Dear Flock to Marion Passengers,

Welcome back to dry land! It feels like just the other day that we were watching Wandering (and need I say it, Tristan) Albatrosses, along with countless other seabirds, caressing the swells of the Southern Ocean from our vantage point aboard the beautiful MSC Orchestra.

As mentioned on our final night in the Covent Garden Theatre, there were many dedicated people behind the success that was Flock to Marion, but I want to express our thanks again to you: our passengers. Thank you for believing in our very ambitious dream from the beginning, and, in particular, for keeping your positivity, belief and encouragement right up until the moment when Captain Pinto started up the engines, we waved Cape Town goodbye, and set sail for the relatively uncharted waters of the Prince Edward Islands. All of this despite the uncertainty of a global pandemic!

You can now view the full updated species list, competition prizewinners, archived newsletters, as well as our ‘Highlights from Flock to Marion’ Conservation Conversation webinar episode (which includes ship life and seabird photos, route information, and videos from the voyage) in the menu below. Please continue to watch this space, as we look forward to sharing information about the next ‘Flock at Sea’ voyage in future.

Lastly, if you think Flock to Marion worthy, please consider voting for it in the South Africa Tourism Awards by clicking here.

Kind regards,

Mark D. Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
BirdLife South Africa

Join members of the BirdLife South Africa team who had the privilege of taking part in Flock to Marion, as they share insights into life on the ship, including the 40 expert guides, the inspiring talks, and, of course, the fantastic birds.

Whether you are a fellow ‘Flocker’, are still suffering from ‘Flock FOMO’, or just want to join in the festivities, you don’t want to miss this fun episode of Conservation Conversations.

We are pleased to share the official Flock to Marion sightings list with you, confirming the incredible species we were fortunate to see during our voyage.

BirdLife South Africa would like to take this opportunity to thank our team of 40 guides and experts for their assistance in putting this daily list together, as well as for sharing their expertise and knowledge with our Flock to Marion guests.

Please submit any photographic evidence of species that are marked “TBC” to Andrew at

BirdLife South Africa recruited 74 new Conservation League Donors during Flock to Marion, bringing the total number of such generous donors to more than 244. Conservation League Donors donate a minimum of R3000 pa to BirdLife South Africa in addition to their membership fee. They receive a Section 18A Certificate for the donation, so it is tax deductible.

All existing and new Conservation League Donors on the Flock to Marion voyage were entered into a draw to win a pair of ZEISS SF Victory 10×32 binoculars. Sharlene van der Slikke was the lucky winner.

Please contact Mark Anderson at if you’re interested in becoming a Conservation League Donor.

The Flock to Marion passengers were encouraged to sponsor-a-hectare (or hectares) during the voyage, with a whopping R2 207 000 being raised.

John Cranke won the pair of Swarovski 10×42 NL binoculars during the lucky draw. George and Cathy Ledec won a beautiful Peter Harrison limited edition artist proof for sponsoring the most hectares. Three people, Alex Barrell, John Bradshaw and Geoff Ball, each sponsored 100 ha, and Alex Barrell was the lucky winner of a copy of Seabirds: the new identification guide.

Please visit if you’re interested in supporting the Mouse-Free Marion Project.

Newsletter No. 1: 3 May 2021
Newsletter No. 2: 26 May 2021
Newsletter No. 3: 14 July 2021
Newsletter No. 4: 25 October 2021
Newsletter No. 5: 10 November 2021
Newsletter No. 6: 16 November 2021
Newsletter No. 7: 9 December 2021
Newsletter No. 8: 20 December 2021
Newsletter No. 9: 29 December 2021
Newsletter No. 11: 11 January 2022
Newsletter No. 12: 14 January 2022
Newsletter No. 13: 19 January 2022
Newsletter No. 14: 19 January 2022
Newsletter No. 15: 01 February 2022
Newsletter No. 16: 03 February 2022
Newsletter No. 17: 08 February 2022
Newsletter No. 18: 07 March 2022
Newsletter No. 19: 11 March 2022
Newsletter No. 20: 31 March 2022

To those of you travelling with us on our Flock to Marion voyage, we know you have a myriad of unanswered questions. To assist in this regard and over the coming weeks, we will be posting, revising and updating this document in support of the many questions we are being asked, whether by email or social media.

Our Ship

MSC Orchestra.

Our dates

Leaving Cape Town on Monday 24 January 2021, returning to Durban on Monday 31 January 2021.

General Communication

You have a unique Booking reference Number – please use this on all correspondence with either BirdLife South Africa or MSC Cruises.

MSC Cruises website

For all enquiries, please ensure that you are on the website.

New Booking Enquiries

The MSC website has opened up for new bookings – please visit:

MSC Orchestra Technical and Cabin Plans

To download the technical details of the ship, i.e deck plans, cabin number and cabin locations, etc, please visit:

Further cabin details can be found at:

Onboard Packages – to prebook and prepay

For booking of Dining and Drinks, Entertainment, Spa Beauty and Fitness, Internet and Apps. please visit:

Shuttle Service from Cape Town International Airport to the dock and in Durban from the dock to
the airport

Details coming soon; these need to be booked and paid for via the MSC Cruises South Africa website.

Has the necessary permit to enter the marine protected area around Marion Island been granted?

We have not yet been granted a permit to enter the Prince Edward Islands (i.e. including Marion Island) Marine Protected Area and currently we will therefore not be able to sail within 12 nautical miles of the two islands, but we remain hopeful and optimistic. We are in continual discussions and negotiations with the department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to obtain the necessary permit.

Should we obtain a permit, we anticipate being able to approach to within 1 km of Marion Island, but will obviously not be able to land there.

What birds can I expect to see on the voyage?

Some of the seabirds that will be seen include: King Penguin, Wandering, Grey-headed, Sooty and Light-mantled Albatrosses, Kerguelen, Grey and Blue Petrels, Subantarctic Shearwater, Common and South Georgian Diving Petrels, and Grey-backed and Leach’s Storm Petrels. If permission is obtained to enter the 12-nautical mile zone around the islands, then Kerguelen Tern, Crozet Shag and Lesser Sheathbill also will be seen. You can view the full list here.

We are also busy with a seabird self-help guide which will soon be available for download at:

You can also register for our seabird and marine mammal identification workshops, run by several of South Africa’s top experts. Recordings of these workshops will be available to Flock to Marion passengers at a fee of R50 per workshop through our online platform EventsAir. Register using the link provided and we will send you a link to the recordings:

Do these birds count for my South African bird list?

All bird species seen within 200 nautical miles of the Prince Edward Islands (i.e. within the South African
Exclusive Economic Zone around the islands) qualify for the South African Bird List.

Compulsory Travel Insurance

All guests will be required to have an insurance policy to cover COVID-19 related issues such as cancellation, interruption, repatriation, quarantine and medical assistance and related expenses. Guests can choose MSC Cruises’ new Hollard COVID-19 Protection Plan that will provide coverage before, during and after their cruise. In collaboration with Hollard Insurance, the plan covers cancellation charges as well as medical and related transport expenses. For further details on what the cover entails click here.

IMPORTANT! Passports and Visas

As we will be travelling into international waters, passports will be required. Please check your travel documents to ensure that they are valid for travel.

International visitors to South Africa

For the international visitors joining us, please read carefully and action where applicable!

For foreign passport holders, it is necessary to have at least two blank pages for entry and exit stamps and your passport must be valid for at least 30 days from the intended date of departure from South Africa. For more information, please visit:

For those requiring visas for South Africa, please visit for further information.

We regret we are unable to assist with the renewal and/or application of any passports and visas and that any travel requirements need to be completed by you within your county of residence and according to South Africa’s travel requirements.

Disclaimer: BirdLife South Africa, MSC Cruises and their agents cannot be held liable for any incorrect travel or COVID-19 documentation which may result in your being unable to board the ship and travel with us.

Health and Safety

Our priority is the health and safety of all guests and crew.

In this regard MSC Cruises and the SA government have established the COVID-19 protocols, which we have to adhere to. BirdLife South Africa is satisfied with MSC Cruises very extensive COVID-19 protocols, which are summarised below.

a. Per the statement released by MSC cruises on 01/12/2021, all guests who are 12 years old and above must be fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Approved vaccines include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. Guests will be considered vaccinated if they have received the full set of COVID-19 shots more than 14 days prior to the cruise.

b. Unvaccinated guests aged between 2 and 11 who accompany vaccinated guests will have to undergo an antigen lateral flow test at the embarkation port at a cost of R300 per person.

c. A negative PCR test must be shown before embarking (test cannot be more than 72 hours old). All passengers are required to have a PCR test.

d. Other protocols that will be in place on the MSC Orchestra include daily temperature screening, the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces, sanitising of communal areas, 50% limit on the capacity of theatres, etc. Furthermore, as an extra precaution 80 cabins will be set aside for quarantine purposes, medical doctors will be on board, as well as nursing staff, and PCR tests can be done (albeit in limited numbers).

All of the crew, bird guides and BirdLife South Africa staff will be vaccinated.

Health screening of all guests in the cruise terminals will include a temperature check and a health questionnaire.

Guest embarkation flow will be managed by assigning guests with a specific arrival time, which will be indicated on their cruise ticket. The guests will be asked to respect the timing and will not be allowed to enter the terminal until their time slot (this is in order to comply with the local social distancing regulations).

MSC Orchestra is equipped with a 24/7 Medical Centre staffed by professional doctors and nurses and has a contingency response plan agreed in collaboration with the relevant authorities ashore. Additional health and safety measures include extended sanitation on board and the wearing of face masks in indoor public areas or where social distancing cannot be guaranteed.

To find out more about the embarkation requirements and the health and safety measures here.

Additional Information for International Travellers

On arrival into South Africa, all travellers must currently present a negative PCR or COVID-19 test certificate not older than 72 hours from departure time from the country of origin. Tests must be conducted and signed by a certified medical practitioner. South African authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of test certificates. These are the current measures, but are subject to change, so we encourage you to check regularly on the latest government regulations to ensure compliance.

For upcoming South African departures, specific conditions and protocols are dependent on local government regulations in place at the time of sailing, which we will update you on towards the end of the year.

The current COVID-19 measures in place on all MSC Cruises’ ships can be found at

Travelling to and from South Africa, connect here for full South African Government requirements

Travel – Coronavirus COVID-19 | South African Government

The South Africa Traveler Health Questionnaire is a new screening required for all travelers who plan to enter South Africa.

*To be completed by all travellers travelling within South Africa*

Traveller Health Questionnaire- Screening within South Africa

Will international travellers leaving the country on the evening of 31 January 2022 be able to obtain a PCR test with minimum waiting time for the results?

MSC Cruises is engaging with a Durban based laboratory to test any travellers when they leave the vessel, with a 4-6 hour turnaround time being expected. Further details will be provided when they become available.

Why do I have to pay a guiding fee?

We will have 40 expert guides available around the ship to assist in the guiding. There will also be a number of informative lectures, including by some of the world’s seabird and cetacean experts.

How do I become a member of Birdlife South Africa?

To join BirdLife South Africa you can email Shireen at, or you can join online.

Is the MSC Orchestra built to withstand the Southern Ocean conditions?

MSC Cruises would not take us there if the ship could not sail in those waters. Safety will however be paramount and the captain will  avoid rough seas and bad weather.

Where can I find more information about MSC Cruises?