14 nights/15 days from £7,279 per person (excluding international flights)
* option to extend to Masoala Forest Lodge for three nights.
Day 1 – Antananarivo
Your Avventura Airport Representative will meet you at Ivato International Airport to take you to the Palissandre Hôtel & Spa hotel in the upper town of Antananarivo. The city is known locally as “Tana” and was the capital of the Merina people before the arrival of colonists from Europe. There are strong Indonesian influences here, more so than in the rest of the country. Antananarivo translates as, “City of the thousand” which refers to the soldiers used by the first Merina king to take power here in his conquest of the city. Antananarivo was built from the hillsides downward into the valley, and the great Queen’s Palace or Rova dominates the skyline from on high. Once you’ve had a chance to settle in your guide and driver will help you find a restaurant of your liking in the city centre.
Day 2 – Antananarivo – Andasibe
After an early breakfast, your guide will drive you east to the glorious rainforest park of Andasibe. En route you will wind your way through the island’s high plateau seeing much of traditional rural life as rice fields, redbrick houses and roadside stalls selling seasonal fruits and vegetables line the route. You will arrive at your second hotel, Mantadia Lodge, in time to check in and have lunch.
Andasibe Park is made up of two protected areas, the Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park and is home to twelve different species of lemurs. This afternoon you will visit the community-run Mitsinjo forest within the park to meet the largest of them, the indri lemur. Madagascar’s relative geographical isolation has allowed myriad species of plants and animals which can’t be found anywhere else on the planet to thrive here. Even when you don’t see the indris you may hear them, especially in the mornings when they sing to each other in the trees. Indris spend their entire lives in the trees and have never been successfully kept alive in captivity; so, this really is the only place in the world you will ever see them.
Later you will be taken for a guided night walk through the VOI MMA community reserve to see more lemur species. There are a host of nocturnal members of the lemur family here including mouse lemur, white-footed sportive lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur and the woolly lemur. The reserve is home to more exotic and unique creatures including several chameleons from the two foot long Parson’s chameleon to the tiny nose-horned and Brookesia chameleons. Your guide will help you spot these and the plentiful varieties of amphibians and birds which are also unique to this island.
Day 3 – Andasibe
After breakfast, your local guide will take you deep into the Perinet Reserve in search of wildlife. There are 25,000 animal species so far discovered on Madagascar of which three-quarters are endemic. You may find a troop of grey bamboo lemurs, common brown lemur, diademed sifaka or the black and white-ruffed lemur. 287 bird species have been recorded on Madagascar and again, 105 of those are unique to the island with a handful of others are shared only with the neighbouring Comoros Islands. Far too many of these are recognised as endangered or critically endangered so for some of them your visit here could quite literally be a last chance to see them in their natural habitat. Perinet is also home to a host of reptiles, invertebrates, and many of Madagascar’s more than a thousand orchid species.
After lunch, you will visit of Mitsinjo Reserve and take the reforestation trail to plant an endemic tree. Maintaining up to three tree nurseries at a time, Mitsinjo produces an annual average of 30,000 seedlings of up to 100 endemic species of rainforest trees per nursery. The reserves nurseries are among the most species-rich in the whole of Madagascar. Your guide will accompany you and give you information about climate change, reforestation and the relationship between animals and the forest in Andasibe. You day will end with a night walk through the forest where you may spot Goodman’s mouse lemur, Parson’s chameleons, Uroplatus geckos and more.
Day 4 – Andasibe (Mantadia National Park)
Today you will be driven to a different kind of habitat in Mantadia National Park in search of more lemur species in this breathtaking location including the indri, diademed sifaka, grey bamboo lemur, red-bellied lemur and whiteruffed lemur. The trees are taller and more spread out here than at Perinet making it easier to spot some of the many colourful and unusual birds such as the scaly ground roller, the pitta-like ground roller and the breasted coua. You will take your picnic lunch by the beautiful Rianasoa Waterfall, one of several gorgeous waterfalls in Mantadia Park, and then hike back to the vehicle to return to your lodge.
Day 5 – Antananarivo to Tsingy de Bemaraha
There is an early start this morning in preparation for driving back to Ivato International Airport’s private terminal for your short charter flight to Tsingy de Bemaraha. You will be met at Amborondia airstrip by your Avventura Representative for a 4×4 ride to your next hotel, the Le Soleil des Tsingy.
The Tsingy de Bemeraha is a place like no other and is the only single-site UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madagascar. Tsingy is the local word for the other-worldly limestone forest which makes this area so distinctive. Huge areas of rock have been eroded over time both horizontally and vertically leaving countless sharp peaks, narrow sunken canyons and forests making a surreal landscape with an ecosystem all of its own. It is home to eleven kinds of lemur and more than a hundred bird species. On top of that there are fifteen varieties of bat, twenty-two different amphibians and numerous reptiles. This is the largest Tsingy forest on earth and some of the limestone pinnacles are more than two and a half thousand feet tall. You will have the opportunity for a good look round this amazing location after lunch. There are two options here for walkers, the Tantely circuit which is approximately two kilometres long and lasts about an hour or the Andadoany forest trail which is more physically demanding but certainly worth the effort to see such fine views.
Day 6 – Tsingy
After breakfast it’s time for a full day of adventure on the Grand Tsingy, the part of the park where the peaks are routinely fifty or a hundred metres high. Walk on tiptoe over the razor-sharp roof of the Tsingy, over the high rope bridge and wind your way through scattered areas of dry deciduous forest. Exploring this wild and unfamiliar landscape with its kaleidoscope of creatures and plants brings home precisely why Madagascar is sometimes known as the “eighth continent.”
Day 7 – Tsingy – Morondava
This morning there is a choice of fascinating excursions; you may decide to return to spend more time marvelling at the tsingy or take a trip by dugout canoe to Manambolo gorge to see the tombs of the Vazimba tribe in the cave walls above the river. There is much debate about who the Vazimba were. Traditionally it has been held that they were the first settlers on Madagascar, originating from Indonesia and small of stature, possibly even pygmies. However recent genetic research has raised doubts about this and their tribal story remains shrouded in mystery.
You will be driven to the local airstrip later this morning for the brief flight by private charter to Morondava. Morondava is in the traditional territory of the Sakalava people who are best known for their elaborately sculpted and highly decorated wooden royal tombs. The tombs are covered with images of life and fertility and play an important part in ancestor worship. After lunch you will be taken from your hotel, Palissandre Côte Ouest, for a tour of the city Morondava including a visit to the local market and the Palais du Lambahoany, a famous and generations old cloth shop selling traditional Malagasy clothes. A further short drive takes you to the “Allée des Baobabs” for one of the most spectacular island sunsets. These baobab trees are what remains of the dense tropical forests which once covered much of the island and some are close to three thousand years old.
Day 8 – Morondava – Mandrare River Camp
After breakfast you will be driven back to the airport for your private charter flight to Ifatoka where your Avventura Representative will meet you to take you to the Mandrare River Camp. Now is the time to settle into your stunning tent and take in the endlessly fascinating views over the Mandrare River. You will be served a delicious lunch on the river terrace comprising grilled local meats and salads made from fresh Malagasy ingredients. This evening you will go for a night walk in the Forest of Zenavo. Here you can watch the diurnal lemurs bedding down for the night as their nocturnal cousins wake up in this atmospheric, prehistoric spiny forest. At first, you’re most likely to see sifakas and sleeping white-foot sportive lemurs. Once the sun has gone down their place is taken by two species of mouse lemur, sleeping birds, chameleons, owls and active sportive lemurs.
Day 9 – Mandrare River Camp
After breakfast you will head out to the stunning sacred gallery forest south of the camp. Depending on the depth of the river, you will walk or take a boat across the Mandrare River to reach this largely deciduous forest. Always inquisitive groups of ring-tailed lemurs (the kind upon which King Julian is based in the Disney film, Madagascar) and the always entertaining Verreaux sifaka (the hopping kind of lemur) are not to be missed. You will return to camp for lunch and an afternoon spent relaxing by the pool. In late afternoon, head for a walk through the sacred spiny forest filled with the ancestral tombs of the local Antandroy tribe, as well as an extraordinary array of flora and fauna, unique to the spiny forest. Your Avventura Concierge will bring a local tracker to tell you about Antandroy culture and customs. Your visit is followed by sundowners on the riverbank.
Day 10 – Mandrare River Camp
After a cup of tea or coffee you will head to the Spiny Forest for an early morning walk. Here you can watch the sunlight breaking through the succulent octopus trees. Keep an eye out for some of the many bird species including crested coua, a variety of vangas and the running coua. Then head back to camp for a well-deserved breakfast before visiting the local market or a nearby village to meet the Antandroy people face-to-face. Lunch will be served at the camp followed by a relaxed afternoon watching the life of the river from your tent terrace. In the early evening you will go for a sundowner and dinner among the baobab trees. The sight of the sun being slowly chased from the sky by the moon across the trees to the mountains beyond is never to be forgotten. In the evening the local village may come to perform some of their beautiful traditional dances and songs. Your fabulous bush dinner will be served beneath a five hundred year old baobab tree.
Day 11 – Mandrare River Camp – Antananarivo
If you’re going home today you will fly back to Antananarivo by private charter. Your Avventura representative and driver will help you get to where you need to be for your international flight home.
If you choose to extend your stay, you will fly back to Antananarivo by private charter to be met by your Avventura representative who will take you to the Relais des Plateaux which is handy for the airport. Check-in for lunch and then take the afternoon to treat yourself to some pampering in the spa or a dip in the gorgeous swimming pool. If you’re itching to get out into the city your concierge will be delighted to point you in the direction of the best things to see and do. Dinner tonight will be at the hotel.
Day 12 – Antananarivo – Maroantsetra
After an early breakfast, it’s back to Ivato International Airport for your scheduled charter flight to Maroantsetra in the north-east of the island. The Masoala Peninsula is covered in thick forest and is home to the largest remaining acreage of now protected rainforest in Madagascar. A wealth of rare and often unique species live here, including the red-ruffed lemur which is seen only in Masoala. You will be met on arrival at Maroantsetra Airport and taken to board your boat for the two hour voyage across Antongil Bay to Masoala Forest Lodge. The bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is a strong possibility that on your journey you will see dolphins and even the humpbacked whales which come here to breed. When you arrive on the wonderful sandy beach you will be given a warm welcome and shown to your thatch and canvas tree house. Once settled in, lunch will be served in the beach house. The afternoon activities include exploring the beaches and coastal forest in the lodge area or enjoying a swim in the sea. Later there will be a guided walk along the coastal path where you may be lucky enough to see white-fronted brown lemurs in the coastal forest. In the evening it will be back to camp for sundowners on the beach before a sumptuous dinner in the beach house.
Day 13 – Masoala Forest Lodge
After a relaxed breakfast on the sea deck there will be a guided walk along the coast and into the primary rainforest in search of the red-ruffed lemurs, dwarf chameleons and the many other extraordinary creatures which make this place their home. This is a fabulous spot for birders. There have been regular sightings of several rare or endangered species including scaly and short-legged ground-rollers and vangas among the hardwoods and soaring tree ferns. A boat will take you back to camp for lunch and a well-earned rest. The afternoon activities could be a snorkel on the nearby coral reefs, rich in diversity, or a guided sea kayak to the look-out rock at the “Secret Cove” for the sun set, with the chance of a close encounter with a bottlenose dolphin or green turtle.
Day 14 – Masoala Forest Lodge
After another relaxed start to your day, depart on a guided walk through the coastal forest, in search of more birds and mammals. Sightings of the incredible scaly and short-legged ground-rollers are regular. Mixed species flocks can contain an incredible diversity of vangas – the islands most celebrated bird family.
After a couple of hours walk, take a welcome swim in the crystal clear pools of the Tampolo River at the foot of the forested mountains. Return to camp on a traditional dugout canoe paddling down the shady river. After lunch, enjoy a relaxed afternoon swimming on the private beaches or snorkelling on the coral reefs. In the evening, enjoy a guided nocturnal walk with the intriguing possibility of seeing some of the secretive nocturnal wildlife such as leaf-tailed gecko, mouse lemurs and maybe even the elusive aye-aye.
Day 15 – Masoala – Maroantsetra – Antananarivo
This morning you head back to Maroantsetra by boat in time for you scheduled charter flight back to Antananarivo. Upon arrival, your Avventura Representative and driver will accompany you to the international terminal for your outbound flight.