Essence of Madagascar

Essence of Madagascar

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 12 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo
Arrive in Antananarivo and transfer to your hotel conveniently situated in the vicinity of the airport. You may wish to relax or start exploring the city if time permits. Overnight Gassy Country House Hotel or similar. No meals are included today.

Day 2: Antananarivo – Ambositra (Approximate driving time today is 8 hours)
After breakfast drive southward across the landscape of the highlands, mainly composed of rice fields and lavaka, or ‘big holes’ caused by erosion. Stop in Ambatolampy, the ‘city built on the flat rock’. Traditionally agricultural, the town is also famous for age-old foundries, a technique transmitted from father to son. Continue to the important town of Antsirabe where we stop for lunch and then drive to Ambositra for our overnight stay. Overnight Motel Violette or similar (B)

Day 3: Ambositra – Ambalavao (Approximate driving time today is 7 hours)
This morning explore Ambositra, the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry. The architecture is beautiful; houses are made with ornately carved wooden balconies and shutters with vivid colours. Continue through the highlands to the large city of Fianarantsoa, where the landscape is still dominated by rice fields on stage, pine forest and eucalyptus. On arrival, take a city tour of Fianarantsoa before continuing to Ambalavao, where we visit the Paper Anteimoro workshop, a sign of the Arabian influence in Madagascar. Also, if time permit, we visit the colourful and popular zebu market in Ambalavao (only on Wednesdays and Thursdays). Overnight Zongo Hotel or similar (B) 

Day 4: Ambalavao – Anja Reserve – Isalo (Ranohira) (Approximate driving time today is 6 hours)
This morning continue to Anja Reserve where we start our wildlife experiences. Anja is a reserve run by the local village, and income raised serves to pay the local school teachers’ salary. During the 2 hour hike, we will get the chance to see the famous ring-tailed lemurs. Continue south passing the "3 hillocks" and the huge dome called "archbishop's cape" a sacred place for the local people, as it is a place where their ancestors made a collective suicide rather than to surrender to Merina's domination. Stop in Ihosy, the capital of the Bara tribes, nomadic cattle raisers and then drive through the spectacular "plateaux de Horombe” to finally arrive in Ranohira, the gate to the Isalo National Park. Overnight Motel de l’Isalo or similar. (B) 

Day 5: Isalo National Park
After breakfast, enjoy a walk in the National Park of Isalo. This park is very famous for its strange sandstone geological formations eroded over the passage of time by the wind and rain, this park offers some of the most spectacular scenery of the country. This is also a place where the Bara tribes bury their dead. If we are lucky, we will see the lemur Catta during our excursion in the park.  With permission, visit a local school project. Later in the afternoon, we head to “La Fenêtre de l’Isalo”, a stunning rock arch to watch the sunset over this dramatic landscape. Overnight Motel de l’Isalo or similar (B) 

Day 6: Isalo - Zombitse National Park – Tuléar - Ifaty (Approximate driving time today is 8 hours)

After breakfast, continue southwest to Tuléar, the terminal of Route National 7. Stop at Ilalaka, a tiny village transformed into a busy town since the discovery of sapphire 15 years ago.  From here, a new landscape presents, composed with semi-dry forest of the west and, baobab tamarin trees. Visit Zombitse National Park where we will have 1-hour hike with a special guide in a semi-dry tropical forest, home to endemic birds and up to 6 species of lemurs. As we approach Tulear, we start to see the spiny forest and the colourful tombs of the Mahafaly and Antandroy tribes. At Tulear we take the Route National 9, and head north to Ifaty along the coast passing mangroves, spiny forest and dunes. Overnight Belle Vue Hotel or similar (B)

Day 7: Ifaty at leisure
Today is at leisure. This afternoon there will be an optional walk to the village of Mangily and get a feel for the life of the Vezo fisherman. During the winter months (June – August it is possible to take a whale watching excursion at extra cost). Overnight Belle Vue Hotel or similar (B)

Day 8: Ifaty – Tuléar - Isalo (Ranohira) (Driving time approximately is 7 hours)
After breakfast, we head back to Tuléar and have a short city tour and visit the excellent Arboretum showcasing the best flora of Madagascar. From there, we take the Route National 7 and head northwards back to Isalo National Park. Overnight Motel de l’Isalo or similar (B)

Day 9: Isalo – Fianarantsoa - Ranomafana (Approximate driving time today is 7 hours)
After breakfast, we head north to Ihosy the capital of the Bara tribes and renowned Zebu herders. Pass back through the dramatic scenery of "plateaux de Horombe", with its wide-open savannah. Around Ihosy we look out for the Bara with their droves of zebu.  Continue through to the catholic city of Fianarantsoa and on to Ranomafana National Park.  Overnight Ihary Hotel or similar (B) 

Day 10: Ranomafana National Park
Today we enjoy a morning excursion, walking for around 4 hours with stops with a local guide where we hope to see different lemur species. Later you will have some leisure time before a night walk on the edge of the forest looking for nocturnal species. Overnight Ihary Hotel or similar (B) 

Day 11: Ranomafana - Antsirabe (Approximate driving time today is 6 hours)
Depart early today and we re-enter the highlands once again enjoying the scenery of rice terraces beautifully arranged on the hills, and the valleys decorated with wide vegetable plantations. Stop at Ambositra for lunch and visit a local wood carvers’ shop. Continue to Antsirabe arriving by the middle of the afternoon. We take a tour of this important highland town which is also home to the main beer brewery of Madagascar. Overnight Royal Palace Hotel or similar (B)

Day 12: Antsirabe - Antananarivo – Departure from Madagascar (Approximate driving time today is 4 hours)
After breakfast we drive back to Tana. Upon arrival, transfer to the airport on due time for your onward flight back home. Day use available at Gassy Country House until late afternoon for clients travelling on the night Air France / Kenya Airways flights. (B) 

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