11 days from £6350pp plus international flights.
Madagascar is a huge country and many holidays here involve large amounts of travelling. This one is different. It focuses on just 2 properties both in the far south of the country, reached by flight from the capital, making the best use of your precious time. You have 4 nights in each place, plenty of time to unpack your bags, settle in and fully appreciate your surroundings.
The camp and lodge are far more than places to stay. Each has been carefully designed to provide creature comforts, delicious cuisine and the highest levels of service, all the more impressive given their remote locations. Their contrasting settings, one inland and the other on the coast, make them an excellent combination, enabling you to experience different environments and communities.
At Mandrare River Camp you take walks in the distinctive spiny forest, among plants that have evolved not only to withstand but to thrive in the arid climate that prevails for much of the year. Animals, too, have adapted to the conditions, ringtailed lemurs and Verraux's sifaka among them. Come sunset you are poured refreshing sundonwer drinks, served by the river or among the massive baobab trees, a prelude to your 3-course dinner.
Manafiafy Lodge faces a beautiful bay on the Indian Ocean, has stretches of mangroves and is flanked by rainforest, all of which you get to explore with your local guide. Wildlife is profuse: 5 species of lemur, over 80 of birds, numerous geckos, chameleons, flying fox bats and, offshore, humpback whales. At the camp you dine on fresh oysters, mussels and lobster, prepared in full view in the open kitchen.
Both properties have strong links with their respective local communities, which adds an intriguing human aspect to your holiday. In Mandrare you meet the Antandroy, a nomadic tribe with a culture rich in ceremony and ancestor worship, and at Manafiafy you visit the Antanosy village with its traditional wooden houses and fishing pirogues.
This special holiday is a winning combination of nature, culture and rustic luxury, and gives you a real insight into the richness of Madagascar.
Your holiday begins in earnest when your flight touches down at the airport at Antananarivo (Tana for short). You are met and transferred to your city hotel, Maison Gallieni. Having dropped off your bags you embark on a guided tour of the old city and upper town that form Tana's historic centre. The skyline is dominated by the Rova, or Queen's Palace from where you get great views over the rest the city. You drive or walk through the upper town with its colonial architecture, impressive palaces, churches and cobblestoned streets. On conclusion of the tour you return to your hotel.
You are met and taken to the private charter terminal at Tana airport for the 90 minute flight to Fort Dauphin on the south coast. A driver is waiting to meet you, and drive you to Mandrare River Camp, a journey of around 3.5 hours. On arrival you are served a welcome lunch on the river-facing terrace. Fully rested and replenished, you set out with a guide for a walk in the spiny forest, typical of this region, whose vegetation has adapted to the predimonantly arid climate. You also learn about the native Antandroy tribe, and visit tombs of their ancestors. The excursion ends with sundowner drinks beside the Mandrare River. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Breakfast is a feast of freshly baked bread, croissants, jams, cereals and fresh fruit juice, eaten as you look out across the Mandrare River. Later you set out to the sacred gallery forest on the other bank, either wading across the river or travelling by boat depending on the depth of the water. The forest is known for its populations of ringtailed lemurs and sifakas, and you'll have fun locating and watching these creatures. Travel back to the camp for lunch and a restful afternoon. Around 5pm you set off for Zenavo Forest, and a chance to see nocturnal species such as sportive lemurs, mouse lemurs, chameleons and owls, as they awaken. On your return to camp dinner is served, eaten by lamplight. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
After a piping hot cup of tea or coffee you set off on an early morning walk in the spiny forest. This distinctive vegetation has adapted over the centuries to survive in the arid conditions of southern Madagascar, and is characterised by its small leaves and spines, typified by the octopus tree. Your guide points out different species, as well as some of the birds that live here including the crested coua and a number of vangas. After breakfast in camp you have an opportunity to visit the local village or market. Enjoy a quiet afternoon in camp and in the late afternoon you are invited to sundowners by the river, sitting by baobab trees. Return to dinner in camp. On some evenings people from the local village come to camp to perform traditional songs and dances, an added insight into Antandroy culture. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
You have another day to enjoy life at Mandrare. You might venture into the forest once more in search of lemurs, take a walk with a guide along the river spotting kingfishers, or pay a visit to one of the local villages. You can take time out to unwind in camp, putting your feet up in the lounge, taking in views from the deck and cooling off with a dip in the plunge pool. Meals tend to be communal, a good chance to socialise, and dinner is served in a variety of locations, all special in their own way. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
After breakfast it's time to pack your bags and board the vehicle for the drive to Manafiafy. This takes about 6 hours in total, travelling via Fort Dauphin where you stop for lunch. Later the journey continues and you should arrive at Manafiafty Beach and Rainforest lodge in mid-afternoon. Having rested you depart in the late afternoon for a walk in the coastal rainfiorest, which turns into a night walk. Look and listen out for lemurs, chameleons, geckos including the wonderfully named satanic leaf-tailed gecko, and the Madagascar scops owl. Head back to the lodge where you sit down to a sumptuous 3-course dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Breakfast is a delight with cereals, pains au choclat, croissants and fruits plus cooked eggs, served in the thatched dining room. This morning you visit the local Antanosy community to see the Stitch project in action. Formed by an NGO to help local women to use their traditional embroidery skills to provide a sustainable livelihood, Stitch trains them in business skills and English language. You can see the finished products in the form of belts and bags. You return to the lodge for lunch and a siesta. Later you set out by motorboat into the mangroves, an excellent opportunity for bird watching, perhaps spotting crested ibis, blue coua, malachite and pygmy kingfishers and harrier hawks. Return for dinner and drinks by the firepit. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Arise early for a sunrise walk in the forest by the coast. This is home to a population of red-collared lemurs, endemic to this region of Madagascar, which live in groups of up to 20 and most active at dawn and dusk. They can often be seen in the trees, and are agile creatures leaping from branch to branch. You should also see a variety of birds such as greater vassa parrots, crested and giant coua and hook-billed vanga. Enjoy a hearty breakfast back at the lodge and time to relax. Towards the end of the afternoon you follow your guide into a nearby forest, a known haunt for the flying fox, the country's largest species of bat. Your visit should coincide with their awakening and taking to the skies, in search of food, an exhilarating sight. Return to the lodge to listen to traditional stories that lie at the heart of Malagasy oral history. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Enjoy an easy morning at Manafiafy, either resting, enjoying the ocean views and treating yourself to a massage. Alternatively you can venture into the forest with your guide, learning more about the flora and fauna of the area, go snorkelling in the bay or explore by kayak. This is one of the best places in Madagascar to see humpback whales, which you can do from the lookout tower or on a special whale watching trips, payable locally. After lunch you are invited to visit Manafiafy, a traditional Antanosy village on the seashore, where you meet local people and find out about their daily lives. At the end of the afternoon enjoy sundowner drinks at a viewpoint overlooking Manafiafy bay, before returning to the lodge. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
After breakfast you are driven to the airport at Fort Dauphin for the private charter flight back to Tana, where you are met and transferred to Relais des Plateaux for an overnight stay. The hotel is in a peaceful setting 12kms from the city centre, where you can relax on a lounger by the pool, walk in the garden and avail yourself of spa services. There's a restaurant on site, so you don't need to stir far for dinner. Breakfast
Following breakfast you are collected for the short transfer to the international airport, about 5kms away, to check in for your flight home. Breakfast
Guide price from (pp sharing): £6350 (ex. international flights)
Price notes: 2018 guide price pp sharing: 26 March-10 June & 21-30 November £6350, 11-20 June £6450, 21 June-20 November £7200
10 nights twin share accommodation, private transfers as listed, private charter flights from Tana to Fort Dauphin and from Fort Dauphin to Tana, guided tour of Tana old city and upper town, activities as described at Mandrare River Camp and Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge, meals listed as included, entrance and guiding fees for parks and sites in the itinerary, 1 bottleof minreal water per person per day
International flights and taxes, visas, vaccinations, travel insurance, meals not listed as included, drinks, tips, optional activities, personal expenditure
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.
Departure dates: This is a private tailor made holiday that operates from March till November, and can begin on the day of your choice, subject to availability and airline schedules.
An elegant 19th building overlooking Tana, with 4 guest rooms, attractive finishings, a garden and a pool.
Relax at this lovely beachside lodge, go swimming, watch whales, explore the forest and feast on fresh seafood
A luxury tented camp in a pristine setting where you can explore the spiny forest and meet the Antandroy tribe
Just a few minutes drive from the airport in Tana, this modern hotel is ideal before or after a flight.
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Find the best time to visit Madagascar
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.