Magic of Madagascar - Overland Trip
1 ½ weeks: to (IMT-PFMM)
IntroMadagascar is a land of exotic landscapes, stunning coastline and over 70 different species of lemur! Madagascar is one of those destinations that seem to conjure up a thousand images just upon hearing the name alone. It is exotic and little-known - an island filled with strange and exciting flora and fauna. It is truly a land of exotic landscapes with diverse features and astounding natural beauty. From the craggy eroded sandstone sculptures of Isalo National Park and the stunning coastline of the west to the rolling hills of the south and the seemingly pre-historic forests of the dramatic Tsaranoro Valley, Madagascar\'s beauty is certainly inspiring. Being cut off from the African mainland for millions of years has resulted in a diverse number of endemic species found nowhere else on earth. Of these, the lemurs have attracted special interest and we get to meet many different types, from the indri (the largest species) of Anjozorobe Forest to the dancing Verreaux\'s sifaka of Berenty Reserve. Encountering these amazing primates is a real highlight, as their inquisitive personalities, sheer cunningness and striking markings are sure to provide many endearing memories. Madagascar is also rich in bird life with many endemic species and there are also several unique reptile species, including the amazing chameleon.
We also visit villages and remote communities, with a kaleidoscope of 18 million people and 18 distinct tribal groups ensuring many rich and varied cultural experiences. Although Madagascar is a relatively new tourism destination, the Malagasy people are warm and friendly and live harmoniously in their island paradise. One of the most memorable aspects of travelling to Madagascar is the relaxed pace and the real lack of haste that seems to be part of day-to-day life of the Malagasy people. This is one holiday experience that is sure to be etched in your memory!
IncludedAn experienced English-speaking local Peregrine leader, arrival transfer, transport, accommodation, meals, game activities, entrance fees and domestic flights.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Antananarivo
Today is an arrival day, so you are free to arrive at any time. Upon arrival in Antananarivo's Ivato Airport, you are met by a representative and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure before meeting in the evening for dinner at our hotel.Day 2 - Anjozorobe
(Driving time: approx 2 hours)
After breakfast we depart for Anjozorobe which is one of the last vestiges of dense rainforest on the high plateaux and harbours an enormous biodiversity. With 11 species of lemurs, 82 species of birds (of which 43 are endemic) and 423 different types of plants, this forest is a dreamland for nature lovers. We have some time at leisure to explore the forest with a choice of short walks, a chance to learn about traditional crayfish trapping or a visit to the local essential oil distillery. Tonight we also take a night walk to try to spot the many nocturnal animals that habitat in the forest. Our accommodation for the night is at Mananara Lodge. This lodge works hand in hand with NGO Fanamby to help protect the environment and involve the local inhabitants in ecotourism.
(Driving time: approx 5 hours)
After an early breakfast, we visit the local school. Here we have time to meet the students (depending on time of year) and donations are also welcome. After our school visit we stop for lunch in Antananarivo before continuing on to Antsirabe. Antsirabe used to be a 'chic' thermal city and has maintained its superb colonial architecture. Today it is mainly known for its gemstones, its pousse-pousse (rickshaws) and handicraft. Our hotel tonight is perhaps one of the best examples of the faded colonial architecture from days gone by.
(Driving time: approx 6 hours)
Today we have another early breakfast before visiting a couple of workshops and learning how the locals transform natural materials into everyday utensils and clothing. We then travel the winding roads of the terraced highlands, as we make our way south. We have the opportunity to stop for some shopping at Ambositra, a small town known for its Zafimaniry woodcarvings and handicraft. The Zafimaniry people live in the Malagasy highlands, near Ambositra. They are known for the typical wooden architecture of their houses and fine ancestral woodcarving art. Their culture and lands are classified UNESCO World Heritage. We enjoy a traditional lunch at Ambohimahasoa with music and folk dancing to entertain us. Our final stop is Fianarantsoa, where our hotel is situated in the historic district and provides magnificent views of the old city from the terrace.
(Driving time: approx 3 hours)
After breakfast we depart to the Tsaranoro Valley. Our stop at Ambalavao provides us with some fabulous photo opportunities, as the town seems to have been transported from a western movie set. Set amid golden mountain scenery, Ambalavao holds the biggest zebu market in the country on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Back on the road, we pause at Anja Community Reserve. Anja Reserve is a community-based project. This small park, about 1½ hours from Ambalavao, features a wild and semi-tamed colony of ring tailed lemurs and some Betsileo traditional tombs.
In the afternoon we arrive in the Tsaranoro Valley for lunch and check-in at our tented camp. Over the two days spent here, there is a large range of excursions to choose from, from gentle ones to expeditions! The easy walks will take you into a sacred forest (and probably to catta lemurs), to a waterfall, and in the nearby villages. Here there is a unique opportunity to discover the Malagasy traditional life of this isolated population: people live only with the season, the sun and the rice harvest as a clock. There is also the possibility of visiting schools and the only medical station of the valley. Our tented camp features 10 permanent tents, each with an outdoor en-suite which is still privately enclosed. The camp has a large, communal dining and lounge tent where we enjoy hearty meals and experience the Malagasy food culture. Adding to the atmosphere, the camp is lit by storm lanterns and candles.
(Driving time: approx 4 hours)
After breakfast we depart to Isalo National Park - a journey of approximately 4 hours. Isalo is known locally is the ‘Malagasy Colorado’. A unique combination of sandstone rocks cut by deep canyons, bush plains and rare endemic plants make this Park particularly rewarding. Covering an area of 81,540 hectares, Isalo National Park comprises the entire stretch of the Isalo Massif, a very spectacular mountain chain made up of eroded sandstone. This strikingly beautiful reserve is filled with golden plains punctuated by craggy pinnacles of terracotta rock, valleys, canyons and waterfalls and we enjoy two half-day hikes in this surreal environment. In the morning we walk for approximately four kilometres (return) to the Canyon of Lemurs, where we may spot ring-tailed lemurs and Verreaux's sifakas in the lush forested entrance to the canyon. The park is also home to approximately 55 species of birds, including the endemic Benson’s rock thrush, as well as various lizards and snakes. In the afternoon a six kilometre hike amidst stunning rock formations takes us to Piscine Naturelle, a natural swimming pool in an oasis-like setting. As Madagascar is home to more than half the world’s chameleon population, there is also a very good chance of seeing these unusual, highly adaptable creatures.
(Driving time: approx 5 hours)
Departing after breakfast we continue to Tuléar, the finishing point of National Road N° 7. Here we experience new kind of scenery which comprises of dry forests to the west and spiny deserts to the south and spectacular baobabs in between. Tuléar is in the driest area in Madagascar, with landscape dominated by spiny forest like cactus and various euphorbia plants. After orientating ourselves and checking into our accommodation, we head north on a short drive to Ifaty Beach. With a 35 kilometre reef running offshore, this is an ideal place to partake in some swimming and snorkelling (a snorkelling excursion cost approximately US$8 per person). The reef attracts a variety of fish, including several species of sharks. In July and August we may also be able to sight some of the migrating whales that pass through the Mozambique Channel. We also have the chance to visit an excellent initiative - the Ngo Bel Avenir, which is dedicated to helping less fortunate Malagasy people through various ways through education, proper health care and social assistance. We return to Tuléar at the end of the day and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
(Driving time: approx 5 hours)
We take a late morning flight to Fort Dauphin which is beautifully situated along a curved sandy bay on the south-eastern tip of Madagascar. We enjoy lunch there before continuing 80km along a very rough road to Berenty, the country’s most popular nature lemur reserve. As we leave the town, we discover impressive desert scenery that include a surreal spiny forest, vast sisal plantations, rugged mountains with rare palms, cactus and very strange plants. Even the villages here appear to belong in another century. As well as being one of Madagascar’s most isolated regions; it is also the driest and hottest.
Berenty Reserve is a private 260 hectare reserve that offers the chance to experience the magic of the forest. On the property, a sisal factory and an interesting anthropologic museum are worth a visit but the main attraction is the lemurs! The opportunities here to photograph close-up lemurs are second to none, as many of them are habituated to humans. We are sure to see brown lemurs and ring- tailed lemurs. One of the highlights of our trip is sure to be witnessing graceful white Verreaux's sifakas 'dancing' their way across clearings in wild and comical leaps on their two hind legs. Upon arrival, we settle into our bungalows, located at the edge of the forest. At night we also embark on an evening walk, using flashlights to see observe the nocturnal life in the forest. Here we may see mouse lemur and sportive lemur. Our two days at Berenty Reserve are sure to leave us with some magnificent memories and are a fitting finale to our Madagascar discovery.
(Driving time: approx 4 hours)
We return to Fort Dauphin in the late morning, along the same stretch of rough and bumpy road. After lunch we take a flight back to the capital, Antananarivo where we arrive in the late afternoon. Day rooms have been booked at a hotel close to the airport, which is convenient for those clients who are flying out this evening. The hotel, whilst basic, has spacious rooms with lovely views over the paddy fields. A transfer to the airport is included this evening.