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Mauritius to Dar es Salaam
Join us aboard the MS Serenissima for this unique island hopping expedition through the Indian Ocean which will appeal to those who enjoy the natural world and all its wonders, travelling on small ships and staying clear of the well-beaten tourist tracks. The delightful MS Serenissima with her fleet of Zodiac landing craft is the perfect vessel for such an enterprise. With just 95 guests she is a far cry from the latest breed of cruise ships and can visit small islands and backwaters that are denied to larger vessels. Your experience will be made all the more memorable by the expert crew and officers, who along with our expedition team of marine biologists, ornithologists and botanists have many years of experience in the Indian Ocean and will provide commentary on all we see. Setting sail from Mauritius we will land on its nearest neighbour, Reunion, a little bit of France in the Indian Ocean and a truly stunning place. We will spend the day exploring its truly awesome and dramatic landscape before continuing to Madagascar where we will have four days to explore the incredible verdant and beautiful island and its unique flora and fauna. Continuing to the Seychelles, for many the highlight of the voyage will be our time spent exploring the Aldabra Islands, the breeding ground of the giant tortoise and in addition to seeing some of these endearing creatures we should also encounter dolphins and turtles as well as countless birds including the flightless rail, the last flightless bird in the Indian Ocean. To explore the abundant crystal clear waters of the vast lagoon and to set foot on atolls which have never been exploited by the hand of man is a rare experience. This itinerary is a veritable feast of beauty and the natural world. You will witness the bounty of the islands, the wildlife from the lemurs of Madagascar to the giant tortoises of Aldabra, an amazingly prolific birdlife and a mesmerising underwater life.
Arrive independantly and transfer to the Tamassa Resort for an overnight stay. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the hotel facilities before we meet for dinner in the hotel this evening.
Enjoy breakfast in the hotel and a morning at leisure. After checking out we will take an island tour including the Trou-aux- Cerfs volcano, the Grand Bassin Lake and Black River Gorges before transferring to the MS Serenissima in the late afternoon. Enjoy Welcome Drinks and Dinner as we sail tonight.
We arrive at breakfast in Reunion where we have a choice of excursions. On a full day tour, we will visit the central highlands where spectacularly rugged peaks of dormant or extinct volcanoes cradle huge amphitheatres known as cirques, where mountains tower to over 10,000 feet and beautiful waterfalls plummet hundreds of feet. Fields of sugar cane and plantations of tropical fruits, vanilla and all manner of spices perfume the air. We will enjoy views from the Nez des Bouefs and see the Piton de la Fournaise crater. After enjoying a creole lunch in a local restaurant, we will visit the “Cite du Volcan” museum. Alternatively enjoy a morning tour to a vanilla plantation in St Andre where we learn about the history and culture of this integral part of Reunion’s heritage. We will also enjoy some free time in St Denis before returning to the MS Serenissima for lunch. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before we set sail this evening.
Enjoy a day at sea as we cross to Madagascar.
Our first call in Madagascar is at Ile Sainte Marie, also known as Nosy Bohara, a lush tropical island offering sandy beaches, coral reefs and natural beauty. This morning we will explore the capital of Ambodifotatra including the oldest church in Madagascar built in 1837 and the vibrant market. Over lunch we sail the short distance to La Crique and Natiora. Here we will use the Zodiacs to land on the beach from where our naturalists will lead some walks into the gardens and small forest. Alternatively enjoy the chance for a swim or snorkel off the beach.
Spend a day and a half in Antongil Bay where we find Madagascar’s largest protected area, the Masoala National Park, which comprises of coastal rainforest, flooded forests, marsh and mangroves. Mammal species encountered include the red-ruffed lemur, the red-fronted brown lemur and the ring -tailed mongoose. The park is also home to various species of brightly coloured Mantella frogs and all manner of extraordinary chameleons. Masoala is also a refuge of the endangered Madagascar red-owl and Madagascar serpent eagle and many endemic bird species. We will run a series of walks for all levels during the day whilst you also have the option to swim off the beach or perhaps visit the local village. Also visit Nosy Mangabe, a 520-hectare island reserve and one of the most diverse areas of virgin rain forest in Madagascar which has also been an important research centre since the mid-1960s when several aye-ayes and lemurs were released into the forest. We will use our Zodiacs to land on the beach next to the forest and organise a series of nature walks looking at the varied trees, plants and ferns and hope to spot chameleon, lizards and black and white ruffed lemur. For the birders we will keep an eye out for Madagascar buzzard, kingfisher and paradise flycatchers.
Over lunch we will enter dramatic Diego Suarez, a stunning natural harbour with a cosmopolitan mix of inhabitants including Creoles, Indians, Chinese, Comorans and Arabs. This afternoon choose from a city tour visiting the Commonwealth Cemetery and Place Joffre, or the Malagasy Rain Forest at the Mount Amber National Park. Dividing into short and long walk parties we will go in search of lemurs and chameleons as we explore the rain forest. In the towering vegetation, we may spot several species of lemurs and chameleons as well as endemic birds, including parrots.
After a morning at sea we arrive into the Aldabra group of islands and have two and a half days to explore. Our itinerary will be in the hands of our Expedition Leader and Captain who will monitor the local conditions to ensure we maximise our time here. Whilst our itinerary is flexible we will hope to call at the island of Assumption which was ruthlessly plundered for its vast deposits of guano in the early 20th century. Happily, peace has returned, and the wildlife of rare birds and green turtles are once again in abundance. Our time here will be spent beachcombing, on a nature walk or snorkelling. We also hope to reach Cosmoledo where a huge ring of twelve islands circle a lagoon. Many of the atolls are still to be surveyed and we will explore some of them by Zodiac. This is an important bird area with all three species of booby found in the Seychelles including the last breeding site for the brown booby. Also spot sooty terns and great frigate birds. We will also spend time on Aldabra, the island referred to by Sir Julian Huxley as “One of nature’s treasures and should belong to the whole world”. Aldabra is unique and every time we call at what is believed to be the world’s largest atoll we find something new of interest. Sightings have been made of the extremely rare white throated rail and the atoll is also home to the world’s second largest colony of frigate birds and to the largest crab, the coconut crab. Whilst exploring by Zodiac it is difficult to know in which direction to look. The clear blue seas abound with life, the skies are alive with varied birdlife and ashore giant land tortoises forage as they have done for millions of years. We hope to explore Picard Island with a short walk to see some of the thousands of tortoises and numerous robber crabsand see the lagoon, a vast 17 mile stretch of shallow clear water. From our Zodiacs we can watch the ever-changing undersea world and snorkel in colourful coral waters.
Spend a relaxing day at sea.
Once a prominent stopover for ships on the trade routes from East Africa, Mafia Island has not seen the same development as nearby Zanzibar and remains relatively unknown and off the major tourist trail but is a wonderful spot to spend the day. There will be a choice of tours today. Between October and February, the island is home to large numbers of whale sharks and we will embark local boats to search for these beautiful creatures with our knowledgeable guides. If conditions allow we may also be able to swim alongside them. (Please note numbers are limited for whale sharks tour). Alternatively, we will land by Zodiac before embarking local dhows to cross to Chole Island. Here we will take a walking tour through the town seeing the local school, hospital, education centre, dhow building yard and ancient ruins. The village of Chole is traditionally famous for its weaving of the date palm fibres (ukindu) to make brightly coloured baskets, placemats and floor mats (mikeka and misuala) which we will see at the local market.
Here the colourful harbour will be crowded with dhows, very much setting the scene for our visit to the Arab style city with its long narrow streets, bazaars, houses with overhanging balconies and intricately carved doorways. On a morning tour, soak up the timeless atmosphere of Stone Town including Livingstone House, Sultan’s Palace, the slave market and the Old Fort. The afternoon is free to relax and explore independently or join a tour to a spice farm to experience the various fruits and spices cultivated on the island. Alternatively, join a tour to the Jozani Forest which sustains a variety of wildlife and birds, including the rare Red Colobus Monkey, indigenous to the island.
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your onward flight
Itineraries are subject to change.
Vessel Type: Small Ship Length: 87 metres Passenger Capacity: 95 Built / refurbished: 1960 / 2013 / 2019 MS Serenissima is a charming vessel and one of her best known and loved features of this vessel is its unique style. During a major refit the then owners commissioned Swedish interior designers to create a Gustavian style interior. This bright Swedish 18th century influenced, country house style works particularly well on a vessel of this vintage, providing intimacy and classic nautical sensibility often lacking in larger vessels. The vessel is equipped with a fleet of Zodiac landing craft allowing us to visit remote places where normal tender arrangements are not possible. The European Captain, Officers, Expedition Staff, and crew offer a first class service and have been selected for their professionalism and caring attitudes. The atmosphere on board is warm and welcoming and dedicated to discovery and relaxation. AIR-CONDITIONING The ship is air conditioned throughout. Please note that only the Serenissima Suites have individually controlled air-conditioning. DAILY PROGRAMME A Daily Programme, detailing the following day’s arrangements as well as any specific information about the day’s activities is produced onboard and delivered to your cabin each evening during the turn down service. DINING, DRINKING AND DIETARY REQUIREMENTS The Venice Restaurant onboard serves international cuisine and accommodates all guests at a single open seating. Tables seat 4 to 10 diners. In addition, there is an outside dining area for when the weather and itinerary permit. Breakfast and lunch are both buffet style, dinner is waiter service only. Complimentary (red and white) house wine, beer and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner. Bar drinks and other beverages with meals are not included; these may be purchased onboard and paid for at the end of your cruise. Complimentary tea and coffee are available between 07:00 hours and 23:00 hours at the tea and coffee station located in the Andrea lounge. Please advise of any special dietary requests in advance. DISABLED FACILITIES The ship can accommodate passengers with mobility restrictions and wheelchair dependent passengers in cabin 407, which has a wider door and no step into/out of the bathroom and shower area. There is a lift serving decks 3 to 6, but there is no stair lift. DOCTOR A medical doctor is available on board 24 hours a day. A fee is charged for any consultations and medication prescribed. Please ensure you carry adequate supplies of any regular medications you may require. ELECTRICITY The electrical outlets in the cabins and public areas are 220V and take a two-round-pin plug (as in continental Europe). There is a 110/220V, 60Hz outlet for electric shavers in the bathroom. We recommend that you bring an international adaptor. GRATUITIES Gratuities to crew and whilst on excursions are included in the cost of your holiday. INTERNET The onboard library has a computer equipped for email/internet access and Wi-Fi access is available in public areas, although you will require your own laptop, tablet or smartphone, and charges apply – 100mb for €15 Euros, or 500mb for €25 Euros. Please note that connection is dependent on weather conditions and location. LANGUAGE All members of the crew speak English. MONEY The following payment methods are accepted for settlement of shipboard accounts: Cash (Euros or British Pounds), Credit Card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express), Debit Card (MasterCard and Visa). Please note that personal cheques and Travellers’ Cheques are not accepted. PUBLIC AREAS • Andrea Lounge (on Deck 5). The bar is open from 11.00 until 24.00. • Harald Jarl Lounge (on Deck 5). There is a small library here with books and games. There is also a computer for public use (charges apply for internet access) • Lido area (on Deck 5) with a Jacuzzi and fitness room with two running machines • Observation Deck (access from Deck 5 lido area) • Deck 5 and Deck 6 outside seating areas SNORKELLING Snorkelling equipment is kept onboard. Please note that there is no snorkelling from Zodiacs. All snorkelling stops will operate from a beach. TELEVISION The ship is equipped with a satellite TV system which receives 15 channels. TV reception depends on the satellite dish and on occasion it may not be possible to receive a signal. There is one central video channel on which it is possible to listen to the lectures delivered in the Andrea Lounge. There is also a channel for the ship’s camera located in front of the ship. ZODIACS Some destinations may require the use of Zodiacs to go ashore. These are usually on expedition cruises though may sometimes be used on destination cruises.
• Take a tour of Mauritius including the Trou-aux- Cerfs volcano, the Grand Bassin Lake and Black River Gorges • In Madagascar enjoy Ile Sainte Marie, also known as Nosy Bohara, a lush tropical island offering sandy beaches, coral reefs and natural beauty • Spend a day and a half in Antongil Bay where you find Madagascar’s largest protected area, the Masoala National Park, which comprises of coastal rainforest, flooded forests, marsh and mangroves • Arrive into the Aldabra group of islands and have two and a half days to explore