Safari cruises are set to be one of the hottest new travel trends for 2021. As we seek to connect more closely with the natural world, Nick Dalton selects some of the most enticing new itineraries. 

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From tracking down the Big Five in South Africa, to whale watching at the port of Akureyri, these cruises lines are following the call of the wild. If you’re planning an epic adventure on the high seas in the year ahead, why not make it one these wonderfully wild voyages top of your list.

9 of the best safari cruises for 2021

A Grand African Voyage

For many, a safari means Africa and the Big Five – lions, rhinos, leopards, elephants, and buffalo. The big one for the Big Five is the 74-day Grand Africa Voyage from Holland America Line, which is a safari cruise that circles the continent. Its own Big Three are as follows:

  1. A day in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park with its red elephants (tinted by the area’s reddish earth), zebras, giraffes, buffalo, gazelles, impala, baboons, and maybe even lions and leopards.
  2. A light plane to Amboseli National Park in Kenya, for a dramatic setting below Mount Kilimanjaro, renowned for its 900 elephants and huge herds of wildebeest, bird-filled wetlands and lions, zebras, hyenas and giraffes.
  3. A two-night safari lodge stay in South Africa’s Kruger National Park (as the ship sails from Mozambique to Durban), home to the Big Five and plenty more.

The Grand Africa Voyage departs from Fort Lauderdale on 8th October 2020. Prices from £15,549 including flights. To book call 0344 3388605 or visit hollandamerica.com. 

Cape Town Safari Cruise

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Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa’s third largest national reserve, is the place for elephants. Up to 600 of them gather at the Hapoor Dam alongside the rest of the Big Five, in the dense valley of South Africa’s Sundays River. The tree-covered Zuurberg mountains provide a stunning backdrop to game drives from dawn to dusk. Hapag-Lloyd cruises’ 14-day Cape Town round trip offers a day trip from Port Elizabeth for around £100, or an overnight adventure which will see you rejoin the ship (MS Europa 2) in Durban.

Departs 29 March 2021, from £8,541 for cruise only. Book on 040 307030555 or visit hl-cruises.com.

Coral Expeditions Safari Cruise

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Australian small-ship company Coral Expeditions is making its first trip to the islands of the Indian ocean with a wealth of wildlife. The first 25-night leg (part of a 57-night jaunt), from Singapore to the Seychelles, calls at Sumatra and the Maldives. The voyage also stops at Sri Lanka, where a dusk safari in Yala National Park to see the elephants and leopards is included. Not to mention a Sri Lankan feast and the night spend at a wilderness resort. It’s also the maiden voyage of the Coral Geographer, a 120-passenger boutique vessel. On board, you may find you’re also tempted to take a safari though the ships curated wine cellar…

Coral Geographer departs on 6th January 2021, prices start at £11,200 for cruise only. Call 00 61740409999 or visit http://coralexpeditions.com to book.

Icelands’s Majestic Landscapes

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Leave behind the land for not one but two seafaring safaris on Viking Cruises’ 13-day Iceland’s Majestic Landscapes voyage. There’s the whale-watching safari from the port
of Akureyri with the chance of spotting minke, fin and blue whales, as well as visiting humpback whales, their huge fins easily visible as they emerge from the chilly waters. Then a scenic fjord safari from Flåm in Norway sends you (with waterproof suit) skimming across the water in an inflatable boat. You’ll explore stunning Nærøyfjord, hemmed in by 1,500ft peaks, and will see plenty of wildlife, from seals to gliding sea eagles.

Between Bergen and Reykjavík, there are regular trips from June to August 2021, from £4,690 including flights. Book by phone 0800 298 8700 or online at vikingcruises.co.uk.

Seal Coast Safari

Head Down Under on Oceania Cruises’ 14-day Tales of the Tasman voyage (Sydney to Auckland) with its Seal Coast Safari. The 4×4 adventure heads off-road and even on to
the beach on the rugged coast of Wellington, in New Zealand. At Tongue Point, a rocky spit with views of mountains and across the Cook Strait to South Island is a colony of once-endangered fur seals – plush-furred, noticeable ears, pointy, whiskered snouts – and very sociable ($199). In the Bay of Islands, you might come across dolphins, gannets and blue penguins. The cruise is on sophisticated 684-passenger Regatta.

Departs 2 February 2021, from £5,679, including flights. Call 0345 505 1920 or visit oceaniacruises.com.

The Land That Time Forgot

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Some trips are actually safari cruises but are not termed that. Avalon Waterways’ 20-day Discover the Galápagos & Peru with the Amazon trip comes in three parts. There’s a four-day Galápagos cruise with giant tortoises, Galápagos fur sea lions and marine iguana, as well exotic fish, plus perhaps a penguin or shark. And there’s plenty of time in Peru (and Ecuador) with two visits to Machu Picchu, way up in the Andean Highlands, a sanctuary for wildlife from llamas to hundreds of species of birds, not least the red, yellow and green of the versicoloured barbet. But there’s also three nights in the Amazon, with a boat trip followed by canoe to reach your lodge on the Napo River tributary. There’s a cruise and more canoeing as you watch for three-toed sloths, and capuchin and howler monkeys, as parrots and macaws sweep overhead.

Departs 31 January 2021, from £9,111, including flights. Call 0330 058 8243 or head to avalonwaterways.co.uk.

Park Life: Cape Town to Accra

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Silversea offers three-and four-night pre-cruise treats in Africa on various cruises, for instance, the 18-day Cape Town to Accra voyage, which concentrates on the lesser-visited spots such as the islands of São Tomé and Principe. Then there’s the four-night trip (two nights in Johannesburg, two nights in a lodge) to Ngala Private Game Reserve, linked to Kruger National Park, with several game drives. Ngala means lion, so you know what to expect (£2,820). Or you can visit Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains in the Western Cape (one night in Cape Town, two in a tented camp in the wilderness). Expect the Big Five as well as cheetahs, hippos, giraffes, hyenas, black-backed jackals and springboks (£2,150).

Departs 30 March 2021, from £10,530, including flights. Call 0844 251 0837 or visit silversea.com.

African Safari and Seychelles

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 21-day African Safari and Seychelles voyage, from Dubai to Cape Town, has varied safari options. At Nosy Be, an island off Madagascar, there’s Lokobe Strict Reserve, known for its black lemurs and colourful panther chameleon. During five days in South Africa, try Kragga Kamma Game Park, in the rich coastal forest and grassland near Port Elizabeth, for its white rhino, buffalo, cheetahs, giraffes and zebras. Umlalazi Nature Reserve, at Richards Bay, is a green coastal strip with a palm forest and swamp – home to the rare palm-nut vulture. While at Mossel Bay, you’ll find Botlierskop Private Game Reserve housing all the big names, plus honey badgers and porcupines.

Departs 8 February 2021 on Norwegian Dawn, from £3,991pp, including flights. Book on 0333 2412319 or at ncl.com.

Rare Necessities

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The Along the South African Coastline cruise, from upmarket French company Ponant, sails from Cape Town to Durban over nine days. From Port Elizabeth, there’s a choice of a day trip to Addo Elephant National Park with an open-top 4×4 safari or a full day to Pumba Private Game Reserve, the first East Cape reserve to start a breeding programme for the rare white lion. All of the Big Five are here. While Richards Bay offers a tour to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, home of the rare white rhino, in the rolling hills of Zululand. Another trip divides between that reserve and a boat trip on Lake St Lucia, alive with hippos and Nile crocodiles. Each tour is about £100. The cruise is on the sleek and sophisticated 244-passenger Le Lyrial.

Departs 8 March 2021, from £2,560 for cruise only. Call 0808 23 43 802 or visit  uk.ponant.com.

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