Verdant rainforests and dramatic landscapes are the setting for this holiday in Madagascar. Get off the beaten track, trekking through lush tropical vegetation, granite hills, highland meadows and surreal sandstone landscapes. Wildlife - See Madagascar's unique wildlife from lemurs to chameleons Remote villages - Interact with the friendly and hospitable local people Imarivolanitra (2658m) - Ascend Madagascar's highest climbable peak
Arrive in Antananarivo, built over twelve hills, Madagascar's capital is a blend of the old and new - Old wooden style houses, french colonial buildings and modern offices and apartments. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Antananarivo at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive at Ivato International Airport (TNR) which is around 15 minutes' drive from the hotel. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to explore independently. This once medieval capital, which is affectionately known as 'Tana', where the houses appear stacked one upon the other down the sloping hills of the highlands.
This morning we have an early start for our long journey south by charter bus via Antisarabe and Ambositra to Ramonafana National Park. We drive through subtropical highland, the volcanic field around Antisarabe, terraced rice paddies and village communities typical of the Malagasy highlands. Ranomafana is one of Madagascar's most spectacular national parks. The hills are covered in primary and secondary cloud and rainforest, and there is a great diversity of flora and fauna These include 12 species of lemur and over 115 species of birds, some of which are endemic to the area. There are also many small streams and waterfalls running through the park, joining the Namorona River as it flows off the highlands and into the valley. Tonight we stay at the family ran Manja hotel is in simple en-suite bungalows with mosquito nets and electricity and an on-site restaurant offering a variety of dishes. It is fantastically located close to the National Park entrance.
Early this morning, with porters carrying our overnight bags, we hike into the forest looking for local wildlife including lemurs. If we are extremely lucky we will see the endangered golden bamboo and greater bamboo lemurs. It was the discovery of the rare golden bamboo lemur here that persuaded the government to create Ranomafana National Park in 1986. We stop for a picnic lunch before heading into the primary rainforest where we stay at a simple campsite with one long drop toilet and cold water shower. Today's 10 kilometre walk is expected to take around six hours with 230 metres of ascent. The terrain is hilly rainforest and the walk is mainly on unmade forest trails
This morning we take another wildlife walk in to the forest hoping to see more animal species, including the black-and-white ruffed lemur which can only be found in this primary forest area. We then hike out of the forest area along the Varijatsy Trek Circuit to the village of Ranomafana on the banks of the Namorona Rive ending at the thermal baths and swimming pool - the name Ranomafana locally means 'hot water'. Today's 12 kilometre walk is expected to take around five hours with 530 metres of ascent. As yesterday the terrain is hilly rainforest and the walk is mainly on unmade forest trails.
Today we travel to Ambalavao via the ancient royal city of Fianarantsoa. Ambalavao is a beautiful town, the houses in the 'Old Town' are brightly coloured with steep tiled roofs and wooden balconies. It is also a lively market town, home to the largest cattle market on Madagascar. After an optional lunch we visit the nearby Anja Reserve, a local community reserve, where we hope to see ring-tailed lemurs before returning to Ambalavao for the evening.
After breakfast we travel by 4WD to Andringitra National Park where we will spend the next three days. On arrival we trek with porters east through several small villages to the first forest campsite, where we have a picnic lunch. The park scenery is stunning, encompassing high mountains, granite outcrops and deep valleys, and supports rainforest, mountain forest and high altitude meadow vegetation. As a consequence it is one of the most biodiverse areas of Madagascar with over 1000 species of plants, 100 species of birds, 50 species of mammals (including 13 of lemurs) and 55 species of frogs. However the park covers a large area and much of it is grassland meadows (it is covered in flowers including orchids December to April) so the wildlife isn't always easy to see. This is a small basic campsite in a forest clearing with simple facilities and no showers, water is taken from the nearby stream. After dinner, we take a nocturnal nature walk looking for some local animal nightlife in the forest. Today's five kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours with 300 metres of descent. The path passes through local villages and through fields before meeting the edge of the forest area at the campsite.
Starting early we make a wildlife walk, looking for birds and lemurs, before we begin our trek up to the park's highest campsite, Andriampotsy. We gain altitude on this trek as we pass through the Imaitso forest and arrive at a meadow plateau at the foot of the main Andringitra granite outcrop. We have a picnic lunch on the way up and then follow the trail past several streams to the campsite, the base camp for the climb to the highest point of the reserve, Pic Imarivolanitra. The campsite is basic with one long drop toilet and only bucket washing available, our cook provides us with an evening meal before we turn in for the night. Today's 12 kilometre walk is expected to take around four hours with 520 metres of ascent, mainly uphill along unmade tropical forest paths.
Today we walk up between a series of granite boulders to the summit of Imarivolanitra (2,658m), the highest point in southern Madagascar. It is a fairly steady climb on a well-managed path and the views from the top of this mountain down over the park are breathtaking. We then descend along the same paths via last night's campsite to a lower campsite, another basic campsite with one long drop toilet and water is taken from the nearby stream. Today's 15 kilometre walk is expected to take around seven hours with 600 metres of ascent and 650 metres of descent. It is a steady ascent along narrow mountain paths followed by a descent on similar paths down through tropical forest.
After walking to the park entrance we return by 4WD to Ambalavao, and then head south west by charter bus to Isalo National Park where we stay in Isalo Ranch Hotel. This hotel is on the edge of the Isalo sandstone massif where the dry forest is home to sifaka, ring-tailed lemur and brown lemur. For the next two nights we stay at an eco-lodge in simply furnished traditional thatched roofed bungalows. From the hotel we can see the sandstone hills that have been eroded by nature to form deep gorges and bizarre shapes. The electricity and hot water is solar generated, there is an on-site restaurant, bar and outdoor swimming pool. Today's five kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours with 500 metres of descent. We descend down to the park entrance on unmade forest trails and access roads.
Isalo offers a totally different landscape from either Ranomafana or Andringitra. The main massif is a huge area of sandstone eroded into deep gullies on the eastern side. There are patches of dry forest throughout the reserve which are home to lemur groups although they are shy and rarely seen. The temperatures are much hotter and plant life reflects this with moisture retaining species such as aloes and the extraordinary dwarf baobabs. After a morning wildlife trail we walk with our porters through the sandstone massif of Isalo to natural swimming pools and return to Isalo Ranch. Today's eight kilometre walk is expected to take around four hours with 250 metres of ascent, along uneven sandstone paths.
This morning we drive west to Toliara. En route we stop at Zombitse National Park, which despite years of slash and burn farming in the area, hosts an area of dry deciduous forest. This harbours a wide variety of wildlife including several lemur species and the elusive fossa (a cat-like mammal endemic to Madagascar), as well as many birds and reptile species. Throughout the forest are magnificent baobab trees. From Toliara we continue to Ifaty Beach, a small resort on the west coast, our base for the next two nights. Today's four kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours with 250 metres of descent, along uneven sandstone paths.
Today is free to relax or explore the area. Ifaty Beach is a huge sandy bay which looks out over a lagoon protected by a barrier reef up to seven kilometres from the shore. Traditional fishing villages are scattered along the bay and fishing is still done in sail powered outrigger canoes. There is an option to visit the reef for snorkelling. There is also is an excellent forest walk in the Reniala Reserve just inland from the beach area, where strange spiny forest can be found and some of the most attractive of the endemic bird species, such as the long-tailed ground roller, sub-desert mesite and sickle-billed vanga. Today's optional two kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours.
Today we fly from Toliara to Antananarivo airport from where we transfer to our hotel. The time of the flight varies so the rest of the day is free to relax.
This morning we transfer to Ambohitrabiby Hill, on the outskirts of Antananarivo, by bus and take a gentle walk to the top of this sacred hill. The walk takes us through local highland villages and rice paddies, learning about local silk weaving along the way before returning to Antananarivo in the afternoon. Today's six kilometre walk is expected to take around three hours with 250 metres of ascent, along simple footpaths.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Antananarivo. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Antananarivo at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Ivato International Airport (TNR) which is around 15 minutes' drive from the hotel.
14 Break Fast(s) 8 Lunch(es) 8 Dinner(s)
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