HighlightsAntananarivo | Andasibe National Park | Night walks in the forest | Lemur sanctuary | Morondava | Avenue of the Baobabs | Kirindy Reserve | Walking in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park | Petit Tsingy | Antsirabe | Ranomafana National Park | Anja Park | Isalo National Park | Ifaty Beach | Optional: snorkelling, diving, village visits
Description of Small group holidays to MadagascarCulturally and geographically unique, Madagascar separated from the African mainland millions of years ago, allowing its flora and fauna to evolve into species found nowhere else on earth. Culturally, too, the island has evolved in a particularly unique way – with seafaring Borneans and Bantu Africans having navigated there way here centuries ago fusing their cultures, cuisines and languages into a curious Malagasy identity. This small group holiday to Madagascar explores the centre and south of this island in just over two weeks, taking in some of its most extraordinary landscapes including the rock pinnacles of the Tsingy de Bemaraha, and the lunar-like landscape of Isalo National Park. Ranomafana National Park, with its lush rainforests, is a complete contrast; here you will find numerous lemur species including the endangered golden bamboo lemur, discovered as recently as the 1980s.
Look out for indris in Andasibe, and listen out for their eerie, whale-like calls. This small group holiday in Madagascar ends on the coast at Ifaty, allowing for a couple of beach days to relax and reflect over the past two weeks of adventure on an island quite unlike anywhere else on earth.
Responsible tourism Responsible tourism: Small group holidays to Madagascar Show More EnvironmentThis tour focuses largely on the wonderful national parks of Madagascar, which are home to many species found nowhere else on earth. By visiting these parks we contribute to crucial conservation and research projects designed to ensure the long term well being of the wildlife that lives here. We work with local guides in the parks who know the areas well – these are from the communities that surround the parks and this therefore ensures that these vital areas are seen not just as the preserve of wealthy western tourists but as a valuable source of employment and income for local people, thus further contributing to conservation and acting as a discouragement to unsustainable use of the parks’ resources. We issue guidelines to our travellers about the importance of leaving these parks as they were, and taking all litter out when we leave. We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues, an important effort in a country where the environment is often taken for granted and green thinking is largely absent.CommunityOn this tour we visit Anja Reserve, a community run reserve with good and easily visible populations of ring tailed lemurs. The proceeds from the reserve are channelled back to the local community, thus providing them with a valuable source of local income as well as an incentive to preserve Madagascar’s precious wildlife. We visit a number of areas that are considered sacred to local people on this tour. We use local guides from these regions, who are able to explain to us the cultures and customs and ensure that we do not unwittingly offend the local people, many of whom have very complex social beliefs. The Malagasy believe in fady – taboos – which can often seem bewildering to outsiders and may differ from village to village, and we believe that it detrimental to both visitors and hosts to transgress these. Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved. We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures – usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come. We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services. We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Furthermore, in order to allow our clients to make an informed decision on where a greater proportion of their money should be spent, we avoid including pre-paid full board meals where possible. Local restaurants and cafes then benefit. Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasise our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.
|Day 1:||Antananarivo - Arrive in Antananarivo and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time to explore the city. Overnight at Gassy Country House or similar.|
|Day 2:||Andasibe - This morning enjoy a short city tour of the capital before we drive to Andasibe (approx. 3hrs) through lush vegetation, stopping en route at a private reptile reserve to get up close to some of Madagascar’s many species of chameleon. On arrival at Andasibe you will visit a private sanctuary where you can get up close to Lemurs. This evening there will be an opportunity to take a walk in the forest looking for nocturnal creatures. Overnight Vakona Lodge or similar. (BL)|
|Day 3:||Andasibe National Park – Antananarivo - Andasibe is probably the best national park in Madagascar and a good place to watch the indri, the largest species of lemur on the island. We take a morning walk through the forest in search of this enigmatic creature as well as other wildlife, accompanied by an expert guide. In the afternoon we visit a lemur sanctuary to get up close to these fascinating creatures. At the sanctuary the lemurs may jump on you but please note that this is perfectly safe. Return to Antananarivo (approx. 3hrs drive) in the afternoon. Overnight Tana Plaza Hotel or similar. (BL)|
|Day 4:||Morondava - Fly west across the island to Morondava, a coastal town with a laid back atmosphere and home to many of Madagascar’s different ethnic groups. If the flight is on time there should be time to relax by the pool at the hotel. Overnight Kimony Resort or similar (BL)|
|Day 5:||Bekopaka - An early start and a full day of travelling by car (approx. 8-10 hours depending on traffic and road conditions) and boat to cross the Tsiribihina River, driving through the baobab forests, with great opportunities to see a side of rural Madagascar that few other visitors experience. En route we will visit Kirindy Reserve which has the best opportunity for viewing the elusive Fossa as well as lemurs. After Kirindy we will continue the journey to Bekopaka and again take to the water to cross the Manambolo. We arrive at Bekopaka in the early evening. Overnight at Hotel Olympe de Bemaraha or similar. (BL)|
|Day 6:||Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park - We spend today exploring the remarkable World Heritage Site of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, a bizarre landscape of eroded limestone pinnacles and one of the most scenic areas in all of Madagascar. We take the Grand Tsingy circuit where boardwalks and ladders between the pinnacles allow us to explore the area, replete with deep canyons and gorges and home to several species of lemurs and birds. Overnight at Hotel Olympe de Bemaraha or similar. (BL)|
|NOTE:||Please note that although the Grand Tsingy circuit is a highlight for most people, some people may find it challenging. There are two paths that can be taken – the Grand Tsingy and the Petit Tsingy. The Grand Tsingy path involves going through caves and some narrow canyons, and harnesses may be used for safety reasons. You also have to go up ladders attached to rocks to reach different levels. It is not rock climbing. People of a reasonable fitness should have no problem but it is not advisable for those not comfortable with going up ladders or those who suffer from vertigo or uncomfortable with exposure to drops. Your guide will explain the difference between the paths so that you can choose the more suitable option.|
|Day 7:||Tsingy de Bemaraha - A further day to explore this wonderful national park. You may wish to do the Petit Tsingy circuit or for those that did the Petit Tsingy yesterday instead of the Grand Tsingy, other walks are possible or you can relax by the pool at the hotel. Overnight at Hotel Olympe de Bemaraha or similar (BL)|
|Day 8:||Bekopaka to Morondava - A full day of driving (approx. 8-10 hours depending on traffic and road conditions) back to Morondava stopping en route at the ‘Avenue of the Baobabs’ where these imposing trees up to 800 years old line the road and provide an iconic snapshot of Madagascar, giving hints of the extensive forest that once covered this part of the island. Overnight Kimony Resort or similar (BL)|
|Day 9:||Antsirabe - After breakfast, drive towards Miandrivazo. En route experience varied landscapes and the transition from the very dry west to the red soil and rice fields around Miandrivazo. Situated on the Tsiribihina River, Miandrivazo is a very fertile region for cotton, corn, manioc, beans, tobacco and rice. After lunch we continue to Antsirabe. You will also notice changes on the features of the local people as Asian heritage becomes more prominent. We finish the day in Antsirabe, founded by Norwegians in 1856 and home to Madagascar’s brewing industry. Total driving time is 10-12 hours depending on traffic and road conditions. Overnight Royal Palace or similar (BL)|
|Day 10:||Ambositra – Ranomafana National Parks - Continuing south, we stop in Ambositra (approx. 4hrs drive), the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry and home to the Zafimaniry tribe. We then continue to Ranomafana National Park (approx. 4 hrs drive) for the night. Overnight Centrest Sejour or similar (BL)|
|Day 11:||Ranomafana National Park - We spend the morning exploring the rainforests of Ranomafana in search of its many species of lemurs, reptiles and birds. This afternoon you have some time at leisure before an optional night walk on the on the outskirts of the park to search for nocturnal creatures. Overnight Centrest Sejour or similar (BL)|
|Day 12:||Anja - Isalo National Park - Leaving Ranomafana behind we head to Isalo. We stop first at Anja Park (approx. 3-4 hours depending on traffic and road conditions), a community run reserve situated in stunning scenery with great opportunities to see ring-tailed lemurs. Arrive in Isalo in the late afternoon (approx. 4-5 hours depending on traffic and road conditions). Overnight at Satrana Lodge or similar. (BL) Please note that at Satrana Lodge, electricity is only available between 0600-0930hrs and 1700-2200hrs.|
|Day 13:||Isalo National Park - We spend today walking through the moonscape of Isalo National Park, stopping at the perfectly formed ‘natural swimming pool’, fringed with lush vegetation and a great place for a dip. Later we head to a stunning rock arch to watch the sun set over this dramatic landscape. Overnight at Satrana Lodge or similar. (BL)|
|Day 14:||Isalo - Ifaty - Leaving Isalo behind we head to Tulear (approx. 5-6hrs depending on traffic and road conditions). Travelling through the land of the Mahafaly people, we can stop to see the traditional tombs used for burying their dead. From Tulear we transfer to Ifaty on the coast (approx. 1 hour). The region around Ifaty is extremely dry and dominated by ‘spiny forest’ of cacti and other plants that thrive in arid environments. Our accommodation is situated idyllically on a gorgeous beach overlooking the Indian Ocean, where we can watch the local fishermen take boats out as the sun sets. This is a truly beautiful part of Madagascar and a great place to relax or explore. Overnight Hotel La Mira or similar. (BL)|
|Day 15:||Ifaty - A free day to relax or explore. Ifaty is also home to coral reef and offers good diving and snorkelling opportunities. It’s also possible to take a walk to the nearby village of Mangily where we can get a good insight into the life of the local Vezo fishing community. All excursions can be booked through the hotel and are payable locally. July and August are the best months to see the migration of the humpback whales. Overnight Hotel La Mira or similar. (BL)|
|Day 16:||Antananarivo - Transfer to Tulear (approx. 1-2hrs) where you will catch a flight back to Antananarivo. Overnight Gassy Country House similar (BL)|
|Day 17||Depart Madagascar - Free time at leisure until your transfer to the airport and your onward flight. Please note optional excursions are possible for those with late flights. Day use available at Gassy Country House until 6pm for clients travelling on late night Air France flight. (B)|