Encounter Madagascar’s most famous inhabitant in the wild – be enchanted by the local lemurs and watch the white Verreaux’s sifakas dance across the sand.. As home to half of the world’s chameleon population it will not be hard to spot these unique creatures, even with their camouflage.. Sit down to a private candlelit dinner at Reniala Park in the company of the magnificent baobab trees.. With an included internal flight, this trip gives you more time to enjoy the beauty of Madagascar and less time on the road.
Madagascar. The name conjures up all sorts of exotic images – think leaping lemurs, colourful chameleons and the freakishly large elephant bird. Along with its pirate history and shipwreck-dotted coastline, ‘unique’ doesn’t come close to describing this place. From the capital Antananarivo, fly to the southwest coast to a land of great coral reefs and giant baobab trees. Explore the prefect beaches and water, and encounter a Jurassic world filled with lemurs in the craggy pinnacles and valleys of Isalo National Park. Spend a night in unique accommodation built into the landscape and camp in the shadow of towering granite mountains. Swim in natural water holes, seek out chameleons and Madagascar’s incredible wildlife in Ranomafana National Park, and encounter the local culture in the old town of Fianarantsoa, the Betsileo town of Ambositra, and in the in the old royal complex of Rova palace. Madagascar is simply one country you need to see to believe.
Your Madagascan adventure begins in the European-inspired capital of Antananarivo. You will be met on arrival at Ivato Airport and transferred to your hotel (approximately 15 minutes). Today is an arrival day so you can arrive at any time before a welcome meeting this evening. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive early, take some time to get acquainted with this charmingly crowded capital – with cobbled streets, wooden houses and impressive churches, ‘Tana’ has a distinctly romantic air. Wander the colonial streets of the Haute-Ville, visit the permanent Analakely street market or seek out the high quality restaurants.
See snapshots of Madagascan history in a morning visit to the Musee de la Photographie. Featuring both indoor and outdoor exhibits, this museum is a welcome new addition to the city’s historical attractions. Then, take a guided tour of the of Antananrivo’s Old Town and learn about the country’s heritage and royal history at the Royal Palace complex. This tour is led by a local historian, making for an immersive and comprehensive 2.5-hour stroll. For lunch, enjoy a meal with a view at the Lokanga Boutique Hotel, which is perched on a hilltop and overlooks the city. Return to your hotel for a brief rest before heading to a mouth-watering, hands on chocolate making demonstration. Enjoy a delicious dinner on site at this cross-cultural cooking school.
Take an early flight to Tuléar this morning (approximately 1 hour 40 minutes). Tuléar is the gateway to the Great Reef that stretches all along the southwest coast of Madagascar and is starting point of National Road N7, which goes all the way to Antananarivo. You will be collected on arrival at Tulear Airport and then drive to Ifaty (approximately 4 hours) with a number of interesting stops en route. First is the Be Avenir NGO, which is dedicated to helping less fortunate Malagasy people; primarily focusing on children, but also helping their families. Their important work seeks to improve the lives through better access to and quality of education surrounding health care, the environment, sports, arts, and social assistance.
You will also make a stop at the Honko Mangrove conservation this community-based mangrove reserve offers the unique opportunity to take a guided boardwalk tour of southwest Madagascar's mangroves and explore its unique flora and fauna. This site is particularly noted for its wetland bird diversity (at least 37 species)
Tonight you will stay in beautiful sustainable accommodation just minutes from the beach.
Today is a free day for you to explore Ifaty at leisure. The town is known for its beaches and seafood, and you can choose to do as little or as much as you’d like. Maybe choose to take a snorkelling trip, heading out on the crystal clear waters in a pirogue boat to explore the beautiful reef below; otherwise perhaps lying by the pool or on the beach is more you speed.
Tonight you will stay in beautiful sustainable accommodation just minutes from the beach. This evening there will be an easy 20-minute walk along a sandy trail to reach a private candlelit dinner at the Reniala Park, just beside the magnificent baobab trees.
Isalo National Park
Known locally as the ‘Malagasy Colorado’, the dramatic gorges and vast grasslands of Isalo National Park await after a morning of travel. Break up the drive with stops at the native gardens of Tulear and to eat lunch at Zombitse National Park, arriving in Isalo by early afternoon. A unique combination of sandstone rocks cut by deep canyons, bush plains and rare endemic plants make this park particularly rewarding for walking. You are free to explore the park at your leisure, though you might want to join in an optional visit to the extensive organic garden located on site at your hotel. Sitting at the edge of a canyon and surrounded by sandstone rock formations, the Relais de la Reine will be your base for the next two days.
Isalo Natonal Park
Enjoy a full day to explore the Isalo National Park. As Madagascar is home to more than half the world’s chameleon population, there’s good chance of seeing these unique, self-camouflaging creatures along any number of walks you might take. Covering an area of 81,540 hectares, Isalo National Park makes up the entire stretch of the Isalo Massif, a spectacular mountain chain comprised of eroded sandstone. This strikingly beautiful reserve is filled with golden plains punctuated by craggy pinnacles of terracotta rock, valleys, canyons, waterfalls and even tombs – the local Malagasi Bari tribe bury their dead in natural cliff caves, blocking the entrance with hundreds of stones. A perfect way to end the day is with a sundowner at your hotel, looking out over the huge rocks as the light changes their colour.
After breakfast you will drive towards Ambalavao. On the way, stop at the community reserve of Anja, a small park and community-based project that seeks to protect the area from deforestation, being surrounded on all sides by land taken over by rice and cattle. This rocky landscape boasts a wild and semi-tamed colony of around 300 ring-tailed lemurs, along with several chameleon species and rock caves that were traditionally used as tombs by Betsileo people. After exploring the reserve, you’ll continue on a visit to the Antemoro paper factory, where beautiful paper is handmade from the havoha bush and fresh flowers. Travel on to a local vineyard and winery, the stop for lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon, drive north to the old town of Fianarantsoa to explore. The city has a district called Haute-Ville, with cobbled streets, churches, and views out across the town and surrounding countryside.
Venture into the highlands and spend a full day exploring Betsileo country on foot. The hillside here is covered by the rice paddies, cattle and farmland worked by the ethnic Betsileo people. The third largest ethnic group in Madagascar, Betsileo folk make up just over 12 percent of the population and the community here revolves around agriculture and craft. Learn about the complex social organisation and culture of the Betsileo people, visiting handicraft workshops for a variety of disciplines – from printmaking to marquetry – and enjoying lunch at a local family’s home.
Continue on to Ranomafana National Park. Your lodge accommodation is located at the door of the park, ideal for exploring the town and the wilderness. Today you will explore the natural reserve of Ranomafana, one of Madagascar’s best-known and important parks. An early morning wake up will give you the best possible chance to see the local wildlife. Streams rush through precious-wood trees, palms, bamboo, orchids and carnivorous plants to join the Namorona River. In the afternoon, you will take a tour of the village and its hot springs. In Malagasy Rano means ‘water’ and mafana ‘hot’, and the town was named after the springs that were discovered here around 100 years ago. This evening there may be the possibility of a night walk inside the national park, which the chance to spot the nocturnal lemurs and frogs and, if you're lucky, the fossas – the only endemic carnivorous mammal species of Madagascar.
Travel north to the beautiful city of Antsirabe in the Highlands of Madagascar. Founded in the 19th century by Norwegian missionaries as a high-altitude retreat, the town was nicknamed 'Malagasy Vichy' for its hot springs and thermal baths. The city reflects the warmth of its people and the authenticity of its traditions, many of which are still alive in the surrounding countryside. Colourful rickshaws, known as 'pousse-pousse', are a popular form of local transport in Antsirabe. If you have time, maybe use them to discover tree-lined avenues, mixed European-style architecture, markets and more.
Spend the day exploring gorgeous Antsirabe and its surrounds. Begin with an orientation tour, taking in the early-20th century buildings and splashes of vibrant colour that adorn the cars and newer facades. An energetic town and hub of industry, Antsirabe is filled with both modern factories and small-scale operations. Explore the latter during your tour, visiting sweet workshops and zebu horn workshops. Then, visit the volcanic waters of nearby Lake Andraikiba, which local legend claims is haunted. Continue to Lake Tritriva, where blue-green waters fill an extinct crater. Bordered by sheer cliffs and verdant (season depending) forest, Andraikiba Lake is a true natural wonder. After soaking up the beauty of Madagascan nature, return to your hotel for a relaxing evening.
A 3.5 hour journey today to reach Andasibe. However, the drive will be broken up with a stop at the Peyrieras Reptile Reserve. Founded by French naturalist and entomologist, this privately-run zoo houses myriad reptiles and insects. You’ll be shown around enclosures featuring frogs, snakes and butterflies. As the forest next door is a lemur habitat, you might be lucky enough to spot some of these wide-eyed creatures too. Continue to Andasibe and relax in preparation for a long day of exploration tomorrow.