Trip reference number: ITN-MDG006
Trip Operator: Rainbow Tours
Day 1 Fly with Air France early this morning from London (or selected regional airports) via Paris to Antananarivo. On arrival into Antananarivo late this evening (if flying on Air France), you will be met, assisted and transferred to Relais des Plateaux, with breakfast included.
Day 2 Your dedicated, experienced, professional English-speaking Malagasy guide and driver will collect you at the hotel after breakfast. Travel about 3hrs,30min east to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, the island's number 1 must see protected rainforests. Stay here for three nights in Mantadia Lodge (or similar), with dinner and breakfast included. Your guides will take you for an introductory rainforest walk into the beautiful mid altitude rainforest here.
Day 3 During your time in Andasibe-Mantadia (formerly known as 'Perinet'), you will have three activities per day: an early morning rainforest walk allows you to savour the dawn chorus (amazing!). In the mid afternoon, you can do a second rainforest walk to seek more wildlife and enjoy more rainforest scenery. After dark, visit one of the sites where guides take you to look for nocturnal wildlife - our favourites are either the rainforest parcel of Analamazaotra Forestry Station, administered by Association Mitsinjo, or, a small privately protected rainforest looked after by a group of guides, called VOIMMA.
Day 4 After breakfast, you will be taken to explore Mantadia National Park, for its very beautiful primary rainforest. Alternatively if you prefer, visit another trail in Andasibe-Mantadia, or the nearby Maromizaha Experimental Reserve, which is similar to Mantadia. Among the sought-after species on visiting birding enthusiasts' lists are the Velvet asity (male, pictured). Activities possible in the area include horse riding or kayaking (payable locally) and for those who would like to participate in a conservation initiative, there is the opportunity to plant an endangered, endemic tree from the nurseries of Association Mitsinjo. (What better way could there be to literally put something back into Malagasy soil?).
Day 5 Enjoy a very scenic drive (duration about 7hrs,30min) first through Bezanozano territory then Merina country from Andasibe to Antsirabe, a former spa town during colonial times. Visit some of the craft stalls for which this town is known. You might also wish to visit Lac Tritriva nearby, one of two peculiar volcanic lakes in which water levels actually rise during the dry season. Overnight at Couleur Cafe, a converted colonial villa with lovely gardens, breakfast and dinner included
Day 6 Ranomafana National Park is about six hours drive south. For the next three nights, your hotel is Thermal Hotel OR Setam Lodge, breakfast and dinner included. You'll be taken on an introductory rainforest walk and at night, the guides can take you to seek nocturnal animal life outside the periphery of the park. Visitors keen to see wild Aye ayes and who have are physically fit, can do an excursion (extra charge) to Kianjavato, a lemur research project near Ranomafana of which part involves the study of some radio-collared Aye ayes. Note however that this is a challenging hike and that it is done at night.
Day 7 Spend the day exploring the beautiful, wildlife-rich upland rainforest of Ranomafana National Park, originally set aside with lemur protection in mind during the 1980s when Dr Patricia Wright and her team discovered the Golden bamboo lemur (pictured) there. The park is home to 12 species of lemur including the critically endangered Greater bamboo lemur, various other endemic mammals, numerous species of rainforest-dependent endemic birds such as the quietly beautiful Pitta-like and Rufous-headed ground-rollers, and many frogs and reptiles. Note that trails traverse some steep slopes and can by muddy and slippery during and after inclement weather.
Day 8 Enjoy a second day with your guides in Ranomafana National Park. Aside from exploring this beautiful rainforest bisected by the whitewater Namorona River, you may wish to stop by at the Centre ValBio or visit the village of Ranomafana. At night, look for the enormous Madagascar comet (lunar) moth which is sometimes attracted by lights at buildings here.
Day 9 Depart the lovely rainforests of Ranomafana on the drive to Ambalavao (about 3 - 4 hours with stops) where you stay overnight at the owner-run Betsileo Country Lodge with dinner and breakfast included. Ten miles from Ambalavao, Anja Parc is a community-run conservation site with a thriving population of healthy and well habituated ringtails in dramatic scenery. In Ambalavao, if its open, you can visit the Antaimoro paper workshop and perhaps if you are lucky, even see a traditional Zebu- bull-wrestling / rodeo ('savika') event in town.
Day 10 In the early morning, enjoy the adorable Ringtail lemurs at Anja Parc amid spectacular surrounds. Then drive through the desolate and semi-arid 'badlands' of the heart of the central-south to Ihosy, a centre of the Bara tribe. Continue to the eerily silent Horombe Plateau, with its tall, fire-resistant palms in grassland. When you reach the Horombe, you'll know the sandstone massif of Isalo is close by. Arrive and check in at the lovely Relais la Reine where you stay two nights, dinner and breakfast included. Explore one of the winding trails which you can discuss with your guide, at Isalo. The park is home to iconic southern lemurs such as Ringtails and Verreaux's sifakas; birds including the localised Benson's rock thrush and various reptiles and frogs. Among its most distinctive plants are the squat 'Elephants foot' pachypodiums which thrive on sheer rock faces and in September, sport yellow flowers.
Day 11 A lovely day in which to explore the dry, 'ruiniforme' sandstone massif of Isalo National Park, one of the country's most popular protected areas for its scenery and many trails.
Day 12 Travel the last four hours of the RN7 today: the first stop, an hour away from Isalo, is Zombitse Forest National Park which year-round, is wonderful for wildlife viewing. Straddling the road on flat terrain, this is the last remaining example of transition forest where the western and southern floristic domains merge. Nearby there are also some baobabs of the big southern Malagasy species Adansonia za. Keep a lookout along the road near Zombitse and the town Sakaraha; there are some interesting Antandroy and Mahafaly tombs on which pantings depict memorable scenes from the lives of those interred in the tombs. Gem enthusiasts may wish to visit Ilakaka, the sapphire mining town near Sakaraha too. (Contact us for details as this should definitely be pre-arranged with care). Continue for another three hours and visit the Arboretum de Antsokay Botanical Gardens, a 67ha private reserve showcasing the bizarre flora of the sub-arid south. You then enter the coastal town of Tulear and head north to Ifaty B...
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