First a visit of the Andasibe reserve, then classical southern tour with visit of the nationalparks of Ranomafana and Isalo, then visit of Ifaty with its nice beach and endemic flora. Flight to Ft. Dauphin and visit of the Berenty reserve.
1st day: EUROPE – ANTANANARIVO
Meet and greet at Ivato International Airport and transfer to the city. Check in at the hotel in the centre. If time permits, city tour and visit of a four hectare private lemur park about 20 km west of the city with nine species of lemurs that can be seen up close. Feeding and petting is understandably not allowed. Overnight stay in a hotel.
2nd 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.
3rd day : ANDASIBE – ANTANANARIVO (140 Km about 3 hour –drive)
Morning visit to the reserve of Analamazaotra on the trail “Indri II” with search of the largest lemur species of the island with its distinctive calls, and other lemur species, but you can also find here various species of birds, chameleons etc. This hike lasts about three hours and leads on paths first in a gradient uphill, and is then mostly flat. After lunch a slow drive back to Antananarivo. Overnight stay at the hotel.
4th 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.
5th 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.
6th 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.
7th 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.
8th 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.
9th day: RANOHIRA – TULEAR – IFATY (240 Km about 4 hour-drive + 27 Km about 1,5 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 hectare site with 1000 species of the south. In Tuléar maybe a short break, then transfer to Ifaty, a beautiful, gently sloping beach, which lies about 26 km north of Tulear and is protected by a coral reef. On the way you can see various endemic thorn bush species and mangroves. Overnight stay in a hotel.
10th day: IFATY
Resting on the beach, possibility of water sports (diving and snorkeling excursions on the coral reef, surfing, etc.) or walks in the surroundings; there are many interesting plants (didiera madagascariensis, euphorbiacées, jujubiers, cactus…) and also birds to see. Optionally, you can also visit the 60 hectare Reniala reserve with its mighty baobabs in the immediate vicinity of the turtle sanctuary. There are two hiking trails of 1.5 and 2.5 hours length. The park is open daily from 5.30 a.m. (for ornithologists) to 4.30 p.m. Overnight stay again in the same hotel.
11th day: IFATY – TULEAR – FT. DAUPHIN – BERENTY (flights Tulear – Ft Dauphin are not daily, so tour may have to be adapted accordingly) 87 km about 3 to 4 hour-drive)
After breakfast transfer to Tulear airport and flight to Fort Dauphin in the extreme southeast of Madagascar. Reception at the airport and drive on bumpy roads (National Road 13) to the 250 hectare Berenty private reserve of the old-established De Heaulme family, founded in 1936 (flight must arrive in Fort Dauphin before 2 pm, otherwise an overnight stay in the city with its museum in Fort Flacourt, built by the French in 1643, and its beautiful bays is necessary due to the long car journey).
On the drive to Berenty there are attractive memorials for deceased of the Antanosy tribe near the road. 40 km northwest of Fort Dauphin is the 76020 hectare National Park Andohahela (since 1997), with several ecosystems (humid tropical forest, dry thorn bush land and transition area between the two biotopes) and hiking trails. In Andohahela, but also at the top of the pass, you can see on the mountainside some of the few remaining palms with a three-line crown (“triangular palm”, Dypsis decaryi), which is endemic to this area. After 45 km at Ranopiso the road drops off to the west and the dry thorn country is reached, with a much drier climate than Fort Dauphin. On the way you will see many thorn plants (allaudias) and just before Berenty also large sisal plantations near the town of Amboasary Sud on the Mandrare River. Saturday is market day here. A 400 meter long bridge leads over the river. The Berenty Reserve was open exclusively for scientific purposes until 1975. It was then continuously expanded and made accessible to tourists. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
12th day: BERENTY
After breakfast, visit of the reserve accompanied by a local guide: dry forest on the Mandrare river, succulents and thorny plants, various lemurs (kattas, sifakas, mouse lemurs, etc.) and birds (couas, vangas, drongos, falcons…) The reserve offers best observation and photography opportunities of lemur groups (mostly red-fronted macaws, large catta groups and sifakas, the “dancing lemurs”. The latter can be well photographed when they hop sideways over the relatively wide paths. It is also possible to go on a photo stalk alone and visit the interesting museum Arembelo with lots of information about the people living here and the culture of the Antandroy. Next to it is a “model village” in the architectural style of the Antandroy and a small garden with impressive specimens of thorn plants in the south of Madagascar. On adventurous night excursions in the light of the flashlights you will meet mouse lemurs in their feeding areas of the thorn forest. A good 80 endemic bird species populate the forests. You also meet ray turtles and various species of chameleon. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
13th day: BERENTY – FORT DAUPHIN (100 km about 3 to 4 hour-drive)
Morning free. Drive back to Fort-Dauphin in the afternoon then. Dinner and night at the hotel.
14th day: FORT DAUPHIN – ANTANANARIVO (flight not daily, tour has to be adjusted accordingly)
Transfer to the airport and flight to the capital city. Meet at the airport and transfer to the city.
Overnight at the hotel.
15th 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