic Réunion paradise flycatcher, Réunion stonechat, and Réunion harrier.
Disembark the Silver Discoverer after breakfast and set out on a tour of the island’s scenic highlights. A drive inland takes you up to, and around, the rim of an extinct volcanic crater and the Grand Bassin sacred lake. After lunch visit a magnificent waterfall which cascades over the geologically unique “seven-colored earths of Chamarel.” Birders search the indigenous forest for the endemic pink pigeon, echo parakeet, and Mauritius cuckoo-shrike. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport to board your independent homeward flight.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to weather conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Scuba Diving: Limited to 16 Advance Open Water (AOW) certified scuba divers. You must complete two open water dives within the 12 months prior to the trip’s departure.
Accommodations as outlined in the itinerary, meals onboard and group meals ashore per itinerary, including soft drinks, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner; gear certificate; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; services of the expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; all group activities and excursions; landing and port fees; gratuities; limited emergency medical and evacuation coverage. Subject to change without notice.
All air transportation; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages (other than listed above), email/fax/telephone charges; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.
Photo Credit: La Digue © MPM14