Chris Hutchinson discovers exotic islands, wonders of Africa and the Zulus...

The first film I saw in cinemascope as a young boy, was called Shaka. It told of the rise of a boy warrior who became King of the legendary Zulu tribe, ever since I’ve had an ambition to visit Africa.

Looking through a number of holiday brochures, I read that Fred .Olsen Cruise Lines’ ship Boudicca, was visiting South Africa. One of their exciting shore tours would allow us to spend a day on an authentic Zulu encampment and birthplace of Shaka. It totally captured my imagination.

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I was further enthused when I read Boudicca would also be visiting exotic Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Reunion, in addition Mozambique, I had to find out more.

The tour staff, who’s in depth knowledge of their wide range of shore excursions, helped put together an exciting itinerary. Also pleasing was the fact that the cost was well below the budget I set. I booked immediately.

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We joined Boudicca in Port Louis, Mauritius; our first tour took us through lush countryside to Charmarel National Park set in a valley. Here we gazed at the beauty of the Charmarel waterfall cascading from jagged mountains, accompanied by exotic birdsong.

Here also is the area of the 7 coloured earth, a rainbow on the ground, a spectacular sight created through decomposing minerals over centuries, forming dunes with colours ranging from red to brown and blue to violet, a unique legacy of nature.

In contrast we meandered through Caudan waterfront, an atmospheric cultural area where we enjoyed a 2 course lunch with local beer at the Arabia restaurant for just £7 pp. Then we were entertained by lively Mauritian musicians, and dancers in traditional dress.

Overnight sailing brought us into French Reunion Island. A highlight was a journey to Piton Maido over 2000 metres high, through subtropical forests with hedgerows ablaze with fuchsia, hydrangeas and endemic bushes and plants. We paused at La Petite France, observing how geranium leaves are turned into an essence used in perfume making. At St.Denis you absorb a little part of France in the Indian Ocean.

During Boudicca’s 3 days sailing we were impressed with the crew’s warm personalities, eagerness to please, and the intimacy of the smaller size ship. The ship’s activities cater for all, I settled for soaking up the sun with a good book relaxing under a bright blue sky, with the company of dolphins and flying fish skimming the ocean.

Our African adventure started in Maputo Mozambique, on our ‘must do’ list was to visit to an African market. Browsing Feima market, set in an African garden, we found an abundance of bargains, ranging from handmade crafts to beautiful coloured clothes, and lots in between, stall holders jovially participated in bartering.

 We then visited the CFM Railway station built in 1908, voted the third most beautiful in the world, now a museum, we strolled around Independent Square, where we saw the Iron House, a unique architectural design by a friend of Gustave Eiffal. We wandered round the botanical garden, our guide told us how roots and plants are used for alternative medicine.

 My imagination was running high as we sailed into Richards Bay, South Africa, time to visit the authentic Dumazulu encampment. On arrival we were greeted by the Chief in full regalia. Our Zulu guide took us through a number of their cultures including Zulu warrior’s combat, and pre marital customs. Bone throwing is still practiced to tell the future, and the medicine man, a hereditary position, is still revered as a healer.

 Our fascinating Zulu experience concluded with a wedding ceremony, and the crescendo of songs was accompanied by robust dancing. Visiting the area where the legendary King Shaka lived, exceeded all expectations.

A relaxing day at sea gave us the opportunity to reflect and enjoy Boudicca’s amenities. Evenings were another highlight choosing from a menu of mouth watering options, then to the theatre to watch an enjoyable show.

We berthed in Port Elizabeth, and journeyed to Pumba Private Game Reserve, boarding a 4x4 and set off on our adventure. First it was a herd of different species of antelopes and warthogs grazing together, then a dazzle of zebra. Climbing the terrain we met Nomathemba a rare white lioness sleeping in the shade, stopping only a few feet away marvelling at this magnificent creature. She opened her eyes, raised her head, looked straight at me, yawned then went back to sleep - an extraordinary sight!

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We paused at a stream and our excellent ranger, Daniel, was pointing out different birds on our right hand side, I happened to glance in front, and there it was, a huge bull elephant only a few yards away; he swung his trunk, turned and went into the bush. A thrilling experience!

Proceeding to a lake, hippopotamus’ were cooling down in the midday sun. At the top of the ridge another bull elephant called Stumpy because of his short tail, decided to walk alongside our vehicle.

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Then we saw from a close range a family of 4 white Rhino - sights to behold! This natural terrain was a bumpy, but exhilarating ride. Pumba was an African experience to savour.

Table Mountain stands imposing as it greets you into Cape Town. The city tour captures its highlights including its diverse architecture from colonial times to modern designs. Bo Kaap is an area of multi coloured houses, built when slavery was abolished, ending at the lively waterfront.

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Final tour, destination - Cape of Good Hope. Our coastal journey took us through quaint fishing villages, small townships and vineyards. You are in awe when you arrive at Africa’s most iconic landmark, an aquamarine sea with waves up to 20 metres high crashing onto the rocks and cliffs, creating a thunderous roar, releasing huge sprays of white surf. A captivating sight.

At Cape Peak, we boarded a funicular taking us to the summit, to view this breathtaking dramatic coast line.

Then on to the Penguin colony where these delightful creatures greet you with chirping sounds.

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Returning, we encountered a large family of baboons, the alpha male stood defiant in the centre of the road before allowing us to pass. This was a fitting end to an enthralling African experience. An ambition fulfilled!

This itinerary was exciting, stimulating and memorable. I can see why Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has been awarded the prestigious ‘Itineraries of the Year Award’ for the third consecutive year.

Travel fact file.

Boudicca’s ‘Indian Ocean Islands & Zanzibar’ fly-cruise (D1826) departs from Mauritius on 14th December 2018. Prices start from £2,999 per person - includes all food and entertainment on board, port taxes, return flights from London Gatwick / Manchester airports, airport taxes/transfers. Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines has 75 itineraries to choose from.

For further information visit Reservations on 0800 0355 242 (Monday - Friday. 8am - 8pm; Saturday. 9am - 5pm; Sunday.10am - 4pm)