Madagascar - Island of Nature

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Day 1: Arrive in Antananarivo

Arrive at the Ivato International Airport, where you are met and transferred to our comfortable hotel in the capital city, Antananarivo. The remainder of the day is free to relax. Overnight in Antananarivo.

 

Day 2: Antananarivo

After breakfast, we are taken on an excursion to Ambohimanga (UNESCO Cultural site), where the former Merina monarchs had their summer palaces until the last century. It's a beautiful and peaceful place with lovely views over the highlands; and a perfect way of gaining some insight into the fascinating and turbulent history of the Malagasy people.

In the afternoon we visit an archeological museum as well as the Prime Minister's Palace in the uppertown, where we have a stunning panoramic view of Antananarivo, dominated by the surrounding rice paddies and small hamlets with multistoried red brick houses - reflecting the Victorian influence. Overnight in Antananarivo.

 

Day 3: Madagascar Highlands

We leave in the morning for our trip to Antsirabe, through the highlands of Madagascar. On the way, we see the typical highland landscapes of rice fields and Malagasy (pronounced Malagash) architecture. In the afternoon, we reach Antsirabe, a beautiful town situated at an altitude of 4,900 ft (1,493 m). We explore the city by pousse-pousse (rickshaw). Overnight in Antsirabe.

 

Day 4: To Ranomafana Rainforest via Ambositra

Our journey to Ranomafana Rainforest begins with a drive south to Ambositra (which means "Place of Eunuchs"), where we see fine local woodcarvers. Lunch is at Imahasoavahiny, overlooking a picturesque Ambohimahasoa village.

We continue south to the town of Ranomafana, one of the most pleasant places in Madagascar. Historically, it served as a thermal bath center, but now the prime attraction is the newly established national park. Overnight in Ranomafana.

 

Day 5: Ranomafana Rainforest

This beautiful national park lies at an altitude of 2,600-3,900 ft (793-1,189 m) and is comprised mainly of rainforested hills, carved by numerous small streams feeding the whitewater of the Namorona River. The park itself is home to 29 species of mammals, including 12 species of lemurs. On an average day in the park, we see red-bellied lemurs, red-fronted lemurs and Milne-Edwards sifakas (commonly called chocolate sifakas). We may even glimpse a golden bamboo lemur, which is unique to this park and only recently discovered.

The diversity of flora is incredible, with orchids, tree ferns, palms, mosses, a variety of flowering plants and stands of giant bamboo - 278 species of trees and bushes as well as numerous other species of smaller plants. The Parc National de Ranomafana is part of the UNESCO Natural Heritage site covering the rainforests of the Atsinanana. Overnight in Ranomafana.

 

Day 6: To Fianarantsoa, Micheline (Historic Train) to Sahambavy

A short drive to the south takes us to Fianarantsoa (locally abbreviated to Fianar).Fianar has long been known as the academic and intellectual center of Madagascar and has recently become the wine-making center of the island. It is a charming town, dominated by the backdrop of 4,500-foot (1,372 m) Mount Kianjasoa.

From here, we enjoy a Micheline ride to Sahambavy, only 17 km north of Fianarantsoa. (Micheline is a wagon carriage with rubber wheels, which can hold up to 20 passengers) We enjoy free time to explore in the afternoon before dinner. Overnight in Sahambavy.

 

Day 7: Tea Plantation, Fianarantsoa tour

After breakfast we visit a tea plantation, and have lunch at Luc Hotel: with astonishing views of a nearby lake and tea-covered hills. We then enjoy a micheline ride back to Fianarantsoa. Upon our arrival, we set out for a city tour of the upper town followed by a traditional dinner. Overnight in Fianar.

 

Day 8: Anjaha park hike, to Isalo

Today we set out for the journey to Isalo National Park. Along the way we enjoy a visit and hike in Anjaha Park. Anjaha Park not only offers incredible scenery, but is also known for being a great location to view ring-tailed lemurs. As we leave the lush highlands and drive down to a desert-like environment in the south-west, with land becoming progressively drier and more parched. In the heart of this semi-desert lies the magnificent Isalo Massif with its stark beauty. Overnight in Isalo.

 

Day 9: Isalo National Park

The morning is spent in Isalo National Park, which encompasses the wildly eroded Jurassic sandstone massif. The park is characterized by alternating flat grassy plains and sandstone ridges dotted with palm trees and pachypodiums, commonly known as "elephant's foot". The landscape has been sculpted by wind and water into fanciful hoodoos that appear to have eyes, ears, noses and beaks.

Typical of the Malagasy culture, this haunting place is filled with a variety of local fady (superstitions and taboos) that must be observed as one moves through the park. We have a picnic lunch at a beautiful natural swimming pool. Overnight in Isalo.

 

Day 10: To Tulear

Today, we start with a drive to Tulear on the west coast. We visit the ethnographic museum followed by free time in the afternoon. Overnight in Tulear.

 

Day 11: Fly to Fort Dauphin, to Berenty Reserve

This morning we visit an arboretum that features spiny forests thriving in the southern arid region, before we transfer to the airport for the flight to Fort Dauphin. From the beautiful town of Fort Dauphin set amidst windswept green hills, blue seas and fine beaches, we transfer to Berenty Reserve.

Enroute, we stop to see various interesting plants, including the indigenous didieraceas (a family of unusual spiny-stemmed succulents found almost exclusively in Madagascar), and the skyscraper "baobabs", triangular palms; and the carnivorous pitcher-plants. We also enjoy the sacred Banyan Trees. Overnight at Berenty Lodge.

 

Day 12: Berenty Reserve

The Berenty Reserve is the country's best known reserve -its director was awarded the World Wildlife Fund's Getty Prize for nature conservation. The reserve contains nearly a third of the remaining tamarind gallery forest in Madagascar and is the best place to see ringtail lemurs and Verreaux's sifakas (large white lemurs which are among nature's most accomplished acrobats, hurling themselves across vast distances between tamarind trees).

In addition to other varieties of lemurs, there are striped civets and flying foxes (large fruit bats). The reserve is one of the best birdwatching sites in the country with 83 different species, including nine birds of prey and also 26 different species of reptiles. Later, we have the exciting opportunity to go on a night walk in search of the nocturnal grey mouse and white-footed lemurs. Overnight at Berenty Lodge.

 

Day 13: To Fort Dauphin, Nahampoana Reserve

This morning we drive back to Fort Dauphin, enjoying the breathtaking scenery along the way. After lunch, we visit the Nahampoana Reserve. Here you will have an opportunity to see many lemur families which live in the park up close. The white and black zebra-tailed lemurs are a mascot for the reserve. You may also see chameleons, tortoises, crocodiles and a wide variety of bird species. Overnight in Fort Dauphin.

 

Day 14: Fly to Antananarivo

Transfer to the Fort Dauphin airport for our flight to Antananarivo. Upon our arrival, we have lunch at a nearby restaurant. This afternoon, in the outskirts of the city, we visit the Akany Avoko orphanage. An eco-friendly refuge offering shelter, care and the opportunity to develop skills to enable their children to grow into self sufficient adults. Arrive at our hotel in time to freshen up for dinner. Overnight in Antananarivo.

 

Day 15: To Perinet Reserve

We spend the morning driving to Perinet Reserve through the typical highland landscape of terraced rice paddies. The reserve is also known as Analamazaotra after the river which traverses it. This afternoon we will have the first of several nature walks. The park is well known for it's nine species of lemur. Overnight in Perinet.

 

Day 16: Perinet Reserve

We spend the day going deeper into the reserve, looking for the famous three foot tall indri, the largest of the lemur species and living for up to 80 years. They can jump upwards of 30 feet! Early in the morning, it is possible to hear it's haunting song which can be heard for several miles. We will be on the watch for grey bamboo lemurs, re-fronted lemurs and chameleon's, of which eight species are found here. There are 24 species of amphibians including some endemic to this reserve. Bird life is also abundant. We will spend much of the day hiking in the reserve. Overnight in Perinet.

 

Day 17: Perinet to Antananarivo

Depart reserve mid morning for a leisurely drive back to Antananarivo. Free time in the afternoon for last minute shopping before our farewell dinner. Overnight in Antananarivo.

 

Day 18: Depart Antananarivo

Today you are transferred to the airport for your departure flight.

 
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