Tour Rating Fitness ●●●●○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●○○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●●● Tour Pace - Busy
- Incredible endemic flora and fauna and an opportunity to see different lemur species
- Travel off the beaten track to the incredible Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
- Look for nocturnal creatures on a night walk in the forest at Ranomafana National Park
- Diverse landscapes from rainforest to semi desert
- Spend time on the beautiful Mozambique Channel at Ifaty
- Accommodation: Comfortable hotel/lodge accommodation with private bathrooms
- Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
- Group Size: Maximum group size 12
- Start Point: Antananarivo
- End Point: Antananarivo
- Transport: 4WD and minibuses, river boat and domestic flights
- Countries: Madagascar
Day 1: Antananarivo. Arrive in Antananarivo and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time to explore the city. Overnight at IC Hotel or similar.
Antananarivo, commonly known as Tana, is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. The name Antananarivo means ‘the City of the Thousands’, a reference to the thousand warriors of King Andrianjaka, who established Tana as the capital city of the Merina tribe and accorded it a sacred status. The city was largely chosen for its privileged location – being on high ground (1,370 m) and surrounded by marsh made it easy to defend and thus a natural choice for the capital. Tana, as the city is often called, has unusual French and Asian inspired architecture with winding cobblestone streets and staircases that create a medieval impression. The large open-air Zoma market has been disbanded, which means there is now plenty of room to walk around Araben ny Fahaleovantena (Avenue de l'Independence), the capital's main street. Other attractions include the colourful daily flower market on the edge of Lake Anosy and the botanical and zoological gardens, where you can see the egg and 3 m-tall skeleton of the extinct aepyornis, or elephant bird. Sadly, the Rova (Queen's Palace) burned to the ground in 1996. Though virtually nothing remains at the site, there are nice views of the city from the hill where the palace once stood. Antananarivo does not have too much in the way of conventional sightseeing, but if you enjoy walking around, watching local scenes and experiencing the laid back atmosphere that is prevalent here, the city is a very pleasant place – interesting markets, colonial buildings and many craft shops make it a great place to explore.
Day 2: Andasibe. This morning enjoy a short city tour of the capital before we drive to Andasibe through lush vegetation, stopping en route at a private reptile reserve to get up close to some of Madagascar’s many species of chameleon. On arrival at Andasibe you will visit a private sanctuary where you can get up close to Lemurs. This evening there will be an opportunity to take a walk in the forest looking for nocturnal creatures. Overnight Vakona Lodge or similar. (B)
Andasibe National Park
Andasibe National Park is home to some of the best of Madagascar’s wildlife, including the endangered aye-aye, bamboo lemurs, chameleons, and the indri, which was named by mistake when Pierre Sonnerat, a French naturalist, was exploring the island, a local guide spotted the animal and pointed at it, shouting “Indri”, which means “look at that” in Malagasy. Sonnerat assumed the guide was giving him the local name, and ever since then the largest species of lemur has been known as the indri, even to Malagasy speakers. These beautiful animals have black and white markings and pale green eyes, and live in the tree canopy. The park itself contains montane forest and a wealth of plant and birdlife.
Day 3: Andasibe National Park – Antananarivo. Andasibe is probably the best national park in Madagascar and a good place to watch the indri, the largest species of lemur on the island. We take a morning walk through the forest in search of this enigmatic creature as well as other wildlife, accompanied by an expert guide. In the afternoon we visit a lemur sanctuary to get up close to these fascinating creatures before returning to Antananarivo. Overnight Tana Plaza Hotel or similar. (B)
Lemurs are a special group of primates found only on Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. There are fifty species of lemurs, seventeen of which are on the endangered species list. Lemurs are prosimians, or primitive primates. They are social animals with long limbs, flexible toes and fingers, and long noses. Habitat loss is the main threat to lemurs today, as people clear their native forests for farmland. How and when lemurs became separated from the monkey family is unclear. Although it was once thought that lemurs were on Madagascar when the island separated from Africa, recent advances have shown that Madagascar was separated from Africa by hundreds of kilometres before lemurs evolved. Accordingly, the ancestors of Madagascar's lemurs must have crossed over from Africa on floating vegetation early in primate evolution and become isolated from Africa. Once on Madagascar, the lemurs evolved into about 50 different species. Then, about 2,000 years ago, the first human settlers arrived on Madagascar from the Malaysian-Indonesian area. By the time the Europeans who wrote about the natural history of the island reached Madagascar in the mid-1600s, 15 species of lemurs had become extinct.
Day 4: Morondava. Fly west across the island to Morondava, a coastal town with a laid back atmosphere and home to many of Madagascar’s different ethnic groups. If the flight is on time there should be time to relax by the pool at the hotel. Overnight Kimony Resort or similar (B)
Day 5: Bekopaka. An early start and a full day of travelling by car and boat to cross the Tsiribihina River, driving through the baobab forests, with great opportunities to see a side of rural Madagascar that few other visitors experience. En route we will visit Kirindy Reserve which has the best opportunity for viewing the elusive Fossa as well as lemurs. After Kirindy we will continue the journey to Bekopaka and again take to the water to cross the Manambolo. We arrive at Bekopaka in the early evening. Overnight at Hotel Olympe de Bemaraha or similar. (B)
Day 6: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. We spend today exploring the remarkable World Heritage Site of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, a bizarre landscape of eroded limestone pinnacles and one of the most scenic areas in all of Madagascar. We take the Grand Tsingy circuit where boardwalks and ladders between the pinnacles allow us to explore the area, replete with deep canyons and gorges and home to several species of lemurs and birds. Overnight at Hotel Olympe de Bemaraha or similar. (B)
Please note that although the Grand Tsingy circuit is a highlight for most people, some people may find it challenging. There are two paths that can be taken – the Grand Tsingy and the Petit Tsingy. The Grand Tsingy path involves going through caves and some narrow canyons, and harnesses may be used for safety reasons. You also have to go up ladders attached to rocks to reach different levels. It is not rock climbing. People of a reasonable fitness should have no problem but it is not advisable for those not comfortable with going up ladders or those who suffer from vertigo or uncomfortable with exposure to drops. Your guide will explain the difference between the paths so that you can choose the more suitable option.
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
Only gazetted as a national park in 1998, Tsingy de Bemaraha contains some of the most unusual landscape in the country, comprised of limestone karst pillars and pinnacles that seem to form stone forests. Its lakes, forests and swamps are home to many endangered species including the stump tailed chameleon and Decken’s sifaka. The flora consists of a dry western deciduous forest, and plants typical to dry limestone areas, such as species of Aloe and the baobab Andasonia, as well as the red-flowered and rather flamboyant tree Delonix regia, widely planted in the tropics. Madagascar’s sole native banana Musa perrieri also occurs here.
Day 7: Tsingy de Bemaraha. A further day to explore this wonderful national park. You may wish to do the Petit Tsingy circuit or for those that did the Petit Tsingy yesterday instead of the Grand Tsingy, other walks are possible or you can relax by the pool at the hotel. Overnight at Hotel Olympe de Bemaraha or similar (B)
Day 8: Bekopaka to Morondava. Approximately 8 hours back to Morondava stopping en route at the ‘Avenue of the Baobabs’ where these imposing trees up to 800 years old line the road and provide an iconic snapshot of Madagascar, giving hints of the extensive forest that once covered this part of the island. Overnight Kimony Resort or similar (B)
Day 9: Antsirabe. After breakfast, drive towards Miandrivazo. En route experience varied landscapes and the transition from the very dry west to the red soil and rice fields around Miandrivazo. Situated on the Tsiribihina River, Miandrivazo is a very fertile region for cotton, corn, manioc, beans, tobacco and rice. After lunch we continue to Antsirabe. You will also notice changes on the features of the local people as Asian heritage becomes more prominent. We finish the day in Antsirabe, founded by Norwegians in 1856 and home to Madagascar’s brewing industry. Overnight Royal Palace or similar (B)
The city of Antsirabe has about 100,000 inhabitants, and was founded by Norwegian missionaries in the late 18th century, who were attracted by the pleasant climate. It lies on the slopes of the nation's second highest peak, Tsiafajavona, in the Ankaratra Mountains, and has nearby thermal springs, locally renowned for their healing properties. The city is also known as the centre of Madagascar’s brewing industry, and indeed you will smell the brewery on the way into town.
Day 10: Ambositra – Ranomafana National Parks. Continuing south, we stop in Ambositra, the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry and home to the Zafimaniry tribe. We then continue to Ranomafana National Park for the night. You will have the opportunity to do a night walk in the forest to search for nocturnal creatures. Overnight Setam Lodge or similar (B)
Ambositra, meaning 'the place of the eunuchs' (supposedly because the Merina tribe castrated all defeated warriors of the local tribe), is an excellent place to see examples of Malagasy wood carvings, and is the capital of the Zafimaniry tribe. The local houses boast intricately carved balconies, panels and shutters.
Day 11: Ranomafana National Park. We spend the morning exploring the rainforests of Ranomafana in search of its many species of lemurs, reptiles and birds. This afternoon is free to either relax or visit the nearby village, with its interesting market. Overnight Setam Lodge or similar (B)
Ranomafana National Park
Ranomafana is considered to be one of Madagascar’s most beautiful National Parks, and was established in the early 1990s to protect the newly discovered golden bamboo lemur, as well as the very rare greater bamboo lemur. The park is covered with forest, and in higher areas moss and lichens cover the trees, giving it a prehistoric feel. Exotic plants such as orchids, as well as mountains, waterfalls and natural hot springs, make this endangered forest a charming and unusual place to discover.
Day 12: Anja - Isalo National Park. Leaving Ranomafana behind we head to Isalo. We stop first at Anja Park, a community run reserve situated in stunning scenery with great opportunities to see ring-tailed lemurs. Arrive in Isalo in the late afternoon. Overnight at Satrana Lodge or similar. (B)
Day 13: Isalo National Park. We spend today walking through the moonscape of Isalo National Park, stopping at the perfectly formed ‘natural swimming pool’, fringed with lush vegetation and a great place for a dip. Later we head to a stunning rock arch to watch the sun set over this dramatic landscape. Overnight at Satrana Lodge or similar. (B)
Isalo National Park
Isalo National Park, in the south of the country, is largely made up of interestingly-shaped sandstone rocks, and is a world away from the lushness of some of Madagascar’s other parks. The park is renowned for the colours of the surrounding terrain and impressive panoramic views, as well as a sense of utter tranquillity. It is also a sacred area to the local Bara tribe, who use caves in the cliffs as burial chambers. We will be walking for much of the day at Isalo so you should be prepared for this.
Day 14: Isalo - Ifaty. Leaving Isalo behind we head to Tulear. Travelling through the land of the Mahafaly people, we can stop to see the traditional tombs used for burying their dead. From Tulear we transfer to Ifaty on the coast. The region around Ifaty is extremely dry and dominated by ‘spiny forest’ of cacti and other plants that thrive in arid environments. Our accommodation is situated idyllically on a gorgeous beach overlooking the Indian Ocean, where we can watch the local fishermen take boats out as the sun sets. This is a truly beautiful part of Madagascar and a great place to relax or explore. Overnight Hotel La Mira or similar. (B)
On the south-west coast of Madagascar, looking out over the Mozambique Channel lays Ifaty, an idyllic sun-soaked part of Madagascar. Home to the local Vezo people, Ifaty is an excellent place for snorkelling, diving, or just relaxing and watching the waves lap the shore. Pirogues manned by local fishermen move up and down the coastline, bringing their catches back to land to sell in the local markets, and you’ll soon find yourself slipping into an easy pace of life. There are also plenty of other options for the more energetic, including trips to local nature reserves, boat trips to spot whales and other marine life, and walks to local villages.
Day 15: Ifaty. A free day to relax or explore. Ifaty is also home to coral reef and offers good diving and snorkelling opportunities. It’s also possible to take a walk to the nearby village of Mangily where we can get a good insight into the life of the local Vezo fishing community. Overnight Hotel La Mira or similar. (B)
Day 16: Antananarivo. Transfer to Tulear where you will catch a flight back to Antananarivo. Depending on the arrival time in Tana there may be time for you to take a taxi and visit the old and very grand train station which has a lovely café adjacent where you can spend time reliving memories from your trip. Overnight Les Trois Metis or similar (B)
Day 17: Depart Madagascar. Free time at leisure until your transfer to the airport and your onward flight. Please note optional excursions are possible for those with late flights. Day use available at the IC Hotel until 6 pm for clients travelling on late night Air France flight. (B)
Please Note That It Is Possible To Extend The Stay At Ifaty – Please Contact Us For Details
- Arrival and departure airport transfers
- Domestic flights
- All accommodation
- Services of English speaking guides
- Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- International flights
- Travel Insurance
- Tips (discretionary)
- Items of a personal nature.
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