Day 1: Arrive Antananarivo
Suggested flight: arriving afternoon. 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: 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 3: Berenty Reserve - Fort Dauphin
We spend the morning 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 4: 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 5: Drive Antananarivo - Antsirabe
A 2.5 hr drive 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 you will have the opportunity to discover during the visit of workshops.
Day 6: Drive Antsirabe- Ambositra - Fianarantsoa
Drive approx. 2.5-3 hrs to Ambositra on a good paved road. On the way, we shall visit Zafimaniry artisans and admire their carved wood and finely done square box marquetry. In addition: local markets and other typical villages of the Betsileo tribe.
We have lunch in Ambostra where you can taste local food specialties and we may have the opportunity to enjoy traditional music.
We continue to Ranomafana (160 km/3.5-4 hr), to the Betsileo tribe region. It is a tar road with pot-hole patches and winding road as we are at the highest plateau of Madagascar highlands.
In the evening, we will take a short walk to observe nocturnal animals around the park
Day 7: Ambalavao
We drive 1.5 hr southwards to Ambalavao and stop to visit Antaimoro paper factory.
This afternoon, visit a silk weavers’ workshop that belongs to a local association of women and the small community-run reserve of Anja - where one can get very close to the ring-tailed lemurs.
Day 8: Ambalavao - Isalo National Park (Ranohira)
A drive through 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.
We cross the largest plateau of Madagascar constituted by a beautiful herbaceous steppe, topped with huge termite nests: it is Horombe.
Lunch in a local restaurant. Continue 5 hrs to Ranohira, which is close to Isalo Massif and the National Park Gate.
Day 9: Isalo National Park
Enjoy 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.
Day 10: Ranohira -Tulear - Ifaty
We progress to the southwest towards the Mozambique Channel. It is a beautiful drive from Ranohira to Tulear through different botanical settings in the morning.
After 100 km/1.5 hr on paved road, 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.
Then, we go northwards to Tulear (250 km) towards the savannah and the baobab areas, through Llakak 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. Here, the Aloalos (funeral-sculpted decoration) are considered as messengers between the living and their ancestors. (2.5-3 hrs including stops; some portions of the road are in bad shape).
Tulear, a bustling town of 350 000 inhabitants, 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 people are measured in their cattle.
We continue, driving 20 km/approx 45 minutes, south to the beach settlement of Ifaty set on a lagoon with barely penetrable spiny thicket behind the coast to the east. (Road is not paved).
Day 11: Ifaty
This morning we 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.” The towering spiny bushes are home to more than 2000 plants species (many of them local endemic) some spectacular and very old baobab of 12,5 diameter) and complete endemic plants family, the Didieraceae, the Euphorbiaceae.
Return to the hotel for lunch. Independent afternoon. Enjoy the beach and relax at the comfy hotel.
Day 12: Ifaty - Tulear - Antananarivo
Enjoy a leisure morning or optionally depart at 8 am 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.
At 11 am we depart for the drive back to Tulear (45 min). We will have a very short browse of the bazaar de market place as well the local seashell and handicraft market. Then we board the flight to Antananarivo TZ719 dep 14:40, arr 16:30.
Day 13: Antananarivo – Tamatave
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.
The walled historic village includes residences and burial sites of several key monarchs. The site, one of the 12 sacred hills of Imerina, is associated with strong feelings of national identity and has maintained its spiritual and sacred character both in ritual practice and the popular imagination for at least four hundred years. It remains a place of worship to which pilgrims come from Madagascar and elsewhere.
Visit Ambohimanga Palace, UNESCO World Heritage site, two wooden pavilions of Queens Ranavalona I and Ranavalona II, the sacred basins where the queens bathed and an ox park. Duration of the visit is 2 hours plus lunch.
Transfer to the airport for flight to Tamative (aka Toamasina), the chief seaport of the country. TZ505 dep 18:00, arr 18:55.
Day 14-15: Ankanin’ny nofy
We sail in the Pangalanes Channel to Ankanin'ny Nofy (3.5 hrs). Check-in at the hotel and lunch.
This afternoon, visit of Palmarium Reserve. We observe the various species of lemurs and other endemic animals and discover Malagasy fauna.
2nd Day: Visit Andranokoditra village for short walk. The ethnic group here are the Betsimisaraka. They are the 2nd largest group, after the Merina; approx. 15% of the Malagasy people. Tromba (spirit possession) ceremonies feature strongly in the Betsimisaraka culture.
Afternoon at leisure. This evening we go for a nocturnal visit for aye aye observation.
Day 16: Ankanin’ny nofy - Andasibe National Park
We sail 1.5 hrs in the Pangalanes Channel to Manambato and then drive 4 hrs to Andasibe. Arrival in Andasibe and lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon at leisure. This evening a nocturnal visit of the Mitsinjo Community reserve.
Day 17: Andasibe National Park-Antananarivo
In the morning, we head to a lemur island belonging to a lodge, where we can see 3 species of the typical lemurs of the east. You come to discover a fauna and a flora unique in the world because the crocodile park allows you to approach the crocodiles in all serenity and the island with the lemurs to observe the lemurs in its natural habitat.
Lunch and then drive 5 hrs back to Antananarivo. Arrival and transfer to hotel.
Day 18: Depart
If you have an afternoon/evening departure: Meet the guide in the lobby at 9 am. 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.
Transfer to the airport.