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Sometimes referred to as the Mother City, Cape Town is the most famous port in South Africa and is influenced by many different cultures, including Dutch, British and Malay. The port was founded in 1652 by Dutch explorer Jan Van Riebeeck, and evidence of Dutch colonial rule remains throughout the region. The port is located on one of the world's most important trade routes, and is mainly a container port and handler of fresh fruit. Fishing is another vital industry, with large Asian fishing fleets using Cape Town as a logistical repair base for much of the year. The region is famous for its natural beauty, with the imposing Table Mountain and Lions Head, as well as the many nature reserves and botanical gardens such as Kirstenbosch which boasts an extensive range of indigenous plant life, including proteas and ferns. Cape Town's weather is mercurial, and can change from beautiful sunshine to dramatic thunderstorms within a short period. A local adage is that in Cape Town you can experience four seasons in one day.
Durban, a glistening jewel on the south-east coast of Africa, is the third largest city in South Africa and the major city of KwaZulu-Natal. It has been a centre of sea trade since before colonisation and now has a flourishing artistic centre, which perfectly complements the vibrant markets and rich cultures of the city. Durban’s port is a natural half-moon harbour lined with white sand and azure water, punctuated by the port’s many piers which reach into the water like the leaves of a fan. The beaches of Durban’s famous Golden Mile stretch along the harbour and are popular all year round, as travellers and locals alike enjoy Durban’s warm, humid summers and mild, dry winters.
South Africa’s largest harbour is located on a lagoon on the Mhlatuze River on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal and takes its name from Admiral Sir F W Richards who sailed into the bay to deliver supplies to the troops during the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879. The Richards Bay lagoon was declared a game reserve in 1935, when conservationists objected to the growing industrialisation here. This however did nothing to halt development. Instead a compromise was agreed and a wall was built across the length of the bay to divide the lagoon. The north side became the seaport and the south remained a sanctuary for waterfowl and wildlife. The lagoon is famous for being the site where the longest crocodile ever recorded was shot by hunter John Dunn - it measured over 20 feet. The town was built on the shores of the lagoon in 1954 and although it was only a small fishing community in the 1960s, the development of the deep water harbour and railway in 1976 prompted the growth of the much larger township you see today. The bustling town is now a popular holiday destination with its unspoilt beaches at the edge of the Indian Ocean, year-round sunshine and excellent recreational facilities including surfing and fishing. It is also an excellent gateway to Zululand and the KwaZulu wildlife reserves. Richards Bay has recently undergone a major renovation that has given the town a Caribbean feel.
The city of Maputo was founded towards the end of the 18th century, and is influenced by a variety of cultures including Bantu, Arabian and Portuguese. Surrounded by beautiful colonial architecture and stunning natural scenery, it is an ideal base from which to explore the region. The scars from past wars and conflict are still evident, but the city is clearly regenerating, and the original beauty and cultural attractions of the area can easily be appreciated by visitors.
Nosy Bé, meaning Big Island in the Malagasy language, lies just a stone's throw off Madagascar's northwest coast. It is a remote and exotic destination. With its deserted beaches, rustic hotels and unhurried pace, it attracts travellers looking for a laid-back vacation. The fertile island is the centre for the production of perfume essence from the ylang-ylang trees. The heady scent of their flowers gave Nosy Bé the name "Perfumed Isle." Other local products include sugar cane, coffee, vanilla and pepper; they are grown for export in large plantations. Hellville, the island’s main town and port, is situated in a sheltered bay. It is named after a former French governor, Admiral de Hell. The town features a few old colonial buildings, a busy market, some small boutiques and tourist shops along the busy main street. At the quayside, vendors display embroidered linens, wood carvings and straw articles. Trips into the lush countryside may include a ride up to Mt. Passot. At 950 feet (285 metres), this is the highest point on the island. The view from the top offers an extensive panorama of crater lakes nestled between verdant hills. Most visitors make the boat trip to Nosy Komba. The tiny island is known for its lemur reserve. These arboreal primates, with their large eyes, soft fur and long curling tails, have lived unharmed for centuries in the forest behind Ampangorina village. The lemurs are a popular tourist attraction and a profitable source of income to the small local community.
Like jade-coloured jewels in the Indian Ocean, the more than 100 Seychelles Islands are often regarded as the Garden of Eden. Lying just four degrees south of the equator, the Seychelles are some 1,000 miles (1,610 km) from the nearest mainland Africa. Little more than 200 years ago, all 115 islands were uninhabited. Then in 1742 a French ship dispatched from Mauritius sailed into one of the small bays. Captain Lazare Picault was the first to explore these unnamed islands. He encountered breathtaking vistas of rugged mountains, lagoons, coral atolls, splendid beaches and secluded coves. After Picault sailed away, the islands remained untouched for the next 14 years. Then France took possession of the seven islands in the Mahé group. During an expedition Captain Morphey named them the Sechelles, in honour of Vicomte Moreau de Sechelles. This name was later anglicised to Seychelles. The first settlers arrived at St. Anne’s Island in 1770; 15 years later the population of Mahé consisted of seven Europeans and 123 slaves. Today there are about 80,000 Seychellois, the majority of whom live on Mahé; the rest are scattered in small communities throughout the archipelago. The people are a fusion of three continents - Africa, Asia and Europe. This has created a unique culture and the use of three languages - Creole, French and English. Mahé is the largest island in the archipelago and the location of the capital, Victoria. Ringed by steep, magnificent mountains, few capitals can claim a more beautiful backdrop. The town features a mixture of modern and indigenous architecture; it is the centre of business and commerce thanks to the extensive port facilities. Noteworthy sites in Victoria are the museum, cathedral, government house, clock tower, botanical gardens and an open-air market. The major attractions are found outside of town where the island’s quiet, lazy atmosphere delights visitors. With 68 pristine, white sand beaches, Mahé boasts more beaches and tourist facilities than any of the other Seychelles Islands. Beautiful and remote Mahé with its green-clad mountains and palm-fringed beaches is indeed an island of abundance; pleasant surprises are around every bend in the trail. Come ashore and discover for yourself this marvellous island paradise.
There are many nations around the world with bragging rights to miles of pristine white coral sand and balmy turquoise seas but few can take it to the same level as the Maldives. Its 1,200 islands are spread out over 26 coral atolls; the combined land of all the islands is little more than 100 square miles. That means you are rarely more than a few steps from the beach. Many of the villas are actually built on stilts out over the water, so you may actually have to walk onshore in order to get to the beach. Besides curling your toes in the sand, many people come here to sample the Maldives enviable world-class dive spots. Others simply snorkel among the endless coral reefs. There are so many coral atolls here that our English word derives from the Maldivian name atholhu.
Mumbai, sometimes called the Maximum City, after Suketa Mehta’s 2004 nonfiction book of the same name, encapsulates the dynamism and chaos of modern India better than any other city. In this sprawling, muscular place by the sea that you'll find everything from succulent street food to haute cuisine, bargain-basement bazaars to haute couture, humbling poverty to staggering wealth, sacred temples to hedonistic nightclubs. Mumbai is in many ways the New York City of India, and the many of the locals carry the same kind of chip on their shoulders—despite the madness, they wouldn’t trade it for any other place on Earth.Mumbai is a city of extremes, where slum-dwelling strivers making dollars a day serve Bollywood stars and industrial billionaires. It's a 24-hour city stocked with some of the best late-night street food in the world, as well as fine-dining restaurants of renowned chefs. It's a cosmopolitan city of people from all over India that's nonetheless home to strident parochialism. It's a city of dreams for millions of Indians that, at the same time, affords so few any measure of comfort. And it's a beautiful city of silver towers when viewed by twilight from the Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge over the Arabian Sea, but that sight quickly turns into a maze of winding, dirty streets and alleys when viewed up close.Sensory overload is the name of the game on the island formerly known as Bombay (and yes, most locals still call it by its previous moniker). The first thing that hits you when you arrive at the airport is the smell—spicy, fishy, and, to be honest, often not altogether pleasant. Next comes a crazed cab ride through the seemingly lawless streets (should your driver run a red light or, just as likely, drive on the wrong side of the road, try to remain calm). Then a traffic jam in the midst of a veritable symphony of honking, in which barefoot children, often holding infants, and tragically disfigured men and women knock at your window, begging for change. Persevere through, though; embrace and try to understand the natural hazards of the developing world, and you'll find yourself in the middle of a beautiful, often inspiring city.
|Use of swimming pools, hot tubs, fitness centre and leisure facilities where available|
|Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in a choice of included dining venues|
|WiFi included on-board|
|Return flights included from a choice of UK airports (fly cruise bookings only)|
|24-hour room service|
|Shuttle service to and from ports and airport where available|
|Complimentary in-suite bar in selected suites|
|Butler service in Penthouse Suites and above|
|1:1.6 staff to guest ratio|
|1:1.6 staff to guest ratio|