Day 1: Arrive Antananarivo
Suggested flight: South African Airways 8252, dep Johannesburg 10 am, arrives 210 pm. Met on arrival and transfer to hotel.
Rest of afternoon is free to rest. Some snacks will be provided to tide you over until dinner.
Early dinner tonight at La Varangue Restaurant.
Day 2: Antananarivo
This morning, we’ll embark on a city tour to see the arcades (an ordered series of arched windows as a decorative work on a wall), train station, Analakely Market, flower markets and Lake Anosy.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
This afternoon visit handcraft market, where you might be surprised of the high quality of local products, as embroidered tablecloths and shirts, leathers, semi-precious stones, chessboards and solitary games, as well as wooden or metal instruments and toys.
Day 3: Fort Dauphin - Berenty Reserve
A one hour flight to Fort Dauphin in the southeastern tip of Madagascar. On arrival, drive to Berenty Private Reserve. The 90 km/ 4 hour drive by 4WD from coastal rainforest to the spiny desert.
Lunch and stops along the way to view the unique baobab trees, rare triangular palm trees and funerary art of the Antanosy burial grounds. Berenty is the headquarters of the Antandroy people.
Day 4: Berenty Reserve
We spend the day in the reserve with walks along the wide, well swept paths. The walks in this park are the easiest of all with broad paths, all flat and wildlife viewing easy and abundant. The Lemur Catta or Maki, better known as the ring-tailed lemurs, are very friendly and seem to pose for photographs. Be ready for surprise encounters with the beautiful sifaka lemur and other species including flying foxes, lizards, chameleons, the endangered radiated tortoise and dozens of species of rare birds.
Return to Fort Dauphin.
Day 5: Fort Dauphin -Antananarivo
Morning flight to Antananarivo. On arrival and visit of the Queen’s palace (under reconstruction), and the old palace of the Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony who married the three Queens with an historian guide.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Transfer to the hotel
Day 6: Tulear - Ifaty
Transfer to airport for flight to Tulear. Upon arrival in Tulear, its only a 15 minute drive into the city where we will have a short tour including the bazaar de market place as well the local seashell and handicraft market.
Tulear is the last town of the southwest part of the country and home to the Antandroy tribe, meaning “the people living in the spiny area” who erect majestic burial tombs decorated with wooden figures and sculptures known as “Aloalo” carvings in a totem-like style. In the Southwest, wealth and social status of the Bara, Antandroy and Mahafaly are measured in their cattle.
We will drive one hour south to the beach settlement of Ifaty set on a lagoon with barely penetrable spiny thicket behind the coast to the east.
On the way stop to visit the Honko Conservation Association managed jointly with the local population “Vezo people” – to observe the mangroves ecosystem located in Belalanda village area.
In Ifaty you will encounter Vezo fisher tribe alongside beautiful beach of the Mozambique Channel.
This afternoon visit Reniala Private Reserve, a small protected area of only 60 ha that shelters an amazing, bizarre and unique eco-system which only occurs in the south-eastern part of Madagascar: “the spiny forest.”
Day 7: Ranohira/Isalo National Park
We head north to Ranohira, gateway to Isalo National Park (250 km) towards the savannah and the baobab areas, through the Ilakak village known for its sapphire mining. Several species of spiny vegetation of this area are endemic and exist nowhere else.
We will pass through villages and the famous decorated tombs of Mahafaly and Antandroy tribes.
We stop at the Zombitse National Park to observe other species of lemurs like the Hapalemurs. The hike here is very easy with broad paths, all flat.
Day 8: Ranohira: Isalo National Park
We will have a leisurely hike in this eroded uniform sandstone formations from the Jurassic era. Isalo is a semi-desert area characterized by its huge canyons, oases and lunar landscape - home for lemurs and many other endemic species.
In Ranshira we will encounter a mixture of two different ethnic groups: the Bara and the Betsileo.
Day 9: Ambalavao-Fianarantsoa
Drive northwards to Ambalavao throughout the rocky and savannah scenery. This huge plateau and valley is the area of the Bara, - a conservative farming tribe whose livelihood and rituals are centered on the zebu.
Day 10: Fianarantsoa-Sahambavy-Ranomafana
We depart making stops along the way to visit the Betsileo villages and their rice and corn fields. The walks inside the villages will be very short and easy on flat and dry terrain throughout the villages.
Then board a pirogue (traditional long narrow dug-out canoe) for a 2.5 hour ride down the Matsiatra River during which you will enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Betsileo region and see villages, plantations, corn and grape fields and terraced rice paddies.The pirogue ride culminates at Sahambavy – the tea plantation area.
Day 11: Ranomafana National Park
Drive 5 km on good paved road to Ranomafana National Park to experience more rainforest, home for rare primates amongst other animals and plants. The morning will be spent inside the park.
In the afternoon, we will visit the village of Ranomafana where you can observe the Tanala people’s daily lifestyle. In the evening, we will take a short walk to observe nocturnal animals around the park such as the grey mouse lemurs, the narrow-stripped mongoose.
Day 12: Ambositra-Antisirabe
On the way, we will visit local markets and other typical villages of the Betsileo tribe. Ambositra is known for their fantastic Zafimaniry woodcarving. We continue to Antsirabe, meaning “the place of much salt” and the capital of pousse-pousse rickshaws. This colonial town is located in a volcanic area and the land is very fertile. Antsirabe is known for its precious stones and minerals that we will have an opportunity to discover.
Day 13: Antisirabe
Today is a possibility to witness the Famadihana, a funerary tradition of the Malagasy people—no guarantee, as it is private/not a scheduled event. During this ceremony, known as the turning of the bones, people bring forth the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts, rewrap the corpses in fresh cloth, and rewrite their names on the cloth so they will always be remembered. This important celebration is a time for Malagasy people to spend time with their loved ones, both living and deceased. The Malagasy celebrate this event so that new family members can meet their ancestors and memories can be shared and never forgotten. This practice of secondary burial emerged in the 1820s after the repatriation of soldiers’ remains from far away. The festival also regained popularity during tomb transfers when tombs started to be rebuilt in stone with the introduction of the kiln.
We will spend time in Betafo village to learn the ways of the local people. If lucky, we will see the Famadihana.
Day 14: Andasibe National Park
Drive to Andasibe on a good very scenic paved road through the landscape of terraced hillside rice paddies characteristic of the central highlands.
We continue driving through the verdant highland countryside to the eastern rainforest of Andasibe National Park, a four-hour drive on a good paved scenic road. We begin our exploration of the park with an easy walk inside a small private local community-run reserve for a quick introduction into the wildlife in Andasibe.
Day 15: Andasibe National Park-Ankanin’ny Nofy
We depart at 8am for a walk inside Analamazaotra Special Reserve to see the Indri and hear their haunting “singing call.” An easy walk provides a good opportunity to experience the abundant fauna and flora of the eastern rainforest.
Afterwards, we’ll have lunch in Andasibe and depart driving east along the evergreen landscapes (approximately 4 hours) to Manambato. At Rasoabe Lake we board a private boat and cruise the Pangalanes Channel to the Reserve of Palmarium. This evening, at about 6 pm, we board a boat for a 10 minute cruise on the channel to a small island, Nosy Akolaya for a nocturnal walk to spot the Aye-Aye. It is our unique chance to see these rare Lemurs during this trip.
Day 16: Ankanin’ny Nofy - Tamatave
This morning an exploration of the private reserve of Palmarium to observe other species of lemurs and other endemic animals as well as typical plants.
Lunch and then we board a boat to Tamatave (aka Toamasina), the chief seaport of the country. Our journey will take four hours with stops in villages for short walks and explorations.
On arrival in Tamatave transfer to the hotel.
Day 17: flight to Antananarivo
Morning flight. On arrival, we drive NE of Antananarivo to visit Ambohimanga (a hill and fortified royal settlement and UNESCO World Heritage Site). Ambohimanga is considered to be the most significant symbol of the cultural identity of the Merina People and most important and best preserved monument of the pre-colonial Kingdom of Madagascar and its precursor, the Kingdom of Imerina.
Visit of the walled historic village including residences, burial sites and Ambohimanga Palace.
Day 18: Depart
Transfer to the airport