Wild Madagascar


Wild Madagascar

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 22 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Dossier

Wild Madagascar

The island of Madagascar occupies a unique place, both culturally and geographically, within Africa. Separated from the mainland millions of years ago, its fauna has developed very differently from the rest of the continent’s wildlife, and it is home to countless species found nowhere else on earth. Its people are an intriguing mix of Malay and African ancestry, with complex patterns of beliefs and an unusual history. On this off the beaten track adventure we explore this enigmatic and alluring land. Our journey takes us West on an exciting navigation down the Tsiribihina River and a visit to Kirindy Reserve with its semi-dry western tropical forest home to the elusive “fossa”. We then travel the remote coastal track from Morondava to Tulear with its stunning scenery comprising baobabs, thorny bushes, and its untouched white sandy beaches and home to the Mikea, a primitive hunter gatherer tribe that have very little contact with Westerners and this is without a doubt one of the highlights of the tour from a cultural perspective. Heading inland again we reach another highlight, the off the beaten track Makay Massif with its otherworldly lunar landscapes, a trekking paradise. In Andringitra National Park we hike along the spectacular Tsaranoro valley. We then enter the culturally rich and diverse Central Highlands before the tour ends with a visit to the Anjozorobe Forest corridor where we explore its tropical rainforest with rich and unique wildlife, different species of lemurs including the beautiful Indri, chameleons, and multitude of reptiles. Madagascar is unlike anywhere else on earth – join us to experience its diverse charms on a trip that will challenge what you thought you knew about Africa.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●●○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●○○

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights                                                                                                         

  • See some of the incredible flora and fauna of Madagascar in several parks and reserves
  • Travel off the beaten track down the little visited Western flank of Madagascar including a 3 days 2 night river cruise on the Tsiribihina River 
  • Explore the virtual untouched wilderness of the Makay Massif
  • Diverse landscapes from rainforest to semi desert
  • Spend time on the beautiful Mozambique Channel coastline
  • Hike in the spectacular landscapes of Andringitra National Park
  • Experience the ways and customs of different tribes of Madagascar

Tour Essentials
Accommodation: Mixture of comfortable hotels and lodges with some basic fixed camps 2 nights wild camping by the Tsiribihina River
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum group size 12
Start Point: Antananarivo
End Point: Antananarivo
Transport: 4WD and minibuses, river boat, local ferries
Countries: Madagascar

Tour itinerary notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Antananarivo

Arrive in Antananarivo and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time for you to explore the city. For those arriving late evening we use a hotel very close to the airport. Overnight at Gassy Country House or similar.

Antananarivo

Antananarivo, commonly known as Tana, is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. The name Antananarivo means ‘the City of the Thousands’, a reference to the thousand warriors of King Andrianjaka, who established Tana as the capital city of the Merina tribe and accorded it a sacred status. The city was largely chosen for its privileged location – being on high ground (1,370m) and surrounded by marsh made it easy to defend and thus a natural choice for the capital. Tana has unusual French and Asian inspired architecture with winding cobblestone streets and staircases that create a medieval impression. The large open-air Zoma market has been disbanded, which means there is now plenty of room to walk around Araben ny Fahaleovantena (Avenue de l'Independence), the capital's main street. Other attractions include the colourful daily flower market on the edge of Lake Anosy and the botanical and zoological gardens, where you can see the egg and 3m-tall skeleton of the extinct aepyornis, or elephant bird. Sadly, the Rova (Queen's Palace) burned to the ground in 1996. Though virtually nothing remains at the site, there are nice views of the city from the hill where the palace once stood. Antananarivo does not have too much in the way of conventional sightseeing, but if you enjoy walking around, watching local scenes and experiencing the laid back atmosphere that is prevalent here, the city is a very pleasant place – interesting markets, colonial buildings and many craft shops make it a great place to explore.

Day 2 – Antananarivo - Antsirabe – Approximate Driving time 3-4 hours

After an early breakfast take a city tour of the capital including a visit to the high parts of town affording great views all over Tana. After lunch drive to Antsirabe. You will 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. Overnight Chambres des voyageurs or similar (BL)

Antsirabe

The city of Antsirabe has about 100,000 inhabitants, and was founded by Norwegian missionaries in the late 18th century, who were attracted by the pleasant climate. It lies on the slopes of the nation's second highest peak, Tsiafajavona, in the Ankaratra Mountains, and has nearby thermal springs, locally renowned for their healing properties. The city is also known as the centre of Madagascar’s brewing industry, and indeed you will smell the brewery on the way into town.

Day 3 – Antsirabe to Miandrivazo – Approximate driving time 5 hours

This morning explore points of interest in Antsirabe and the surrounding villages. After lunch head west to Miandrivazo leaving the highlands behind. Continue through a landscape where we leave the highlands behind. Continue through savannah to Miandrivazo, a fertile region for cotton, corn, manioc, beans, tobacco and rice. Overnight Princesse Tsiribihina or similar (BL)

Day 4: Miandrivazo – Cruising the Tsiribihina River

This morning transfer to Masiakampy where our boat will be waiting to navigate us gently down the Tsiribihina River. Spend the day relaxing on-board and taking in the beautiful scenery stopping at Sahambano village on the way. Arrive at camp in time for dinner by the river. (BLD)

Cruising the Tsiribihina River

Cruising on the Tsiribihina River a real wilderness experience where life is ruled by the river. The scenery is varied and beautiful and from our privately chartered boat you will be able to observe the Malagasy people going about their daily lives and we will stop at some local villages. We will cover over 100km on the cruise. In the evenings camp on sandbanks by the river and enjoy dinner by the light of a crackling camp fire. The boat we shall use for the cruise depends on the group size but facilities on board the boat are quite basic.  There are no washing facilities or toilet on board but during the journey there will be waterfalls and swimming holes which you can use to freshen up and we will make regular bush comfort stops.

Day 5: Gorge of Bemaraha

Continue the journey downstream today, with a good chance of seeing lemurs, crocodiles, bats and some amazing birdlife in the primary semi-dry forests that line the riverbanks. Once again this evening we camp and have dinner by the river (BLD)

Day 6: Coastal plain of Menabe – Tsimafana – Kirindy Reserve - Morondava

Depart early this morning and at the end of the Gorge of Tsiribihina cross the plain of Menabe characterised by rice fields on the banks of the river. Observe the Sakalava tribe who live close to the river. Continue to Kirindy Reserve and walk in this picturesque dry deciduous forest with opportunities for good wildlife viewing including the possibility of seeing the elusive Fossa. We continue towards Morondava stopping at the “Baobabs amoureux” intertwined Baobab trees, see some of the colourful Sakalava tombs, and at sunset we stop at the iconic Avenue of the Baobabs where we hope to see magnificent trees silhouetted against the late afternoon light. Overnight Baobab Café or similar (BL)

Day 7: Morondava - Manja: 160 km: Approximate driving time 6 - 8 hours

After breakfast enjoy a short visit to a fishing village close to Morondava and then drive for around 4 hours on a dirt track to reach Antsira. Adventure awaits with a crossing of the Kabatomena River followed by the Maharivo River. Arrive in the fishing village of Antsira for lunch and then continue to Manja for our overnight stop. Overnight Kanto or similar (BL)

Day 8: Manja - Andavadoaka: 160 km: Approximate driving time 6 – 8 hours

Today is a long drive but a rewarding one with beautiful scenery comprising of baobabs and spiny forest, experiencing the true back country, crossing rivers by local ferry. Expect a 4 hour drive on a bumpy road to reach Bevoay where we cross the Mangoky River and 2 other smaller rivers. The second part of the journey is the drive to Andavadoaka which will take a further 4 hours making some stops along the way to stretch our legs. Drive across the coastal line through large dunes with great views of the Mozambique Channel as well baobab trees and spiny forest. Arrive in Andavadoaka by late afternoon and take a walk on the beach and in the baobab forest nearby. Overnight Manga Lodge or similar (BL)

Day 9: Andavadoaka - Andravona: 60 km: Approximate driving time 2 hours

After breakfast, visit the small pretty fishing village of Andavadoaka. Later continue to Andravona which includes a difficult 17km section of sandy track to Befandefa before reaching Andravona, one of the most beautiful lagoons in the country. Overnight Mikea Lodge or similar (BL)

Day 10: Kirindy Mitea National Park or Andravona at leisure

Andravona lies on a large white sandy beach and is ideal for sea sports or just for relaxing. For those wanting to have an active day we can hike inside the Kirindy Mitea National Park, excellent for its endemic vegetation and abundant birdlife. We may also be able to meet and experience the Mikéa’s life, a primitive tribe who rarely have contact with westerners and who exist by hunting bees. This afternoon visit a Vezo fisherman village and hopefully watch them bring in the catch. Overnight Mikea Lodge or similar (BL)

Day 11: Andravona – Zombitse National Park – Isalo: 320 km: Approximate driving time 8 hours

Leave the West coast and drive approximately 4 hours to Tulear, the end the dirt track where we join the National Route 7 taking us into the interior of Madagascar, the land of Mahafaly and Antandroy. Along the way we should be able to observe many of the tombs of these tribes. Continue to Zombitse National Park and enjoy a short walk in amongst the spiny forest. Zombitse is a transition zone between the dry south and the land of Isalo, a formation of continental sandstone rocks. Continue to Ilalaka, a town known for its sapphire and precious stones. Arrive in Isalo late afternoon. Overnight Satrana Lodge (BL)

Day 12: Isalo – Makay Massif: 130km: Approximate driving time 7 hours

Today we start the next part of our amazing off the beaten track adventure. Drive on a dirt track to the village of Beroroha, located 120 km north of Isalo in the direction of the Makay Massif. Cross the Mangoky River before arriving at Beroroha village where the fixed camp is based. Settle into camp before visting the village to meet some of the local people. All of the staff for the next few days: cook, porters and guides originate from this village. This evening enjoy a campfire with traditional music played by local people from the village (BLD)

Day 13 – 14: Makay Massif

For the next 2 days spend time exploring the remarkable landscapes of the Makay Massif. The hiking will range from 4 – 6 hours each day with a picnic lunch returning to the same camp in the evening. Overnight fixed camp. (BLD)

Makay Massif

Said to be Madagascar's last lost world, stretching almost 150km from southwest to northeast, and 50km across, this sandstone massif, Isalo Massif’s sister, has resulted from the erosion of this huge sandstone central massif of Madagascar, giving birth to a strange geological formation, with deep and wide canyons and high plateaux. Relatively undiscovered and certainly not as well-known as its sister Isalo, Makay is dotted with the most spectacular and beautiful scenery in the whole of Madagascar, and offers one of the best experiences for hiking. Many new and undiscovered area with endemic wildlife are still to be explored in this area. Makay used to be a place where the Bara tribes used to bury their dead until they had enough money to buy a silver coffin and many of its sites are still sacred to the locals.

Day 15: Makay - Isalo: 120 km: Approximate driving time is 7 hours

Drive back to Isalo after our adventure exploring the Makay Massif. Expect to be back at Isalo for mid-afternoon where you can enjoy some time at leisure. Overnight Satrana Lodge (BL)

Day 16: Isalo – Anja Reserve - Andringitra: 240 km: Approximate driving time 4 hours

After breakfast, continue to Ihosy the capital of the Zebu herders, the Bara tribe. Pass through the huge "plateaux de Horombe” with its vast savannah resembling a kind of no man’s land. All over this area expect to see droves of zebus, accompanied by a Bara man with his rifle. Continue to the community run Anja Reserve, a park run by the village where serves to pay the teachers of the local school proceeds of the income. Take a walk in the forest where it should be quite easy to spot families of Ring Tailed Lemurs. From hare transfer by 4WD for around 35 km on a dirt track track to reach Andringitra, situated in the stunning Tsaranoro Valley. Overnight in Camp Catta (BLD)

Andringitra National Park

Andringitra is a majestic central mountain range with two stunning valleys on either side. It is a real paradise for walkers with its spectacular landscapes. It is also off the main tourist trail giving it a really special and isolated atmosphere. October and November are thought to be the best months to be in the park when many of the 30 species of orchid are in bloom. It is not a primary wildlife destination in Madagascar terms although it is common to see ring tailed lemurs in the park. We will be staying in basic but comfortable accommodation in the park.

Day 17: Andringitra National Park: Walking in the Tsaranoro Valley

Enjoy a hike across the Tsaranoro valley, the primary habitat for ring tailed lemurs. The trek leads through open savannah, tropical humid and dry forest. Various species of falcon, snakes, lizards, chameleons and plenty of orchids may also be observed. The walk is also an opportunity to meet the Bara, cattle herding tribe and the Betsileo, who mainly live on rice cultivation. Return to the camp after the walk. Overnight in Camp Catta (BLD)

Day 18: Andringitra – Antoetra: 185 KM: Approximate driving time is 6 hours

This morning return to the route National 7, and then continue to Ambalavao. Wednesday is a big zebu market in Ambalavao so it is a good opportunity to experience the local atmosphere. Also visit the Anteimoro paper factory in Ambalavao. Since this area is known for grape plantations visit one of the local wine factories. Continue to Fianarantsoa for a short city tour before continuing to Antoetra, the capital of the Zafimaniry tribes. Overnight in Sous le Soleil or similar (BL)

Day 19:   Antoetra:

Ambositra and its surrounding are the land of Zafimaniry. They are sub tribe of the Betsileo who are the third largest tribe in the country and the second largest after the Merina in the highlands. The Zafimaniry live mainly in the forest. They are the masters of the practice of wood carving and their artistry is UNESCO recognised. During our walk today we will visit the typical Zafimaniry wooden huts, with carved windows frames, door. Practically all wooden surfaces – walls, window frames, posts, beams, stools, chests, tools – display elaborate ornamentation. Overnight in Sous le Soleil or similar (BL)

Day 20: Antoetra – Ambositra – Antananarivo – Anjozorobe: 364 KM: Approximate driving 7hrs

An early start today and quite a long driving day. Firstly we have a short drive back to the National Route 7. We then head to Ambositra for a short stop. Continue via the capital Antananarivo to the beautiful forest corridor of Anjozorobe, north east of the capital. Overnight Saha Forest Camp or similar (BL)

Day 21: Anjozorobe Forest Corridor:

Today you can either relax in the beautiful surrounds of the Saha Forest Camp admiring the stunning views. There is also the option to take some walks in the forest with a local guide. Anjozorobe Forest Corridor is one of the last high plateau forests in Madagascar and its biodiversity is well recognised. It is possible here to see the magnificent Indri Lemur the largest of the lemur species. Walks range from 1 – 7 hours in duration. Overnight Saha Forest Camp or similar (BL)

Lemurs

Lemurs are a special group of primates found only on Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. There are fifty species of lemurs, seventeen of which are on the endangered species list. Lemurs are prosimians, or primitive primates. They are social animals with long limbs, flexible toes and fingers, and long noses. Habitat loss is the main threat to lemurs today, as people clear their native forests for farmland. How and when lemurs became separated from the monkey family is unclear. Although it was once thought that lemurs were on Madagascar when the island separated from Africa, recent advances have shown that Madagascar was separated from Africa by hundreds of kilometres before lemurs evolved. Accordingly, the ancestors of Madagascar's lemurs must have crossed over from Africa on floating vegetation early in primate evolution and become isolated from Africa. Once on Madagascar, the lemurs evolved into about 50 different species. Then, about 2,000 years ago, the first human settlers arrived on Madagascar from the Malaysian-Indonesian area. By the time the Europeans who wrote about the natural history of the island reached Madagascar in the mid-1600s, 15 species of lemurs had become extinct.

Day 22: Anjozorobe – Ambohimanga - Antananarivo – Approximate driving time 2.5 hours

This morning drive back to the capital. On the way, visit the King’s Palace of Ambohimanga, the first palace build by the big King Andrianampoinimerina (UNESCO). Arrive back in the capital by mid-afternoon and day use rooms will be available for you to use to freshen up before your late evening flight (B)

Tour inclusions/exclusions

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure airport transfers
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guides and special local park guides
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:
International flights
Travel Insurance
Visa
Drinks
Optional local tipping kitty collected on arrival between 75 - 100 Euro
Tip for main tour guide (discretionary)
Items of a personal nature


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