A very nice classical tour that gives a great view of the different landscapes, fauna and flora of Madagascar. Drive to the South with visits of the Ranomafana and Isalo National park. In Tulear visit of the Arboretum and flight back to Tana, then continuation to the east with a visit of the Perinet park and along the Pangalanes canal until Tamatave. Flight to the Sainte Marie island to relax on the beach. Extension on Sainte Marie island possible.
1st day: ANTANANARIVO
Meeting at Ivato international airport and transfer to the chosen hotel. Overnight at the hotel
2nd day: ANTANANARIVO – ANTSIRABE (169 Km about 4 hours drive)
Drive to Antsirabe, on a mostly winding road through the highlands with rice and vegetable fields, through several small traditional villages as well as past naked granite mountains and a number of handicrafts (statues of the Virgin Mary, figures made of fibers from the raffia palm, musical instruments, miniature wooden cars, etc.). Kilometre point zero is at the train station in Antananarivo. Room in the hotel.
In the afternoon, sightseeing tour in Antsirabe with a detour to the historic post office building, the Hotel des Thermes built in 1897, which could well be located on Lake Geneva, and the train station. This city is also called the “City of Water” because of its hot water springs, but also because of the two crater lakes: Andraikiba and the legendary Lake Tritriva, around which many stories have been told. Visit to the circular lake Andraikiba (9 km) as well as a workshop where miniature bicycles and rickshaws are made from recycled materials and a studio where handicraft objects are made from zebu horn (zebu is the local cattle), which are good souvenirs.
The town, which is similar in altitude to Tana, was founded by a Norwegian missionary at the end of the 19th century. Norway is still involved in development aid, runs schools and sends teachers. The population is mainly composed of the Merina and Betsileo tribes. During the French colonial rule (1896 to 1960), Antsirabe became the recreation centre of the plantation owners who were exhausted by the hot and humid climate. In winter, it can get quite cold at night here, and in summer the temperature rarely rises above 25 degrees Celsius. From the beginning of 1954, the Hotel des Thermes was also the residence of King Mohammed V of Morocco and his family, who had been sent by France into exile here, for a good two years. You can also find some gemstone cutting workshops, but be careful when buying, not everything that shines is real. The region is one of the economic centers of the country: Agriculture, fruit growing, dairy cows, condensed milk, several textile factories, tobacco industry and the well-known three-horses beer is also produced here. An informative visit to the office of the Zebu Cattle Bank at the small market is also well worthwhile. Overnight stay in a hotel.
3rd day: ANTSIRABE – RANOMAFANA (240 Km about 5,5 hour-drive)
After breakfast departure to Ranomafana. A good 20 kilometres before the first stop in Ambositra we cross the new Fatihita Bridge and have a good view (right side) of the stone bridge over the river, which was blown up by supporters of the ex-dictator Didier Ratsiraka during political unrest in 2002 to separate the capital from the surrounding area. A short break in Ambositra to visit some of the studios and boutiques of the wood carvers of the local Zafimaniry tribe. They are specialists in marquetry work, wooden sculptures and figures of all kinds. You can also buy beautiful silk scarves from Soatanana and the surrounding area. Trading is common. The eye-catcher in the centre is a mighty Benedictine monastery opposite the cathedral. On Saturdays there is a big weekly market. Also the farmers from the surrounding area offer their goods here, mostly agricultural or from the village blacksmith. Here you can stroll peacefully without being disturbed. Drive on to Ranomafana (another 150 km, the name means “hot water”), then check into the hotel. Before dinner possibility for a walk with flashlights along the road to look for nocturnal animals. With a bit of luck you will discover fast moving brown mouse lemurs, sleeping chameleon species in all sizes, lively frogs etc. Back to the hotel.
4th day: RANOMAFANA – FIANARANTSOA (60 Km about 1,5 hour-drive)
Breakfast, followed by a morning visit with a well-trained local nature guide to the 41’601 hectare national park on the Namorona River with its extraordinary flora and fauna up to 1400 metres above sea level, including the Red-bellied lemur, the Red-fronted lemur, and the Golden Bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus), which was only discovered in 1986. In this magnificent national park with mountain rainforest, founded in 1991, there are over 100 bird species, 68 of which only occur in Madagascar, then various species of ferns, mosses, orchids and giant bamboo. This hike takes about three to four hours and is quite strenuous as it goes over rough and smooth, up and downhill and on narrow forest paths. It requires endurance, fitness and surefootedness. Take your time for the trail and observations along the way. Below the park is the Valbio International Training and Education Centre with its own laboratory for scientists, biologists and students from all over the world. Before continuing on, it is worth visiting the small market in the centre of Ranomafana and the hot springs with public swimming pool. On the way there, a suspension bridge has been built to replace the steel structure that was destroyed by a cyclone a few years ago. Then departure towards Fianarantsoa, with a small stop four kilometres above the park entrance, where on the left is the Andriamamovoka waterfall. Opposite on the wet rock face you can often see frogs. Overnight stay at the hotel.
5th day: FIANARANTSOA – RANOHIRA (295 Km about 5,5 hour-drive)
After breakfast drive to Ranohira with a stop in Ambalavao after about 56 km. Visit of the manufactory of the Antemoro paper: a paper made from the bark of the Havoha tree, according to a method probably left by Arabs (on weekends it is often not possible to visit, but sometimes a woman works for demonstration purposes). Wednesday and Thursday morning is the island-wide known big market day for zebu cattle at the southern edge of the village. Ambalavao lies at the foot of the Andringitra massif. Its highest peak is the 2658 meter high Pic Boby, it is also the second highest peak of Madagascar, and you can climb it in a three day tour. About 12 km after Ambalavao there is another stop to visit the small reserve Anja, which was founded in 1999 by more than one hundred inhabitants and the surrounding villages. It lies at the foot of the rock formation called “Three Sisters”. Several hundred catta lemurs can be observed there in numerous family groups in their natural environment while resting, climbing or feeding. Finally we continue on a quite good road via Ihosy, the centre of the Bara tribe, and the plateau of Horombe, which is an endless pasture for cattle, to Ranohira. Grass steppes are interrupted by gigantic granite rocks and river courses, in which villages surrounded by greenery spread out under mango trees. Overnight stay at the hotel.
6th day : RANOHIRA
Morning hike of about 3 to 5 hours (on mostly rocky paths, sometimes a bit steep) with a local guide in the 81,540 hectare Isalo National Park: rugged sandstone rock massifs, an exceptional flora and fauna, including Pachypodium – which translates as elephant paw, gorges, various endemic plants, but also lemurs (kattas, sifakas, brown lemurs) are among the attractions. Visit of the ” natural swimming pool”, where you can cool down and refresh yourself, if it is not filled with sand after heavy rainfalls. There are numerous hiking and trekking possibilities in the valley of the monkeys and rats and around it. In a part of the park there are also trails that are also passable by mountain bike, and camping is possible, but the infrastructure is very simple. The office of Madagascar National Parks for tour registration and ticket purchase is in the centre of Ranohira next to the police. Also a side trip to the “Window of Isalo (la fenêtre)” at sunset, when the last light makes everything look golden, should not be missed. The rock face with the opening in the centre is a popular photo motif. Not far away is a geological museum with information on the evolution of the entire region.
7th day : RANOHIRA – TULEAR (240 Km about 4 hour-drive)
After breakfast, drive along a mostly straight road, past tall bushes and small cactus forests, interrupted by typical Mahafali tombs, partly decorated with motifs and wooden steles, and mighty baobab trees. In Ilakaka you can still get an impression of the lively and also dangerous life of a once huge sapphire digger city. The Colorline company offers a visit to a mine. 20 km before Sakaraha you cross the remains of the protected dry forest areas of Zombitse and Vohibasia. Visit of the Arboretum of Antsokay, a collection of endemic plants of Madagascar, especially many succulents, which was established decades ago by a Swiss man named Petignat. The son continues to run the 40 hectares site with 1000 species of the south. Drive to Tulear, an important trade centre in the region with a harbour, an oceanographic museum and an attractively designed promenade along the shore. Rickshaw drivers provide passenger transport here. Check-in at the hotel in Tulear.
8th day : TULEAR – ANTANANARIVO
According to the flight , transfer to the airport for the flight with the domestic airline Tsaradia back to the capital . Meeting at the airport and transfer to hotel, and overnight there.
9th day : ANTANANARIVO – ANDASIBE (140 Km about 3,5 hours drive)
After breakfast, drive east by car, through a landscape characterized by its nested rice fields and wooded hills. In Marozevo visit the Exotic Park (also called Peyrieras Park after its founder), where you can see many chameleons from close up, as well as butterflies, frogs and other amphibians. Then on to Andasibe, the place looks more like a poor wooden shack village, it is the starting point for the visit of the national park, the realm of the legendary Indris. Once the only hotel in Andasibe was in the mighty train station building with a few bungalows opposite on the hillside. But in the course of the years, thanks to the visitors from all over the world, numerous new hotel complexes were opened, in which a lot of jobs were created. Possibility to walk with a local guide along the road near the National Park Perinet-Analamazaotra in search of nocturnal animals before dinner. With a little luck you will see wool and mouse makis, chameleons etc. Overnight stay at the hotel.
10th day : ANDASIBE – MANAMBATO – AKANIN’ NY NOFY (125 km of ordinary road, then 7 km of earth road (about 4 to 5 hours drive in total), then about one and a half hours by boat on the canal)
After breakfast, an early morning visit to the 810 hectare reserve of Analamazaotra (930 to 1000 meters altitude), the realm of the mysterious Indri lemurs with their distinctive calls heard for miles around, and 13 other species of lemurs. You can also find various species of birds, chameleons etc. This hike on the Trail “Indri II” takes about three hours and leads on paths first in an upward gradient, and is then mostly flat. Afterwards you drive on the national road 2 about 113 km into the sugar cane and fruit growing area around Brickaville. After a few kilometres, the road turns right onto a 7 km long dirt road to the formerly busy holiday resort of Manambato. There we board a covered motorboat and transfer on the Pangalanes Canal (about 20 km) to the hotel in the middle of beautiful nature in Akanin’ny Nofy at Lake Ampitabe. Overnight stay there.
By the way, the Pangalanes Canal is considered to be the second longest canal in the world. It is a continuous waterway of about 645 km in length, which leads from Tamatave, the northernmost end point, to the village of Farafangana in the south, running parallel to the Indian Ocean. The distance to the sea is sometimes only a few meters, at some points it also touches the sea, and therefore the water is slightly salty. During the colonial period, eight years of construction work created artificial connections between the naturally formed lakes and river courses, which are fed with water from wooded elevations. Artificially constructed branch canals were used to create connections to the nearest standing or flowing water sources.
11th day : AKANIN’ NY NOFY
A whole day to discover the surroundings of the hotel on the shores of Lake Ampitabe. Among other things, you can visit the private Palmarium Park with a great variety of lemurs during a hike lasting several hours, or you can explore the area by canoe or on foot. A nocturnal excursion is planned, partly by boat, in search of the rare and endangered Aye Aye lemurs (Daubentonia madagascariensis) with their unusual appearance. These strange lemurs have been settled on the island and are guarded around the clock. In the evening during the Aye Aye stalking, coconuts are clamped between two tree trunks, and one can watch how they are opened by this creatures with the beaver-like teeth and spooned out with the long middle finger. Overnight stay at the hotel.
12th day : AKANIN’NY NOFY – TAMATAVE – SAINTE MARIE (03 hours/60 km by boat on the canal. Flight only once or twice a week, so tour must be adjusted accordingly)
Transfer early morning by motor boat along the Pangalanes canal until Tamatave (if the flight to Sainte Marie should be early morning, the transfer to Tamatave has to happen the afternoon before). Pick up at the port and transfer to the airport for the flight to Sainte Marie. Meeting at the airport and transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
13th day and 14th day : SAINTE – MARIE
Days at leisure, possibilities: Swimming, snorkelling, diving, excursions by boat, bicycle, motorbike or on foot (fishing villages, pirates’ cemetery, Ile aux Nattes in the south of the island or up north etc). With a bit of luck you can see mighty humpback whales, some with calves, during a boat trip or even from the beach from July to September.
In contrast to the long east coast of the main island, the beaches of Sainte Marie (Nosy Boraha) are surrounded by protective coral reefs. There are numerous walks to be made, over hills, through meadows, along clear streams, past miles of sandy beaches, on the dunes of the Indian Ocean and in the rainforest. Many Malagasy traditions of the mainland can be found on Sainte Marie, and both traditions of the Merina of the highlands and typical festivals of the Sakalava from the west coast have been preserved in their original forms. The island now has a good 50 km long road with a bitumen layer from the airport to the north. The island can be explored on foot, by bicycle, motorbike or tuk-tuk. Around 27,000 people live on the island, whose highest point reaches just 114 metres. A pirates’ cemetery south of the clearly laid out capital Ambodifotatra reminds us of the time before colonisation, when pirates hid here. Overnight stays in a hotel.
15th day : SAINTE MARIE – ANTANANARIVO
Transfer to the airport for the flight to Antananarivo. Transfer to the hotel, rest of the day free. Overnight at the hotel.
16th day : ANTANANARIVO -EUROPE
Depending on the departure time of your international flight, you may be able to visit the historical sites of Ambohimanga (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001). It is the holy city of Merina, and was once the residence of the most powerful of all Merina princes, King Andrianampoinimerina. Until the conquest and final subjugation by the French in 1896, no foreigner was allowed to enter it. It had seven city gates, and the most powerful of them still serves as the entrance gate to the place today. Next to the gate there is a huge, smoothly polished and almost circular stone slab. In former times it was rolled every evening in front of the entrance gate. From the top of the “Blue Hill” – that is the translation of Ambohimanga – at 1468 meters of altitude, you have a beautiful view of Tana and the surrounding area.
Afterwards visit a market with Malagasy handicrafts to buy last souvenirs and, if the flight is late in the evening, day use of a room in the hotel. Afterwards transfer to the airport and check-in for departure for departure for the flight home.
P.O. Box 16827, Arusha, Tanzania
Kijenge, Opposite KKT Church.
Tel: +255 786 994 428/+255 682 819 855
Mon – Sat 8.00 – 18.00 Sunday CLOSED