A potpourri of natural and cultural highlights, our new Southern India and Maldives adventure travel expedition features sublime scenery, time-honored traditions, and dazzling undersea wonders. Aboard the 110-passsenger Clipper Odyssey, we embark from Chennai, en route to Sri Lanka, where our Southern India tour includes three World Heritage Sites. We search for wild elephants on a 4x4 safari at Minneriya Eco Park and seek the 400 bird species found here. In Kochi, our Southern India expedition includes a houseboat tour, lending insight into traditional daily life. In the Maldives and the little-visited Lakshadweep Islands snorkel and dive pristine islands while viewing fantastic marine life.
India & The Maldives Expedition Highlights:
- Chennai sightseeing: National Art Gallery, San Thome Cathedral, Fort St. George Museum, and more.
- World Heritage Sites on Southern India tour, including the Caves of Dambulla, legendary Kandy, and Mahabalipuram.
- A traditional Kalari Payattu (an ancient martial art form) demonstration in Kerala
- First-time Zegrahm exploration of India’s Lakshadweep Islands.
- Maldives expedition, with unparalleled snorkeling and diving opportunities and visit to a 16th-century palace.
What to expect:
For most activities on our India and the Maldives expedition, a relatively low level of exertion is required. You must be able to walk moderate distances, unaided, on uneven paths, up and down stairs, and in crowded markets during our Southern India tour. Our time in the Maldives and Lakshadweep Islands focuses on the underwater realm and you will need to be able to climb into anchored Zodiacs for snorkel and dive activities. Average daily temperatures are expected to range in the upper 70s to low 90s°F and water temperatures will range from the upper 70s to the low 80s°F.
Independent flight from USA to India.
Chennai (Madras), India
Arrive Chennai in the early morning, transfer to our hotel, and enjoy the morning at leisure. After lunch we set out for an exploratory tour that incorporates both colonial history and the dynamic energy of modern life as we visit the National Art Gallery and Museum, San Thome Cathedral, the South Indian Temple, Fort St. George Museum, and drive along Marina Beach. We return to our hotel for a welcome dinner and overnight.
Chennai / Embark Clipper Odyssey
After breakfast enjoy a scenic drive to one of the state’s most famed temple complexes—Mahabalipuram, a World Heritage Site, located on the coast. Its famed Shore Temple is dedicated to both Shiva and Vishnu and covered with intricate bas relief. After lunch at a local restaurant we embark the Clipper Odyssey and set sail.
Relax in the soft Indian Ocean breezes and enjoy our lecture series that lends cultural and natural history insights to the enchanting island nation of Sri Lanka.
Trincomalee, Sri Lanka / Habarana
We arrive in the eastern port of Trincomalee this morning and disembark the ship to travel overland into the lush interior for an overnight excursion. Our first stop is the 1,000-year-old World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa, the ancient resort city of kings. After lunch explore its shrines, the unique irrigation complex, and Citadel. We continue to Minneriya Eco Park for a 4x4 safari through evergreen forest and grasslands to the vast reservoir where we watch for numerous mammal inhabitants—spotted and sambar deer, elephants, and elusive leopards among them. Nearly 400 avian species call the park home, including such endemics as Sri Lanka junglefowls, Sri Lanka hanging parrots, and Sri Lanka gray hornbills. We drive on to Habarana for dinner and overnight at our lodge.
Habarana / Kandy / Colombo
Early this morning birders set out along an avian trail in search of migratory and native species—including the chestnut-winged cuckoo, white morph Asian paradise flycatcher, and Malabar pied hornbill. After breakfast we all drive to the amazing Dambulla Caves World Heritage Site whose centerpiece is a glistening white horizontal edifice built right beneath and into a huge cliff overhang. More than 80 caves cover the area; five contain statues and paintings relating to Buddha. Our beautiful drive continues toward Kandy, with a stop to visit a spice plantation en route. The cool highlands served as a royal refuge from the many colonial powers and settlers who occupied the coastal regions until well into the 18th century, and Kandy became the last capital of the Sinhala kings. We explore the World Heritage Site Temple of the Tooth—one of the holiest places of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world—which houses a tooth of the Buddha encased in gold caskets. We continue to Colombo to re-board the Clipper Odyssey.
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), India
Located near India’s southern tip, Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is a pedestrian-friendly town spread out over seven hills. We visit the nearby village of Pongumoode and its surrounding rubber plantations and enjoy a rickshaw ride; learn about tapioca, from plant to harvest; and watch a rubber leaf press demonstration. We also attend a Kalari Payattu demonstration, Kerala’s ancient form of martial arts.
Situated about 200 miles east of Kochi, the idyllic and ultimately photogenic Lakshadweep archipelago—36 islands and their atolls and coral reefs—comprise the smallest Union Territory of India. Stunning lagoons, colorful birds, profuse marine flora and fauna, swaying palms, and pristine beaches make this an island paradise.
During our time here we visit several islands. Stroll along lovely, unspoiled beaches and explore the underwater realm with daily snorkel, dive, and glass bottom boat excursions. Feel the stress of the holiday season melt away as the sun slips below the horizon and we enjoy a festive Christmas Day feast in paradise. Daily weather and tide conditions determine our course, with stops planned on Tinnakara, a lush uninhabited island covered with wild almond, coconut, and breadfruit trees and Cheriyam, a small islet ringed by a vast shallow lagoon. The shallow waters that surround these pristine islands are perfect for snorkeling and diving and the colorful hard and soft corals teem with hundreds of marine species.
Our leisurely two-day exploration of Kochi reveals this delightful community’s mélange of international influences: Portuguese houses, the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry), the Anglican St. Francis Church, and the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that grace the beaches. We board local houseboats for a cruise through Kochi’s maze of backwaters where we may watch locals going about their traditional day-to-day lives.
At Sea / Uligamu, Maldives
As we sail towards the Maldives, our lecturers introduce us to the heritage and natural wonders of this Equatorial archipelago—made up of 1,190 coral islands. We arrive at Uligamu, the northernmost island of the Maldives, late in the afternoon.
Utheemu Island / Baa Atoll / Olhahali Island
Over the next three days, we discover the special, lesser-visited places in the atolls north of Male. Following are a sampling of the sites we plan to visit, with daily weather and tide conditions dictating the actual itinerary.
Superb snorkeling and diving are hallmarks of the area and the underwater topography of the region is fascinating—a dramatic landscape of thilas, pinnacles and submerged coral structures enveloped in brilliant corals and sea fans, and kandus, deep channels that run between atoll and coral-terraced reef.
Step ashore on Utheemu, the most famous of the northern Maldives, a cultural treasure-trove and the birthplace of a 16th-century sultan who fought to drive out the occupying Portuguese. His residence, a beautifully preserved wooden palace, is evidence of the islands’ former glory. The Baa Atoll, made up of about 50 islands offers rich biodiversity including large mangroves and unique ring-shaped reef forms known as faru. And, serene Olhahali Island boasts one of the finest wide lagoons in the region.
During our time here, enjoy a special dinner and celebrate with a midnight toast as we ring in the New Year.
Male / Disembark Clipper Odyssey / Singapore / USA
Disembark this morning for a sightseeing tour of Male before checking into day rooms at our hotel. The remainder of the day and evening are at leisure. Transfer to the airport this evening for your independent overnight flight to Singapore to connect with homeward flights.
One of the finest adventure ships afloat, the Clipper Odyssey is a 110-passenger luxury expedition vessel, ideally suited for cruising in off-the-beaten-path locales. On all Clipper Odyssey expeditions, guests have access to a fleet of Zodiacs, which allows remote landings anywhere nature or curiosity dictates. All cabins on a Clipper Odyssey cruise have an ocean view, safe, minibar, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, in-room music system, and sitting area with sofa. Beds can be configured for twin or queen-size sleeping arrangements, and all cabins have an en suite bathroom complete with shower and small bathtub. In the comfort of their cabin, passengers can track the progress of their expedition on the Global Positioning System broadcast—a highlight of a Clipper Odyssey voyage for adventure-minded guests. Additional facilities include a gourmet kitchen featuring American and international cuisine, dining room, lounge, small library and gym, outdoor pool, and gift shop. An elevator services all passenger cabin decks. Ship registry: Bahamas.
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Options and Extras
Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.