Our first stop in Madagascar, Ile Sainte Marie, with its bustling little town Ambodifotatra, was spent snorkelling, and sitting under shoreline palms at a small estate whilst seeing our first lemurs and endemic birds such as the Madagascar kestrel and the bright red Madagascar fody.
The next morning, in the long, narrow Baie d'Antongil, we woke to find ourselves surrounded by many tens of pirogues, a single fisherman in each, spread across the flat calm water with the mountains of the mainland to the west wreathed in mist - magical! We walked trails in the near pristine tropical forest of the Special Reserve of Nosy Mangabe and the National Park of the Masoala Peninsula. The excellent local guides introduced us to numerous species found nowhere else in the world: rare lemurs, chameleons (the biggest and the smallest known - the former around a metre long, the latter, a Brookeesia, barely the length of man's thumbnail!), leaf tailed geckos, and more.
Next came Diego Suarez (Antsiranana) with its WWII Commonwealth War Graves cemetery and the Mont d'Ambre National Park. Then to Nosy Hara, and the very run down but attractive Comorean island of Anjouan (we believe we were the first tourist ship to have visited in 15 years!), with new wildlife at every turn.
The Mozambican mainland town of Pemba was really buzzing as a result of the successful undersea gas exploration that is now based there. In the Quirimbas Marine National Park, we were snorkelling at the tiny Rosalas Island in the morning, and visiting the old Portuguese fortress town on Ibo Island in the afternoon. From Dar-es-Salaam we visited the town of Bagamoyo. Dr. David Livingstone's coffin lay for a night in the old church here before starting its sea journey back to Great Britain. On to the busy, colourful Zanzibar for Stone Town, the Jozani-Chawaka National Park with its endemic red colobus monkeys, and the multitude of dhows of many different shapes and sizes.
En route to Aldabra we enjoyed our first multiple sightings of boobies (9 roosted on the mainstay overnight, cadging a lift of some 150 miles!). Two days at the atoll of Aldabra followed by a further one at Cosmoledo were the highlight. The superlatives are unending: it was a real privilege to be there at all. The birding, with so many endemic species, was superb, as were the snorkelling in the lagoon and, of course, the giant tortoises.
Our final leg included Alphonse and St Joseph's Islands for more snorkelling, walking ashore, and birding. Our final full day on the ship included the granitic islands of Praslin (with its famous cocos de mer) and La Digue with its granite boulder beaches. As ever, on the following morning in Mahé, it was very difficult to tear ourselves away from our little ship with its 84 passengers and 81 crew.
We had wanted to do things differently to Noble's offering before and after the ship, so we asked Mundy make the booking for us, as they had done on previous Silversea Expeditions trips. Once again they did us proud: cruise only with Noble and a much better day-flight deal with five nights pre-expedition at the excellent Residence on the quieter east coast of Mauritius and a night at the spectacular Hilton Northolme resort on Mahé after disembarkation - all at only a marginally higher cost than the basic Noble package!
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