On this private guided tour of which the sites of interest can be visited in any order, you get to explore four of the most prominent wildlife hotspots of Madagascar: Andasibe and Mantadia National Parks in the eastern rainforest band, Ankarafantsika National Park***situated inland from the west coast and Berenty Private Reserve in the arid south or 'Androy'. You are likely to see an incredible range of Madagascar's endemic wildlife, notably lemurs, from the biggest (the Indri) to the smallest (at least five species of Mouse lemurs on this trip), and from the most iconic ( Ringtail lemur, the national mammal) to the endangered (Coquerel's sifaka). You also stand an excellent chance to tick off a wide range of endemic birds and reptiles, notably wonderful chameleons, tree frogs and other fascinating animal oddities.
***Ankarafantsika National Park can be substituted with the equally rewarding Kirindy Forest for the western region/ tropical dry deciduous forests. Both are outstanding wildlife localities.
November 2016 update: we currently recommend arranging this itinerary in such a way that it ends with Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, because getting there is achieved by means of an easy 4-hour drive from the capital, Antananarivo. (That way, relying on Air Madagascar the day before your international flight out, is reduced).
Day 1 Depart on the Air France flight from London Heathrow (or another UK airport) to Antananarivo via Paris CDG. You will be met, assisted and transferred to Relais des Plateaux to stay overnight, breakfast included.
Day 2 Your professional wildlife expert guide and your driver will collect you from your hotel. Travel east along good roads in your private 4WD to Vakona Forest Lodge in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (about three hours by road) for a 3-night stay with breakfast and dinner included. You will be taken for an introductory guided rainforest walk to seek lemurs, endemic rainforest-dependent birds as well as fascinating reptiles and frogs. During your stay here you might also wish to visit the impressive tree nurseries of Association Mitsinjo (pictured), where some 100 species of endemic rainforest trees are being cultivated as part of a reforestation programme. Visitors may, for a small donation, plant an endemic tree here: as our friend, guidebook guru Hilary Bradt comments, 'What better way could there be of literally putting something back into the soil of a country you are visiting than planting a tree?'.
Day 3 Here you spend your time exploring this rainforest wildlife hotspot with your guide - look for Indri (the largest of all the lemur), the 2ft long Parson's chameleon and endemic birds such as the Blue coua, Madagascar blue pigeon, Lesser vasa parrot, Crossley's babbler and Nelicourvi weaver. You can take an easy night walk in Station Forestier d'Analamazaotra, administered by proactive NGO Association Mitsinjo. This is the only site in the area where you can experience the rainforest after dark, surrounded by a cast of other weird and wonderful animal oddities which emerge from their daytime hideouts after dusk. With luck you may see Eastern woolly lemur, Sportive lemur, Furry-eared dwarf lemur and Goodman's mouse lemur. Its the best time to seek chameleons which initially reflect white in torch-light. You should also see various species of Tree frog. You may also see birds such as the Madagascar long-eared owl and rare Collared nightjar.
Day 4 Visit the beautiful 10,000ha of primary forest in Mantadia National Park with your guides. This rainforest holds a collection of rare mammals and birds not necessarily found in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, including approachable groups of Diademed sifaka and the vociferous Black-and-white ruffed lemur. Rare birds abound, as do interesting reptiles and frogs. Alternatively, you might prefer to explore more of the rainforest at Andasibe.
Day 5 Today, take another guided rainforest walk in either Andasibe, or for keen birders, revisit Mantadia National Park which might reveal rarities such as Gray-crowned tetraka, White-browed oxylabes and Red forest fody. Birders can also look out in rank roadside growth for species such as White-throated rail (pictured). In the mid- afternoon you will be driven back to Antananarivo to stay overnight at Relais des Plateaux Hotel with breakfast included.
Day 6 Transfer to the airport for the Air Madagascar flight to Mahajanga, a port on the west coast of the island. Your guide and driver will meet you and transfer you two hours inland along a good road to Ankarafantsika National Park (Ampijoroa), where you stay 2 nights in a basic, en-suite lakeside bungalow at Gite de Ampijoroa, with all meals included. (September - November 2016 updates are very good, particularly the food and local guiding). We take provisions to the Gite for our guests. Ankarafantsika is one of the island's two top wildlife hotspots for wildlife unique to the highly threatened and fragmented western deciduous dry forests. Key species include Coquerel's sifaka, the rare and cathameral Mongoose lemur (pictured), Common brown lemur and all the forest-dependent birds local to the western region. At Lac Ravelobe you may see the Madagascar fish eagle, one of the world's six rarest raptors. Reptiles abound, notably Collared iguanids, Giant hognosed snakes and Rhinoceros chameleon. Night walks are superb here with wildlife abundant in and around the campsite.
Day 7 All day to explore the easy trails in Ankarafantsika where wildlife viewing is almost effortless year round. Guided day and night walks in this rich tropical dry deciduous forest are popular with wildlife enthusiasts, who can also see the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust's largest Madagascar-based project here, aimed at rescuing 4 species of endemic Malagasy tortoises and its sole Freshwater turtle from extinction. Thus far the DWCT has done really well with the rarest of all, the Ploughshare tortoise or Angonoka. Expect to see acrobatic Coquerel's sifakas even in the campsite, along with many birds including the Crested coua (pictured) and the garrulous Sicklebill vanga.
Day 8 Morning to explore more of the delightful forest of Ankarafantsika National Park with your guides. In the afternoon transfer to Mahajanga and then north along a rutted road to the lovely Antsanitia Resort, where you overnight with all meals included. Antsanitia is a lovely location in which to relax at the spa and beach after exploring Ankarafantsika.
Day 9 Transfer to the airport for the flight back to Antananarivo, where you will be met and transferred to Relais des Plateaux for an overnight stay with breakfast.
Day 10 Take the Air Madagascar flight to Fort Dauphin on the far south coast of the island where you will be met and driven inland along deteriorating roads to the famed Berenty Private Reserve. Here you stay 3 nights in a bungalow at the recently refurbished Berenty Lodge (the new bungalows are highly praised, and food reviews excellent - November 2016 update) with breakfast and dinner included. This reserve was brought into the international spotlight largely thanks to the 40+ years of conservation work conducted by late primatologist Lady Alison Jolly, author of engaging books such as Lords and Lemurs and her recently released memoirs, 'Thank You Madagascar: the conservation diaries of Alison Jolly' which was launched in March 2015. It was Lady Jolly who wrote extensively on the country's national mammal, the highly terrestrial Ringtail lemur (pictured) and female dominance among lemurs.
Day 11 Berenty is set in spiny forest surrounded by sisal plantations. It is Madagascar's most famous reserve and the easiest place to see Ring-tailed lemurs. By day, you ...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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