Welcome to the next leg of the journey in the Ultimate World Cruise Itinerary series. For those new here, we are mapping out the bucket list destinations requested by our resident community of global citizens onboard Storylines MV Narrative, a private residence ship. We started the journey with Eastern Mediterranean travel and made our way to the Middle East. In this post, we will be navigating an Africa travel itinerary, which includes:
- Kenya (including Mombasa)
- South Africa (including Cape Town)
- Seychelles outer islands
Note: We’re assuming a maritime route between these destinations based on what makes geographical sense. This is not a final itinerary.
Convincing reasons to visit Africa
Africa has a rich cultural and ancient heritage, and some of the most incredible wildlife. You'll want to book reputable overland tours, shore excursions and volunteer opportunities when required. Luckily, we have done much of this research for you. While we have already explored part of North Africa, including Egypt, the Nile River, and sailing through the Red Sea, there is so much more to discover on this massive continent.
If you haven’t heard of Socotra before, you are not alone. This is one of the most unique, off-the-beaten-path, and out-of-this-world destinations on the planet. Located off the horn of Africa, Socotra is the largest island of the Socotran archipelago, which is part of the Republic of Yemen. However, it is considered a part of Africa. It could be our first port of call after leaving the Red Sea. However, we have to monitor the latest developments as there are sometimes travel warnings for Yemen, including Socotra.
The Port of Socotra appears to be a tender port which means we would likely be dropping anchor and tendering to the pier. Socotra is one of the most unspoiled islands on Earth, making it a nature-lovers paradise. You can hike the island in a week and find unique landscapes and extraordinary beaches that are completely deserted. The water is a bright aquamarine color seen nowhere else in the world.
- Archer Beach: This beach has 300-meter-high cliffs meeting the clear turquoise waters and towering sand dunes that are fun to climb.
- Zahik Dunes: This beach has spectacular sand dunes and a delightful small surf to enjoy.
- Diksam Plateau: If Socotra had a symbol, it would be its iconic Dragon Blood trees. A favorite for dendrophiles, they look like they belong on another planet.
- Wadi Difarhou Natural Pool: You must make this 1.5-hour hike to Wadi Difarhou Canyon, where there is a natural pool of sparkling emerald green water surrounded by an oasis of palm trees deep in the valley.
- Detwah Lagoon: One of the most beautiful places on the island, with the whitest of sand and bluest of water.
- Sand dunes: Explore miles of sand dunes that rise to 600 feet over the Indian Ocean, where the dunes meet the sea.
- Shoab Beach: You can hike or reach by Zodiac, the most isolated and beautiful beach on the island. Chances are you will have it all to yourself.
Kenya is one of the three popular East African countries for tourism, the others being Rwanda and Uganda. As a result, an East Africa visa allows you to travel between the three countries and can be applied and paid for online for around $150 USD. We encourage you to acquire this if you plan on visiting at least two of the countries.
Note: You must have proof of yellow fever vaccination to enter these countries. Additionally, adequate travel insurance is also mandatory.
The main cruise terminal for Kenya is the port stop of Mombasa (also requested by our residents), which is Kenya's second-largest city behind the capital, Nairobi. In 2021, the local Government completed the new cruise ship terminal on Mombasa Island, which is excellent news for those of us traveling to Africa by sea. The new terminal has airport-like facilities, including duty-free shopping, restaurants and office conference spaces.
As far as sightseeing is concerned, the terminal is close to the town center. A must-visit on Mombasa Island is the UNESCO world heritage site of Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in 1593 - 1596 to protect the port. Another fascinating historical and cultural attraction is Jumba La Mtwana, ancient Swahili ruins by the beach. If you feel like chilling out at the most beautiful beach, we suggest heading to Diani, about an hour south of Mombasa. Or for a closer beach, the nearby Nyali will suffice. We recommend using Uber or taxi to get around.
However, the best of what Kenya offers requires inland trips to the national parks for an African safari. We highly recommend pre-booking safari tours from Mombasa to either Tsavo National Park, the closest, or, if you have time, to one of the most renowned wildlife parks in Africa, the Masai Mara. The other popular excursion is crossing the border into Tanzania to visit the incredibly picturesque Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti National Park.
- Fort Jesus: This fascinating historic site built on the entrance to Kilindini Harbor offers guided tours or self-guided tours upon arrival.
- Diani Beach: This relaxed beach town with white sands, clear turquoise waters, and high-end resorts is a popular expat community.
- Tsavo National Park safari: This national park comprises two areas, East Tsavo and West Tsavo and features the African big five.
- ManEaters Lodge: Located near Tsavo, this lodge has incredible wildlife right off the back of the property. It also offers tours to the infamous Tsavo Bridge: when under construction, up to 135 workers were picked off and eaten by two unusually large lions. The Hollywood film, The Ghost and the Darkness starring Michael Douglas, was based on it. ManEaters is both an accommodation and museum dedicated to the horrific story and the victims.
- Nairobi: Kenya's capital city and one of the fastest developing cities in Africa. It has a thriving nightlife, museums and Nairobi National Park with African wildlife right on its doorstep.
- Masai Mara safari: One of Africa's best safari destinations, the Mara also offers tours to visit the Masai people. You can get a sense of how we all lived many eons ago. If you are lucky enough to be there between May and December you may witness the ultimate safari experience, the Great Migration.
- Gorilla safari Uganda or Rwanda: If time permits, you can arrange a tour from Mombasa to tick off this bucket-list experience.
- Mount Kilimanjaro: This is for hiking enthusiasts, just over the border in Tanzania. If you're not keen on climbing it, the mountain is incredible to look at and take pictures of from a distance.
- Volunteer opportunities: Several reputable organizations support a range of initiatives, from wildlife research to medical support.
- Serengeti National Park: While not exactly in Kenya, we recommend visiting Tanzania while in the region for a hot air balloon safari.
Zanzibar is a tropical island off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. MV Narrative would likely dock at the Port of Zanzibar, about a 15-minute walk from the town center. Zanzibar is hot and humid, so consider getting a waiting taxi if you do not want to be dripping in sweat by the time you reach the town. We recommend taking a guided walking tour through Stone Town. The guide will take you through the maze of narrow streets where you will learn the fascinating history as you take in the exotic atmosphere. Be sure to check out the small shops along the way, as Zanzibar's economy largely depends upon tourism.
Note: Zanzibar is still primarily a cash society, so you must withdraw money from ATMs in Stone Town.
Tanzania is a beautiful African island paradise renowned for its palm tree-lined beaches, crystal clear aquamarine waters and reef systems brimming with aquatic life. It is a popular vacation destination for water sports lovers with excellent snorkeling and diving sites. Outside of Stone Town, you could see the rare Colobus monkeys in Jozani Forest Reserve, about a 25 mile-drive from Stone Town. Taxis are your best bet for getting around Zanzibar; however, there are no meters, so agree on a price before getting inside the taxi. Several exquisite and exotic beaches are scattered around the island, some of which are listed below.
- Darajani Market: Come here to load up on exotic tropical fruits, organic vegetables and spices while at the same time supporting the local community.
- Freddy Mercury House: See the birthplace of Queen’s famous singer. Yes, the enigmatic superstar was born in Zanzibar (your guided walk should take you here).
- The Old Fort: Learn about the history of the Old Fort, the oldest building in Stone Town, built-in 1699 by the Omani Arabs.
- The Slave Museum: Learn about the dark yet important-to-know history of the slave trade in Zanzibar. You can tour the chambers where the enslaved people were kept before being sold and shipped to the Ottoman Empire and Egypt.
- Snorkeling & diving boat tour: There are many tour operators that can take you to the best underwater worlds in Zanzibar.
- Jozani Forest: Take a beautiful nature walk through the reserve and spot the rare Colobus monkey.
- Kitesurf: Zanzibar is a popular destination for kitesurfing, with ideal light offshore winds taking you over the shallow aquamarine waters. It’s a great place to learn to kite surf also.
- Nungwi Beach: This beach is located north of the island and has one of the best and cleanest beaches.
- The Rock Restaurant: As the name implies, the restaurant is built on a rock island just off the shore of Pingwe Beach. A boat will escort you during high tide; otherwise, hike up your shorts or skirt and wade across!
- Prison Island: Although its name derives from the slave trade era, Prison Island is now home to a giant tortoise sanctuary, with some over 150 years old. It's also a beautiful tiny island, just off Stone Town.
Volunteer opportunities: Several reputable organizations support a range of initiatives from marine conservation to teaching and community support.
South Africa (Cape Town)
Now heading to southern Africa and Cape Town, South Africa; not a surprising addition to the list. The country has it all; spectacular natural beauty, national parks, world-class wine regions, beautiful coastlines including surf beaches, and some of the best wildlife. As well as Cape Town, we will also recommend overland tours, road trips, and train journeys throughout the country. Hopefully, our stay at the port will allow you time to see more of what this beautiful (and conflicted) country has to offer.
If time allows, there are several options to explore further. We suggest renting a car and driving the Garden Route up the east coast to Port Elizabeth if you like your road trips. Besides having spectacular scenery, there are several great tourist attractions. It might also be possible to be picked up by MV Narrative in Port Elizabeth (or vice versa). If train journeys are your thing and you're up for an African adventure, check out the Rovos Rail, which can take you to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This is a must for adrenaline seekers with bungee jumping, white water rafting and other water-based activities on the Zambezi River.
In terms of safaris, there are several game parks you can visit not too far out of Cape Town. But if you want the ultimate experience, the African big five, you will need to fly to Kruger National Park, which offers safari camps and walking safaris to see the incredible wildlife in their natural habitat.
Cape Town is a personal favorite of this particular writer and I will be providing you with first-hand knowledge and advice for visiting this incredible city. Cape Town Cruise terminal is located on the V&A Waterfront, a shopping, tourist and entertainment precinct on the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Town. On the other side of the city is False Bay which faces the Cape and the Indian Ocean. Unique already! It's worth strolling around the V&A Waterfront as there are some tremendous restaurants and bars. However, if you only have a few days at this port, we highly recommend heading to the Cape Town hop on hop off bus tour, which leaves from the Waterfront. Buy a 48-hour bus pass - you will need it as they have four different tours. The bus tours will take you to all the main attractions, including the Cable Car to the top of Table Mountain, Devil's Peak hike, Simon's Town and the penguin colony, Constantia Wine Region, Hout Bay, Camps Bay and one of the most scenic roads in the world: Chapman's Peak Drive. Even if you do not hop off the bus this tour is worth it!
There are a few must-see places for those who love their history and culture. We suggest taking a free guided walking tour through Cape Town CBD (central business district - downtown). Here the guide will take you to various historical and culturally significant places. They have three tours; Historic City Tour, Apartheid to Freedom tour, and the Bo Kaap tour, a beautiful colorful little neighbourhood. We also recommend visiting the District 6 Museum, dedicated to an entire area of the city and its people who were forcibly removed from their homes to make way for whites. We also recommend taking a ferry out to Robben Island, where you can tour Nelson Mandela's prison and the actual cell where he was incarcerated as a political prisoner during Apartheid.
Cape Town highlights:
- V&A Waterfront: Waterfront shopping and entertainment precinct and a hive of activity with live performances of talented buskers, musicians and dancers, and a plethora of restaurants and bars. You will not miss it because the cruise terminal is on its doorstep.
- City Sightseeing Bus Tours: Seriously, buy a 48-hour ticket and do all four hop on hop off tours if you can. You will not regret it.
- Table Mountain: Probably the most popular attraction. You can catch the cable car to the top, which offers one of the best city views in the world, on par with Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. There is also a trail to the top for keen hikers, but do not attempt it unless you are experienced and fit hiker/climber.
- Devil's Peak: This is a much more doable hike and this writer's personal favorite. Devil's Peak offers views over downtown, Camps Bay, and Table Mountain. The walk is considered moderate to harder as you reach the Peak. Around 3 - 4 hours return depending on your pace/fitness/time spent at the top.
- Camps Bay: Cape Town's iconic beach is just a short drive from the CBD through the valley in between Table Mountain and Devil's Peak. With a backdrop of the mountains, Camps Bay is as beautiful as hip, with trendy bars, restaurants and beautiful people of all colors. If you're brave or into cold water therapy, take a dip in the ocean.
- Constantia Wine Region: One of the few major cities globally that has a wine region in its center and great wine at that.
- Muizenberg: A popular surf beach with a thriving nightlife.
- Kalk Bay: A quaint little seaside fishing village of Cape Town. Have a pina colada at Cape to Cuba.
- Boulder's Beach, Simon's Town: This completely different beach has massive boulders and a colony of penguins!
- Bay Harbor Market, Hout Bay: Cape Town's most vibrant market and an incredibly scenic district.
- Chapman's Peak Drive: One of the most scenic coastal stretches of road in the world.
- Volunteer opportunities: Several reputable organizations support a range of initiatives, from after school care programs to volunteer counseling to female survivors of abuse.
Namibia is located north of South Africa on the west coast. It is a popular tourist destination with striking landscapes like the Namib Desert and the Skeleton Coast. It can also be an excellent base to organize overland tours into Botswana's Okavango Delta, Chobe River and Chobe National Park. However, Windhoek's capital city is inland and MV Narrative would likely be docking at Walvis Bay, about a four-hour drive away. The drive up the coast to Swakopmund is beautiful, with the sparkling blue ocean on one side and rolling sand dunes on the other. Swakopmund is charming with its beach, pier and German-influenced architecture with plenty of places to have a lovely meal.
However, Walvis Bay is perhaps best for arranging shore excursions into the Namib Desert. It offers otherworldly landscapes used as shooting locations for many sci-fi movies, including the classics 2001: A Space Odyssey and Mad Max: Fury Road. Another must is Fish River Canyon and the African elephants of Etosha National Park. Several overnight tours can take you from Swakopmund out to the wonders of the Namib Desert, Naukluft Park, and other sites with safari experts included.
- Kolmanskop: Visit this eerie desert ghost town, remnants from a German diamond rush of the past only a few kilometers inland from the port town of Lüderitz.
- Skeleton Coast: The wild Atlantic Ocean and mighty storms have claimed many shipwrecks on this stretch of coast. As beautiful as it is desolate.
- Twyfelfontein: In northwestern Namibia, you can view the largest concentration of ancient rock carvings dating back some 6,000 years.
- Sossusvlei: These extraordinary giant red sand dunes are located in the Namib Desert.
- Fish River Canyon: Like the Grand Canyon with an African twist.
- Etosha National Park safari: Jam-packed with wildebeest, zebra, antelope, black rhino, lions and thousands of flamingos. Oh, and if you're lucky, the ever-elusive leopard.
- The Spitzkoppe: Visit this too-aesthetically-pleasing-to-the-eye giant granite rock/mountain, nicknamed the Matterhorn of Africa.
- Volunteer opportunities: Several reputable organizations are supporting a range of initiatives from wildlife conservation to disadvantaged youth education.
Madagascar could possibly be visited on our way down to the cape of Africa; it's just too early to know the exact route of the official itinerary. Either way, MV Narrative would most likely be docking at Toamasina, the largest port and closest to the inland capital of Antananarivo, Madagascar's capital. However, most of Madagascar's attractions are out in the country. You have seen the movie Madagascar, right? Nature and wildlife are next-level here.
The port is about a mile from Toamasina. Catch a pousse-pousse (rickshaw) from the port's main gate. Do not walk. And do not wear expensive jewelry or carry a lot of cash. In town, it's worth going to the local market, where you can stock up on fresh produce, including tropical fruit, vegetables, seafood, mint tea and spices. Although Toamasina has lovely beaches, shark sightings are common, and swimming is not advised. Head to the Toamasina tourist center to organize shore excursions to other parts of the island, some of which are listed below.
- Antananarivo: While we said most of Madagascar's attractions are in nature, Antananarivo is an exception. There are some great historical and architectural sites from the Imerina Kingdom period you can see with a self-guided Antananarivo walking tour.
- Royal Hill of Ambohimanga: A historical village that once homed Madagascar royalty.
- Andasibe-Mantadia National Park: Not far from Antananarivo, this is one of the most accessible parks to visit, where you can see eleven different species of lemur, the beloved national animal and star of the Madagascar movie.
- Ifaty Beach: A palm tree-lined beautiful stretch of beach with a sixty-mile long coral reef protecting you from the rough swell (and sharks), making it ideal for swimming, diving, and snorkeling.
- Avenue of Baobabs: This is the postcard shot of Madagascar you are probably familiar with. Nonetheless, it is a must-visit to see these magnificent trees for real.
- Nosy Be: The small island of Nosy Be is one of Madagascar's top tourist attractions for its beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters and excellent seafood restaurants.
- Ranomafana National Park: One of the country's most famous national parks, which is incredibly scenic with multiple streams cascading through forested hills, and home to the rare and endangered golden bamboo lemur.
- Volunteer opportunities: Several reputable organizations support a range of initiatives from marine conservation to children's nutrition.
The Republic of Seychelles is a beautiful archipelago of 115 islands located in the Indian Ocean. Seychelles is a popular destination for vacations, attracting travelers from Europe and worldwide with some of the best-rated beaches on earth. Like Madagascar, French is the primary language, although English is also widely spoken.
While the outer islands of Seychelles were requested, it looks like MV Narrative would dock at the main cruise terminal at Port Victoria, the capital on the largest island of Mahe. Arrange excursions to the outer islands from there. Port Victoria continuously wins the Indian Ocean's ‘Leading Cruise Port’ title in the World Travel Awards. It is about a 20-minute walk into the town center. Alternatively, there are taxis available at the pier.
Victoria is a pretty town ringed by mountains with plenty to see on land and a lovely culture to immerse yourself in. We suggest a guided walking tour of Victoria where locals will show attractions of the clock tower, museum, cathedral, government house and the beautiful botanical gardens. Additionally, they will teach you about their daily life. Mahe also has 68 gorgeous white sand palm-fringed beaches and rolling green hills and mountains for trekking, so consider exploring here; it's worth it.
It is unknown at this time if MV Narrative may be able to anchor in some pristine bay in the outer islands. But if we can't, head to the Tourist Information Office to arrange a trip to the more remote areas. There are many islands and attractions-here is a sampling.
- Aldabra Atoll: One of the most distant islands, Aldabra Atoll is one of the world's largest raised coral reef systems and home to abundant marine life, including the giant tortoise. Due to conservation efforts, tourists have to get prior authorization from Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF).
- Aride Island Special Reserve: An unspoiled island and the largest of the granitic island nature reserves in Seychelles. Pristine clear waters, spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife.
- Anse Source d'Argent beach: The Seychelles postcard and most famous beach have palm trees interspersed between giant granite boulders jutting out of the powdery white sand and crystal clear waters. Must-see.
- Anse Lazio beach: The archetypal tropical beach backed by a thick jungle of native palm and takamaka trees and flanked with giant granite boulders at either end.
- Anse Georgette beach: Another tropical gem of crystal clear turquoise waters, palm trees, white sand and sizable round granite boulders.
- Grande Anse beach: A quieter beach on the island of La Digue of white sand, large granite boulders, and stunning turquoise blue waters. A great place to rest.
- Anse du Riz: A hidden beach in the Baie Ternay Marine National Park, Anse du Riz has white coral sands, imposing granite rocks and an immaculate freshwater lagoon.
- Diving tour: Take a scuba tour to the best dive sites around the Seychelles for keen divers and snorkelers.
- Volunteer opportunities: Several reputable organizations are supporting a range of initiatives from marine conservation to community empowerment.
Thank you for joining us on yet another journey of the Ultimate World Cruise Itinerary series. Keep your passport handy for the next leg of the voyage as we cross the Indian Ocean into Asia. Please visit our website to learn more about our ship, community, and residences still available.
Disclaimer: The ultimate world cruise itinerary blog post series explores some of the requested destinations of our community of global citizens on board Storylines MV Narrative. It is for inspiration only at this time and the final itinerary has not yet been set. Further information in our FAQ.