Dear Flock to Marion passengers,

By now most, if not all, of you would have seen the letter from MSC Cruises regarding the change from the MSC Lirica to the MSC Musica as well as the reversal of the departure ports, now leaving Cape Town on 24 January and returning to Durban on 31 January 2022.

MSC Cruises has been liaising closely with BirdLife South Africa during the past fortnight and we can confirm these changes. MSC Cruises asked us not to communicate the changes to our pax until after their correspondence had been sent out, and we have respected this request.

We do welcome the MSC Musica as our new vessel, as it is larger and better configured for birding. It is also an elegant ship and there’s even bird décor in some of the lounges! There’s also a large auditorium for lectures. However, we will now have to go through the process of reallocating cabins yet again, and we ask for your patience in this regard. We have been informed that these changes constitute the final arrangements for this once-in-a-lifetime voyage. Importantly, none of our pax will be downgraded from their original booking on the MSC Opera.

We ask you to please bear with us and with MSC Cruises. The past year has not been easy, and some tough decisions have had to be made by MSC Cruises. With all sincerity, I can tell you that MSC Cruises and especially the team in South Africa have been exceptionally helpful and professional. It is thanks to them that we have been able to secure the ship for our voyage to the Southern Ocean. I sympathise with MSC Cruises, as the past year has been exceptionally difficult for them (as for many other companies and people around the world). COVID-19 has made life very difficult and the many uncertainties has meant that changes have to be made, with some of these (such as the postponement of Flock to Marion to January 2022) largely unavoidable.
BirdLife South Africa remains enormously grateful to MSC Cruises for all that is being done to ensure a successful Flock to Marion voyage.

We apologise for the inconveniences that the postponement and other changes have caused, and we thank you for your support as we negotiate these largely uncharted waters. Flock to Marion will happen, we will get to sail to the Southern Ocean, we will get to see some awesome seabirds and marine mammals, and we will enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded people who love seabirds, the ocean and the natural world.

Mark D. Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
BirdLife South Africa

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 book a spot for Flock to Marion?

Please see the booking information in the tab above.

I am travelling alone and would like to share with someone, is this possible?

Yes, it is possible. There are a few passengers that will be sharing. Please contact Gisela Ortner at

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.

Which ship will the voyage take place on?

The MSC Lirica:

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

MSC 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?

Will we anchor close to Marion Island?

We have not as yet secured a permit to enter the Prince Edward Islands (i.e. including Marion Island) Marine Protected Area. As things currently stand, we will therefore not be able to sail within 12 nautical miles of the two islands. We will however continue to engage with the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries in our efforts 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.

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.

Newsletter No. 1: 3 May 2021
Newsletter No. 2: 26 May 2021
Newsletter No. 3: 14 July 2021