Highlights of Madagascar
Day 1 Antananarivo
Arrive at any time to Antananarivo, affectionately known to the locals as "Tana." A brief departure meeting will be held in the hotel reception area in evening on Day 1 of your tour. Upon arrival look for important information from your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) on the hotel bulletin board located at reception. *PLEASE NOTE* Occasionally the following itinerary may have to be shuffled due to changes with the internal flight schedules. Typically, this results in shuffling days of the itinerary around and does not cause any missed activities, destinations or experiences. Take today to wander the streets of central Antananarivo, taking in the old colonial architecture and the brightly colored crowds to get a feel for this unique country. The capital city is the commercial, administrative, and cultural centre of the country. The city was founded in the 17th century by King Andrianjaka and was the capital of the Hova chiefs. It is located within, and surrounded by, twelve sacred hills of the plateau of Imerina. The city centre is host to flights of steps that lead up to a rocky ridge at 1,431 m. Once at the top you will see the palaces built by the Imerina kings who captured the capital in 1794 and ruled until the end of the 19th century. At present day, Antananarivo is a large, metropolitan city with a population exceeding one million. You may wish to visit the tourism centre, called “Office national du Tourisme” in the ex “la maison du tourisme”. The tourism centre offers information on the local sites and attractions. Be sure to visit Ambohimanga Palace, the residence of the famous king Andrianampoinimerina, the first king who conquered his neighbouring kingdoms. Antananarivo was famous for its Zoma (market) which was once the largest market in the world. Currently, the area is split up in many different little markets all around the city. Independence Avenue becomes a wonderful place for strolling along and taking a look at the various things to purchase. Our accommodation here is a small hotel with ceiling fans, television, mini-bar, safe and internet access in the restaurant area.
Days 2-3 Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 135 km Depart the capital and continue east with stops along the scenic rainforest route of world-renowned Mantadia National Park (formerly known as the Perinet Reserve). Part of the park is dedicated to protect the world’s largest lemur species, the Indri. Our focus will be on the Réserve spéciale d'Analamazaotra (Indri Special Reserve). En route to the Mantadia National Park there is an option to stop by a small private reserve called Peyrieras (see optional activities) where you get to see the first lemurs of the trip, along with a number of really fascinating creatures like chameleons or leaf-tailed geckos. The road to the east will then take us to the town of Moramanga, the historical capital of a fertile and mineral-rich region. Then continue around 27 km to our destination. Spend the next day exploring this national park/reserve situated on the central eastern coast of the island, 1.5 km from the town of Andasibe. It covers a total of 16,290 hectares on an extensive region of hills covered by a dense primary rainforest. One of the park’s primary purposes is to protect the natural habitat of the Indri, a large black and white diurnal species that feeds on leaves and fruit. There are around 62 different groups of Indri spending their time high up in the trees eating and enjoying the sun usually in the morning. Its native name, "Babakoto", supposedly originated from a local legend about a boy named Koto who climbed a tree in the forest to collect wild honey and was severely stung by the bees. Losing his hold, he fell, but was caught by a indri which carried him on its back to safety. In addition to the Indri, the park has 10 otherdiurnal and nocturnallemur species, large chameleons and the rarely seen blue boa. The flora is just as spectacular with numerous species of trees, palms, orchids (which flower in October/November), and other intriguing endemic species. During free time opt to visit other small private or community reserves around Andasibe, go on guided night walks inside those reserves or along the main road (see Optional Activities). Choose to walk to the little town of Andasibe or simply enjoy the relaxing tranquility of the surrounding forest before moving on to a different setting. Our accommodation here is situated at the edge of Andasibe National Park – as close to nature as possible! The property consists of simple A-frame bungalows with shared facilities. Wake up to the sounds of the lemurs! There is a large restaurant with tasty local food. There is no wi-fi available here.
Days 4-5 Antsirabe/Fiadanana (D)
Day 4: Estimated Travel Time: 7 hours Approximate Distance: 305 km Travel to the ancient colonial town of Antsirabe, known as the "Vichy Malgache". All along this stretch of road you will see Merina tombs, and the labour-intensive cultivation of rice paddies. We will also stop at Ambatolampy to visit a traditional family-run aluminum cookware factory. Antsirabe is known as a thermal city because of it the volcanic lakes and is famous for its precious, semi-precious stones and handcrafts. Our hotel is ideally located in the city center, near banks, administrative offices, souvenir shops and neighborhood-based stores, also well-known for its comfort and simplicity. Services include Laundry, free Wifi and a TV in the rooms. You may have the opportunity to explore this quaint little city upon arrival or the next morning before departure, depending on the time and the weather. Accommodation here is a simple Bed & Breakfast located in the city centre. Rooms are fan-cooled with wifi and en-suite bathrooms. Day 5: Antsirabe – Fiadanana Estimated Travel Time: 50 minutes (bus), 2 hours (trekking) Approximate Distance: 25 km (bus), 8 km (trekking) Day 5 after a short visit to Lake Andraikiba, about 7 km from Antsirabe, we will make our way to the small village of Fiadanana. This beautiful village is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes of rice fields and panoramic views of the nearby mountains. Get to know how the villagers in person by interacting with them and having a chance to learn their rituals during an authentic community experience. Accommodation is in a traditional style house that has been purpose-built to meet the needs of guests, rather than a traditional family. The house has five rooms that sleep up to 24 guests. There is a kitchen and dining room, a lounge cottage to enjoy lunch or a drink and a beautiful veranda overlooking the rice terraces. It is equipped with shared shower facilities and three outdoor toilets (2 squat toilets and one western-style toilet). This accommodation is basic but for one night, the experience of living like a local and staying somewhere unique and remote will be well worth it!
Day 6 Ranomafana (B)
Estimated Travel Time: 7 hours Approximate Distance: 280 km After an early breakfast of a soup with rice, some bread and tea/coffee, hike back about 3.5 km to meet the bus. Continue on to Ranomafana, a little village named after the hot springs down in the valley that were discovered by a local about a hundred years ago. The French created an open thermal swimming pool and a spa which, although quite antique at this point, are still in use. The village in turn gave its name to Madagascar’s fourth largest park, the Ranomafana National Park. Located on the edge of Madagascar's High Plateau, this park is extremely mountainous stretching over 41,600 hectares of hills covered by rainforest at altitudes between 800 and 1,200 m. The area is dominated by the Namorona River which is fed by many streams flowing from the hills. The steep slopes are covered with a mixture of primary and secondary forest. Much of the secondary growth is dominated by dense Chinese guava and clumps of giant bamboo which were introduced to the region. In 1986, Golden Bamboo Lemurs (Hapalemuraureus) were discovered in the forest about 6km from the town (the Greater Bamboo Lemur or Prolemursimus was rediscovered about the same time). Dr. Patricia Wright worked with the government of Madagascar to create a National Park to protect the two species. During our walk the next morning, we are likely to see them along with other lemur species and there is a possibility of seeing reptiles such as the Madagascar Boa (Sinziniamadagascariensis), chameleons, the largest rainforest species being the Parson's Chameleon, or the well-camouflaged leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus). Today, Ranomafana is one of the most important mammal sites in Madagascar. Most notable are golden bamboo lemur, greater bamboo lemur, grey bamboo lemur, Milne-Edwards’ sifaka, red-bellied lemur, red fronted brown lemur, and brown mouse lemur. Others include the fanaloka, the eastern ring-tailed mongoose, and the red forest rat. Present but hard to see are fosa and the aquatic tenrec. This park also has a huge variety of bird life, including the blue coua, red-fronted coua, Pollen’s vanga, tylas, velvet asity, sunbird asity, pitta-like ground roller, scaly ground roller, short-legged ground roller, rufous-headed ground roller, brown mesite, Madagascar fluff-tail, slender-billed fluff-tail, collared nightjar, and the green jery (among others!). The flora is diverse and you will see a variety of ferns, palms, orchids and giant bamboos. Accommodation in Ranomafana is located approx. four miles outside Park Ranomafana and is well-known for the restaurant that serves typical dishes. This is one of the most popular places to stay in the area and could be quite busy. Rooms here are in simple bungalows, fan-cooled, with en-suite bathrooms. There is no wi-fi here.
Day 7 Ambalavao
Estimated Travel Time: 3.5 hours Approximate Distance: 106 km Embark on an early morning forest walk to get a feel for the incredible wildlife of the area. Afterwards, enjoy a scenic travel day as we head south through Madagascar's wine-producing region. Enjoy the wonderful changes of landscape along the way to the pleasant rural town of Ambalavao. Ambalavao is a little town famous for its "PapierAntemoro", a papyrus-type paper impregnated with dried flowers and sold throughout the island. We will visit a little paper factory where the locals will share about their traditional methods of producing this unique, hand-made paper. A silk factory in town is also worth visiting to learn about the local way of making fabric or a piece of clothing from silk and the process of dying them with natural dies. Accommodation here is in charming bungalows, fan-cooled with en-suite bathrooms. There is no wi-fi here.
Days 8-9 Ranohira/Isalo
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 250 km Travel through south-central Madagascar to Ranohira on the edge of Isalo National Park. Before continuing on to Ranohira, we will make a stop at the Anja Community Reserve known for having some of the most accessible groups of ring-tailed lemur in the country, well worth the stop! Continue our journey through the warm weather of the south amidst a different scenery. Travel through the savanna of the vast plateau of Ihorombe, before the Massif of Isalo becomes clearly visible as we approach Ranohira. The Isalo National Park was created in 1962 to preserve the ancestral beauty of the site. Archaeological relics and funeral sanctuaries create a magical atmosphere made of strong contrasts. Lemur calls and bird chirps are heard in this green oasis along rivers filled with lush plants. While the sandy cliffs with rare ripicolous vegetation complete the picture. The park covers an area of 81,540 hectares of this semi-arid region of the country. The territory is spotted with meadows and has open areas void of vegetation. A series of sandstone rocks, cliffs, and canyons are home to many rare and endemic plants, such as pachypodium rosulatum and a native species of aloe (aloe isaloensis). The sandstone massifs are sculpted by wind and rain create a scenic and odd landscape, often compared to the surface of the moon. Spend a full day exploring this fantastic park on foot. After a short trek within a small canyon, take a break from the sun and stop at fresh natural swimming pool. We continue on to the "cascades" which is considered to be one of the best waterfalls in Madagascar with its large natural swimming pool. If you are lucky you may see Sifaka, brown lemurs and/or ring-tailed lemurs. There are 55 resident species of birds within the park, along with Catta lemurs, blackhead lemurs and Verreaux Sifakas. Between September and October (in the most arid zones) you can witness the Pachypodium blooms. Accommodation here is a simple hotel with bungalows and a campground. The property is in a green and flowery garden with beautiful views of the park. We stay in simple bungalows with en-suite bathrooms. There is no fans and no wi-fi here. The property operates on a generator though plans are being made to upgrade this.
Day 10-12 Ifaty
Day 10 Ranohira - Ifaty Estimated Travel Time: 6 hr Approximate Distance: 250km En route from Ranohira to Toliara, drive through the wide-open and vast desert landscape that is truly magnificent in its own way. Pass through several unique frontier-style sapphire mining towns and see the remarkable fire-resistant Baobab trees and the Mahafaly tombs. After a short stop in Toliara, drive on to Ifaty to relax and enjoy the breathtaking beaches of the Mozambican Channel. Located at the north of the capital city of Tuléar, the Ifaty region is very appreciated by all who visit Madagascar. Known under the current name of Ifaty, several Vezo villages form this magical place. These villages are spread out along the northern part of this lagoon which extends on the south-western coast, twenty kilometers north of Tuléar. The area's coral reef extends 100 kilometers length. This ecological wonder made up of coral forms an uninterrupted barrier which limits the large waves and offers an ideal place perfect for various nautical activities. This coral reef has an almost entirely wild appearance, but it is very captivating. It is easy to enjoy its translucent and turquoise water along the white sand beaches. The lagoon is popular for artisanal fishing. Locals travel in fascinating, colourful dugout canoes with veils hoisted so they are carried by the wind. It remains the only means of transportation allowing villagers to move around and connect with one another. While in Ifaty there are several optional activities such as taking a ride in a dugout canoes, visiting the spiny forest reserve, going snorkelling or diving on the reef, or simply relaxing on the beach. Accommodation here is a group of bungalows with en-suite bathrooms. There is a tasty restaurant with Indian Ocean and European cuisine, as well as, Malagasy dishes of seafood. Typically there are buffet-style dinners. The property also includes a swimming pool, small shop, canoes for hire, ping pong and excursions to the Spiney Forest. There is wi-fi here.
Day 13 Toliara/Antananarivo
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours (bus), 45 min (direct flight) Approximate Distance: 25 km (bus) Travel from Ifaty to Tulear for a flight back to Antananarivo. Opt for a final group dinner on the town.
Day 14 Antananarivo
Depart at any time.