M/V Maya’s Dugong: Fourteen Night Cruise To Aldabra

15 Days from £9950 per adult.
15 Days
Wildlife Cruise
Snorkelling and Diving
Off The Beaten Track

The furthest of all the Seychelles’ islands, remote Aldabra Atoll was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and since then has acquired almost legendary status amongst marine aficionados. Indeed, none other than Sir David Attenborough described Aldabra as “one of the wonders of the world” (and he should know).

Aldabra was off limits to visitors until recently, but now Reef & Rainforest is able to offer this unique two-week cruise  sailing out of Mahe, the main island of The Seychelles, and en route visiting many of the most beautiful islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, each one quite different from the next.

Virtually uninhabited, Aldabra is the world’s largest raised atoll and consists of four larger islands and 40 smaller islets and large rocks, all inside the lagoon. The atoll boasts a wide variety of wildlife, both terrestrial and marine. On land you can find many Madagascar bird species, endemics such as the Aldabra drongo, Aldabra fody and the flightless white-throated rail, plus thousands of breeding seabirds including red-tailed tropicbirds and red-footed boobies. The islands also contain a hundred thousand giant tortoises, the coconut crab (the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod), three species of lizard, three endemic bat species, many endemic insects including several butterflies, and some interesting plants. In the waters around Aldabra live large numbers of hawksbill and green turtles, various sharks, manta rays and barracuda, and a cast of thousands of other fish and corals.

In the 1960s Aldabra nearly suffered having a British military base built there, but fortunately that was averted so that now it enjoys a firm protected status and careful management by the Seychelles Island Foundation.  Let’s hope it stays that way for generations to come – it’s far too important to lose. Be one of the lucky few to visit this fantastic marine outpost, most definitely “one of the wonders of the world”.

Itinerary

Price from £9950 per adult. Price relates solely to the cruise ex-Mahe, sharing double/twin Explorer cabins.

Day 1 - Embarkation

Embarkation from Mahe in the late morning and begin cruising to Desroches Island in the Amirantes archipelago.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes Lunch and Dinner.

Day 2 - Desroches Island

Arrive at DESROCHES ISLAND, Amirantes Group. The Amirantes is a linear chain of coral islands and atolls west of the main, granitic islands of the Seychelles. Desroches is the largest and nearest to Mahe, measuring 6 km long and 1.5 km wide and concealed beneath a canopy of coconut palms and endemic island vegetation. Fourteen kilometres of immaculate white sandy beaches wrap around the island with crystal blue water lapping at the shore. We stop to visit the island, then carry on overnight to Alphonse.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 3 - Alphonse Island

This morning you should wake up at ALPHONSE ISLAND. The Alphonse Group consists of two neighbouring atolls, Alphonse Atoll and St Francois Atoll, the latter comprising two islands: St Francois and Bijoutier. These are some of the most beautiful islands of Seychelles. Alphonse is shaped like an arrowhead, with trails of white foam flying out behind it as though it was skimming through the water. It was once a productive plantation, generating 100,000 coconuts a month but today this is abandoned. The diving around these islands is excellent, though it is not for beginners as currents can be strong. Features include forests of tall gorgonian fan corals, shoals of barracuda and other predators together with the occasional hawksbill turtle.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 4 - At Sea

All day cruising towards Aldabra. You might see dolphins, rays, whales and other marine creatures en route.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 5 - Cosmoledo

Arrive at COSMOLEDO. A visit to Cosmoledo is comparable to one to Aldabra but in some ways Cosmoledo even surpasses that famous atoll in its extreme atmosphere of remoteness. The island is uninhabited and very rarely visited by the outside world. There are some bird species on Cosmoledo not found on Aldabra, including enormous seabird colonies with the Seychelles’ largest populations of red-footed booby, masked booby and sooty tern. A race of Madagascar white-eye (named menaienis) is unique to the island. It is the last breeding site for brown booby, extinct everywhere else in the islands. The diving is also excellent and the marine life is very rich. The corals have survived here more intact than elsewhere in the western Indian Ocean. Many turtles can be seen, including very young ones, in the shallow waters of the lagoon, close to the main island of Menai.

Cosmoledo has also gained a reputation as one of the world's best fly-fishing sites, yet it has remained off limits to all but a few determined enthusiasts because of the difficulties in reaching this lonely outpost.
We visit the deserted settlement and dive the westernmost island of Cosmoledo, Menai, where turtles abound.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 6 - Cosmoledo

A further day to visit Cosmoledo.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 7 - Aldabra

Often called the jewel in the crown of Seychelles, Aldabra is the world's largest raised coral atoll and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With an area of approximately 150sq km it comprises about one- third of the landmass of Seychelles, but has no human population other than the warden and staff of the Research Station on Picard. It is a tropical island wilderness, seen by only a few privileged visitors each year. It has the world's largest population of giant tortoise, with around 100,000 of these prehistoric survivors. (All the giant tortoises seen in the main Inner Islands of the Seychelles are originally from Aldabra.)

There are many plants and birds not found elsewhere and one of the world's most important breeding populations of the endangered green turtle. Birds include the Aldabra rail, the last surviving flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, boobies and frigatebirds.

Drift diving is exceptional in the channels that fill and empty the lagoon with the tides. Shoals of fish stand sentry at these entrances to the lagoon, where sharks and other predators sweep by as they commute between the open ocean and the lagoon. In recent years, dugongs have been seen, a sign that this rare mammal may one day return to breed in Seychelles.

We visit the Aldabra Research station, the mangroves forests, the booby colony at Johnny Channel and the world's second largest colony of frigatebirds (10,000 pairs of two species, Great Frigatebird and Lesser Frigatebird). Many of the endemic land birds can be seen ashore, including Aldabra Drongo, Aldabra Fody and Madagascar Sacred Ibis and Aldabra Rail, together with the world's largest population of giant tortoises. We will dive and snorkel the main channel, the West Channel and Johnny Channel, experiencing the exhilaration of being swept along by the shoals, observing both pelagic and reef fish in the shallow waters of the lagoon, and it is possible to snorkel at the mangroves forest and the channel in high tide.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 8 - Aldabra

Full day exploring Aldabra.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 9 - Aldabra

Full day exploring Aldabra. Cross to Assumption overnight.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 10 - Assumption

Today we find ourselves in ASSUMPTION, which was laid waste by guano mining around the turn of the 20th century, wiping out seabird colonies including Abbott's Booby, now restricted to Christmas Island. This was the fate Aldabra escaped. However, the vegetation is now slowly recovering and there are plans for the rehabilitation of the island. One day it could become a mini-Aldabra. There is a small human population, connected by air to Mahé, though flights are few and far between. There is a 5.5 km-long arc of coral sand on one side of the island (oft voted the world’s most beautiful beach) beyond which the marine life is very rich, and diving there is excellent. Shoals of snappers, butterfly fish and angelfish flit between the corals in one of the most colourful and diverse reefs to be found in the Seychelles. However, in 2015 the island was leased to India which apparently is intending to build a military base as a surveillance and listening post there.
Snorkelling is also excellent on the edge of the drop off. Ashore there is a small fly fishing lodge, the graves of shipwrecked sailors, bleached turtle bones and abandoned buildings including the residence of a former manager. Laid out around a courtyard in the style of a Moorish palace, it must once have been an impressive if somewhat incongruous sight on such a remote island. A short walk across the island leads to the shallow lagoon where Caspian terns, rarely encountered in an ocean setting, dive for fish. We visit the old manager’s house including the aforementioned Veevers-Carter house and old chapel, then cross the island to the lagoon. We then dive the West Walls which are spectacular.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 11 - Astove

Today we arrive at ASTOVE ATOLL, which is surrounded by deep waters and treacherous reefs where many a ship has come to grief. The fringing reef averages about 250m from the shoreline and beyond this the floor plummets steeply. This wall of corals is probably the best dive site in the Indian Ocean and indeed has been rated by diving experts as one of the finest dive sites in the world. Hundreds of species of fish, green turtles and even the anchors of wrecked ships are to be seen.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 12 - At Sea

Cruise to the Alphonse group.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 13 - Bijoutier

If you were looking for a dream island, the uninhabited island of Bijoutier is it: a circle of white sand capped with bright green vegetation, fringed by purple reefs and turquoise sea.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 14 - St Joseph

Sailing on to the uninhabited ST JOSEPH atoll in the AMIRANTES GROUP. The atoll, surrounded by its reef, comprises 13 islands and is managed by the Save Our Seas Foundation.

Staying at M/V Maya's Dugong. Includes All Meals.

Day 15 - Disembarkation

Sail to Mahe. Disembark at Victoria in the afternoon around 3pm.

Includes Breakfast and Lunch.

Travel Info

Are Flights Included?
No

Flight Info:
Flights not included. Various flights can be arranged. BA starts a twice-weekly direct flight to the Seychelles, starting 24 March 2018 - please ask for details.

Area Specialist

Alan Godwin
specialist_alan-godwin

This is a truly unique marine expedition, covering two weeks and including the best outer islands of the Seychelles. You might wish to spend a little time on one of the Inner Islands after the cruise, to relax and reflect on your incredible experiences exploring one of the most diverse and pristine marine nations in the world. Diving equipment is available for rent on board the boat, but you should inform us first if you intend to dive.

If you have any queries about this tour please feel free to call me directly on +44 (0)1803 866965 or...

Thank you for all your excellent coordination of the multi travel and island hopping. We really enjoyed the wildlife experience offered by the Seychelles. [Your representatives] were very good in their arrangements and organisation locally.

Dr & Mrs M - Cambridgeshire

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M/V Mayas Dugong: -4.619865, 55.458424