Madagascar Wildlife Discovery Tour

Fully Escorted Tour

Introduction

This very popular fully escorted small group tour enables you to experience some of Madagascar’s most spectacular protected areas for compellingly unique wildlife in a diverse range of habitats. 
 
You will see many species of lemur, including the two largest, i.e. Indri and Diademed sifaka and some of the smallest (various Mouse lemur species, endemic birds including various Mesites, Couas, Asities and Vangas; reptiles such as chameleons and leaf-tailed geckos, and an unsurpassed array of plants,  from endemic Baobabs (two species)  to diverse Orchids). 
 
These tours are led by highly experienced, internationally praised, professional Malagasy wildlife expert guides. 
 
In locations where there are trails of varying grading, the services of two park guides are enlisted to take care of participants: one for those preferring a more moderate pace, and one for those who require a slower pace.
 
The itinerary includes a coastal stop at Ifaty, bordered by spiny bush. Here, you have the opportunity to snorkel. 
 
Accommodation is always in the best available lodges or hotels at each of the locations in the itinerary.
 
Should you wish to add an individual extension before or after the tour, please let us know and we can tailor-make something for you.

Highlights

• Indris, Verreaux’s sifakas, Ringtails and other Lemurs galore!
• Colourful chameleons, geckos and a plethora of tree frogs
• Woolly, Dwarf and Mouse lemurs during night walks
• Mesites, Couas, Ground-rollers, Asities, Vangas and other endemic birds
• Intriguing Malagasy culture
• Rainforest and Spiny bush; Orchids & Baobabs

Hotels

• Betsileo Country Lodge
• Couleur Café
• Le Jardin du Roy
• Les Dunes d’Ifaty
• Relais Des Plateaux Hotel & Spa
• Thermal Hotel
• Vakona Forest Lodge

What's included?

• Return international Air France flights from London Heathrow (or selected other UK Airports) to Antananarivo.
• Air Madagascar (Tsaradia) domestic flights and departure taxes
• All accommodation as outlined
• All meals
• Bottled mineral water in the vehicle
• National Park/ reserve entry permits
• Services of your professional, experienced, English-speaking wildlife expert Malagasy guide/ tour leader and of an experienced driver
• All private road transfers and transportation
• National Park/ Reserve guide fees
• All excursions and activities as per itinerary

Itinerary

Early morning departure from London Heathrow (or selected other UK airports) to Paris CDG. Connect with the mid morning Air France flight to Antananarivo. On your arrival off your international flight late tonight, you will be met, assisted with currency exchange and transferred to Relais des Plateaux, a comfortable hotel only 10 minutes drive from the airport to stay overnight (if flying on Air France), with breakfast included.
 

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel. Your tour leader and driver will meet you and give the group a briefing. Depart on the 4hr drive east along good tarmac roads to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, the country’s number 1 ‘must see’ protected rainforest site. Along the way you travel through scenic ‘Hauts Plateaux’ countryside of the Imerina, with rice paddies and villages with characteristic multistoreyed houses.

Located in the central-eastern escarpment (Bezanozano country), Andasibe or ‘Perinet; is perhaps best known for iconic species such as Indri (largest of all extant lemurs), birds such Red-fronted coua and Coral-billed nuthatch vanga, and ‘herps’ including Mossy leaf-tailed gecko and the critically endangered Golden mantella, the area’s flagship frog.

Take a guided introductory walk in Andasibe where trails are mostly graded as ‘easy’. After dinner, go for a guided night walk across the road in Analamazaotra Forest Station which is administered by proactive NGO Association Mitsinjo.

Stay 3 nights in either Vakona Forest Lodge OR Andasibe Hotel OR Mantadia Lodge with all meals included.

After an early breakfast at your lodge, your guides will take you into the beautiful rainforest at Andasibe. Walking towards the rainforest in the early morning as the mists lift off the canopy and listening to the calls of the Indri is pure Malagasy magic at its best.

One of today’s main objectives is to see – among other species – the remarkable Indri. During the dawn chorus, birding is usually wonderfully productive too. Sought-after endemic species usually seen here include Blue coua and Coral-billed nuthatch vanga.

In the quieter middle part of the day, visit Lemur Island, a refuge for lemurs confiscated from trappers.

Another rainforest walk can be done in the mid afternoon. After dark, second nocturnal walk will be taken, this time at VOIMMA, a small concession managed by a resident guides association. This should provide the opportunity to see more nocturnal lemurs (notably Goodman’s mouse lemur); chameleons and tree frogs.

Today you will be taken on an excursion to the 10,000ha primary rainforest national park of Mantadia. It is about 37km from Andasibe along a rutted road. Mantadia is home to a select band of mammals, birds and ‘herps’ not necessarily present at Andasibe. Do note that trails here are steeper than is the case in Andasibe.

Key attractions include Diadem sifaka, Black & white ruffed lemur, Scaley and Pitta-like ground-rollers; Parson’s and Nose-horned chameleon and colourful Mantella baroni frogs, among others.

The scenery here is beautiful, including superb views from the top of the trail over the rainforest-clad slopes.

After breakfast, you will be taken on a final rainforest walk in Andasibe-Mantadia, during which you can seek species previously missed out on.

We will also take you on a visit to the habitat restoration project under way by the NGO Association Mitsinjo: this is one of the many inspiring initiatives now being supported by the charity Money for Madagascar. You will have the opportunity to plant an endangered, endemic tree from the impressive nurseries here, as part of the reforestation efforts: this is a wonderful way of literally putting something back into Malagasy soil. (Unbeknown to most wildlife enthusiasts, the Indris made famous by the David Attenborough documentaries – among others – were all filmed in the Mitsinjo / Analamazaotra rainforest, rather than at Andasibe across the road).

After lunch, drive back to Antananarivo in time for dinner and overnight at the very comfortable Relais des Plateaux.

You will be transferred to the airport after breakfast for the flight to Tulear on the south-west coast, close to the Tropic of Capricorn.

This is the most arid corner of the country and the natural habitat there, is mostly sub-arid ‘spiny thicket’ or Euphorbia-Didieraceae thorn bush. It is remarkable in places, being comprised of much shrubby Euphorbia, interspersed with drought-resistant trees and plants including Bottle baobabs (here Adansonia rubrostipa) and spiky Octopus trees (Didieraceae family). The endemicity rate among this floral assemblage is remarkably high and people come here also, to seek a selection of rare, range-restricted locally endemic birds and reptiles. Birds include the Long-tailed ground-roller, Sub-desert mesite and LaFresnaye’s vanga. Reptiles include the peculiar little Three-eyed lizard.

Drive time from Tulear airport to Ifaty is now roughly 20 minutes. Time allowing (and if it is open), you will be taken to see the small museum in Tulear, managed by the University. (Museum Cetadron). Here, exhibits include some very rare tribal artefacts such as a replica of a Sakalava grave replete with erotic carvings, and a mask made by the mysterious Mikea people, containing human teeth and hair. During your time at Ifaty, a visit will also be included to the Honko Project which is concerned with mangrove conservation.

Towards dusk, you will be taken to a massive baobab at Reniala Centre for sundowners and then a short night walk in search of nocturnal lemurs including Petter’s sportive lemurs and Reddish-gray mouse lemurs.

Stay for 2 nights in the very comfortable Les Dunes d’Ifaty OR Le Paradisier, with all meals included.

An early start: after breakfast, you will be taken to a nearby parcel of ‘spiny bush’ (there are two locally managed/protected parcels that are visited this day – this morning the visit will be to ‘Parc Mosa’) to see the remarkable flora which travel writing legend Dervla Murphy so aptly Christened ‘Nature’s Botanical Lunatic Asylum’.

 

In this otherworldly habitat you’ll be able to seek some highly localised endemic birds, along with rare or range-restricted reptiles such as Madagascar radiated tortoise (now critically endangered) – many are held here at the 70,000m2 Village des Tortues, after having been confiscated from poachers, especially in two truly massive seizures in the last two years.

 

Other bloated, drought-resistant trees that you will see today include Delonix adansonoides, part of the same tree family as the ‘Flamboyant’ tree, which originates from remote central-western Madagascar.

This morning travel 20 minutes south along the recently tarred road back to Tulear, outside where you will stop at Arboretum de Antsokay, a delightful place for nature enthusiasts which showcases the strange sub-arid South’s spiny bush habitat. Its also great for small wildlife – one can see many birds, reptiles and wonderful invertebrates.

Continue travelling inland for about 3 hours along the paved RN7 route, to Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park, which year-round is a rewarding wildlife hotspot: you’ll be able to look for the iconic Verreaux’s sifaka; locally endemic Hubbard’s sportive lemur; the massive Oustalet’s chameleon; locally endemic Standing’s day gecko and birds including the locally endemic Appert’s greenbul and the stately Giant coua, which can be seen strolling around on the forest floor.

After the guided nature walk in Zombitse-Vohibasia, continue driving inland for about 1 hour to the sandstone massif of Isalo, where the country’s most visited national park is located.

Stay 2 nights at the very comfortable Relais de la Reine; Jardin du Roy, OR Isalo Rock Lodge

Your guides will take you to explore one of the circuits of Isalo National Park today. You will be able to drive up to the vehicle parking lot, from where you complete one of the circuits on foot. (Note that a second park guide will be provided for those who wish to take a slower pace, or shorter trail).

While much of the park is comprised of dry, ‘ruiniforme’ sandstone formations, trails do take visitors to verdant streamside vegetation. Here, you can look for Ringtail lemurs, Verreaux’ sifakas and locally endemic flora. The best known plant here is the dumpy ‘Elephant’s foot’ Pachypodium, which flowers in September.

Look on the lodge buildings at night for birds such as Madagascar long-eared owl, Madagascar white-browed owl and Madagascar nightjar.

After breakfast, drive about 6-7hours east across the desolate central southern interior (Bara country) to a granite domes region which marks the entrance to the southern Highlands.

Here, visit another deservedly popular stop, the 30 ha Anja Parc, a community- managed protected area near Ambalavao which is home to a thriving population of Ringtailed lemur, the island’s national mammal, and plenty of other, smaller wildlife (notably chameleons, geckoes and skinks). The terrain, dominated by granite domes, is spectacular. Worth noting is that this protected area, provides a livelihood for some 2,400 people who live in the region.

Overnight in Betsileo Country Lodge, with all meals included.

After breakfast at the lodge, visit the Soalandy silkworks project if it is open.

A 3 – 4 hour drive north-east along the RN7 route, will take you to the 41,600ha upland rainforest of Ranomafana National Park, where seeing 5 species of lemur in a day walk is not uncommon.

 

Key species include the Milne-Edwards diadem sifaka and adorable Red-bellied lemur. Ranomafana is also home to a number of rare bird species, including the Brown mesite, Rufous-headed ground-roller, Yellow-bellied sunbird asity and Pollen’s vanga.

Walks vary in length from a couple of hours to a half day – do note that the majority of trails here traverse some arduous terrain with long slopes.

 

Your accommodation for 3 nights is Thermal Hotel OR Setam Lodge.

Enjoy an introductory walk in this very beautiful rainforest. A night stroll outside the park periphery should reveal some Rufus mouse lemurs and with luck, Leaf-tailed geckoes and Tree frogs, as well as some interesting invertebrates. (Its the best place in which to seek Malagasy comet moth).

Do note that from September to November, the area is packed with wildlife enthusiasts so you will not be alone during night walks.

Explore wonderful Ranomafana National Park today. Here, look for lemurs such as the endangered Golden bamboo lemur, found almost exclusively in this rainforest. This icon of the park was discovered in the mid 1980s by primatologist Patricia Wright – who almost single-handedly put the park on the international tourism map and who established the Centre ValBio, which you will be able to visit during your time at the park. After dinner, make another night walk if desired.

Ranomafana is the only place where Greater (broad-nosed), Golden and Grey (Eastern lesser) bamboo lemurs coexist. Many visitors also see the striking Milne-Edward’s sifaka here, another of the park’s flagship species.

Enjoy the beautiful scenery, healthy climate and plentiful wildlife here.

You will have another day to explore Ranomafana’s upland rainforest with your guides today.

Aside from its many lemurs and birds, you’ll have the chance to look for remarkable life forms such as the bark-mimicking Fringed gecko (Uroplatus). The area is especially good also for well known invertebrates including the lovely diurnal Urania moth.

Orchids, Palms and Bamboos abound, the island holding more species of all three these plant groups than the African mainland does.

After breakfast, set off on the scenic journey northwards along the popular RN7 route, passing through Betsileo and then Merina territory, where you can see people cultivating rice, selling food on the roadside and at Antsirabe, numerous colourful rickshaws.

Enjoy exploring some craft stalls and overnight in Couleur Café OR Plumeria Hotel, with all meals included.

After a leisurely breakfast, depart Antsirabe through scenic Highlands country back to Antananarivo, where you have the use of day rooms at Relais des Plateaux. Visit some of the capital highlights with your guide. (Those who wish, can visit Akany Avoko, one of the children’s homes supported by Money for Madagascar).

 

After a farewell dinner, those who are flying back to the UK with Air France, will be transferred to Antananarivo airport to check in for the Air France flight departing after midnight.

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