by Chris Hutchinson

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.

When I read that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ ship Boudicca, was visiting South Africa and 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. I was further enthused reading that Boudicca would also be visiting exotic Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Réunion, in addition Mozambique.

The tour staff, whose in-depth knowledge of their wide range of shore excursions, helped put together an exciting itinerary.

Joining Boudicca in Port Louis, Mauritius; our first tour took us through lush countryside to Charmarel National Park set in a valley. This is the area of the seven 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.

Next port, French Réunion Island. A highlight was a journey to Piton Maido over 2,000 metres high, through subtropical forests with hedgerows ablaze with fuchsia, hydrangeas and endemic bushes and plants.

During Boudicca’s three days sailing we were impressed with the crew’s warm personalities, eagerness to please, and the intimacy of a smaller ship. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has been awarded the Itineraries of the Year Award for the third consecutive year.

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.

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 warriors' combat, and pre-marital customs. Bone throwing is still practised to tell the future, and the medicine man, a hereditary position, is revered as a healer.

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

A relaxing day at sea gave us chance to 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.

Berthing in Port Elizabeth, we journeyed to Pumba Private Game Reserve, and boarded a 4x4. First we saw a herd of antelopes, then zebra. Climbing the terrain, we met Nomathemba, a rare white lioness sleeping in the shade. Stopping only a few feet away, we marvelled at this magnificent creature. She opened her eyes, raised her head, looked straight at me, yawned, then went back to sleep - an extraordinary sight!

We paused at a stream and our excellent ranger, Daniel, pointed out birds to our right. I glanced in front and there it was - a huge bull elephant 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. Then we saw from a close range a family of four white rhino - sights to behold! This natural terrain was a bumpy, but exhilarating ride. Pumba was an African experience to savour.

Table Mountain stood imposing as it greeted us 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.

Our final tour destination was in the Cape of Good Hope. You're in awe when you arrive at Africa’s most iconic landmark, an aquamarine sea with waves up to 20 metres high crashing onto rocks with a thunderous roar, releasing huge sprays of white surf. A captivating sight. At Cape Peak, we boarded a funicular to the summit to view this breathtaking dramatic coast line. Then on to the penguin colony where these delightful creatures greeted us with chirping sounds. A fitting end to an enthralling African experience.

* Boudicca’s Indian Ocean Islands & Zanzibar fly-cruise departs from Mauritius on December 14, 2018. Prices start from £2,999.

* Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines has 75 itineraries to choose from.

* Visit or call 0800 0355 242.