Stay in a cottage deep within the Ranomafana National Park – surrounded by lush rainforest and countless species of flora and fauna.. See how many species of lemur you can spot in Isalo, Anadsibe and Ranomafana National Parks (there are 33 different types!).. Learn how sapphires are mined from the experts: the people of Ilakaka – the world’s largest sapphire exporter!. Explore the sandstone formations, deep canyons, palm-lined oases and vast grasslands of Isalo National Park – just some of its awesome variety of landscapes.
Lying adjacent to the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is home to stunning mountains, spectacular rainforests and white, sandy beaches. The island protects incredible numbers of endangered lemurs, rare plants and birds within its expansive national parks. Go trekking beneath lush tree canopies for a close-up look at Madagascar’s most famous creatures, walk through quaint towns filled with markets and European-influenced architecture, and enjoy relaxing holiday time on magnificent Indian Ocean beaches. Combining friendly locals, fascinating wildlife and idyllic island vistas, the Madagascar experience is a unique slice of paradise.
Tonga soa Bienvenue! Welcome to Madagascar.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Antananarivo is Madagascar's charmingly crowded capital.
If you arrive early, take some time to get acquainted with the city - hilly Antananarivo is a fun place to explore. Head to Analakey to visit the permanent street markets or seek out the restaurants and nightclubs.
Rise early and depart for Ambositra on the National road number 7 ( approx 260km, 6hrs ). On the way, we will briefly stop at Ambatolampy, a small town well known for its aluminium pot workshops. Continue our journey making another short stop in Antsirabe. With the tranquillity of a small European town, Antsirabe maintains a Malagasy touch, which it reveals in its markets and traditional quarters. 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. Arrive in Ambositra this afternoon. Visit one of the many small workshops that specialise in crafts as diverse as printmaking, woodcarving and marquetry. Ambositra is the home of the Betsileo ethnic group, the third largest ethnic group of Madagascar. Located close by the Zafimaniry forest, Ambositra is most famous for its woodcraft but it's also known for its silk production, which is very important in the Malagasy culture. The use of silk was once reserved exclusively for royalty but now everyone can wear it, though most of the time its use is reserved for the dead. When a Malagasy is buried, his body is wrapped in a large silk sheet called a 'lambamena'. After a few years, the family traditionally goes back to the tomb and changes this silk sheet with a new one - a custom known as 'famadihana'.
Ranomafana National Park
Depart early this morning for the nearby Manandriana villages, to explore the silk process. Each village is specialised in one step of the production, fully handmade.
Enjoy a traditional homestead lunch in the village before travelling on to Ranomafana National Park ( 140km, approx 6.5hrs ). Your accommodation for tonight is a small cottage located within the Park. Ranomafana means 'hot water' in the Malagasy language and this mountainous rainforest area is a haven for small mammals, birds, reptiles and insects, as well as precious-wood trees, palms, bamboo, orchids and carnivorous plants. Ranomafana National Park is home to 13 species of lemur including the famous golden bamboo lemur, first reported at Ranomafana in 1985 and one of the reasons why the government decided to protect this endangered forest.
Ranomafana National Park
Explore Ranomafana National Park on a guided walk, keeping your eyes peeled for lemurs, striped civets, mongooses, goshawks, geckos, frogs and butterflies. You may get a chance to spot a net-casting spider, or the world's smallest chameleon.
Isalo National Park
Drive to Isalo National Park ( 330km, approx 8hrs ).
On the way we will stop at the ANJà community reserve, a very good spot for observing lemurs and discovering the local culture. Villagers will be your guides for this excursion. Your tour leader will translate all the knowledge they have to give you. Continue on to the small city of Ambalavao, and visit of the Antemoro paper factory.
Isalo National Park
Today we have a full day to explore the park and discover its inhabitants with a local guide. Isalo National Park is known for its contrasting scenery of deep canyons, crazy sandstone formations and open grasslands. The park is home to over 80 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles and 14 species of mammals including 3 lemur species (ring-tailed, red-fronted and Verreaux's sifakas lemur).
Isalo National Park / Zombitse National Park
Start the day with a visit to the nearby mining town of Ilakaka, where we'll go on a guided tour of the sapphire mines.
When sapphire was discovered in Ilakaka in 1999, this small village of a dozen houses grew into a mining boomtown, driving Madagascar to become the world's largest sapphire exporter. Today about 30,000 people live here, seeking their fortunes in the hand-dug mine pits, or in gravel sifted from the river. During our visit, we will learn about traditional mining techniques (using “Angady” or spades), which represent an entire life for people.
Later, continue on to Zombitse National Park and witness a true highlight of Madagsacar: the bizarre Baobab Trees. Also known as 'the Tree of Life', these native trees can grow up to 25 metres, with branches that form a distinctive roof-like structure. Baobab trees may be several thousand years old and have strong drought-resistant roots ideal for the harsh savannah landscape. Return to Isalo in the afternoon.
From Isalo, we depart for the city of Fianarantsoa, known as the south door ( 320km, approx 7.5hrs ). This afternoon, enjoy a visit to the heritage-rich old city. Soak in the 19th-century charm by walking along labrythine paths and admire the flower-studded balconies of local houses.
The colourful town of Fianarantsoa is known for its markets and handcrafts. This heritage site is a must-see with its long paved road, labyrinths of small paths and old houses with flower-studded balconies and gleaming tiled roofs.
Take a day to visit a typical Magasy village, where people live a way of life still the norm for most of the island's population. Explore the countryside around Fianarantsoa, dotted with rice paddies cultivated by the Betsileo people and vineyards that produce the town's famous wine. You'll get a chance to sample local cuisine with a lunch break in the villages.
In the afternoon, visit the historical old city of Fianarantsoa, a very nice area that you can only discover on foot. A local association in collaboration with the PNUD has funded people to renovate their traditional houses.
Drive to Antsirabe where we have free time upon arrival to discover the city ( 255km, approx 6.5hrs )
With the tranquillity of a small European town, Antsirabe maintains a Malagasy touch, which it reveals in its markets and traditional quarters. 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.
Colourful rickshaws, known as 'pousse-pousse', are a popular form of local transport in Antsirabe. Make use of them in your city tour and discover tree-lined avenues, mixed European-style architecture, markets and more.
Andasibe National Park
Drive to Andasibe ( 300km, approx 7hrs).
On your way, stop at the Pereyras exotic park, for a visit. This private reserve is a great spot to observe chameleons, frogs, snakes and some lemurs as well.
For those who want to head out and explore the forest at night, we have the opportunity to go on a nocturnal walk through the forest at Mitsinjo, a privately owned reserve to spot endemic butterflies, lemurs and other nocturnal species.
Andasibe National Park
Andasibe National Park, the most visited park in Madagascar, is famous for its 11 species of lemur but this tropical forest is also home to unique endemic birds such as the long-eared owl and the rufous-headed ground-roller, and the smallest living chameleon, Brookesia minima, plus many types of reptiles, insects and frogs.