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Mauritius to Dar Es Salaam
Join us aboard the MS Caledonian Sky for this island hopping expedition through the Indian Ocean which will appeal to those who enjoy the natural world and all its wonders, travelling aboard a small ship and staying clear of the well-beaten tourist tracks. The all-suite MS Caledonian Sky with her fleet of Zodiac landing craft is the perfect vessel for such an enterprise. Carrying just over 100 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 awesome and dramatic landscape before continuing to Madagascar where over a period of three days wewill 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 Island Group, 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. Our final days are spent in Tanzania exploring Kilwa Kisiwani, a site of exceptional historical interest and we have a full day to explore atmospheric Zanzibar. This itinerary is a veritable feast of beauty and combines the natural world with cultural discovery. 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 mesmerising underwater life.
Arrive this afternoon and transfer to our hotel (Trou aux Biches Beachcomber or similar) 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. After checking out our island tour will include the Trou-aux-Cerfs Volcano, the Grand Bassin Lake and Black River Gorges before transferring to the MS Caledonian Sky in the late afternoon. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we sail tonight.
We arrive at breakfast in Port Est, 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. 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 Caledonian Sky for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure before we set sail this evening.
Spend the day at sea. Maybe join a lecture in the lounge, enjoy a book in the library or spend time on deck as we cross to Madagascar.
Spend a day and a half in Antongil Bay area. We discover 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 we 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. We also explore 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, all manner of extraordinary chameleons and is a refuge of the endangered Madagascar red-owl, Madagascar serpent eagle and many endemic bird species. A series of walks for all levels will operate whilst there will also be the option to swim off the beach or perhaps visit the local village.
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.
Spend a relaxing morning at sea before arriving at the Aldabra group of islands where we 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 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 and Biodiversity 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 crabs or swim in 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.
This morning we anchor off Kilwa Kisiwani, a site of exceptional historical interest, where the atmospheric ruins represent a wide sweep of East African coastal history, from the heights of the Swahili and Shirazi trading civilisation to the darker days of slavery and the uprisings against German rule. Once one of Africa’s wealthiest towns, Kilwa Kisiwani is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains the world’s most extensive and best-preserved Swahili ruins. We will spend the afternoon on a walking tour and see the prominent fort and the Great Mosque which stood at the heart of this ancient city which was once the largest in East Africa. This afternoon we continue our cruise across the Indian Ocean.
Here the colourful harbour, crowded with dhows, very much sets the scene for our visit to this Arab-style city with its long Masoala National Park narrow streets, bazaars, houses with overhanging balconies and intricately carved doorways. On a morning walking 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, travel to 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 our scheduled indirect flight to London.
Itineraries are subject to change.
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition Length: 90 metres Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites) Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012 The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows. If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere. Your Suite Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub. Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Your space The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your dining With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board. For your comfort, safety and security The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only. Gratuities Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.
• Travelling with You - Pierre Malan. Pierre is an all round naturalist who trained as an oceanographer and marine biologist and has more than forty years of experience in the field. • Travelling with You - Craig Ward. Craig is a marine professional, dive instructor, marine biologist & ship’s captain and studied Zoology at James Cook University, Cairns. For over twelve years he has been involved in marine research and education throughout the Indo-pacific, particularly the Northern Great Barrier Reef, the Kimberley, south-east Asia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. • Travelling with You - Wendy Malan. Wendy trained as a classical ballet dancer and teacher at the University of Cape Town. After dancing professionally for ten years, she taught at the same university before setting out on her own. She has run her own successful exercise studio and produced several ballets for the Cape Youth Ballet. Together with her oceanographer husband she has taken part in research cruises off the West Coast of Southern Africa and travelled to some of the Earth’s more interesting places, including the Namibian Skeleton Coast, Mozambique and the Antarctic. • Travelling with You - Colin Munro. Colin is a freelance marine biologist and photographer, with a strong interest in underwater photography. Originally from the north of Scotland, he now lives in Southwest England. • Travelling with You - James McClelland. James is a British Conservation Biologist who was bitten by the travel bug whilst carrying out research on coral reef fish for his undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. He has gone on to conduct and lead ecological fieldwork programmes from the UK to Seychelles and South-East Asia. Most recently, James co-managed the conservation programme for a private nature reserve. • Travelling with You - Phoebe Olsen. Phoebe Olsen grew up in a small fishing village on the rugged southwest coast of Ireland. There she was never far from a boat and spent most of her summers out on the water in one form or another. Being of Danish and Irish stock she felt drawn to Viking history and pursued a career in archaeology as a result. She studied archaeology and Italian at the University College of Cork followed by a Master’s degree in Osteoarchaeology. For the past few years Phoebe has been working as a field archaeologist in the UK working on a range of projects from the unearthing of a Saxon cemetery next to a Neolithic monument in Wiltshire to the deconstructing of Bronze Age cremation urns from Kent.