As all top safaris have in common, the journey is as much a part of the experience. Whilst the 19th century merchant tales of boats and ships braving the waves of the Atlantic Ocean en route from Europe to South Africa’s western Cape are no doubt enthralling, it is the deep, warm, Indian Ocean waters of the continent’s east coast that provide the most appealing wildlife, and weather!
As Mark Twain most famously wrote, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails!"
So why not throw open the sails of a privately crewed catamaran, complete with specialist marine biologist, to explore over 600 nautical miles of coastline – from Mozambique to Tanzania - brimming with natural harbours and protected anchorages and over 100 offshore islands?
Explorations can last from 4 nights to 2 weeks and are completely tailor-made around you, your hobbies and your interests. So whether it is for the pure love of sailing and the ocean with its infinite horizon, or scuba diving, snorkelling, deep sea fishing or fly fishing, a sailing holiday is exhilarating, fulfilling and rewarding!
We offer private yacht charters in Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar and between the islands – for example, after a safari in Tanzania or Kenya, one might consider a week on a private catamaran rather than staying at a hotel.
Alternately, if you would like a fully immersive yacht experience, then an exciting option might be to sail between Madagascar and the Seychelles or Mauritius which will take around two weeks or simply spend time discovering the Madagascan archipelago!
One such journey may venture into Quirimbas Archipelago in northern Mozambique or the southern part of the Bazaruto archipelago; undoubtedly one of the best island hopping, fishing and diving destinations in the world. Blessed with white sandy beaches and flourishing reefs, this still largely undeveloped group of 32 palm fringed coral islands, of which 27 remain uninhabited, is a hidden gem. This provides essential habitats for sea turtles and migratory seabirds, as well as nursery areas for bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales.
One can take either a private yacht or an old Arab dhow, used by the merchants for centuries on the old slave trading routes linking the East to Africa. The private dhows, complete with crew have a private camp erected on a private island for you each night. Perhaps go swimming with dolphins!
Or, if you prefer more luxurious accommodation, then you can stay at luxury lodges en route. Along with the abundance of over 375 tropical fish species that reside in on the rich coral reefs, this makes for some incredible snorkelling and diving experiences.
Australian coral experts proclaim this region to have some of the most unbleached coral in the world! And all along are fishing villages where the locals hardly ever see a tourist and one is met with an excited shriek of excitement or a wave! These trips last typically from a week to two weeks.
On a separate expedition, while away the time with whale sharks, who migrate through the historic Southern Archipelago on Tanzania’s Swahili Coast between October and February each year. These endangered gentle giants, who are the largest fish in the sea, remain one of the ocean’s great mysteries as they can dive to great depths.
The Southern Archipelago has over 15 different islands to explore - uninhabited coral atolls with a traditional, unspoilt, uncommercial, friendly culture, where local people go about their business as artisans, farmers, fishermen and traditional sailors.
Within this, Mafia Island is a spectacularly diverse natural environment. Large palm groves together with mango and cashew trees dominate the island while impressive baobab trees are dotted amongst typical African savannah grassland. Monkeys, small antelope, wild pigs run wild while falcons, fish eagles, Comoro bats (also known as 'flying foxes') and five species of turtle have also made it their breeding ground.
The highly protected Mafia Archipelago Marine Park contains over 400 species of fish with an unparalleled variety of hard and soft corals. Nearby, the island of Kilwa Kisiwani houses the ruins of its Arab settlers from over 500 years ago and are considered to be one of the most significant groups of Swahili buildings on the East African Coast.
The lesser-known Songo archipelago contains further ruins as well as a hugely important nesting area for sea turtles and marine birds. One of our favourite trips on a private yacht is around the southern archipelago, including Mafia, again with a marine biologist, who can reveal the world you see around you. Not only does this transcend and elevate your experience but a donation also goes to an ocean project, delivering a win-win situation!
For those looking for an easy-access, action-packed foray, the well-known Zanzibar archipelago has almost year-round appeal. The mere mention of the famous ‘Spice Island’ evokes a sense of mystery and excitement, of immaculate white beaches and colourful markets redolent with the heady aroma of cloves, cinnamon and saffron.
Visit the giant Aldabra tortoises on Prison Island, enjoy the plethora of water sports and vibrant nightlife around Kendwa Beach, dive and snorkel on the Mnemba Island atoll and learn to Kitesurf on the Paje lagoon.
Madagascar offers one of the most pristine sailing experiences, around the northern sector of Nosy Be. We have both fabulous catamarans complete with either a marine biologist, fishing guide or scuba diving/snorkeling guide. These trips can take you around the gorgeous private islands, stopping simply to dive, to snorkel, to sea kayak, and perhaps swim amongst dolphin. In August, the Humpback whales migrate and one can be amongst them at this time of year.
Stop for a lunch of fresh tuna, freshly caught by you or your guide. Perhaps end up at a luxury private beach lodge replete with activities for the last few days? Or if you hanker after something more romantic, what about the beautiful, historic wooden boat, over 100 years old, called Luna Moon? And again, one can sail either around Madagascar or have a week in Madagascar and then sail over to the Seychelles or Mauritius.
A percentage of the proceeds for each catamaran safari goes to one of our chosen Ocean charities, which means that your holiday directly benefits the environment you are exploring! Now – surely that makes perfect sense?
We have an array of private yachts in the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives. Again, these can be taken for perhaps just a week or even a few days, to explore uninhabited islands, further afield.
What are the benefits of having a specialist guide?
Having a specialist guide on any safari deepens the experience, giving you insights from someone who spends their life immersed in the very thing that you are interested in.
For a sailing safari, choosing to have a leading marine biologist on-board guarantees a more holistic and immersive wildlife and conservation experience and simply makes it so much more enjoyable! We select the biologists according to the region to be visited and are often able to use local contacts to get a ‘behind-the-scenes’ access.
For example you may have a guide who is involved in a particular research project in which you can get involved for a day, learning all about the species that are being investigated and having the chance to assist in data collection. As with any successful safari, the quality of the guide makes all the difference!
There are a variety of vessels on offer depending on group size and budget. For an adventurous couple or small family, the entry-level 40ft Maxim 400 Fly Bridge Power Catamaran is the ideal platform for island hopping charters, fishing and scuba diving.
This catamaran is best suited for up to 4 guests sharing 2 of the 3 cabins (the third cabin is for the 2 crew members). There are 2 separate bathrooms on-board.
Her main saloon and outside cock pit area has a comfortable cushioned seating area and the galley is well equipped with a 4-burner propane oven and stove, hot and cold water, fridge and separate freezer.
There is a stereo and music system for guests, but there is no TV on board! She is well equipped with a range of fishing gear & tackle, compressor for scuba diving, masks, snorkels & fins, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and inflatable towable donuts, as well as a range of beach and games. There is also a small RIB tender with outboard motor included.
At the opposite end of the scale is the luxurious 75ft and 85ft catamarans, hugely spacious floating homes. The 75ft Ocean 750 has with a width of 35ft –wider than a tennis court! Big enough for 6 people (staying in 3 cabins), the rear cockpit / interior lounge / saloon area is essentially one large open plan entertainment space that lead to an expansive open deck for sunbathing and relaxing.
There is a large full outdoor wet bar with built in fridge and BBQ area for enjoying meals al fresco style. In the aft cockpit there is an outdoor L- Shaped lounge area with deep sofas and comfy cushions together with the main outdoor dining table area and several day beds for the all-important siesta
Safaris are synonymous with traversing open savannah plains and riverine forests, usually in a 4x4 vehicle; be it scouring for a leopard lining up its next prey from a hidden tree perch or following herds of elephants on the way to wallow. The excitement of heading out each morning and afternoon, not knowing what drama the animal kingdom will perform, is undeniably addictive.
On the contrary, most will not have envisaged a wildlife-based safari in Africa taking place at sea. Of course, sailing itself is not a new experience - modern man took to the seas over 50,000 years ago. But treating the oceans as part of the wider animal kingdom and on an equal footing to a land-based safari enlarges the safari sphere quite dramatically.
This makes for a great combination option or standalone adventure. With more and more people on land-based safaris than ever, there is a good case that a private sailing safari now equals this exclusive, unfettered access to biota-rich ecosystems.
For those looking for a tailor made holiday on the open waves, a private charter offers exclusivity and the ability to choose exactly what you wish to do. A fantastic option for families, couples and groups of friends alike, this offers a wonderful experience with plenty of opportunities to experience the incredible sea life of this phenomenal ocean. I would be delighted to discuss sailing holidays further, if you would like more information you can contact me here.
The contents of this blog were originally posted on the 10th December 2018 and has now been substantially updated with more up to date and relevant information.
Images courtesy of Ocean Island Safaris