Clients are coming in two by two for safari cruises, writes Jane Archer
Tell clients they can go wild on a cruise and they may think you’re suggesting a few drinks too many and a whirl around the dancefloor. But there’s another way. If they prefer wildlife to wild nights, sign them up for the latest cruise fad – a South Africa wildlife safari by ship.
OK, the concept is not new, but more ships are not only cruising around South Africa from Cape Town but they are also including plenty of trips to national parks in the mix of excursions.
Most sailings are between November and January but a few cruise lines visit outside these months as part of their annual long or round-the-world voyages.
With quality safari lodges and tented camps on offer in South Africa, a cruise might not be the first thing that springs to mind if clients want to go on safari. However, it allows them to visit a variety of parks there and across the border in Namibia.
Favourite excursions include jeep safaris around Addo Elephant Park, reached from Port Elizabeth, and big game drives in Hluhluwe Reserve, which can be visited on a day trip from Richards Bay.
The reserve is home to the rare white rhino and is also a good place to spot the big five – buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino.
Also from Richards Bay, clients can visit St Lucia Wetland Reserve to see hippos and crocodiles, while some cruise lines have tours from East London to Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve in search of rhino, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and ostrich. Walvis Bay lagoon in Namibia is a favourite for bird-spotters.
In between the wildlife tours, passengers can sample the region’s history, culture, and world-renowned wine on excursions to Zulu villages and townships, scenic drives along the picturesque Garden Route and tours of Cape Town.
Most ships dock at the city’s Table Bay Harbour, within walking distance of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, which houses a shopping centre, restaurants and aquarium. Highlights in Cape Town include Table Mountain, whose summit can be reached by cable car, and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.
Voyages to Antiquity, visiting South Africa for the first time this winter, is a great choice for clients who want to see as much wildlife as possible, because it includes excursions to the highlight wildlife reserves in the cost of the cruise.
The cruise line has three cruises from Cape Town – two that sail from the city and back and a third from Cape Town to Colombo in Sri Lanka that also calls at the Comoros, Seychelles and Maldives.
A 19-day Christmas and New Year itinerary round-trip from Cape Town departing December 18 includes three nights on ship in the city so there is time to see the sights and take a tour to one of the Stellenbosch wine estates.
It visits Port Elizabeth and Mossel Bay, and stays overnight in Richards Bay and over the Namibian border in Luderitz, from where there are excursions to Kolmanskop, a once-wealthy diamond-mining village in the Namib Desert that was abandoned in 1854 once the mines ran dry.
An alternative 14-day round-trip cruise from Cape Town departing January 4 skips Namibia but adds a day in Durban, and starts from £2,995 including flights, transfers, excursions and gratuities.
Jos Dewing, sales and marketing vice-president at Voyages to Antiquity, says: “Our winter cruises are more adventurous and attract a different type of person to the summer ones, which are geared towards culture. The festive one is popular with single people who want to get away at Christmas.
“We are now being sold by the likes of Reader Offers and Planet Cruise, and I am pleased with how sales for South Africa are going. Cape Town makes a great base for passengers who want to add more to their holiday, for instance Victoria Falls.”
Crystal Cruises is also visiting South Africa for the first time over Christmas and New Year, but at the end of 2017.
Its 16-day voyage is on Crystal Symphony, which will sail round-trip from Cape Town and visit Maputo in Mozambique, Richards Bay, East London, Port Elizabeth and Luderitz, with overnight calls also at Durban and Walvis Bay.
Shore excursions have not been finalised but Crystal has confirmed there will be safari days out.
Silversea Cruises has a 14-night sailing from Cape Town to Mombasa on Silver Cloud departing December 6 that calls at Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Richards Bay before sailing to Kenya via Madagascar, the Comoros and Tanzania, with a return 16-night voyage to Cape Town on December 20 that starts from £3,850 cruise-only including drinks and gratuities.
As well as city tours and trips to the townships, excursions are expected to visit Addo Elephant Park and Pumba Game Reserve from Port Elizabeth. From East London, passengers will likely be able to see rhino and giraffe at Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve or go canoeing on the Nahoone River.
In Durban, look out for shark diving; in Richards Bay, expect tours to wildlife reserves and a Zulu crocodile farm.
Clients can also add a four-night tour to Victoria Falls and Chobe Chilwero Lodge in Botswana or two nights in Cape Town to the start of the December 6 cruise.
Oceania has a 15-day voyage round-trip from Cape Town on Nautica departing November 24 that visits Mossel Bay, Richards Bay, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth in South Africa as well as Maputo in Mozambique and Walvis Bay in Namibia, from £2,859 including flights.
Excursions have not been finalised but are tipped to include visits to Tala Game Reserve from Durban, Mpongo Game Reserve from East London, bird or dolphin-watching from Walvis Bay, and an ostrich farm from Cape Town.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has a 14-night cruise round-trip from Cape Town on Mariner, also departing November 24, as well as a 30-night cruise from Dubai to Cape Town on Voyager departing November 21 that visits Richards Bay and Durban and is priced from £10,369 including flights, transfers, drinks and gratuities.
Regent usually includes excursions in the price, but there is a charge for trips to most game reserves. A 5.5-hour tour to Hluhluwe Game Reserve, for instance, costs £137.
For something different, AmaWaterways’ Stars of South Africa cruise-tour includes three nights in Cape Town, four nights’ sailing on the Chobe River on the Zambezi Queen, with included boat and barge safaris, birdwatching tours and game drives in Chobe National Park, and even an expedition to catch tigerfish.
The 14-day holiday, from £7,088, departing October 23, also includes three nights in a safari lodge in Kruger National Park with game drives, one in Johannesburg and two at Victoria Falls.
Alternatively, clients booking a land safari can add a beach break with MSC Cruises, which will base Sinfonia in South Africa in winter 2015-16 offering mainly three and four-night voyages between Durban and Portuguese Island in Mozambique.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ Boudicca will be in Cape Town for three nights and will visit Port Elizabeth, Durban and Richards Bay as part of a 76-night voyage around Africa departing January 5, 2016.
Princess Cruises has a 35-day Indian Ocean Adventure on Ocean Princess in October that starts with a night in Cape Town and visits East London and Durban before sailing through the Indian Ocean and back to Europe through the Suez Canal. Prices start from £5,233 cruise-only.
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria will be in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on their respective 121-night and 120-day 2016 world cruises. P&O Cruises’ Aurora spends a day in Port Elizabeth and two in Cape Town in April 2016, towards the end of its 114-night world cruise.
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