humpback whale
Milne-Edwards' Sifaka
White-Footed Sportive Lemur
Ringtail lemur
Verreaux Sifaka
Indri Indri
Female red-fronted lemur
Eastern Woolly Lemur
Diadem Sifaka
Goodman's Mouse Lemur

Madagascar Highlights Tour

Characteristics

Tour type : Group
Start date : September 12, 2020
End date : September 29, 2020
Activity level : Moderate
Price tag from : $7499

Highlights

Discover Ranomafana National Park’s emblematic animal: the rare and elusive Golden Bamboo Lemurs

Enjoy Isalo National Park known as Madagascar’s Grand Canyon

Cherish Anja Park’s kings, the ringtail lemurs

Enjoy special birding walk at Zombitse National Park

Discover Madagascar’s largest lemur species, the Indri Indri, at Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Observe “dancing lemurs” perform their dancing skills at Berenty Reserve

Enjoy unique closeup views of families of Humpback Whales in Sainte Marie Island

This 18-day tour is an all inclusive group tour for nature enthusiasts from all over the world. It includes a visit of 4 national parks and a couple of private nature reserves that will allow you to discover dozens of lemur species both diurnal and nocturnal with diverse habitat including dry deciduous forests and pristine rainforests. The last part of the tour enables you to observe humpback whales with their young in the warm Indian Ocean water while relaxing on the gorgeous sand beach of Sainte Marie Island.

Trip Leader: Manitra Andriamialisoa (qualified & highly recommended with almost 20 years of guiding in Madagascar)

Included:

  • All meals with US breakfast
  • Bottled water
  • Soft drinks
  • High-end accommodation throughout
  • Comfortable coach with AC & Microphone & fully insured
  • All Domestic flights
  • Fuel surcharge
  • All airport transfers
  • Experienced English-speaking driver
  • Qualified and knowledgeable English-speaking Trip Leader
  • Qualified and knowledgeable English-speaking naturalist local guides
  • All park tickets
  • All excursions mentioned in the itinerary
  • All tourist taxes
  • Porters
  • All tipping

 

Not included: 

  • International flights
  • Visa fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Hard drinks
  • Personal expenses
Day 1 – Arrive Antananarivo

Following our arrival in Madagascar’s capital we are met and transferred to our accommodations in Antananarivo. Rest of the day to rest and recoup from your international flights. Meeting at the hotel conference room for a presentation given by Dr. Steven Goodman at 6pm followed by orientation meeting and dinner. D

Day 2 – Antananarivo to Antsirabe

In the morning we depart with our driver guide and travel south, through the highlands of Madagascar to Antsirabe. During the French colonial period this town was considered to be one of the best holiday places on the island. On the way we pass typical highland landscapes of rice fields and Malagasy architecture. Antsirabe is a beautiful town situated at an altitude of 4,900 ft (1,493 m). After checking into our rooms, we’ll explore the historic French quarter, by pousse-pousse (rickshaw), down streets lined with jacaranda trees and past old French colonial buildings. B/L/D

Day 3 – Antsirabe to Ranomafana Rainforest via Ambositra

In the morning we drive south, for about 6 hours, to Ranomafana National Park. Our road passes through the Tapia Forest and we make a stop in the town of Ambositra to see some of the beautiful woodcarvings that are produced here. Lunch in Ambositra. Drive on to Ranomafana being one of the most pleasant places in Madagascar. Historically it served as a thermal bath center but its prime attraction now is the newly established national park. Following our afternoon arrival we check into our accommodations. After dinner we may depart with our naturalist guide for a walk in the nearby forest in search of nocturnal animals. B/L/D

Day 4 – Ranomafana National Park

The recent discovery here of a population of the extremely rare Golden Bamboo Lemur has established Ranamafana as one of the most important reserves on the island. After breakfast we join our guide for a walk along the forest trails of this beautiful national park which, at an altitude of 2,600-3,900 ft, is comprised mainly of rain forested hills. The park provides a protected habitat for 29 species of mammals, including Milne-Edward’s Sifaka, Red-bellied Lemurs, Greater Bamboo Lemurs, Lesser Bamboo Lemurs, Brown Lemurs plus numerous species of birds, reptiles and unique plants. On an average day we should be able to find several of these and we may even glimpse a Golden Bamboo Lemur, which is unique to this park. Rare birds include the Brown Mesite, Henst’s Goshawk, Rufous-headed Ground-roller and Pollen’s Vanga. The diversity of flora is incredible, with orchids, tree ferns, palms, mosses, stands of giant bamboo, 278 species of trees and a variety of flowering plants.  The Parc National de Ranomafana is part of the UNESCO Natural Heritage site covering the rainforests of the Atsinanana. B/L/D

Day 5 – Ranomafana National PARK to Anja Park to L’Isalo National Park

In the morning we drive southeast to L’Isalo National Park with stops en-route at Anja Park, home to Ring-tailed Lemurs that thrive amongst a spectacular landscape of enormous granite domes, and in the small wine producing village of Ambalavao. In addition to wine Ambalavao also produces Antemoro paper and we will be able to see how this is made. From Ambalavao we’ll pass the Varavaran`ny Atsimo (door to the south), two enormous rock formations and through the town of Bara, where zebu cattle have become an integral part of the lives and culture of the people. These animals are thinner and have a larger surface area per pound than most breeds of cattle. This extra surface area allows the animals to disperse body heat, a necessity in Madagascar’s equatorial zone. Zebu are slaughtered as a religious sacrifice, as well as for food. They are also used as marriage dowries, for exchange and as a measure of wealth. We drive through the anthill dotted grasslands of the Plateau of Horombe. Late afternoon arrival in Isalo. B/L/D

Day 6 – L’Isalo National Park

Following breakfast we have the entire day to explore L’Isalo National Park, renowned for its wildly eroded Jurassic sandstone formations, rare endemic plants and as a bird sanctuary. We drive, over some very bad roads, to the Canyon of Maki where, in addition to birds and several unique species of plants, we should be able to find Verreaux’s Sifaka, Ring-tailed and Common Brown Lemurs. The park is characterized by alternating flat grassy plains and sandstone ridges dotted with palm trees and pachypodiums, commonly known as “elephant’s foot”. The landscape has been sculpted by wind and water into fanciful hoodoos that appear to have eyes, ears, noses and beaks. Typical of the Malagasy culture, this haunting place is filled with a variety of local “fady” (superstitions and taboos) which must be observed. Our lunch stop is next to a natural swimming pool where we may be able to find Benson’s Rock Thrush. We make a stop by the end of the afternoon at the Maison de l’Isalo, an informative visitor’s center and a photo-ups of the rocks at sunset before returning to our hotel. B/L/D

Day 7- Isalo to Zombitse National Park to Tulear to Antananarivo

Following an early breakfast we depart for Zombitse National Park and a morning of bird watching. This park is a remnant of the, previously extensive, transitional forest between the western and southern regions. Despite its isolation and small size, the forest is of special interest to birders, as it is home to Appert’s Greenbul, one of Madagascar’s rarest endemics, as well as Madagascar Sandgrouse, Madagascar Partridge, Giant Coua, Olive-capped Coua, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Hoopoe, Thamnornis Warbler, Common Newtonia, Common Jery, Long-billed Green Sunbird, Souimanga Sunbird and Sakalava Weaver. Verreaux’s Sifakas, Red-fronted Brown Lemurs and Sportive Lemurs may also be seen here. At midday we stop at the Arboretum d’Antsokay for lunch and a guided tour of this attractive 40-ha arboretum which shelters many of Southern Madagascar’s endemics. We also have a good chance of seeing birds such as Sakalava Weaver, couas, Chabert’s Vanga, Subdesert Warbler, and various lizards.  In the afternoon we transfer to the Tulear Airport and fly to Antananarivo. Early dinner in a local restaurant in Tulear due to possible late arrival in Tana. Following our arrival we transfer to our overnight hotel near the airport. D/B

Day 8 – Antananarivo to Ft. Dauphin to Berenty

Early this morning we transfer to the airport and board the scheduled flight (MD 714 TNR /FTU 07:00 / 08:15) to Fort Dauphin. Following our arrival we drive through the “spiny forest” to the private Berenty Reserve with stops en-route to see various interesting plants, including members of the Didiereaceae, a small family of just four genera and 11 species of unusual spiny-stemmed succulents, almost exclusively endemic to southern Madagascar. This unique region contains a large variety of spiny and succulent plants, including the songo be, which can reach heights of up to 50 feet, aloes, baobabs, and Euphorbia. Some the endemic birds we may find include Verreaux’s Coua, Running Coua, Lefresnaye’s Vanga, and Long-tailed Ground Roller. Spider and Radiated tortoises are endemic reptiles and Ring-tailed Lemur, White-footed Sportive Lemur, Verreaux’s Sifaka, and the recently described Grandidier’s Mongoose are mammalian residents. Our evening entertainment is a song and dance performance by the local Antandroy, the traditional residents of this arid southern region. Their name means “people of the thorns” in reference to the spiny thickets of endemic plants that characterize this part of Madagascar. Overnight in Berenty Reserve. B/L/D

Day 9 – Berenty Nature Reserve

With its large populations of Ringtails, Brown Lemurs and Verreaux’ Sifakas, the private Berenty Nature Reserve is probably the country’s best known protected area. The reserve contains nearly a third of the remaining tamarind gallery forest in Madagascar and is the best place on the island to see Ringtail Lemurs and Verreaux’s Sifakas. These large white lemurs are among nature’s most accomplished acrobats, hurling themselves across vast distances between the tamarind trees. In addition to lemurs, we may see civets and flying foxes (large fruit bats). The reserve is one of the best bird watching sites in the country with 83 different species, including nine birds of prey. In the evening we have the exciting opportunity to go on a night walk in search of the nocturnal Grey Mouse and White-footed Lemurs. The reserve protects both spiny bush and dry tamarind woodland, along the Mandrare River. The guides are among the best in Madagascar, but it is easy (and permitted) to follow the broad trails on our own. The reserve’s museum with its rare examples of Sakalava carvings is worth a visit.  B/L/D

Day 10 – Berenty Nature Reserve to Fort Dauphin & Nahampoana Reserve

In the morning we depart for the beautiful town of Fort Dauphin, which is located on the coast, amidst windswept green hills, blue seas and fine beaches. Upon arrival we check into our comfortable hotel, a colonial-style building set in a courtyard garden. All 30 rooms face the courtyard and have a small terrace or balcony overlooking a lovely central tropical garden. They also have en suite bathrooms, satellite television, and air-conditioning. Our lunch today will be at a local restaurant surrounded by an attractive garden. In the afternoon we visit the Nahampoana Reserve which is located about 30 km north of town. Every species of lemur native to southern Madagascar lives in this park. Verreaux’s Sifaka, Ring-tailed and Red-fronted Brown Lemurs, usually play in the trees and on the grounds near the old colonial house. Other animals we should be able to find include chameleons, tortoises, crocodiles and a variety of birds.  Overnight in Fort Dauphin. B/L/D

Day 11 – Fort Dauphin to Antananarivo

After breakfast we transfer to the Fort Dauphin airport and board the scheduled flights to Antananarivo (MD 733 FTU/TLE 10:10 / 10:55 and MD713 TLE/TNR 11:30 / 12:35). Following our arrival early in the afternoon, we visit the Akany Avoko children’s center. This is an eco-friendly facility which provides shelter, care and the opportunity for its resident girls to develop the skills they will need to become self-sufficient adults. We have our lunch is at their restaurant specializing in local Malagasy dishes. In the afternoon we have an opportunity to shop at the famous “La Digue” artisans market before checking into our hotel rooms. B/L/D

Day 12 – Antananarivo to Andasibe National Park

After breakfast we drive to Andasibe National Park. The trip takes about 3 ½ hours and passes through small wooden villages surrounded by rice paddies and vegetable gardens. The farther we get from the capital the more traditional are the cultures and customs of the people. Upon arrival we are immersed in lush greenness, as these eastern montane rainforests of Madagascar are considered to be some of the densest in the world.  The Andasibe-Mantadia protected areas contain a dense humid forest covered with lianas, mosses, ferns and more than hundred species of orchids. During the next three days we visit the Indri Reserve, take a night hike in a local park to see nocturnal lemurs, frogs and reptiles and walk through the village of Andasibe with its attractive local market. Upon arrival we check into our rooms and get ready for a night walk in search of nocturnal animals such as the Woolly Lemur, Sportive Lemur, Greater Dwarf Lemur, Rufus Mouse Lemur Madagascar Scops Owl and Long-eared Owl. The reserve also claims a world record for frog diversity, with over 100 documented species. Reptiles include the enormous Parson’s Chameleon and birders can expect to see Blue Coua, Coral-billed Nuthatch Vanga and many more. B/L/D

Day 13 – Mantadia National Park

About 37 km from Andasibe, the spectacular Mantadia National Park protects over 15,480 hectares of primary rainforest inhabited by some very rare wildlife. Star attractions include the Diadem Sifaka, Black & White Ruffed Lemur, Common Brown Lemur, Grey Bamboo Lemur and Red-bellied Lemur. The reserve is also a refuge for many birds including the Velvet Asity, Malagasy Kingfisher, Madagascar Buzzard, Blue Vanga, Tylas Vanga, Red-breast Coua, Cuckoo roller, Wood Rail, Ward flycatchers, and several species of sunbirds and parrots. In the afternoon we return to our comfortable lodge. B/L/D

Day 14 – Andasibe Park to Antananarivo

Early this morning we visit the Indri Reserve, in search of the famous three foot tall Indri, the largest of the lemur species (unknown life span: between 15 and 22 years OR between 20 and 40 years) These acrobatic animals can jump distances of up to 30 feet! Early in the morning, it is possible to hear its haunting song, which can be heard for several miles. In addition to the Indri we may find Grey Bamboo Lemurs, Red-fronted Lemurs and some of the eight species of chameleon’s that occur here. The reserve also provides a habitat for 24 species of amphibians, some of which are endemic. Later in the morning we drive to Antananarivo and check into our rooms. B/L/D

Day 15 – Antananarivo / Sainte Marie Island

After an early breakfast we transfer back to the airport and board the morning flight to Sainte Marie Island. Here we check into our comfortable rooms. Due to its location, close to the maritime routes along which ships returning from the East Indies sailed, Ile Sainte-Marie was a popular base for pirates during the 17th and 18th centuries. Legendary pirates such as  William Kidd, Robert Culliford, Olivier Levasseur, Henry Every, Abraham Samuel and Thomas Tew are known to have anchored here. Our afternoon tour of the city includes a visit to the famous Pirates’ cemetery. B/L/D

Day 16 – Sainte Marie Island

Breakfast at the hotel. Morning Humpback Whale-watching safari. Afternoon city tour including a visit of the small but interesting capital city, Ambodifotatra, which is about 12 km from your hotel up to the north of the island. Visit the famous Pirates’ Cemetery. Visit the oldest church–a Catholic one– that has ever been erected in Madagascar. Visit a rehabilitated old royal palace Ilot Madame where Queen Betty of Sainte Marie dwelt on the border of a beautiful Marina. Overnight in Sainte Marie. B/L/D

Day 17- Sainte Marie Island to Antananarivo

In the afternoon we board the scheduled flight to Antananarivo. Our farewell dinner is at a nearby local restaurant which serves French dishes with Malagasy flavors accompanied by a Malagasy folklore musical. Our overnight in Antananarivo. B/L/D

Day 18 – Tana to fly out

In the morning, we visit the Prime Minister’s Palace in the Upper town, from which there is a stunning panoramic view of the city, framed by the surrounding rice paddies and small hamlets with multistoried red brick houses – reflecting the Victorian influence. Then we check out and have lunch at hotel before transfer to the Antananarivo Airport and check in for your return flight home.  B/L

B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner; ( ) = an In-flight meal.

Most comfortable 3-star or 4-star hotels with ensuite bathrooms throughout with rooms equipped with A/C

Travel with families is highly recommended for this amazing tour. Camera with long lenses are recommended for lemurs although they can be pretty close to you in Berenty Reserve or at the Lemur’s Park. Good hiking shoes are a must as trails in some game parks can be challenging even during the dry season.

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  • Category : Group Tours
  • Price tag from : $7499
  • Activity level : Moderate

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