Best April to May or September to December
We have secured a set departure date starting 1 September 2018 – Max 6 Pax
Madagascar is huge… absolutely huge… over half a billion square kilometres huge! Therefore it would take a lifetime to visit and truly explore but having just spent two weeks there developing this itinerary I can assure you that I will certainly be going back again and again… it’s amazing!
We have been very fortunate to team up with a fantastic locally owned company who have some of the best guides I have ever encountered with immaculate vehicles (all large SUVs with 4×4 capabilities) and an eagerness to showcase their country with utmost enthusiasm and professionalism.
This itinerary spans 13 days with an option to add on one more iconic location to get a very particular shot and I will do my best to summarise it here.
The journey starts in the capital city Antananarivo, locally known as Tana. Here, we have found a delightful small hotel on top of one of the many hills on which Tana is built. Tana is a vibrant city with a visibly French feel to it, due to its colonial past. The hustle and bustle is infectious and the vision of modern buildings nestled next to rice paddies just seems right!
From the start to the finish of this you will be in the capable hands of private guides (in large air conditioned SUVs) who are on hand to decipher the sights and sounds as you travel through this itinerary.
After spending a morning exploring the streets around your hotel you will be transferred to the airport again for your private charter flight to the east coast to start your cross country expedition. Here you will be met by your private guide who will accompany you through to the west coast.
The city of Toamasina is where you will land and be taken for a delicious lunch by the sea before boarding a small boat on the inland canal, amazingly (and some would say appropriately) called, Le Canal du Pangalanes!
This canal was created in the early 20th century and connects a series of inland waterways and lakes to create a waterborne trade route a few kilometeres inland from the coast and therefore navigable all year round. The canal runs for several hundred kilometres through small towns, fishing settlements and open rice fields and forests and your boat will transport you through a section of this until we reach our first lodge, The Palmarium. We have chosen this place as our first stop for its closeness to a small island which is home to several Aye-Aye which is surely the most bizarre nocturnal lemur in Madagascar. With its ever growing teeth and exceptionally long middle finger this amazing creature was purpose built for the task of locating and extracting wood loving grubs. It’s quite a sight to behold and photograph.
The next morning we will board our boat again to head west and meet up with your private vehicle for the onward journey to Andasibe. Your guide is also your driver and has been hand picked for his near encyclopaedic knowledge of what seems like every village and even building along the way. Its’ important to know at this stage that Madagascar is home to 18 very distinct cultural groups with different cultural norms, daily habits, building techniques and even Malagasy dialects. This route will take you though seven of the eighteen. This makes for one of the most epic cultural experiences that I have encountered… all of which will be explained in detail by your guide.
Andasibe (formally Perinet) is famous for its primary and secondary rain forests. You will stay here for two nights at the beautiful Vakona Lodge so that we can explore both forests by day and night.
Madagascar for all its biodiversity has very few creatures that could do us humans any harm. There are no large predators and no venomous snakes so walking in the forest in both day and night is without any real risk (other than the odd trip and stumble) and it is utterly mesmerising. At each of the reserves that we visit on this trip we employ a local guide and spotter who walks with us and shares their knowledge of the resident flora and fauna for you to see and photograph.
The reserves that you visit along the route are home to dozens of species of Lemurs from the largest, Indri Indri with their amazing vocalisation, to the tiniest and rarest, like the dwarf lemurs and the Golden bamboo lemurs of Ranomafana (one of our next stops).
After we leave Andasibe we will then drive west skirting the outer regions of Tana again and then joining the one major road heading south west along the National Route 7. This is a remarkable feat of engineering based on its length and the remoteness and it’s sometimes evident in sections which are pot-holed… but strangely this adds to its charm. This is not a race… it’s a relaxed expedition and any slowing of the travel speed just adds to the opportunities to take in the scenery which is not only amazing but often breathtaking!
Of particular photographic interest are the numerous rice paddies which are diligently maintained by their owners throughout the year. The Malagasy love their rice and the land is so fertile that they can get two and sometimes three harvests from the same fields each year which means they are constantly sewing, ploughing and harvesting. Should you see a particular shot along the way then the beauty of this private tour is that you are free to stop wherever you like to take a picture, meet some of the locals or just simply take in the view. There is really no rush and your guide is on hand to help you get the shots that you want along the way.
Some of the sections of the drive are quite long but we have found several places of interest to stop along the way to break up the journey. You will visit local aluminium foundries (with the most archaic production methods), wood carving hamlets, silk spinning communities using old looms, rum distilleries and local restaurants and markets along the way affording you numerous unique photo opportunities and the chance to learn more about the Malagasy way of life.
We will spend the night in the enchanting town of Antsirabe home of the super comfortable Couleur Cafe which has a great restaurant and large spacious rooms.
The food in Madagascar is generally fantastic! There is always freshly baked baguettes on offer as well as delicious aromatic dishes for your main meals – generally accompanied by piles of coconut rice! I assume it’s due again to the legacy of the French (and we know how seriously they take their food) that the gastronomic traditions continue. The majority of Madagascr is also incredibly fertile and therefore produces some of the most delicious organic and wild grown fruit and vegetables that I have ever encountered. You will not starve on this tour!
On day six we arrive at another rainforest reserve called Ranomafana home to the endemic Golden Bamboo Lemur. The walk in the Ranomafana rainforest is probably the most arduous (but certainly not difficult for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness) and it is truly fascinating with over 120 species of frogs, plenty of birds, several species of Lemur and Sifaka and if you are luck a sighting of a Fosa – Madagascar’s top predator – which is a cat like creature no larger than a domestic dog with fantastic climbing abilities and an appetite for lemurs.
We leave Ranomafana after our morning visit to the rainforest and continue south west to the vibrant city of Fianarantsoa (which means “good education” in Malagasy) and it’s the cultural and intellectual centre for the whole island. We will take lunch here and then explore the Old City by foot taking in its amazing (it’s a little in need of repair) buildings and monuments.
After lunch we continue to our next hotel in Ambalavao which is close to the Anja reserve. We will visit the Anja reserve (which was set up by the local community) on the following morning which is home to several family groups of the most iconic Malagasy species – The Ring Tailed Lemur. They are so accustomed to the locals and other visitors that they are almost ambivalent to your presence and allow you plenty of amazing photo opportunities as the lemurs go about their daily existence. Take plenty of memory cards!
A short while after we leave the Anja reserve, continuing our journey, the scenery takes a dramatic change after we pass huge rocky outcrops called the “Gate of the South”. It’s a seismic shift as far as scenery is concerned as this signifies the departure from the highlands and the entering of the dry and semi desert savannas of the South of Madagascar. It’s like you have entered a whole new country in time it takes to drive a few kilometers.
Your next stop is the remarkable Isalo National Reserve which is characterised by a sandstone massif dating from the Jurassic era and eroded by both wind and rain to create the most startling and photogenic vistas on the planet. Here we will spend two nights at the fantastic and luxurious Isalo Rock Lodge whose modern steel and glass structure somehow managess to blend perfectly with its prehistoric surroundings.
There is plenty to see and explore in Isalo which is why we stay here for two nights. The walks are easy and the contrast between arid desert like plains and canyons filled with rainforests, lemurs and waterfalls is simply startling. Isalo is one of my favourite places in the world! Topping it all off is The Window of Isalo which is a freakish rock formation with a large hole (thus window) which is great fun to photograph at sunset.
The area is also famous for its sapphire mines which has proved to be a magnet for prospectors over the last few decades and you will have the opportunity to visit one of these open cast mines where the miners hunt for their precious gems using the most primitive and labour intensive methods and hoping for that life changing find. There are no big excavator machines in sight here!
As we leave Isalo you head into the last stretch of this epic adventure towards the west coast and the port of Toliara. Along the way you will get a glimpse of the first baobab trees and then finally the crystal blue waters of the Mozambique channel.
Our final place of stay is the amazing Bakuba Concept lodge built by an enigmatic Frenchman (born in the Congo). It is a hand built “work of art” right on the beach and the perfect place to end this trip with a cocktail as you watch the sun set over the sea at the end of your Coast to Coast Pangolin Photo Safari.
The next day you will fly directly back to Tana for your return journey home. Or….
The adventure does not need to stop there. We will be happy to organise other destinations in Madagascar such as the famous and iconic Avenue of Baobabs and Kirindy reserve near Morandava or perhaps you would like some more sedentary options like some time on the beach on Sakatia Island just off Nosy Be in the North…. we have plenty of suggested add ons! Like I said at the beginning Madagascar will take a lifetime to explore fully!
This itinerary is ideal for singles, couples or small groups up to 6 people. Please contact us for an exact quote based on the number of people you intend to travel with. Be assured that we have a policy of no more than three people in each 4×4 SUV to ensure plenty of space and total comfort. The price above is based on six clients in two SUVs.
Location : Madagascar
All tour descriptions and conditions are given in accordance with the information of Pangolin