Cape Town to Zanzibar - Silver Explorer
A fantastic voyage for those who prefer to unpack once and see a great deal of Africa by ship. Enjoy this ship's legendary, over-the-top service and Relais & Chateaux fine dining for the whole journey.
Africa: Drink It In
With game drives to spot the fabled Big 5, Xhose and Zulu culture, miles of white sandy beaches and kaleidoscopic underwater life, this voyage from Cape Town to Zanzibar packs in more African life than you could ever imagine. Leaving South Africa’s famous landscape, sail up the continent’s east coast via Madagascar and experience a beautiful tapestry of land and sea—from mountains and grasslands to mangroves and fringing coral reefs. Three days in Aldabra, a global diversity hotspot and UNESCO Marine World Heritage Site, make this trip a life changing experience.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- •See Cape Town's penguins, the Addo Nature Park's "big five" (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard), Madagascar's lemurs and everything in between on this extraordinary voyage.
•Take a cultural deep dive in these five countries and marvel at the diverse peoples who have forged this colorful and vibrant region of southern and eastern Africa.
• If you like comfort and fine dining along with your African adventure, this classic luxury expedition ship with expert guiding is for you.
Trip Sustainability Awards
Fantastic advances in minimizing carbon footprints at locations.
On the East African Energy Renewal Board
Runs local educational facilities for children.
Day 1: Cape Town, South Africa
Sprawling across endless, staggeringly blue coastline, and watched over by the iconic plane of Table Mountain, Cape Town is without doubt one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A blend of spectacular mountain scenery, multiculturalism and relaxed ocean charm awaits in the Mother City, where you can venture out to rolling vineyards, dine in laid back sea suburbs, or spend days exploring cool urban culture. Cape Town’s natural splendour fully reveals itself as the cable car rears sharply to the top of Table Mountain. From the summit, 3,500 feet above sea level, you can let the scale of the panoramic vistas of the city rolling down towards the ocean wash over you. Another heavenly perspective waits at the top of Lion's Head’s tapering peak. A sharp hike and an early start is required, but the views of the morning sun painting Table Mountain honey-gold are some of Cape Town’s finest.
Cape Town’s glorious sunshine and inviting blue rollers can be a little deceiving - these oceans are anything but warm at times, with nothing between the peninsula’s end and Antarctica’s icy chill. This cool water has upsides though, bringing a colony of adorably cute African penguins to Boulders Beach. Boarded walkways offer the perfect vantage point to see the cute creatures dipping into the sea and lounging in the sun. Nearby, journey to the end of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, where you can stand at the bottom of this mighty continent, watching out over the merging waves of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Cape Town’s beauty is counterpointed by the ominous island form, which sits four miles offshore from the bustling restaurants and lazy seals of the lively V&A Waterfront. A living history lesson, you can sail in the ships that transported prisoners out to Robben Island, before a former prisoner tells of the traumas of life on this offshore prison. Your guide will show you the cramped cells, and render Mandela’s long walk to freedom in heartbreaking, visceral clarity.
Day 2: Day at Sea
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.
Day 3: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Port Elizabeth, or PE is an uncut gem of a destination. Loved by wealthy South African families as a holiday destination, it is a city has of faces. One: a natural haven with unspoiled beaches, rolling sand dunes and the warm Indian Ocean lapping at your feet and two: a post-industrial migrant city with a rich heritage. PE is also called Nelson Mandela Bay, and there is much here that celebrates him – starting with Route 67, a collection of 67 artworks honoring the 67 years that Mandela dedicated to achieving South Africa’s freedom.
Known as “the friendly city”, Port Elizabeth is enjoying an urban regeneration, spurred on by the youth of the region that want to put it (back) on the map. Think vibrant creative projects spilling out wherever you go; a pedestrianized central zone, galleries selling local artworks, restaurants serving South African fusion food, award-winning buildings that house museums, restored Victorian terraces. Unsurprisingly, the boardwalk is buzzing. PE’s proximity to the excellent nature parks at Addo and Lalibela make it an ideal destination for game lovers. Both of these parks are a little way from PE (70 and 90 kilometres east respectively) but both offer a chance to revel in South Africa’s no holds barred natural beauty. This is the real reason why people come to South Africa – for a chance to see the fabled Big Five. Addo even boasts the Big Seven (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard, as well as the great white shark and Southern right whale)
Day 4: East London, South Africa
What is it about South Africa’s third most popular city that draws people so much? Is it the vibrant waterfront, complete with street performers and sand artists? Is it the melting pot of ethnicity, with all cultures from Zulu to Indian finding a home here? Is it the laid back lifestyle that has locals calling it simply “Durbs”? Is it the sweeping landscape? The clement climate? One visit to Durban will quickly make you see the reason people love it so is a combination of all of the above.
Durban has always been a beach city but it was the massive investment for the 2010 World Cup that really put it on the map. A huge revamp of the promenade has brought with it some fantastic eateries which serve up all kinds of “chow” from traditional bunny chow to bobotie, (a sweet, spiced mince dish with egg topping). Expect Asian influences wherever you go, too. Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India.
Although there is little evidence, it is known that the city of eThekwini – Durban in Zulu – was inhabited by hunter-gatherers as early as 100,00 BC. It was first sighted by Vasco de Gamma in 1497, but it was not until 1824 that the British settlers raised the Union Jack. This was after King Shaka gifted “25-mile strip of coast a hundred miles in depth” to Henry Francis Fynn after Fynn helped him recover form a stab wound. It remained part of the British Commonwealth until 1960, when it became part of the Republic of South Africa. The city’s Euro-African heritage remains to this day.
Days 5 & 6: Richards Bay, South Africa
Considered as the official gateway to Zululand, Richard’s Bay has morphed from being a tiny fishing village into a bustling harbour town. Today, the 30 km2 lagoon is the major port of the region (and also the deepest in Africa), a growth spurred on by the significant mineral deposits, wonderful wetland scenery, unspoilt beaches and game reserves. Located on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Richards Bay was for founded in 1879. British Rear Admiral Sir Frederick William Richards eponymously named the port after landing there during the Anglo-Zulu colonial wars.
Despite its superlative natural setting, Richards Bay was long considered a southern African backwater, with as little as 200 residents as recently as 1969. This number grew when it was proclaimed a town, but even today it is relatively underpopulated, with fewer than 60,000 calling the province home. The town’s Zulu heritage is omnipresent so be sure to look out the local arts and crafts. Nearby Zulu village Dumazulu is the only Zulu village to be opened up to tourism by King Goodwill Zwelithini, and the only authentic example of Zulu traditions that foreigners are allowed to into.
If African culture is not your cup of tea, the hinterland offers fascinating flora and fauna, including a chance to see the incredibly rare white rhino along with the bucket list Big Five. Richards Bay’s attractions can be found closer to port too – the 350 kilometres of coastland, also known as “Dolphin coast”, are a joy for divers and beach lovers alike.
Day 7: Inhaca Island, Mozambique
Inhaca Island is a natural restorative for the weary soul, where the warm sea breeze, sun and sandy beaches bathe you in relaxation. Lying about 30 kilometres off the Mozambican capital of Maputo, and forming the eastern boundary of Maputo Bay, this low and lush island feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life. The main village will tempt you with handcrafts as well as bars that serve refreshing cocktails made with Rhum Tipo Tinto. Why not sample the favorite national rum and just watch the boats bob at anchor? If you feel peckish, delight in the fresh seafood dishes on offer, particularly the crab curry, rich in coconut flavor that serves to complete the tropical island feel.
For those with more energy, explore some of the varied natural habitats of the island with the Expedition team - despite its small size the island has mangroves, mud flats, coral reefs and vegetated sand dune ridges - and you may be rewarded by sighting some of the dazzling residents such as the Scarlet-chested Sunbird with its blood red chest and iridescent green cheek stripe, or the Collared Sunbird with its rich yellow underparts and hood of metallic green-blue. And even when you must part from this little piece of heaven, escorted by the smart looking Lesser Crested Terns and Grey-hooded Gulls, cast your eye around for the shy Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. The pink tinge of its skin is from well-developed capillaries that help dissipate excess heat - an adaptation for tropical coastal waters.
Day 8: Day at Sea
Day 9: Baruto Island, Santa Carolina Island, Mozambique
Bazaruto Island lies within the eponymously named archipelago, which forms a chain of barrier islands a short distance off the coast of Mozambique. The archipelago became a National Park in 1971 in recognition of its precious and varied flora and fauna, including iconic animals such as sea turtles and dugongs. At least 170 bird species have been recorded across the 6 islands and nearby waters, along with 48 species of reptiles, 21 land mammals, 9 marine mammals, 500 species of mollusc and 2000 species of fish. Sighting even a small fraction of this diverse assemblage of wildlife will make the journey to Bazaruto Island worthwhile.
The protected western coastline exudes the air of tropical tranquility, with palm trees casting shade on white sand beaches that are lapped by clear warm waters. If not swimming then delve deeper into the interior to see if, with your ship's ornithologist you can differentiate between Blue-cheeked and Madagascar Bee-eater as they intently scan for flying insects from their prominent perches. More identifiable perhaps are the Common Waxbills, zebra-like with a striking scarlet mask, and occurring in boisterous flocks in grassy and reedy areas. Don’t think for a minute that the hunt for exotic wildlife is easy - it can remain hidden despite ear-shattering shrieks that belie its obviousness - but for those who are patient and persevere, the bragging rights at dinner are endless, if you have seen for example, the golden blind legless skink, a sub-species endemic to the island.
Paradise Island was the former name for Santa Carolina Island when it was an international playground for the wealthy. The island is the smallest of the Bazaruto Archipelago, a group of six rocky islands once part of Mozambique’s mainland. A Marine National Park now encompasses the archipelago, protecting land and sea. A ring of coral reefs protects Santa Carolina Island and provides great snorkeling from sandy beaches. The corals display a variety of shapes and textures and the fish are vibrant in color. Seeking and watching hundreds of species of fish and mollusks will keep you busy in the water. The park’s seagrass protects the last viable population (250) of dugongs west of Australia. Dugongs are relatives of the Manatee and were mistaken for mermaids. They are difficult to spot but look for their triangular snouts and rounded backs. Santa Carolina Island waters are one of the best places in the world to search.
Santa Carolina Island was a Portuguese ivory trading post and then a penal settlement in the 19th century, and a prisoner of war camp in WWII. In 1962, Joaquim Alves, a flamboyant Portuguese businessman, built the grand 250-room Hotel Santa Carolina on what was then called Paradise Island. It attracted crowds of trendy international tourists. A young Bob Dylan wrote his song “Mozambique” after staying at the hotel. You can still see the ruins of the buildings. It was abandoned during Mozambique’s independence and civil wars. Now, the marine life provides the touch of paradise.
Day 10: Day at Sea
Day 11: Island of Mozambique
The densely populated Mozambique Island is small at only 3 km (1.9 miles) long and less than 500 meters (650 yards) wide. The Portuguese had already settled here by 1507, and the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere is found on Mozambique Island: the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte. Fort São Sebastião also dates back to the 16th century. Historical buildings on the northern side of the island include the Palace and Chapel of São Paulo, built in 1610 as a Jesuit College — later converted to be the Governor’s Residence, and now a museum. As a result of its rich history and architectural remains, the Island of Mozambique is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The majority of the residents today live in reed houses in Makuti Town at the southern end of the island. In addition to the old Christian churches there are several mosques and even a Hindu temple on the island. For the last 55 years a 3 km (1.9 mile) bridge has connected the island to the mainland.
Day 12: Day at Sea
Day 13: Ampangorinana, Nosy Komba, Nosy Tanikely & Nosy Be, Madagascar
Ampangorinana is a village on the north coast of the beautiful and small volcanic island of Nosy Komba. The island is set between Nosy Be, the island of perfumes, and the mainland of Madagascar. Covered by a magnificent primal forest, the island is home to all kinds of trees, plants and flowers, but lemurs are one of the main attractions. Not to be neglected and often hiding in the dense tropical forest is a multitude of other animals including maki macacos, chameleons, lizards, snakes, spiders, and 19 species of birds. Nosy Komba has easily accessible, clean and private beaches that offer great snorkeling. Sea turtles, rays, and dolphins frequent the clear azure waters surrounding Ampangorinana and Nosy Komba.
A coral reef awash with colourful fish abutting a white sand tropical island complete with a cute lighthouse. Sound ideal? Nosy Tanikely is a Marine National Park dedicated to protecting the island and its marine environment. Despite its small size, Nosy Tanikely is recognized for its remarkable marine and land biodiversity. The corals begin near the shore and gradually drop away to deeper water. Fish of various colours and shapes weave amongst coral fingers. Damselfish, butterflyfish, anemonefish and blue parrotfish are common.
The island has its own delights. The unusual spiral staircase of the lighthouse, built in 1908, leads to views of nearby islands. Panther Chameleons and Black Lemurs were brought to the island, while the Madagascar Flying Fox found its own way. A small colony of these large bats allows us to watch their engaging behaviour like licking themselves clean, passing their wastes, caring for young and squabbling with neighbours. Something we never do!
If you have ever wanted to go to somewhere that is remote and exotic, then you have come to the right place. The two right places in fact, as the islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Komba offer a chance to revel in nature that is uncommon, even in the Indian Ocean. There is a saying in Madagascar “same, same but different” and nothing could be more illustrative when describing Nosy Be and Nosy Komba. Both feature fertile forests sheltering endemic species but while Nosy Be (meaning Big Island) attracts holiday makers in search of a rustic, unhurried destination, Nosy Komba literally translates as Lemur Island, leaving nothing to the imagination when considering its main attractions. The aforementioned forests are without a doubt the jewel in both the islands’ crowns.
The heady scent of ylang-ylang trees, vanilla and pepper gave Madagascar its moniker of the perfumed isle, and exports of spices and scents continue to be a pivotal part of the island’s economy. The island is essentially French speaking, after the queen of the Boina Sakalava tribe called upon the French from the nearby Reunion (thus inviting colonial rule) in 1841. If making the 20-minute boat trip to Nosy Komba (actual name Nosy Ambariovato) and the lemur park, then be prepared to be enchanted. The arboreal primates, with their enormous eyes, soft fur and long curling tails are both charismatic and friendly. Add cheeky to the list too, especially if you have any fruit in your hands. They’ll jump right out of the trees and take it from you.
Day 14: Nosy Hara, Madagascar
The Nosy Hara archipelago off the northern tip of Madagascar is made up of about 12 small islands surrounded by coral reefs. The sandy beaches show evidence of marine turtle nesting activity, and tagged turtles regularly haul their great bodies out of the surf to nest in the dry sand above the water line. The Nosy Hara archipelago is characterized by the unique rock formations of eroded limestone known as ‘tsingy’. On some islets the forest grows through this rock and onto the cliff faces themselves. Endemic birds and reptiles inhabit the forest – among them a pair of the endemic and endangered Madagascar Fish Eagles, one of the rarest birds of prey in the world. Nosy Hara is also home to the world’s smallest chameleon.
Day 15: Assumption, Seychelles
Assumption (Assomption) Island is a small, crescent shaped island about 4.3 square miles (11.07 sq km) in size. Considered one of the Outer Seychelles Islands, Assumption is part of the Aldabra Group, lying approximately 600 miles (960 km) southwest of Mahé, in the Indian Ocean. These outer islands are not made from granite, like their larger sisters Mahé, Praslin or La Digue, but rather are coralline formations. Once a part of the French colony Réunion, then a member of the British Indian Ocean Territories, today Assumption is governed by the Seychelles. Assumption is a rough and arid island, shaded only by shrubs and palm trees but is redeemed by a spectacular reef with huge coral heads and a white ocean floor. Jacques Cousteau said he'd never seen any other place on earth with same clarity of water or diversity of reef life. He filmed large parts of documentary “The Silent World” here, and held audiences across the globe, spellbound by the magic that lay beneath the sea.
A notable feature of this island is the Assumption Island day gecko, a subspecies of gecko found only on this island. Assumption is also a known nesting site for turtles and rare birds. Because Assumption Island was found to be rich in guano, coveted for its phosphorous fertilizing abilities, it was essentially plundered in the early 1900s. The island today is has an interesting geography that includes a gorgeous 3-mile (5-km) white beach, a rocky coastline, caves, and two very large sand dunes prominent on the south eastern coast of the island, one of them reaching 104 feet (32 metres) high. There is a very small settlement with less than 10 registered inhabitants, mostly in place to service the small landing strip used by scientists with permission to study the neighboring Aldabra Atoll. The settlement is surrounded by Casuarina trees and there is an abandoned coconut palm plantation to its south.
Days 16 & 17: Aldabra, Seychelles
Part of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles, Aldabra is reputedly the world’s second-largest atoll and has been described as “one of nature’s treasures” and a “sanctuary”. The inner lagoon teems with marine life like eagle rays and sea turtles. It is possible to snorkel and drift along with the tide passing in or out of the lagoon as massive numbers of fish come and go through the same channels. Narrow channels between fossilized coral islands are fringed in mangrove forests supporting large colonies of nesting boobies and Great Frigatebirds. Its distinctive island fauna includes the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea). Approximately two-thirds of the world’s population of giant tortoises lives on Aldabra – some 100,000 out of a reported 150,000. Because of its extreme isolation in the blue of the Indian Ocean, and due to a lack of freshwater, the island has not been developed for tourism. No airport has been built, and only a handful of smaller ships with special permits are allowed to call at this unique atoll.
Day 18: Day at Sea
Day 19: Zanzibar, Tanzania
A tropical paradise, with swathes of long white sand and flanked by tall, skinny, palm trees, Zanzibar sits in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Part of the Zanzibar archipelago, the island – also confusingly called Zanzibar – is found just 22 miles from mainland Tanzania. Considered today as a honeymooners’ paradise, visitors will find vestiges of both Arabic and Portuguese colonialism (the island was Portuguese until 1698 when it was seized by the Sultanate of Oman), amid the picture-perfect landscape. But there is much more to Zanzibar than meets the eye. With just one step off the ship, and you are already breathing the heady scents of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves. Rightfully known as the Spice Isle, Zanzibar was once a trading hotspot on the trading route from Arabia to Africa. At the time, the island enjoyed an influx of wealth and European bourgeoisie, with spices being traded at astronomical prices.
The influences of the various colonies are glamorously reflected in the main city’s architecture. But sensual smells and beautiful beaches aside, Zanzibar has the vestiges of sinister history. The island was a capital for the slave trade in the 19th century, with an estimated 50,000 slaves passing through the Zanzibar slave market each year, with many more dying en route. The epicentre for trade was in the Market Square, in the heart of Stone Town, a melting pot of Arabic, African and European history that today is one of the world’s most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (Voyage end.)
Please Note: When travelling in remote regions tide, wind, ice and weather conditions determine the details of our itinerary. While we will do our best to maintain all suggested activities, some of these may be subject to change. Come with an open mind and a great sense of adventure, together we can turn any voyage into a wonderful Expedition.
Activity Level: Easy to moderate. This operator offers more rigorous hikes in addition to slow hikes and zodiac cruising.
Special Offer Details: Early Booking Bonus: Up to 20%-off on your next cruise if you pay in full by Aug 31, 2021. Furthermore, on all voyage through April 2022, and complementing the Early Booking Bonus savings up to 20%, you can take advantage of the reduced deposit of just 15%.
I've sent many discerning travelers on this ship and traveled on her myself in 2008. Her expert service, outstanding cuisine, and beautiful accommodations are a delight. Her expedition designers are expert also, providing fantastic adventure and high-level guiding.
Joy Martinello, Founder
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