Flying in a helicopter high above South Africa’s lush Maputaland, one can’t help but marvel at the black rhino – classified as “critically endangered” – resting below. Crystal Cruises’ newest Boutique Adventure promises an ultra-intimate and exclusive, hands-on “Rhino Conservation Experience” in Africa, with tales to tell afterward that could rival any Ernest Hemingway novel. Offered with Crystal Serenity’s March 10 voyage from Singapore to Cape Town, the excursion makes guests a part of the vital local tracking and protection efforts that are fighting to keep the animal from extinction. From helping locate rhinoceroses to notching their ears while anesthetized (enabling researchers to identify the animal and aide in the repopulation process), participants will assist the expert anti-poaching team from beginning to end.
“How many times in one’s life do you get to stand right next to a one-ton+ wild animal in Africa, and feel its skin, study its valued horn, and know you’re part of an effort that will hopefully help this creature, and its descendants, survive?” says John Stoll, vice president of land programs. “This is an experience that, both on a personal level and a larger, macro level, promises to be beyond rewarding and memorable – and that has been created exclusively for Crystal cruisers.”
Crystal’s “Rhino Conservation Experience” is available only to guests also participating in Crystal’s mid-cruise, off-ship Overland Adventure to the Phinda Private Game Reserve. The Overland Adventure, which departs from Durban and returns to Port Elizabeth, features two nights of luxury accommodations and game drives in search of lions, elephants, buffalo and leopards. The line’s Boutique Adventure collection, first introduced in January, features shoreside experiences that are extremely limited in participation and not available with any other cruise line.
The 21-day sailing departs Singapore for Jakarta, Indonesia; Mauritius/Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius; Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town (overnight), South Africa, with a two-night, inclusive pre-cruise program to Bangkok and Cambodia beginning on March 7. Cruise-only fares start at $7,520 per person if booked by January 3, 2014. The “Rhino Conservation Experience” is $1,287 per person.