- Zafimaniry artwork – Antaimoro paper
- Anja villagers park
- Fenêtre d'Isalo – Isalo NP
- Ifaty beach and forest
- Village des tortues
- Anakao Beach – Nosy Ve island
- Berenty park
- Lokaro Bay
Towns: Antananarivo - Antsirabe - Ambositra - Ambalavao - Ranohira - Toliara (Tuléar) - Tolagnaro - (Fort Dauphin)
Note: All year tour, can start on personalised base every day
Day 1, Monday, Antananarivo. Today is an arrival day, so you are free to arrive at any time. Upon arrival in Antananarivo's Ivato Airport, you are met by your tour manager and transferred to our hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. An optional short tour of Madagascar's capital city can be arranged. Includes: none.
Day 2, Tuesday, Antananarivo – Antsirabe. Leaving Antananarivo and driving south to Antsirabe, known as 'the city where one can find much minerals'. Our drive takes us across the highlands with beautiful rice fields and spectacular eroded hills called 'lavaka'. Many vegetables and fruits are grown in this lush green landscape. En route we drive past Ambatolampy, a sizeable agricultural city also well known as the 'capital of aluminium pottery'. Antsirabe was founded by Norwegian missionaries as a health retreat and offers a cool highland climate and therapeutic thermal springs. Whilst it is today a relative modern place, it still has a relaxed and sophisticated 19th century ambience about it. Our hotel is an architecturally amazing building set on a promontory and surrounded by elegant gardens. Includes: (B)
Day 3, Wednesday, Antsirabe – Ambalavao. After breakfast we spend some time in Antsirabe and wander through wide, palm-lined boulevards. The local taxi service which consists of a number of brightly coloured rickshaws (pousse-pousses), adds further colour and charm to the place. We then take a short drive to the town of Ambositra, regarded as the arts and crafts centre of Madagascar. Here we seek out woodcarvings, raffia baskets, coloured wood collages (marque-terie), paintings and polished stones among the dozens of artisans' shops in town. The landscape is dominated by rice fields, pine and eucalyptus forests and rocky mountains. We then drive to nearby Fianarantsoa, Madagascar's 'cultural capital'. Known as 'the city where one learns good things', Fianarantsoa is the gateway of the south and is the capital city for the Betsileo people. The landscape is again superb, with great views of vineyards, terraced paddy fields and rocky outcrops. Our destination, the small town of Ambalavao, is one of Madagascar's most attractive with many of its buildings containing carved wooden balconies. Once arrived we visit the Antaimoro Paper Factory. The paper producing industry is a legacy of Arabian civilisation on the island. Here paper is made from scratch using the bark of avoha bush. After a series of steps, fresh flowers are pressed into the paper to make attractive cards, envelopes and picture frames. Includes: (B).
Day 4, Thursday, Ambalavao – Ranohira. We make a very early start at dawn and drive 15 kilometres south to Anja villagers reserve, a community-run park that was set up in 1999 and has superb scenery, plants, Betsileo tombs, caves and a colony of ring-tailed lemurs. We walk for an hour in the park before we continue our road journey to the sleepy town of Ihosy, which is the capital for the Bara ethnic group. Ihosy also serves as a barrier between the green highlands of central Madagascar and the more arid south. The Bara rearing Zebu cattle, which they herd through the mountain chain of Andringitra. We see a rock formation called the Bishop's Hat, a sacred place for the Bara people. It was here that their ancestors once preferred collective suicide than surrender to invading Merina ethnic group. We then pass through the huge Plateaux de Horombe, which is characterised by its red soil and straws locally known as 'bozaka', before arriving in Ranohira. After checking in we drive to the 'Fenêtre de l’Isalo' – a natural rock window covered with green and orange lichen and offers sweeping views over the surrounding plain – a great spot to photograph around sunset. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 5, Friday, Isalo NP. Today we visit Isalo National Park and enjoy two half-day hikes in this surreal place. This strikingly beautiful reserve is filled with golden plains punctuated by craggy pinnacles of terracotta rock, valleys, canyons and waterfalls. Covering an huge area, Isalo National Park comprises the entire stretch of the Isalo Massif, a very spectacular mountain chain made up of eroded sandstone. In the morning we walk to the 'canyon des singes', where we may spot ring-tailed lemurs and Verreaux's Sifakas in the lush forested entrance to the canyon. The park is also home to approximately 55 species of birds, including the endemic Benson’s rock thrush, as well as various lizards and snakes. In the afternoon another hike takes us to the 'piscine naturellenaturelle a natural swimming pool in an oasis-like setting. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6, Saturday, Ranohira – Toliara (Tuléar). After breakfast we continue to Toliara, the finishing point of National Road N° 7. Here we experience new kind of scenery which comprises of dry forests to the west and spiny deserts to the south and spectacular baobabs in between. Toliara is in the driest area in Madagascar, with landscape dominated by spiny forest like cactus and various plants. Along the way we drive past the bizarre 'Wild West' sapphire mining town of Ilakaka. We also see elaborate tombs belonging to the Mahafaly people of southern Madagascar. These tombs, which measure up to 15 square metres, are works of art constructed by the community to honour the deceased. The building of these tombs can take up to a year and the different stages of construction are marked by ceremonies, some involving the sacrifice of zebu (cattle). The final result is a huge monolith, adorned with painted scenes from the life of the deceased, and also sometimes by wooden posts carved with curved geometric figures (aloalo). Amazingly we can count the number of sacrificed zebus by the number of its horns decorated on each tomb. On arrival we check in our hotel for two nights. Then we take a short orientation tour before enjoying some free time to wander around town. Includes: (B).
Day 7, Sunday, Ifaty. From Toliara we take a drive north along the coast to Ifaty. This is our base to enjoy time at leisure. With a 35 kilometre reef running offshore, this is an ideal place to partake in some snorkelling. The reef attracts a variety of fish, including several species of sharks. Whilst at Ifaty we take an excursion to the Tortoise Village – a conservation project involving breeding the endemic radiated tortoise. These animals rank with the Lemurs and the Chameleons as Madagascar’s most important flagship species, symbols for which the country is renowned around the world. These tortoises are at very high risk of extinction and have been heavily impacted by human activities, especially in the last few decades. All have been affected by habitat destruction, some by hunting as a food source, and others by live capture for the illegal international wildlife trade. Captive-breeding programs were identified as priority safety measures, both within Madagascar and internationally. The 'village des tortues' at Ifaty playing a key role in holding, quarantining, and eventually redistributing confiscated animals, as well as serving an important education function. Includes: (B).
Day 8, Monday, Toliara – Anakao. After breakfast we take a short transfer to the port of Toliara. There we embark for a motorboat ride to Anakao. It is a traditional Vezo fishing village This village is located in the south of Toliara, the desert area. The ocean constitutes, for this group of Malagasy from the south, a relatively inexhaustible source of life. All their activities are traditionally related to this extended marine. In this corner of the island, where time seems to have stopped a few decades ago, some 1500 Vezo people gathered together and settled on a small portion of land. Thanks to its isolation it remains fairly unspoiled. We stay some kms from the village and may enjoy a walk along the shore or swimming in the sea. The beauty of the ocean with a turquoise sea mixed with the green emerald tickling of the coastal landscape of sand embellished by the rare thickets and of coconuts… The traversed coast is swept quasi-constantly by the 'siokatimo' – southern wind. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 9, Tuesday, Nosy Ve. Nosy Ve with its pristine and warm water. We reach this uninhabited coral island just some kilometres off Anakao by sailing pirogue. Deserted white sand beaches and low greenery with little shade await us there. Local fady (taboo) has left it unspoilt and provided a safe nesting ground for red-tailed tropic birds which allow close approach. Nosy Ve has a history dating to the French who landed here around 1888 prior to conquering the mainland. Some ancient tombs of French settlers can still be found here. Also, in the past the island served as a hiding place for pirates and as a slave departure port. After coming back we may enjoy sunset with taking a drink. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 10, Wednesday, Anakao – Toliara. After breakfast we transfer back by motorboat to Toliara. The city, is built on the Tropic of Capricorn. The town is painted in light colours. That is the reason why the people from the highlands call it the white city. The approach to the city is exceptional: you can see large sand dunes which run along the coast. According to the ancestors of Toliara, the first inhabitants of this area were called Antandavaka which means the men who live in caves. The current spelling (Toliara instead the French based Tuléar) was adopted in the 1970s, and reflects the orthography of the Malagasy language. Many geographic place names were similarly altered in this time from their previous French spellings following Malagasy independence in 1960. As a port town it acts as a major import/export hub for commodities such as sisal, soap, cotton and peanuts. Includes: (B).
Day 11 Thursday, Toliara – Tolagnaro (Fort Dauphin) – Berenty,
Today we board our flight to Tolagnaro, which is beautifully situated along a curved sandy bay on the south-eastern tip of Madagascar. Upon arrival we do a quick orientation tour around Tolagnaro. Dating back to 1643 it is one of the original French settlements on the island, although shipwrecked Portuguese sailors had erected a fort here as early as 1504. We then travel on a bumpy journey for 80 kilometres on a badly-eroded road to Berenty Reserve, where we spend a night in bungalows on the edge of the forest. The journey to Berenty takes us through various vegetation zones, including high mountains, thick thorn scrubs and the spiny forests of Didiera and Alluaudia, known locally as the 'octopus tree', where strange spiny spikes reaching vertically out of the semi-desert ground and tower up to 20 metres in the air. Berenty Reserve is a private reserve that offers the chance to experience the magic of the forest. The opportunities here to photograph close-up lemurs are second to none, as many of them are habituated to humans. We are sure to see brown lemurs and ring- tailed lemurs. One of the highlights of our trip is sure to be witnessing graceful white Verreauxi Sifakas 'dancing' their way across clearings in wild and comical leaps on their two hind legs. Upon arrival, we settle in. At night we also embark on an evening walk, using flash lights to see observe the nocturnal life in the forest. Here we may see mouse lemur and sportive lemur. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 12, Friday, Berenty Reserve – Tolagnaro. We may be woken this morning by the sound of lemurs outside our bungalows. If we rise early we may want to take a walk from your lodge into the forest area of the reserve along well-maintained trails, where there is a chance to see lemurs including 'dancing' Sifakas. After breakfast we take an organised walk into another section of forest, where along the way we are likely to see more lemurs, including the resident group of ring-tailed lemurs and brown lemurs. A particularly amusing sight is seeing ring-tailed lemurs 'sun baking' - sitting in the sunshine with their arms spread wide and their bellies facing towards the sun. As well as the resident lemur population, there are also endemic plants, chameleons and species of birds. We spend time at the excellent Antandroy Museum, which showcases the life of the Androy people. Leaving Berenty Reserve, we travel back to Fort Dauphin where we check our lodge. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 13, Saturday, Lokaro Bay excursion. Today we enjoy a complete change of scenery on the white sand beaches of this superb bay. We embark for our day excursion to the isolated Lokaro Peninsula, a beautiful and unspoilt area of green hills, inland waterways, natural swimming holes and barrier beaches. To get there we need to travel by road before transferring on to a boat that takes us out through a series of freshwater channels. There is a chance to do some interesting short hikes. It is an incredible place to walk along the beach and absorb the solitude, broken only by thundering waves. This is a fitting finale to our Madagascar adventure. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 14, Sunday, Fort Dauphin – Antananarivo. Most of the day is at leisure in Fort Dauphin. In the evening we take a flight to Antananarivo, where our tour ends on arrival at Antananarivo's Ivato Airport. Any international flights out of Antananarivo on this day should not be booked to depart prior to 10pm. Spending an extra night in Antananarivo is highly recommended, as there can sometimes be unexpected delays to local flights. Includes: (B).
Note: All year tour, can start on personalised base every day.
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