This private, tailor-made tour follows the scenic RN7 road journey, which includes some of Madagascar's most rewarding national parks, wildlife hotspots and culturally interesting sites, starting from the high-lying capital city and ending at the arid south-west coast. It's a great trip if you like to be on the move and want to see a wide array of wildlife and extraordinarily varied landscapes.
For visitors who wish to see more of the eastern rainforests, we can add on a two night stay at Andasibe-Mantadia National Park - see above for guide price for this extension.
NEW: Instead of ending the trip in Ifaty, continue further up the coast to Andravona for a three or four night stay in the amazing, new Mikea Lodge at Mikea National Park.
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 guide and driver will meet you for the journey south 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 3 Ranomafana National Park is about six hours drive south. For the next three nights, your hotel is Setam Lodge, breakfast and dinner included
Day 4 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 there. The park is home to 12 species of lemur including the critically endangered Greater bamboo lemur (pictured), 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 5 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 6 Morning in Ranomafana where you can complete another of the park's trails to seek species previously missed. In the afternoon, drive to Fianarantsoa (two hours), Madagascar's second city. This is the region in which the Malagasy wine and tea estates are situated. Overnight at Tsara Guesthouse, breakfast and dinner included
Day 7 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 (Pictured). Continue past Ambalavao, the southernmost of the Highlands towns. Visit the silkworks or the Antaimoro paper workshop if these are open. Pass through an area remarkable for huge granite domes (inselbergs) and enter the desolate central-southern interior, domain of the Bara people. Your destination is the Isalo Massif, which you approach through the Horombe Plateau. Your hotel for a three night stay is Relais de la Reine de Isalo, breakfast and dinner included
Day 8 Explore one of the many winding trails which you can discuss with your guide, at Isalo National Park. 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 9 A second day in which to explore the ruiniforme sandstone massif of Isalo National Park, one of the country's most popular protected areas for its scenery and many trails.
Day 10 Travel the last four hours of the RN7. The first stop, an hour away from Isalo, is Zombitse Forest National Park which year-round, is absolutely fantastic 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. 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 Beach. Stay three nights at Le Paradisier, breakfast and dinner included
Day 11 Early morning excursion into the bizarre Ifaty Spiny Forest, a botanist and bird-watcher's delight. The original habitat here, the spiny bush, was aptly described by travel writing legend Dervla Murphy as 'Nature's Botanical Lunatic Asylum' and its not hard to see why: interspersed with much Euphorbia are 'bottle baobabs' (Adansonia rubrostipa, smallest of the country's six endemic Baobab species), other bloated and drought-resistant plants including tall Pachypodiums, and thorny Octopus trees which belong to the endemic Didieraceae family. Most visitors manage to see rare and localised species such as the Long-tailed ground-roller (photographed here by our clients Jim & Yvell Whyte). Later in the day, you can relax on the beach or go snorkelling
Day 12 Spend another day at Ifaty where you can relax, go snorkelling or revisit the spiny forest to catch up on species previously missed out on. Alternatively, instead of Ifaty we can arrange for you to stay for 3 nights in Anakao, to the south of Tulear. (Ask us for details).
Day 13 Time allowing, you could visit the spiny bush again as it is now only 20 minutes drive from Tulear after the road was tarred in September 2016. In this remarkable habitat you can seek endemic birds such as Sub-desert mesite (pictured) and many more. You will be driven to Tulear airport for the flight to Antananarivo where you will be met and transferred to Relais De Plateaux where you will have a day room. Visit the local artisans' market and, flight times permitting, tour the city.
Day 14 You will be transferred to the airport to for your flight at 01.40 back to London Heathrow via Paris, arriving in London about 13.30.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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