Arrive In Antananarivo
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.
Fly To Mandrare River Camp
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 predominantly 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.
Day And Night Forest Walks
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.
Spiny Forest And Sundowners
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.
Activities At Mandrare
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.
Transfer To Manafiafy Beach And Rainforest Lodge
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 rainforest, 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.
Community And Mangrove Visits
Breakfast is a delight with cereals, pain au chocolat, 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.
Morning And Evening Forest Walks
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.
Village Tour And Sundowners
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.
Fly To Antananarivo
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.
Following breakfast you are collected for the short transfer to the international airport, about 5kms away, to check in for your flight home.
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