Day 1 Early morning departure from London Heathrow (or selected other UK airports) to Paris CDG. Connect with the mid morning Air France flight to Antananarivo. On your arrival off your international flight you will be met, assisted with currency exchange and transferred to Relais des Plateaux, a comfortable hotel only 10 minutes drive from the airport to stay overnight with breakfast included.
Day 2 Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel. Your tour leader and driver will meet you and give the group a briefing. Depart on the 4hr drive east along good tarmac roads to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, the country's number 1 'must see' protected rainforest site. Along the way you travel through scenic 'Hauts Plateaux' countryside of the Imerina, with rice paddies and villages with characteristic multistoreyed houses. Located in the central-eastern escarpment (Bezanozano country), Andasibe or 'Perinet; is perhaps best known for iconic species such as Indri (largest of all extant lemurs), birds such Red-fronted coua and Coral-billed nuthatch vanga, and 'herps' including Mossy leaf-tailed gecko and the critically endangered Golden mantella, the area's flagship frog. Take a guided introductory walk in Andasibe where trails are mostly graded as 'easy'. After dinner, go for a guided night walk across the road in Analamazaotra Forest Station which is administered by proactive NGO Association Mitsinjo. Stay 3 nights in either Vakona Forest Lodge OR Andasibe Hotel OR Mantadia Lodge with all meals included.
Day 3 After an early breakfast at your lodge, your guides will take you into the beautiful rainforest at Andasibe. Walking towards the rainforest in the early morning as the mists lift off the canopy and listening to the calls of the Indri is pure Malagasy magic at its best. One of today's main objectives is to see - among other species - the remarkable Indri. During the dawn chorus, birding is usually wonderfully productive too. Sought-after endemic species usually seen here include Blue coua and Coral-billed nuthatch vanga. In the quieter middle part of the day, visit Lemur Island, a refuge for lemurs confiscated from trappers. Another rainforest walk can be done in the mid afternoon. After dark, second nocturnal walk will be taken, this time at VOIMMA, a small concession managed by a resident guides association. This should provide the opportunity to see more nocturnal lemurs (notably Goodman's mouse lemur); chameleons and tree frogs.
Day 4 Today you will be taken on an excursion to the 10,000ha primary rainforest national park of Mantadia. It is about 37km from Andasibe along a rutted road. Mantadia is home to a select band of mammals, birds and 'herps' not necessarily present at Andasibe. Do note that trails here are steeper than is the case in Andasibe. Key attractions include Diadem sifaka, Black & white ruffed lemur, Scaley and Pitta-like ground-rollers; Parson's and Nose-horned chameleon and colourful Mantella baroni frogs, among others. The scenery here is beautiful, including superb views from the top of the trail over the rainforest-clad slopes.
Day 5 After breakfast, you will be taken on a final rainforest walk in Andasibe-Mantadia, during which you can seek species previously missed out on. We will also take you on a visit to the habitat restoration project under way by the NGO Association Mitsinjo: this is one of the many inspiring initiatives now being supported by the charity Money for Madagascar. You will have the opportunity to plant an endangered, endemic tree from the impressive nurseries here, as part of the reforestation efforts: this is a wonderful way of literally putting something back into Malagasy soil. (Unbeknown to most wildlife enthusiasts, the Indris made famous by the David Attenborough documentaries - among others - were all filmed in the Mitsinjo / Analamazaotra rainforest, rather than at Andasibe across the road). After lunch, drive back to Antananarivo in time for dinner and overnight at the very comfortable Relais des Plateaux.
Day 6 You will be transferred to the airport after breakfast for the flight to Tulear on the south-west coast, close to the Tropic of Capricorn. This is the most arid corner of the country and the natural habitat there, is mostly sub-arid 'spiny thicket' or Euphorbia-Didieraceae thorn bush. It is remarkable in places, being comprised of much shrubby Euphorbia, interspersed with drought-resistant trees and plants including Bottle baobabs (here Adansonia rubrostipa) and spiky Octopus trees (Didieraceae family). The endemicity rate among this floral assemblage is remarkably high and people come here also, to seek a selection of rare, range-restricted locally endemic birds and reptiles. Birds include the Long-tailed ground-roller (pictured), Sub-desert mesite and LaFresnaye's vanga. Reptiles include the peculiar little Three-eyed lizard. Drive time from Tulear airport to Ifaty is now roughly 20 minutes. Time allowing (and if it is open), you will be taken to see the small museum in Tulear, managed by the University. (Museum Cetadron). Here, exhibits include some very rare tribal artefacts such as a replica of a Sakalava grave replete with erotic carvings, and a mask made by the mysterious Mikea people, containing human teeth and hair. During your time at Ifaty, a visit will also be included to the Honko Project which is concerned with mangrove conservation. Towards dusk, you will be taken to a massive baobab at Reniala Centre for sundowners and then a short night walk in search of nocturnal lemurs including Petter's sportive lemurs and Reddish-gray mouse lemurs....
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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