The Indian Ocean’s remote Aldabra Atoll is one of the largest coral atolls in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; its remoteness and inaccessibility has allowed wildlife to flourish without the influence of humans for much of its existence. And flourish it has! The four main islands are home to over 100,000 Aldabra Giant Tortoises, and the surrounding seas host important populations of Green and Hawksbill Turtles. The last flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, the Aldabra Rail, lives here alongside splendid endemics including Abbott’s Sunbird and Aldabra Fody. The coral reefs are simply outstanding, and a real highlight of the holiday should be a drift snorkel through the large reef channel, with the tide gently sweeping us past Turtles, Reef Sharks and large Groupers.
For this very special, one off Naturetrek cruise, we plan to exclusively charter the MV Maya’s Dugong in late February 2021. During the sea voyage between Mahé and Aldabra we will have plenty of time to relax on board, whilst passing through rich tropical waters and taking advantage of the opportunity to scan for whales, dolphins, seabirds and other marine-life. One of our stops on the way is likely to be the isolated atoll of Cosmoledo, a regular haunt of the gorgeous Red-tailed Tropicbird and enigmatic Crab Plover, and home to three breeding species of Boobies (Masked, Red-footed and Brown).
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21st Feb 2021 - 10th Mar 2021 - 17.394€
For our overnight on Mahe at the end of the cruise we will stay in a comfortable tourist hotel, where rooms are en suite.
For our 15-night cruise we have exclusively chartered MV Maya's Dugong, an expedition cruising vessel that is ideally suited to discovering the islands’ most exclusive and hard-to-reach places. Cabins are double or twin bedded, air-conditioned and en suite. Cabins on the upper and main deck have a porthole; lower deck cabins do not.
All meals are included on board MV Maya's Dugong. Accommodation on Mahe is booked on a bed and breakfast basis.
Please note that the following itinerary should be treated as a guide only, not an exact programme. Flexibility is the key to all wildlife cruises and our exact route and programme will depend on weather conditions, wildlife encounters, the experience of the tour leader and the advice of the ship's captain and crew.
We depart in the afternoon on an Emirates flight to Mahé via Dubai. Flight schedules are usually confirmed around 11 months prior to departure, and currently flights are available from London Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow. British Airways also offer direct flights to Mahé, but these do not depart on a daily basis so some extra time either side of the cruise may be required to accommodate this schedule.
Arrive Mahé, embark MV Maya’s Dugong
We are due to arrive into Mahé early this morning. We will relocate to a convenient hotel where we will have breakfast before we transfer to the port in the late morning. We will embark MV Maya’s Dugong and settle into our cabins, and after our safety briefing are due to depart for the crossing to Bijoutier at around 2pm.
At sea; arrive Bijoutier
Today, and during all subsequent days spent at sea, we will be on the lookout for the wonderful variety of cetaceans, turtles and seabirds that live in the rich Indian Ocean. We will hope to see several of the following: Pilot Whales, False Killer Whales, Melon-headed Whales, Spotted Dolphins, Striped Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and Fraser’s Dolphins. Overhead we should see passing noddies, boobies, frigatebirds, shearwaters, Sooty and Bridled Terns, and it will always be worth keeping an eye out for passing turtles. We expect to arrive into Bijoutier late this evening.
Waking this morning, we will no doubt be itching for our first snorkel excursion and an island visit. Bijoutier is the French word for “jeweller”, and indeed this small island is a real gem, surrounded by clear, shallow waters and an excellent reef. It takes only around 15 minutes to walk the entire island, which serves as a haven for Red-footed Booby, Crab Plover and Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, as well as nesting turtles. Hawksbill Turtles nest here from September to March, so we may be in time to catch them, and Green Turtles nest here (though generally at night) from January to September. The surrounding reefs will be a kaleidoscope of colour, and we will enjoy a leisurely snorkel to marvel at the numerous angelfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, wrasse, groupers, emperors, triggerfish, parrotfish, puffers, snappers… and many, many more! We will have fun trying to identify everything and perhaps dabble with some underwater photography.
Day 5 – 6
Leaving Bijoutier behind, we spend the next two days at sea, searching for cetaceans along the way, aiming to arrive in the late evening of Day 6 at Cosmoledo.
Cosmoledo is a wonderfully isolated coral atoll, with expansive flat, sand dunes, mangroves, grassland and an impressive inner lagoon. It is a haven for boobies, and we expect to see three species: Masked, Red-footed and Brown, along with Black-naped Tern, Fairy Tern, Red-tailed Tropicbird and local subspecies of Madagascar White-eye and Souimanga Sunbird. Along the beach we may find Crab Plover, Great and Lesser Sandplover and Curlew Sandpiper, plus there are large populations of both Green and Hawksbill Turtles, and the abundant Spinner Dolphins are likely to appear around our boat. Beneath the surface of the lagoon are pristine coral reefs with incredible marine diversity, and we will be sure to enjoy further snorkelling today.
We will start the engines early this morning for the cruise to Astove, another breathtakingly beautiful atoll where we will pause today for another island visit and snorkelling opportunity, before we continue on with an overnight crossing to Aldabra itself.
Day 9 – 11
We will awake this morning at Aldabra: one of the largest coral atolls in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its remoteness and inaccessibility has allowed wildlife to flourish without interference from humans for much of its existence and we now have three full days to enjoy it to the full. The island and lagoon scenery is stunning, with famous ‘champignon’ coral rock formations, and amongst it we will enjoy some incredible wildlife walks. 100,000 Aldabra Giant Tortoises live on the four main islands, along with the impressive Coconut (or Robber) Crabs – the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod. The last remaining flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, the Aldabra Rail, lives here, along with the endemic Aldabra Drongo and Aldabra Fody. Madagascar Sacred Ibis, Madagascar Kestrel, Madagascar Coucal, Comoros Blue Pigeon and local subspecies of Madagascar White-eye and Souimanga Sunbird can also be found … plus dense populations of Great Frigatebirds and Red-footed Boobies.
We will make the most of our full three days at Aldabra, planning our island excursions and snorkelling trips around the tides. The snorkelling here is simply superb, with huge numbers of Black-tip Reef Sharks, Lemon Sharks, Stingrays, large populations of Green and Hawksbill Turtles, myriad colourful reef fish and many larger reef fish including Bumphead Parrotfish. We will enjoy exhilarating drift snorkels, with the tide carrying us effortlessly into the safety of the lagoon whilst we watch all of these large sea creatures in all their splendour.
As we cruise around the atoll, we will be on the lookout, as always, for whales and dolphins – particularly Spinner Dolphins which are common here. Dugongs were once thought to be regionally extinct in this area, but in very recent years there have been multiple sightings within the lagoon – though we would still be very lucky to see them during our visit.
Day 12 – 14
Crossing to St. Joseph
We must tear ourselves away from Aldabra this morning to begin the long crossing toward the Amirante Islands and then onwards to Mahé. If our timings are still on track, then we will spend much of the first day at sea fairly close to Aldabra, taking the time to look for the whales and dolphins that frequent the waters around the Atoll. We then spend the next two days at sea, though still keeping our eyes peeled for whales, dolphins and passing sea birds along the way.
We aim to arrive at St. Joseph today in the late morning or early afternoon. There will be time today for a leg stretch on the island, and an afternoon snorkel too.
St. Joseph; crossing to Mahé
We will enjoy a final morning snorkel and island visit at St. Joseph atoll this morning, soaking in the wonderful reef life for the last time. Then, this afternoon, we must embark on our final crossing, setting off on the overnight crossing for Mahé.
We should arrive into Mahe in the mid-morning. From the port we will transfer to a comfortable hotel for the final night of our Seychellois adventure. There will be ample time to enjoy the Creole cuisine, relax on the beach or enjoy a gentle swim, or wander along the coast to enjoy a final spot of birding.
We depart early this morning on an Emirates flight back to the UK, via Dubai.
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