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The tropical waters of the Indian Ocean shimmer with pristine coral atolls, exotic species, and azure lagoons fringed by powder-white beaches. Board the National Geographic Orion to experience a paradise where nature reigns supreme. Delve into the spice-infused history of Zanzibar. Explore Aldabra Island, an atoll where giant tortoises roam amid fantastic limestone formations. Encounter the pink sands of La Digue, the kaleidoscopic reef fish of Assumption, and vestiges of the slave trade at Astove.
Discover Zanzibar’s fascinating cultural fusion in its labyrinthine Stone Town.
Swim, snorkel, and dive at the world-class reefs and beaches of the Seychelles.
Spend two days exploring remote Aldabra atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage site that teems with tropical fish, rare birds, and the world’s largest population of giant tortoises.
Spot an array of endemic species, from the vast seabird colonies of Aride to the legendary coco de mer of Praslin.
Itinerary - 15 Days
Days 1, 2, & 3 — U.S./Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Fly overnight to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital, and transfer to our hotel. The following day, explore the city’s waterfront and visit Tanzania's National Museum and House of Culture, which displays some of the earliest fossils discovered by the Leakey family. Set sail in the afternoon. Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam, the Kilimanjaro, National Geographic Orion (D; B,L,D)
Days 4 & 5 — Zanzibar/At Sea
Once a center for the spice and slave trades, the palm-fringed isle of Zanzibar is infused with African, Arabic, Indian, and European influences. Explore the labyrinthine alleyways of Stone Town, where the architectural mélange of cathedrals, mosques, and minarets reflects the island’s complex history; and delve into traditional Swahili culture. Then set an eastward course for the Aldabra Islands group. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Assumption Island, Seychelles
A powder-white crescent ringed by sapphire waters, Assumption embodies the quintessential tropical beauty of the Seychelles. Stroll through coconut groves to discover traces of the island’s former guano mining, then go snorkeling or diving at coral reefs teeming with over 100 species of fish, including lionfish, surgeonfish, blue ribbon eels, and steephead parrotfish. (B,L,D)
Days 7, 8, & 9 — Aldabra Island/Astove Island
One of the largest atolls on the planet, Aldabra encompasses four coral islands encircling an enormous inner lagoon. We’ll spend two days exploring this pristine paradise, home to endemic species including the world’s largest population of giant tortoises and fantastic, tide-sculpted formations called champignons, or “mushrooms.” Visit a wildlife research station housing the island’s only human residents; observe Aldabra giant tortoises and terrestrial coconut crabs; cruise between mangrove-covered islets inhabited by nesting boobies, frigate birds, and the flightless white-throated rail; and experience world-class snorkeling in crystalline waters that shimmer with exotic fish. Divers may also ride the currents on a thrilling drift dive, spotting reef sharks, rays, and turtles. Our next landfall is the deserted island of Astove, formerly inhabited by African slaves who escaped a Portuguese shipwreck in the 18th century. Go snorkeling or diving, and launch Zodiacs to look for hawksbill and green turtles, and Abbott’s sunbird. (B,L,D)
Days 10 & 11 — At Sea/Amirante Isles
Named after Portuguese admiral Vasco da Gama, who sighted them in 1502, the Amirante Isles offer spectacular snorkeling and diving. At Poivre, swim among colorful clouds of fish in the lagoon, go hiking and beachcombing, and visit one of the oldest coconut plantations in the Seychelles. Then explore the sandy cays of Saint Joseph Atoll, home to large populations of rays, giant blue mud crabs, and nesting shearwaters. (B,L,D)
Day 12 — Aride Island
Known as the “seabird citadel” of the Indian Ocean, Aride is an important breeding site for roseate and sooty terns, shearwaters, red-tailed tropicbirds, and has the world’s largest colony of lesser noddy. Hike through fragrant flowers and woodland to a hilltop that affords spectacular views of the island’s resident seabirds—more than a million of which breed here annually. (B,L,D)
Day 13 — Praslin Island/La Digue Island
Explore Praslin’s Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site where all six of the Seychelles’ native palm species—including the giant coco de mer—can be found. Then sail east to idyllic La Digue, where spectacular granite boulders tower over the blush sands of Anse Source d’Argent, named by National Geographic as the world’s best beach. Explore the island by bicycle or ox-drawn cart, swim in its warm waters, and venture to Veuve Special Reserve to search for rare species including the endangered Seychelles paradise flycatcher. (B,L,D)
Days 14 & 15 — Mahé Island/U.S.
Disembark in the capital, Victoria, on Mahé Island. Rooms are reserved until the late transfer to the airport for flights home, arriving the following day. (April 21: B,L)
Travel on select National Geographic Orion voyages in 2015 and we will cover your bar tab and all tips for the crew.
Add a five-day pre-trip extensions to Northern Tanzania. See a profusion of iconic wildlife and explore diverse habitats, from the Ngorongoro Highlands to the Serengeti Plain.
What To Expect
Scuba Diving Requirement: Divers must be certified by an internationally recognized dive association prior to the voyage, and certification cards and logbooks should be brought on board. Divers need to have logged 25 dives in total, and have made a dive within the 12 months preceding the voyage.