Arrive in Tana
You are met on arrival at Antananarivo (Tana) airport and transferred to your hotel, on a hill overlooking the city. Having had time to relax, you are collected by your driver-guide for a tour of the city sites. This concentrates on the historic old city, dominated by the imposing edifice of the Rova, the Queen's palace. You can walk or drive through the upper town where there are some fine colonial mansions and churches. At the end of the tour you are driven back to your hotel. Dinner is available on request or you can walk to a restaurant nearby.
Tana to Morondava
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel after which you are transferred to the airport for the flight to Morondava. Depending on the flight schedule, there should be time for a trip by pirogue (dugout canoe) from the port of Botry, where traditional dhows are moored, into the mangroves and Betania, a Vezo fishing village, The Vezo are a semi-nomadic people who derive their living from fishing, travelling up to 50 km from the coast in small pirogues without the aid of any navigational instruments. You should see them today, returning with their catches.
Kirindy Forest and Avenue of Baobabs
This morning you are driven north to Kirindy forest, a private reserve which is one of the best places in the country to see the fossa, Madagascar's largest carnivore and predator. The dry deciduous forest also harbours several species of lemur, many birds and reptiles. Returning back to Morondava you stop at the Avenue of Baobabs, a stretch of road flanked by some 25 to 30 mighty baobab trees, one of Madagascar's most photographed sites. After time to enjoy this special location you are driven back to hotel with time to shower before dinner.
Morondava to Antsirabe
Leaving the coast behind you set off into the highlands. Your driver is happy to as often as you wish to allow you to stretch your legs and take in the scenery, which includes mountains, rice fields, and to visit villages to observe everyday life. Your destination is Antsirabe, a spa town. Your hotel, Couleur Café, set in pretty gardens in a quiet part of town. You can take your pick of local restaurants for dinner tonight, or opt to dine at the hotel which offers French and local cuisines.
Antsirabe to Ranomafana
This morning travel about 100 km south to Ambositra, a city known for its craftsmanship. Wood carving is one of the most prominent, and is a speciality of the Zafimaniry community, who for centuries have worked as foresters, carpenters and sculptors. Their works are adorned with distinctive intricate geometric patterns.
After lunch the drive continues to Ranomafana, and your home for the next 2 nights, Hotel Thermal. You have the chance to go for a nocturnal walk in the rainforest to see chameleons, lemurs and frogs.
Today you'll get your first real experience of Madagascar's rich and varied wildlife on a morning hike. Ranomafana National Park is home to no fewer than 12 species of lemur including the golden bamboo (for which the park is famed), greater bamboo and the elusive aye-aye. Abundant bird life, dozens of reptiles and gorgeous orchids are also found in this impressive forest landscape. The hike can last anything from 2 hours to a full day, depending on your wishes and interests. If you opt for a shorter visit you can have lunch back at the hotel or in a local restaurant and then take a stroll around Ranomafana village in the afternoon. If you plan to spend all day in the park you can order a picnic lunch from the hotel to take with you.
Ranomafana to Isalo via Ambalavao
Leaving the highlands behind you journey south to the town of Ambalavao. Here you tour a factory producing Antemoro paper, beautifully embedded with flowers and made by hand, a highly sought after product exported to many nations. You also have time to visit the Anja Community Reserve 13 km south of the town. The 30 hectares are managed by a local association and this is a fine example of people working to preserve and protect their natural environment. On your guided walk you can expect to see diverse plant species, and wildlife including chameleons and ring-tailed lemurs. After time for lunch you continue to Isalo and your hotel. Isalo Rock Lodge.
Isalo National Park
Today you can explore Isalo National Park. It's an area of contrasting scenery: deep gorges, impressive canyons, rock formations eroded by centuries of wind and rain, soaring mountains and tumbling waterfalls. You are led by a park ranger on a hike to see not only the varied landscapes and panoramic views but also the wildlife including 'dancing' sifakas, ring-tailed lemurs and 77 species of birds. If you're lucky you may catch sight of the rare Benson's rock thrush. There's also time to rest and enjoy a refreshing swim in one of the park's natural pools. The duration of the hike can be tailored to suit you.
Isalo to Ifaty
You travel west this morning, towards the coast. Your first scheduled stop is at Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park, the most important remnant of dry deciduous forest in the country, and a transition zone between the dry and humid forests. As you follow one of the trails, keep a look out for red-fronted brown, pale fork-marked and Hubbard's sportive lemurs, as well as Verraux's sifaka and an abundance of birds, plus reptiles and amphibians. Re-board the vehicle as you head to your beach-side home for the next 3 nights, Les Dunes d'Ifaty,
From Ifaty it's just a short drive to Reniala Private Reserve. Here you can see the spiny forest, a habitat that occurs only in south-east Madagascar. The forest is made up 2,000 species of plants, many of them endemic to this area, and some ancient baobab trees, among them one known locally as 'teapot' which is believed to be 1,500 years old. There is a botanical trail that lets you explore the reserve, and a bird sanctuary. Other wildlife seen here includes iguanas, chameleons and the rare radiated tortoise. After your visit you return to Les Dunes d'Ifaty to unwind by the pool or on the beach.
Nothing is scheduled for today so you can do as you please! There's plenty to keep you occupied: a choice of water sports, snorkelling, scuba diving, boat trips, and horse riding. You may prefer to take it easy and enjoy a relaxed day by the pool soaking up some sun and enjoying views of the lagoon and Mozambique Channel beyond.
Ifaty to Tana
Enjoy breakfast with beach views before packing your bags in advance of the flight back to Tana. Depending on the flight schedule, you may have time to relax in the lounge or by the beach before your transfer. On arrival in Tana, a representative meets you in the domestic arrivals hall and drives you to Tamboho Hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. The hotel has a pleasantly restful lakeside location despite being close to the city centre,
Tana to Andasibe
After breakfast your driver calls for you and you set off eastwards to Andasibe. Along the way you travel though hillside villages and past photogenic rice fields. You break the journey at Pyreiras Butterfly Farm, a private reserve also containing a reptile farm and forest. This is a good chance to see geckos, iguanas, chameleons and frogs up close, as well as many species of butterflies. Walking in the forest you may spot sifakas and brown lemurs. You continue to Vakona Forest Lodge where you spend the next 2 nights. Tonight you have the chance to accompany a guide on a night walk in the Voimma Reserve. Many of the reptiles and amphibians are nocturnal, so this is a real treat. Look out for chameleons, and strange creatures such as the satanic leaf-tailed gecko and the giraffe-necked weevil.
You are driven to Mantadia Park this morning, about an hour from the lodge. There are 15,000 hectares of primary forest, home to over 100 species of birds, 14 varieties of lemurs including the Indri with its haunting cry, and numerous amphibians and reptiles. You have a guided hike that includes sections of dense vegetation and some steep climbs, so is moderately strenuous. As well as the wildlife, keep your eyes open for orchids which thrive in this environment. back at the lodge you can take a walk in Vakona Reserve, where you can see lemurs, many of which were formerly pets so are less timid than their wild counterparts and offer the chance for close encounters and photographs.
Andasibe to Tana then head for home
It's an early start leaving the hotel at 07:30 for the drive to Analamazaotra Reserve (part of Andasibe), known for its population of Indri, so this is another great chance to spot these unique creatures with their mesmerising song. Afterwards you set out for the capital, where you are dropped off at the international terminal at the airport to check in for your flight home.
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