AT A GLANCE
This Madagascar wildlife safari takes you to a bucket list destination. Here we will find unique wildlife, stunning reefs and pristine beaches, over 100 endemic bird species, amazing scenic diversity, 750 species of endemic orchids, some of the best chocolate in the world and the famous Lemurs, to name a few.
The 13-Day tour is guaranteed to be an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
ITINERARY – MADAGASCAR WILDLIFE TOUR
DAY 1: Arrival in Madagascar (Antananarivo)
Welcome to one of the most unique and fascinating places on earth! Your fantastic Madagascar safari will start today in the city of Antananarivo.
After meeting you at the Ivato International airport, 16 km (10 miles) northwest of the city centre, we will pack our bags into our comfortable vehicle and make our way to our hotel in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.
This colourful city, an eclectic mix of African and Asian influences, is located in the island’s Central Highlands at 1,280 m (4,200 feet) above sea level, roughly in the geographical centre of the island. Antananarivo is the political, economic, educational and cultural heart of Madagascar, and home to about 2 million people. The city skyline is a jumble of colourful, historic houses and churches. More recently built residential and commercial buildings and rice fields occupy the lower terrain throughout the capital.
Fondly known as “Tana”, with the name Antananarivo literally meaning “city of a thousand”, Madagascar’s capital is usually the first port of call for most overseas visitors. Its location makes it the ideal base for visiting the rest of the island’s attractions, but it’s also well worth exploring in its own right.
Founded in the early 17th century, Antananarivo has a rich history and a burgeoning modern culture that includes world-class restaurants (some establishments rival Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants, but without the price tag), the impressive Rova Palace ruins, art galleries, The Musée de la Photo, shopping opportunities at the bustling Analakely market and much much more.
There is also a little gem of a park right in the city that is well worth a visit if we are keen on seeing our first unique avian species. Tsarasaotra Park covers only 0.25 km2, but is a Ramsar Wetland of Importance and a refuge for many birds, including 14 endangered and/or endemic species. These include Malagasy Pond Heron, Humblot’s Heron, Meller’s Duck, Malagasy Kingfisher, Crested Drongo and many more.
If there is time we could visit one or two of these many attractions, after which we will meet up for dinner at our comfortable hotel tonight and get to know each other a little better. Then it’s off to bed and a good night’s sleep; tomorrow we start exploring this biological melting pot of an island!
DAY 2: Fly to Morondava and transfer to Kirindy Forest
This morning after breakfast we will make our way to the airport where we will fly to Morondava, about an hour away to the southwest. During our flight it might be a good time for us to learn about just why Madagascar is such a special place.
Following the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian peninsula around 88 million years ago, allowing the fauna and flora to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth! The island boasts a remarkable array of endemic flora, reptiles, frogs, birds and mammals, the famous lemurs and two thirds of the world’s chameleons.
Geographically, Madagascar can be divided into five geographical regions: the east coast with its lowlands, the Tsaratanana Massif in the north, the central highlands with its prominent rift valley running north to south, the west coast that contains deep bays and well-protected harbours, and the southwest that contains the Mahafaly Plateau and the desert region. The Tsaratanana Massif region at the north end has the highest mountain on the island namely Mount Maromokotro, at 2,876 metres (9,436 ft) above sea level.
Morondava, where we are flying to, is located on the west coast in the delta of the Morondava river. Among other things, the city is famous for the often-photographed Avenue of Baobabs nearby. These giant trees are an 800-year-old legacy of the dense tropical forests that were once here. Over the years the forests were steadily cut down, leaving only the Baobabs, which the locals preserve for religious reasons.
After picking up our bags and getting into our vehicle we will drive northeast for about two hours towards our first exciting stop of the trip, Kirindy Forest, where after our arrival we will enjoy lunch at the lodge where we will spend the next three nights. The wonderful Relais du Kirindy opened in 2017 and has provided a welcome luxurious accommodation option just 30 minutes’ drive from the Kirindy Forest itself. The main lodge is very stylish and reminiscent of an upmarket safari lodge, with beautiful views over the surrounding landscape.
In the afternoon we will visit the forest itself, with its three endemic Baobab species (Adansonia grandidieri, Adansonia rubrostipa and Adansonia za). We will also hope to see our first mammals, including the amazing Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat, a sort of miniature kangaroo that only occurs here in Kirindy and nowhere else on Earth. The largest mammalian carnivore of the island, the cat-like Fossa, will also be one of our targets in Kirindy as it is one of the best places on the island to see these amazing but often-maligned creatures. Another target is the highly localised and endangered Narrow-striped Mongoose. The birdlife is also very rich here and we could start our bird list with special species like White-breasted Mesite, Blue Vanga, Coquerel’s Coua, Madagascan Harrier-hawk and many others.
At sunset we will go for a night walk in search of the smallest primate in the world, the 9.2 cm (3.6 in), 30 g (1.1 oz) Berthe’s Mouse Lemur. We could also see some other nocturnal lemurs, including Grey Mouse-lemur, Red-tailed Sportive Lemur, Lesser Dwarf Lemur, Peter’s Mouse Lemur and Pale Fork-marked Lemur.
We will then enjoy dinner and a good night’s rest back at the lodge after an exciting first day in the wilds of Madagascar.
DAY 3: Kirindy Forest
We will enjoy breakfast and lunch at the lodge, but have the full morning and afternoon to further explore Kirindy forest.
Kirindy Forest (also called Kirindy Private Reserve) was in the 1970s operated as an experimental sustainable timber harvesting scheme by a Swiss company. It comprises one of the most outstanding and threatened wildlife habitats on the island, namely the dry deciduous forest, whose area has unfortunately been reduced to only 3 per cent of its original size.
Dominated by majestic Baobab trees and a forest canopy of about 15 metres high, this protected area of approximate 100 km2 is home to some fascinating endemic fauna and flora, including 70 bird, 50 reptile and 15 amphibian species.
There are two clearly different seasons in this western part of the island. The rainy season is very hot (up to 40° Celsius) and lasts from December to March. Due to the rain Kirindy is often not accessible during the last part of the rainy season and it can be closed depending on the amount of rain. The best time to visit is at the beginning of the rainy season, since the forest is green, all the animals are active and the roads are still drivable. The rest of the year the temperatures are milder (25° Celsius) and there is almost no rain. During this long dry season the forest is leafless and some of the reptiles and small mammals hibernate.
Kirindy is not just about unique mammals though, it is also a great place for birdwatchers, with many important and unique species present. During our time here we will hope to see some fantastic endemics, including White-breasted Mesite, Giant Coua, Madagascar Buzzard, Banded Kestrel, Grey-headed Lovebird, Hook-billed and Chabert Vanga, Long-billed Bernieria, Madagascan Magpie-robin and the bizarre Cuckoo Roller.
At sunset we will go for a night walk again, followed by dinner and a good night’s sleep at the lodge.
DAY 4: Kirindy Forest
We have the full day to explore the wonderful Kirindy Forest again, enjoying all our meals at the lodge and traversing the many trails and paths in the reserve looking for interesting fauna and flora.
Due to its large numbers of unique and endemic species, Kirindy is a meeting point for scientists from all around the globe, and many scientific projects have had their home base here. This will undoubtedly continue in the future.
Kirindy is the best place on the whole island to observe the only mammalian carnivore of Madagascar, the cat-like, endemic Fossa. Sometimes they even come up to the lodge area to explore; a rare treat!
The forest is also home to seven species of lemur. The most common are the Brown Lemurs and the Verreaux’s Sifakas. These long-legged, seven-pound lemurs, white with dark patches, leap among tree trunks high in the canopy, propelled by their powerful hind legs but continually maintaining an upright posture. It is amazing to watch them and then to realise that you are standing in the only place on the entire planet where these creatures occur.
Several bats, tenrecs, mongooses and rodents complete the mammal population, and we will hope to see as many of them as we can. The flora is also quite unusual and contains several locally endemic plant species (200 species in total). Some of the local reptiles present are Labord’s Chameleon, various plated lizards, Henkel’s Leaf-tailed Gecko, Panther Gecko, Madagascar Ground Boa, Giant Hog-nosed Snake, Madagascar Leaf-nosed Snake and Flat-shelled Spider Tortoise, to name a few.
We will again return to the lodge for a fantastic dinner and our final overnight stay at Kirindy.
DAY 5: Kirindy Forest to Morondava to Antananarivo
We will start our day with a last breakfast at our lodge near Kirindy, and then we drive to the Morondava Airport, about 2 hours away.
On the way we will go through the famous Avenue of the Baobabs, also called the Alley of the Baobabs. It is a prominent group of Adansonia grandidieri trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina. Its striking landscape draws travellers and especially photographers from around the world. Along the avenue, over almost 3 kilometres, are 200 to 250 trees, each about 30 metres in height, endemic to Madagascar. It is a photographer’s dream, so get your cameras ready!
We will continue to the airport for the flight back to Antananarivo. The flight is only about an hour long, back to the capital. After our arrival in Antananarivo we will transfer to our comfortable hotel and have a lunch, hopefully with some local flavour to it! The hotel that we normally use is housed in a classic circa 1913 building previously occupied by the American Embassy. The rooms have rosewood floors and balconies with beautiful garden or city views.
The afternoon is at your own leisure – go and enjoy Tana! We can make some recommendations and guide you in the right direction. There is much to do here, from museum visits to a zoo excursion to shopping.
We will meet up again tonight at one of the excellent local restaurants to enjoy some more top quality cuisine. Afterwards it’s back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep; tomorrow the next exciting part of our trip starts!
DAY 6: Fly to Fort Dauphin, transfer to Berenty Reserve
We will have an early breakfast at our hotel and then make our way to the Ivato International Airport again.
We will fly for 2 hours to the south coast of Madagascar and a city called Fort Dauphin, or Tôlanaro or Taolagnaro, as it is now known. It has been a port of local importance since the early 1500s, and was the first French settlement in Madagascar. It has recently seen a massive economic boost due to a new ilmenite (the main source of titanium dioxide) mine in the area, as well as a big new commercial port nearby. The city boasts many excellent restaurants serving some top class seafood, and there are also some truly beautiful tropical beaches.
We will then drive west, to our second hotspot of the trip, the Berenty Reserve, for about 3 to 4 hours on a quite bumpy road. We cross the Great South of Madagascar, past well-watered valleys with paddy fields, through Antanosy villages, over the Mandrare river, past huge sisal plantations and finally into the rain-shadow of the Andohahela Mountains.
We will arrive in time for a late lunch at our lodge in the reserve. It is a newly-renovated lodge with beautiful bungalows all facing the Malaza forest in the Mandrare valley. We will unpack and relax for a bit; this is our home for the next three nights.
At sunset we will go for a night walk in the reserve in search of three nocturnal lemurs, namely White-footed Sportive Lemur, Grey Mouse-lemur and Red-and-grey Mouse Lemur. We will also hope to see Rainforest and Torotoroka Scops Owl and White-browed Owl, along with other smaller creatures like Lesser and Greater Hedgehog Tenrec, the 3 inch long Madagascan Hissing Cockroach and several gecko species.
We will then enjoy dinner (they are very proud of their excellent food here) and a good night’s rest at the lodge.
DAY 7: Berenty Reserve
Today we will spend a full day exploring Berenty. There are many trails that we will walk that are away from the touristy spots, so we will have time to search for and enjoy some of Berenty’s special species.
Berenty lies 90 km west of Fort Dauphin and is a small private reserve created in 1936 by the De Heaulme family as a private park to protect about 250 hectares of semi-arid spiny forest and a woodland of tamarind trees along the Mandrare river. The spiny dry forest grows only on sandy soils far from the river. This type of forest, quite unique in the world (90% of the species are endemic to the region) is dominated by strange spiny columns belonging to the families Euphorbiaceae and Didieraceae. The gallery forest, which grows on fertile soils near the river, contains more than 100 species of plants including Tamarind. This tree plays a crucial role in the ecosystem of this forest, as the lemurs and many animals feed on its fruits, its leaves and take advantage of the shelter it provides.
The reserve is home to six species of lemur (including the friendly Ring-tailed Lemur and “dancing” Verreaux’s Sifaka) and the south’s largest colony of Madagascan Fruit Bats. The Ring-tailed Lemurs are probably Berenty’s most famous inhabitants, all thanks to the movie Madagascar that had King Julien, an Indian-accented conceited, selfish, fun-loving Ring-tailed Lemur as one of its main characters. Spending time with these interesting creatures will definitely be one of the highlights of our Madagascar adventure! The bats will also be special, for when these “flying foxes” with their 125 cm (50 in) wingspan fly overhead it really is a sight you will never forget!
The ease with which to observe many species of fauna (the lemurs sometimes “welcome” visitors in the parking area!) has turned this small protected area into one of Madagascar’s primary wildlife destinations. In fact, it was one of Madagascar’s first ecotourism destinations, and currently draws nearly 8,000 yearly visitors.
We will have lunch back at the lodge and in the afternoon visit the nearby Arembelo anthropological museum. It presents a unique collection of artefacts and traditions of the Antandroy culture, the people of the “land of thorns”.
At sunset we will go for a second exciting night walk in another part of the reserve, and return for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
DAY 8: Berenty Reserve
This morning we will have breakfast and then dedicate another full day to discover another part of this beautiful reserve, driving and walking along the many paths to spot some of Berenty’s wonderful fauna and flora.
Since its opening to the public in 1981 it has gained international fame. It attracts the most visitors of any Madagascar nature reserve, and many public figures have been here, including Prince Philip of Edinburgh and the son of the Emperor of Japan. Berenty has also gained fame as a research hotspot, with the late primatologist Alison Jolly (who started the research at Berenty), having done over 30 years of fieldwork on lemurs here.
The birdlife at Berenty is also very rich, with several endemics and rare species occurring, such as Giant, Crested, Running and Red-capped Coua, Madagascan Cuckoo-hawk, Madagascan Green Pigeon, Madagascan Sandgrouse, Frances’s Sparrowhawk, Chabert, Sickle-billed and Hook-billed Vanga and many others.
We will enjoy another night walk at sunset in search of nocturnal wildlife, looking for something interesting like the weird Warty Chameleon and the even more bizarre Madagascan Flatid Leaf-bug. We will then get together for our final dinner and overnight stay here in beautiful Berenty.
DAY 9: Berenty Reserve, transfer to Fort Dauphin, fly to Antananarivo
Today is a travel day, but we should still some beautiful landscapes and fascinating fauna and flora along the way.
After a last breakfast at the lodge we will say our farewells to the wonderful staff and make our way to Fort Dauphin, stopping for interesting birds along the way, as well as to stretch our legs and take some photos of the beautiful countryside. We could see Sakalava Weaver and Namaqua Dove, or even a raptor or two.
We will have lunch at one of the superb restaurants in Fort Dauphin and then get to the airport for our flight back to Antananarivo.
Upon arrival in Tana we will transfer to the hotel for check-in and leisure time, before dinner and a good night’s rest. By now we should know each other a bit and it would be nice to start discussing our next bucket list trips in the coming years…
DAY 10: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
We will have an early breakfast at the hotel and then drive to Andasibe, a four hour drive away to the east. Our route takes us across the Highland Plateau; en route we will look for Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown-throated Martin and Madagascan Cisticola.
We are heading for our final reserve of this trip: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a 155 km2 protected forest area, located about 150 km east of Antananarivo. The park’s elevation ranges from 800 to 1,260 metres (2,600 to 4,100 feet) above sea level. The rainforest habitat is home to a vast number of biodiverse species of fauna and flora, including many endemic rare and endangered species, including an incredible 14 different lemur species.
The park, created in 1989, has two components, namely the northern Mantadia National Park and Analamazoatra Reserve in the south next to Andasibe village, popularly known by the old French name of the nearby town and railway station, Périnet. Due to its proximity to the capital and the good road condition all year round almost all visitors to the island will at some point visit Andasibe-Mantadia, and with good reason; there is much to see here!
Andasibe-Mantadia contains dense humid forest covered with lichen, ferns and moss. More than a hundred orchids species bloom here between September and January. Other common plants growing here are pandanus, ravinala palm tree, tambourissa, bamboos and some precious wood trees, like palisander and ebano.
We will arrive at our beautiful lodge in time for a late lunch. The lodge is situated in beautiful gardens, surrounded by forest and a lake. There is much to do at the lodge, including canoe rides and garden walks, and the restaurant serves some superb local and international cuisine.
After lunch and a short break we will go out in the flatter, southern Andasibe (or Perinet) part of the park. We will look for some very special mammals here.
Andasibe-Mantadia is best known for its population of Madagascar’s largest lemur, the Indri, with its distinctive and peculiar call that echoes through the forest in the mornings. The park is by far the best place to observe these animals given that there are a couple of families habituated to humans. It lives in small groups and cannot survive in captivity. There are several legends trying to explain its origins since it is considered a sacred animal in all of Madagascar. Nowadays it is unfortunately endangered due to deforestation and agricultural activities next to the reserves. We will definitely find a family and enjoy their antics for a while; cameras ready!
Apart from the Indri, another 13 lemur species inhabit these forests, such as Eastern Woolly Lemur, Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur, Diademed Sifaka, Red-bellied Lemur, Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur and more.
Perinet is also home to some fantastic endemic and range-restricted birds. On our walks we will try and locate Cuckoo Roller, Pitta-like Ground Roller, Madagascan Flufftail, Madagascan Wood Rail, Madagascan Blue Pigeon, Red-fronted and Blue Coua, Velvet Asity, White-headed, Chabert, Blue, Red-tailed, Hook-billed and Nuthatch Vanga Greater Vasa Parrot, Madagascan Cuckoo, Madagascan Spinetail, Madagascan Pygmy Kingfisher, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascan Cuckooshrike, Ward’s Flycatcher, Tylas Vanga, Madagascan Starling, Long-billed Bernieria, Spectacled Tetraka, White-throated Oxylabes, Nelicourvi Weaver and Souimanga Sunbird.
After our afternoon walk we will return to the lodge to freshen up and have some dinner. Tonight we will do a night walk to search for some of the nocturnal creatures such Goodman’s Brown Lemur, Greater Dwarf Lemur, chameleons and tree frogs and even Aye-aye.
DAY 11: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park to Antananarivo
Today we have the full day to explore the hilly, wilder and thicker forest of the northern (Mantadia) part of the Park.
We will enjoy a picnic lunch somewhere in a pretty setting in the park.
The park is not all about the amazing lemurs and other mammals, and some amazing bird species can also be seen here. The bird list is at well over 100 species and we will look for some specials such as the gorgeous Red-breasted Coua, Scaly Ground Roller, Madagascan Blue Pigeon, Rufous-headed and Short-legged Ground Roller, Crossley’s Vanga, Common and Dark Newtonia, Wedge-tailed, Green, Stripe-throated and Common Jery, Cryptic Warbler and Forest Fody. We will also scan across a small forest pond that often holds a pair of Meller’s Duck and Madagascan Grebe.
The park also boasts 50 species of reptiles, among them the biggest chameleon in the world (Parson’s Chameleon), the Malagasy Tree Boa, Henkel’s Leaf-tailed Gecko and more than 80 amphibians, such as the spectacular Madagascar Golden Frog. There are also a few local endemic fishes swimming in the small rivers and hundreds of insects, among them some extraordinary colourful and big butterflies, as well as the Giraffe Weevil, a tiny red and black insect named for its unusually long neck.
We will do another nocturnal walk tonight in search of some interesting species of fauna, including Lowland Streaked Tenrec, Madagascan Owl, Rainforest Scops Owl, Collared Nightjar and several geckos. We will then enjoy a top notch dinner and a good night’s sleep.
DAY 12: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park to Antananarivo
We will have breakfast at the lodge and enjoy a final morning exploring the park and its natural wonders.
We will have lunch at the brilliant Restaurant Feon’ny Ala in Andasibe and then drive the four hours back to Antananarivo, chatting about our magical Madagascar trip before reaching our hotel in the city.
We will have our farewell dinner at a local restaurant, finalising our trips lists and exchanging email addresses and numbers.
DAY 13: Departure
Sadly our wonderful Madagascar wildlife trip has come to an end. We will have breakfast in the hotel and then you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight home at the end of an unforgettable trip.
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