Arrive in Mahe early on Tuesday morning. Transfer to the hotel for brunch, with the afternoon at leisure. Gather in the evening for a welcome dinner and briefing.
Enjoy the first of many snorkeling excursions in the morning with a visit to Sainte Anne Marine National Park—a wonderful introduction to the Seychelles. This group of six islands, off the coast of Mahé, was the first marine park to be founded in the Indian Ocean, over 30 years ago. Enjoy a traditional Creole lunch in the park before returning to Victoria to embark the Island Sky.
Cousin is a small granitic island which is protected as a nature reserve. The island provides a safe haven for a number of endangered bird species, notably the Seychelles fody, Seychelles warbler, Seychelles magpie robin, and Seychelles blue-pigeon. Nearly uninhabited, a number of seabirds breed on Cousin's wild interior and rocky shores. Dense concentrations of nesting seabirds show no fear of humans, allowing for fabulous photo opportunities.
Famed biologist Sir Julian Huxley described the Seychelles as akin to Hawaii and Tahiti in the 1700s, an untouched Garden of Eden, and no island is more deserving of this description than La Digue. Giant granite boulders and swaying palms offset picturesque white beaches. Explore the island like a local and bike or stroll along the sandy roads. Spend time on one of the world's most breathtakingly beautiful beaches, Anse La Source d'Argent to beachcomb, swim, or simply soak in your surroundings.
The Amirante Islands are named in honor of Portuguese admiral Vasco da Gama's 1501 visit. Take Zodiacs to Poivre Atoll for beachcombing, nature walks, birding, and a visit to the copra plantation. Snorkel over coral gardens inhabited by brilliantly-hued tropical fish, as manta rays glide through the waters below and black-naped terns soar in the skies above.
Relax on board as you sail.
Assumption Island is famous for clear surrounding waters, populated by a profusion of marine life. These qualities led Jacques Cousteau to film much of his documentary The Silent World at Assumption. Snorkel among corals teeming with over 100 species of fish, including black lionfish, blue-ribbon eels, black-streak surgeonfish, and Indian Ocean steephead parrotfish. Assumption is also home to around 100 giant tortoises introduced to the island from Aldabra.
Board Zodiacs and land on this deserted island's sandy beach. Part of the Aldabra Group, Astove was formerly inhabited by African slaves who escaped a Portuguese ship in 1760. More recently, Astove was the site of a copra plantation. Its houses, drying sheds, and other buildings are in various states of disrepair since being abandoned in the 1980s. Mature casuarina and Indian almond trees host the finely woven pendant nests of Abbott's sunbird. Snorkelers delight in the crystal clear waters of the large lagoon, frequented by turtles, groupers, and clouds of tropical fish.
Spend four full days at magnificent Aldabra. With a perimeter of 70 miles, Aldabra is one of the largest atolls in the world, comprising four major islands separated by channels. Because of the atoll's extreme isolation, many of Aldabra's species are endemics. Giant Aldabra tortoises, estimated to number over 100,000, roam wild over the islands. Tides permitting, cruise by Zodiac through the narrow passes to drift through a landscape of fascinating eroded limestone topography. The tides have sculpted small islets into fantastical formations known as champignons, or 'mushrooms.' Hundreds of lesser and great frigatebirds soar overhead; on land, search for the rare Aldabra white-throated rail, the only flightless bird found on any Indian Ocean island. Robber crabs, whose claws are strong enough to crack coconuts, scamper across the turf. Enjoy an exhilarating drift snorkel where the incoming tide whisks you through the pass and into a lagoon populated by turtles and eagle rays. Visit the small scientific research station on Picard Island and photograph the mighty tortoises of this magical, isolated island that few travelers ever have the privilege to see.
Relax on board as you sail.
Zanzibar lives up to its storied Arabian Nights reputation: it is a lush, palm-fringed island. Visit Stone Town and admire its unique mixture of architecture. In the afternoon, take a hike along the nature trails of Jozani Natural Forest or join a tour whcih passes by the house of Dr. David Livingstone and visits the ruins of Maruhubi Palace.
Transfer to the airport in the afternoon for your independent homeward flight.