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Essence of Madagascar

11 days from £695pp plus international flights.

This small group holiday gets to the heart of Madagascar, visiting several of its best known national parks where you'll be in midst of stunning scenery and will see a dazzling array of wildlife, much of it unique to this amazing island.

From the moment you set out from Tana you'll be bowled over by the sheer scale of this island. The high central plateau is lush and fertile, with photogenic terraced rice fields. Further south you'll enter rainforest, tree-covered hills and cascading waterfalls. You'll have guided walks in Isalo, Zombitse and Ranomafana national parks, all rich in flora and fauna. You'll see more species of lemurs than you knew existed, become an expert at spotting chameleons, learn to tell your geckos apart and enjoy watching all manner of reptiles. Not to mention the birds.

You'll be travelling in a private 4x4 vehicle with your own driver. You'll be covering large distances (Madagascar is BIG - slightly bigger than France!), but there'll be plenty of stops along the way, allowing you to watch skilled craftsmen at work, observe daily life and bathe in therapeutic waters. Hotels and guesthouses provide comfortable accommodation and plentiful breakfasts. 

Stunning scenery, unique wildlife and friendly people - this really is the essence of Madagascar.

Bedroom at the IC Hotel


You'll arrive at Antananarivo (Tana) and will be transferred from the airport to your first night hotel, the IC Hotel, a short drive away. Relax after your flight, cool off with a swim in the pool and a drink from the bar. This is the start of your Madagascan adventure! This evening you'll meet your tour representative who'll give a briefing about the days to come.  
Lush fields in the highlands


You'll have breakfast before being collected by your driver for the journey south through the highlands. This is a fertile area and you'll see many rice paddies and cultivated fields. Your first stop is at Ambatolampy, about 70kms from Tana. This town is at the base of Mt Tsiafajavona and is known for its foundries and metal workshops. Later you'll stop for lunch (not included) at Antsirabe before arriving at the hotel in Ambositra in the late afternoon. Breakfast
Villa Sylvestre in Fianarantsoa


You'll have time to visit a wood carving workshop this morning to see the skills that produce the intricate balconies and shutters at first hand. You'll then board the vehicle to continue southward to Fianarantsoa, firstly though rice fields and then fragrant pine and eucalyptus forests. There'll be several stops en-route. You'll check into your small guest house, Villa Sylvestre, before a guided tour of the town, the main cultural and intellectual centre of Madagascar. Breakfast 
Paper making in Ambalavao


This morning you'll head to Ambalavao, in the heart of Madagascar's wine country. You'll stop here for a winery tour, followed by visit to a paper factory to witness the centuries-old techniques used to produce beautiful flower-imprinted paper. You should also have time to visit the lively market. You'll then head to the community park at Anja where you'll see a variety of lemurs - notably ring-tailed lemurs. Your journey continues through hilly terrain and on to a red-soiled plateau. You'll arrive in Isalo, where you'll spend the next 3 nights. Breakfast  
Ring-tailed lemur


It's time to explore! You'll have a full day in Isalo National Park, with its deep canyons, rugged gorges, tumbling waterfalls and strange rock formations. It's superb walking territory, with chances to cool off in natural rock pools. There are lemurs here and you may see sifakas, ringtailed and brown lemurs, as well as numerous birds and reptiles. This is a fascinating introduction to the diverse scenery and wildlife of this amazing island and your guide is on hand to share his knowledge with you. You'll return to the hotel tired, but elated. Breakfast
Zombitse is known for its profuse bird life


Today you'll visit Zombitse National Park, about a 2 hour drive away. A local guide will lead you into the forest which is a haven for birdlife with 47% of Madagascar's endemic birds. Other highlights are geckos and lemurs, including Verraux's sifaka, The flora is equally rich and you should see some beautiful orchids. Later you'll drive to Andranomaintso to see some impressibe baobabs, the national tree of Madagascar. Your final stop is Ilakaka, where sapphires where discovered in 1998. Maybe you'll meet some sapphire miners. You'll then return to your hotel in Isalo. Breakfast 
Karibotel in Ranomafana


Your journey back north begins this morning as you travel across the Horombe Plateau where you may see herds of zebu cattle grazing, and on to the Andringitra massif which marks the start of the central highlands. This is the territory of the Betsileo, the third largest ethnic tribe in the country. You'll pass through 'the gate of the south', the name given to a huge granite dome with twin rock towers, before arriving at the Karibotel in Ranomafana. The hotel has a restaurant and there are others within walking distance, so you have a choice of dining options tonight. Breakfast 
Eastern bamboo lemur


Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before setting out on a 2-4 hour hike in Ranomafana National Park. You'll have a local guide for this walk in the rainforest, who'll point out different plants, which include lichens, mosses and orchids. The forest is home to over 100 species of birds and myriad reptiles and insects, plus 12 lemurs including the rare golden bamboo lemur,though to be extinct but then found here relatively recently. This lemur has adapted to its diet of potentially lethal, cyanide-laden bamboo. The afternoon is free, but if you wish you can visit the village or thermal pool fed by natural spring water. Breakfast    
Scenic countryside on the way to Antsirabe


You'll leave your hotel driving past rice paddies, terraced fields and villages to Antsirabe, Madagascar's third largest city. It's 1500m above sea level and has a pleasantly cool climate. The city was founded by Norwegian missionaries in the 19th and has many elegant European-style buildings. The thermal baths are reputed to have curative properties, while local sparkling mineral water is used in the production of beer. You should arrive in the mid-afternoon, so will have time to stroll around town if you wish or you could take it easy at the hotel. Breakfast  


After breakfast on the terrace you'll have a guided tour of the town, visiting some local workshops including one where gemstones are skillfully cut and polished. The drive continues to the scenic lake at Andraikiba where you can stretch your legs. You'll also stop in Ambatolampy before arriving back at the IC Hotel for your final night in Madagascar. You have a free afternoon, so you can go for a walk in the countryside around the hotel or sunbathe by the pool. Breakfast 
Bid farewell to Tana and Madagascar


Your bags packed, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home. Breakfast
Price & Dates

Guide price from (pp sharing): £695 (ex. international flights)

Price notes: The price of £695 pp is for 4 people traveling together. For 2 travelling together it will be £895.


Accommodation on a twin-share basis; breakfast from day 2 to day 11; transport in a private air conditioned 4x4 vehicle with driver; local guides in national parks and reserves; entry fees for parks mentioned in the itinerary.


International flights and taxes; visas; travel insurance; meals not specified; drinks; tips; laundry; optional excursions; items of a personal nature.

Getting there: This holiday starts and ends in Antananarivo (Tana). Return flights from the UK cost from around £800 per person, depending on season and availability. We are happy to book flights for you.

places you will see

places you will see

Tana is the busy capital and site of the international airport. There are some fine churches, cobbled streets and busy markets to be explored.
Isalo landscape
Isalo National Park

The impressive canyons, strange rock formations, dramatic gorges, waterfalls and wildlife including lemurs attract visitors year round, making this one of the most popular parks in Madagascar.

Ranomafana National Park sign
Ranomafana National Park

This superb area of indigenous forest is where the critically endangered golden bamboo lemur was discovered in 1986.

customer rating

5/5 from 42 reviews

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facts and information

Time: GMT +3 hours

Flight time: Flights from Europe to Madagascar take about 10/11 hours.

Language: Malagasy and French are Madagascar's official languages. English or German is spoken by a municipal workers and guides.A basic working knowledge of French will make communication easier.

Visas: Most nationalities require a Madagascar visa, obtainable from the High Commission in London (or on arrival into International Airport.

Health: Malaria is present in most of the country. No vaccinations are compulsory.

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