Madagascar Wildlife Adventure
You'll be awed by the vibrant colors and exotic species in this plant and animal paradise. Travel there with a seasoned animal-passionate operator who is doing fantastic conservation work in the region.
East Africa: Drink It In
Madagascar is indeed a world apart. Its rain forests are home to diademed sifakas, indris, fossas and tenrecs, while baobabs and pachypodia dot its sandstone deserts. Curious about these exotic-sounding names? For even the best-traveled nature lover, Madagascar offers a kaleidoscope of discoveries. It's no wonder World Wildlife Fund calls it a priority place—more than 80% of the island nation's rare and intriguing plants and animals, including more than 100 different varieties of lemur, exist nowhere else. There's no better way to experience this living time capsule that broke away from the super-continent some 100 million years ago than on our exclusive small-group journey.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- • A biodiversity paradise, 90% of the plants and animals in this region are native only to Madagascar. Explore four distinctly different parks on this itinerary.
• View a variety of fascinating lemurs on multiple encounters with these primitive primates found only on this biologically isolated island.
• Madagascar has been a prominent destination for this operator for years and all their guides get exclusive training from World Wildlife Foundation scientists.
Trip Sustainability Awards
Fantastic advances in minimizing carbon footprints at locations.
On the East African Energy Renewal Board
Runs local educational facilities for children.
Day 1: Antananarivo, Madagascar
Our adventure begins in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Known locally as "Tana," Madagascar's largest city is home to roughly 3 million people, while the balance of the country's population lives mostly in rural areas. A transfer is included from the airport to our hotel, located in a peaceful setting on a small lake on the outskirts of the city. Gather this evening for a welcome dinner with our Expedition Leader.
Accommodation: Hotel Tamboho
Hotel Tamboho: This small boutique hotel featuring traditional Malagasy architectural touches and modern comforts is a haven of tranquility overlooking a small lake near Madagascar's capital.
Days 2–4: Antananarivo, Madagascar / Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
Leaving the city behind, we pass rice paddies and small villages to reach Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Within this protected rain forest, we have our first opportunity to hike in search of lemurs, primitive primates found only in Madagascar. The country is home to approximately 100 species and subspecies of lemur, and the world’s largest, the indri, is found in this park. As exciting to hear as it is to see, this pied creature has a distinctive call, its loud, eerie wailing ringing out through the trees. We may also spy gray bamboo, Eastern woolly and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, as well as diademed sifakas that spring through the canopy like athletic dancers. On night walks, look for tree frogs, chameleons and palm-sized brown mouse lemurs that skitter among the strangler figs and giant ferns.
Madagascar’s premier national park is a critical component of the country’s efforts to conserve its biodiversity in the face of extensive deforestation. Besides lemurs, this threatened biome contains a thousand different orchid species that bloom during the rainy season, numerous medicinal plants, the iridescent green and turquoise Parson’s chameleon (one of the largest in the world—as long as your forearm), and a spiky insectivore called a tenrec, which looks like a striped hedgehog. This protected tract of rare montane rain forest is one of the world's top birding locales. We also visit Lemur Island, a small sanctuary where lemurs rescued from captivity are thriving. Three species, including the common brown lemur, bamboo lemur and black-and-white ruffed lemur, have become habituated to visitors, allowing for close encounters and delightful photo opportunities.
Accommodation: Mantadia Lodge
Mantadia Lodge: Set high on a ridge overlooking a eucalyptus forest, rooms in Mantadia Lodge's contemporary, whitewashed stone and stucco bungalows each have a terrace with broad views over the domain of the indri, a lemur found only in nearby Perinet Reserve and Mantadia National Park.
Days 5 & 6: Ranomafana National Park
Return to Antananarivo by road and take a chartered flight to the hilltop town of Fianarantsoa, noted for its 19th-century colonial Old Town filled with colorful houses and winding streets. From here, we make a scenic drive to Ranomafana National Park, created in 1991 following the discovery of the endangered golden bamboo lemur. Today, the park is a hub of research and discovery that is vitally important for the conservation of regional wildlife. Comprised of steep, mountainous terrain, Ranomafana's 250 square miles encompass varied habitats at a range of altitudes, from lowland rain forest to cloud forest to high plateau forest. Cliffs draped in lush vegetation and waterfalls abound in this rugged wilderness, which we explore on guided hikes. With multiple guides, we are able to split the group according to physical ability, tailoring hikes accordingly.
The park is home to 12 species of lemur, including three different bamboo lemur species, 120 frog species, numerous chameleons and other reptiles, 90 butterfly species, and the fascinating but rarely seen fossa. Birds are abundant, too, with more than 100 species present, including ground-rollers, red-fronted coua and collared nightjar. A night walk may reveal brown mouse lemurs and various amphibians active after dark. The lush rain forest also harbors many different carnivorous plants.
Accommodation: Setam Lodge
Setam Lodge: Setam Lodge is set on the edge of Ranomafana National Park, affording beautiful vistas of the surrounding rain forest and mountains. Its 20 thatched chalet-style rooms are perched on a hillside overlooking the river below, and each has a small terrace to enjoy the view.
Days 7 & 8: Isalo National Park
Constantly changing views unfold on a full-day scenic drive to southern Madagascar. Get glimpses of local life as we pass through small villages into a landscape in stark contrast to the eastern rain forests. Stop en route at the Anja Community Reserve for a picnic lunch and a chance to see rambunctious ring-tailed lemurs feeding in the trees or foraging on the ground. Continuing south, we enter a region of mountainous plateaus and eroded canyons reminiscent of the American Southwest, as massive rock outcrops rise from dry grass plains. Reaching the striking Isalo massif, witness fascinating flora that thrives against this Jurassic-era sandstone backdrop, including the odd-looking swollen pachypodia, or “elephant’s foot,” with its bright yellow flowers.
Several varieties of lemur live among the cacti, aloes and palms, especially the ring-tailed lemur we look for on a hike in Isalo National Park. The 200,000-acre park is also home to more than 80 bird species and 33 reptile species. It is the sacred homeland of the tribal Bara people, whose burial sites are marked by mounds of tiny stones placed in crevices in the rock faces. Amid the arid landscape, we come upon a swift stream running through an ancient deep gorge. There's an option to climb a series of steep steps to a natural pool fed by a thundering waterfall that has carved its course into the sandstone. Later, as the sunset fades, look up at the ebony sky for some of the best stargazing on the planet.
Accommodation: Relais de la Reine
Relais de la Reine: Constructed by local craftsmen using the local granite and sandstone found in this part of Madagascar, this family-run boutique ecolodge blends seamlessly with its natural environment. Stone pathways are carved in harmony with the rocky surroundings while guest chalets merge with the landscape. The lodge's 30 guest rooms have thick stone walls to keep them cool in this desert environment, with handcrafted rosewood furnishings within. Beautifully manicured gardens, flowering trees and lawns, set against a backdrop of red sandstone cliffs, complement the natural beauty of the property.
Day 9: Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park / Isalo
Drive west to Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park today, a little-visited reserve on the border of two biological zones—dry deciduous tropical forest and more humid forest and savanna. The park is an island of green in the middle of a widely deforested region, and as such, it provides crucial natural habitat for an array of flora and fauna. Some of Madagascar’s finest birdwatching is here, with a number of endemic species including the very rare Appert's tetraka native to this forest alone. We also look for the giant coua, the iridescent souimanga sunbird, greater and lesser vasa parrots, Oustalet’s chameleon, and, always, lemurs.
Among the park's eight lemur species, we may see Verreaux's sifaka, red-fronted brown lemur and the Hubbard's sportive lemur, a prize sighting found only in this park, if we're lucky. We feel especially fortunate to be here, knowing that our presence is directly responsible for protecting this rare habitat from destruction. Late this afternoon, return to our secluded ecolodge in Isalo to spend one more night.
Accommodation: Relais de la Reine
Days 10–12: Anjajavy Private Reserve
A truly exclusive journey awaits today, as we board a chartered flight north to the 17,000-acre private nature reserve of Anjajavy. This vast protected area on the Indian Ocean is reached only by chartered small aircraft, with access via the reserve's private airport. The lodge fronting the cerulean waters of the Mozambique Channel is our base for exploring the dry deciduous forest of northwest Madagascar.
This remote area, less disturbed than other regions of the country, harbors a striking number of endemic species. Look for the common brown lemur and black-and-white Coquerel’s sifaka during guided forest hikes, though we frequently see the latter on the lodge grounds as well. Night strolls may reveal gray and golden brown mouse lemurs, giant hairy crabs and various reptiles. The forest contains some 1,800 plant species, among them richly colored rosewood trees and massive baobab trees shaped like squat bottles. Our 4-star resort, Madagascar's only member of the exclusive Relais & Chateaux group, accommodates guests in deluxe thatched bungalows overlooking a private white sand beach.
Private boat excursions offer a close-up view on this secluded region that's mostly uninhabited except for a couple of nearby fishing villages. While we may pass a few fishermen in their dhows with triangular white sails or paddling wooden pirogues, we're largely alone along this wild coastline. It's a scenic landscape of rocky outcrops and tiny indented coves with unspoiled beaches dotted by pale ghost crabs. Travel by boat to Moramba Bay to view eroded limestone formations protruding from the sea, and huge baobab trees that stand sentinel over densely vegetated environs. Search the coastline for the Madagascar fish eagle, rare Madagascar sacred ibis and crested ibis.
A sunset cruise through the mangroves reveals more birds, and, if we’re lucky, Madagascar flying foxes leaving their roosts at dusk. From the lodge, you may also opt to explore the coastline by kayak, snorkel over a coral reef from the beach, and explore a subterranean cave where we may spy bats. On the lodge grounds, the "Oasis" provides a garden sanctuary for a wide variety of aquatic and climbing plants, papyrus, tree ferns and palm trees that offer refuge to green kingfisher, red fody and active sifaka lemurs. A saltwater infinity pool overlooking the ocean provides welcome refreshment after a day of discovery.
Accommodation: Anjajavy Lodge
Anjajavy Lodge: Set within a private nature reserve at the end of a peninsula jutting into the Mozambique Channel, Anjajavy Lodge offers an immersion in Malagasy nature at the edge of the sea. Yet despite its remote location, which is accessible only by private airstrip, this boutique ecolodge offers all the contemporary comforts a discerning guest could wish for.
Day 13: Antananarivo / Depart
After a leisurely breakfast at the lodge, we fly by chartered aircraft back to Antananarivo for connecting flights homeward, or on to your safari extension.
Activity Level: Moderate to Difficult. In order to participate fully in this adventure, guests must be able to hike unassisted for at least 3 miles in a single stretch along dirt trails, up and down steep and sometimes slippery slopes, over or around tree roots that protrude from the trail, up and down tall steps cut into the paths, and occasionally off-trail and into the brush over wet leaves, tree roots and through hanging vines to see wildlife. The group may do multiple hikes during a day, and total distances may exceed 5 miles. Travelers must be comfortable crossing a sturdy bridge over a gorge, walking through sand and into knee-deep water to climb into and out of a boat with assistance, and walking along wooden boardwalks without a railing. All guests must be able to climb stairs unassisted.
Madagascar is on my bucket list as a wildlife paradise I'd love to experience. What a photography mecca! I hope you get to go!
Joy Martinello, Founder
What’s Included & Cancellation Policy: