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 the Andafiavaratra museum at the former 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 their 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

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.

This afternoon, we enjoy a city tour followed by a visit to the local tea plantation. Tonight we enjoy a traditional dinner. Overnight in Fianar.


Day 7: Anja 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 Anja Park. Anja 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. In the heart of this semi-desert lies the magnificent Isalo Massif with its stark beauty. This stunning park is home for the next 3 nights. Overnight in Isalo National Park.


Days 8 - 9: Isalo National Park

For the next two full days we enjoy our time hiking and exploring Isalo National Park. The park encompasses the wildly eroded Jurassic sandstone massif and 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. Over the next two days, we enjoy numerous guided walks and hikes in the park in search of wildlife and also enjoy a picnic lunch at a beautiful natural swimming pool. Overnight in Isalo National Park.


Day 10: To Tana via Tulear

Today, we start with a drive to Tulear on the west coast. We stop enroute at Zombitse National Park which offers amazing views of baobab trees, orchids and home to the Verreaux Sifaka and Zombitse sportive lemurs, endemic birds such as Appert's tetraka and standing geckos.

After a late lunch, we visit the Arboretum Antsokay that features spiny forests thriving in the southern arid region before making our way into town where we explore a small ethnographic museum to learn about the unique and interesting cultures and tribes found in southern Madagascar. After an early dinner we board our flights and fly back to Antananarivo. Overnight in Antananarivo.


Day 11: Fly to Fort Dauphin, to Berenty Reserve

This morning we return to the airport and fly to the beautiful town of Fort Dauphin set amidst windswept green hills, blue seas and fine beaches. We then make the long bumpy drive 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, the carnivorous pitcher-plants as well as the sacred Banyan Trees.

This evening, we can enjoy a walk to see some of the exotic flora and fauna of Berenty.
Overnight at Berenty Lodge.


Day 12: Berenty Reserve - Madagascar's premier 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: Berenty, To Fort Dauphin, Nahampoana Reserve

Today we enjoy a morning of leisure at our lodge located inside the park. As Berenty has the greatest concentration of lemurs and other wildlife in the country, often times you do not have to leave the lodge or walk far to see them. If you choose to relax at the lodge, you may be lucky enough to have the lemurs come to you!

Late morning, we make the 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 visit the Akany Avoko orphanage where we enjoy lunch. The Akany Avoko is 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 Analamazaotra Special Reserve (Perinet)

We drive to Analamazaotra Special Reserve through the typical highland landscape of terraced rice paddies. The reserve was named after the river which traverses it. This afternoon we will have the first of several nature walks. The park is well known for its nine species of lemur. Overnight in Andasibe.


Day 16: Analamazaotra Special 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 which can live for up to 30 years. They can jump upwards of 30 feet! Early in the morning, it is possible to hear their haunting song which can be heard for several miles. We will be on the watch for grey bamboo lemurs, common brown 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 Andasibe.


Day 17: Andasibe 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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