Following the arrival of the group flights, we drive directly to Andasibe through the green and luxuriant vegetation of the east. This first step brings us to the humid part of the country with many primary forests and lakes. Along the way we will see Merina villages in the rocky mountains.
Today we spend a full day in the park. The park is home to the teddy bear-like Indri, the largest of Madagascar's lemur species, as well as other forms of flora and fauna and a wide array of bird life. Listening to the piercing yet melancholy cry of the Indri in the morning is an evocative experience and for those who are prepared to follow them through the thick rainforest, the reward is often a close-up view of these beautiful creatures. A group of five Diademed sifaka have recently been re-introduced to Perinet from Mantadia, and if we are lucky, we may spot one of these unusual creatures. In the evening we take a twilight/night walk, looking out for the nocturnal species of lemur as the torchlights pass by their eyes.
Today we return to Madagascar's capital, known simply as 'Tana' to the locals. On the way we visit the Peyeiras Centre in Mandraka which houses an outstanding collection of butterflies, chameleons and frogs.
This morning we take a short city tour of Tana. Built around Anosy Lake, Tana offers much of interest with a backdrop of terracing and outstanding views from the Queen's Palace. In the late morning we depart for Antsirabe. The town is at an altitude of 1500m and so has a cooler climate. The warm springs and thermal baths here were a real draw in the 19th century. Time permitting we visit some artisanal workshops before we visit one of the local lakes. In the hills west of Antsirabe lie Lac Andraikiba and Lac Tritriva which are both volcanic in origin. The deep blue lake of Lac Tritriva is impressively surrounded by sheer cliffs.
This morning we depart early to drive to Ranomafana. Parc National de Ranomafana (approximately 40,000ha), with its rain forested hills and abundant wildlife, has long been considered one of Madagascar's highlights, and is one of the most heavily visited of the country's national parks. Its entrance lies about 7km from Ranomafana village. Altitudes in the park range from 800m to 1200m. In addition to its densely forested hills, Ranomafana's terrain is characterised by numerous small streams, which plummet down to the beautiful Namorona River. Although much of the region has been logged, the easternmost part of the park retains relatively large areas of primary forest. The evening is spent on a night walk along the roads in the hope of spotting some of the nocturnal lemurs, chameleons and other animals
An early start so we can spend the morning exploring Ranomafana Nationa park before we begin our drive to Ranohira. The scenery changes dramatically as we head to the small town of Ranohira, a journey of approximately 9 hours. We stop in along the way in Ambalavao to visit Anja park - a small reserve where several families of Ring-tailed lemurs may be seen in the wild.
We spend the day exploring Isalo National Park. Isalo is a vast region of wind-polished and water-scoured rock towers, deep canyons, gorges and oases often described as Eden. During our time we will go walking in the magnificent Canyon des Makis in search of cheeky Ring-tailed lemurs and the Verreaux's Sifaka. We also visit the 'Piscine Naturelle' (natural swimming pool), a beautifully lush spot in such an arid landscape, where we can swim and relax. Perhaps the magic is just to soak up the sheer beauty of the park, the combination of coloured eroded rock forms, strange plants and enveloping silence make this one of the most captivating places in Madagascar. (Please bear in mind that Isalo is a big national park and there will be a certain amount of driving involved today. Driving to the Canyon des Makis takes around 1.5 - 2 hours).
We leave early in the morning for the west coast. We will arrive at our hotel in Tulear around lunchtime, and will have the afternoon free to enjoy optional actiivities on the water or to just relax.
Today we transfer to Tulear airport for our flight to Antananarivo. Depending on the flight schedule, you may have the afternoon free to explore Antananarivo on our own.
We depart early today to catch a flight north to the coastal town of Morondava, known for having one of the finest climates in Madagascar. This afternoon, we will visit the famous 'Alley of Baobabs' where we plan to spend sunset. This is the best time to see these amazing trees as the colours at this time of day are spectacular, making for a perfect photo opportunity. After sunset we return to Morondava where we spend the night.
We have a long travel day today to Bekopaka, visiting a dry forest reserve along the way. The Kirindy reserve is home to the giant jumping rat, seven lemur species, the rare flat-tailed tortoise as well as the side-necked turtle which is Madagascar's only fresh water turtle. We travel past baobab forests, desert and cross the Tsiribihina river by local ferry boat. The western landscape is arid but has a beauty all of its own.
We depart early this morning to the amazing Grands Tsingy. A UNESCO world heritage site since 1990, the area has unique geography, well-preserved mangrove forests and some amazing bird and lemur species. The Grands Tsingy is famed for its pinnacles, a forest of limestone pillars. Some of its needles are several hundred metres high! The karst landscape and deciduous forest are a refuge for rare and endangered species and in the park there are over 11 species of lemur, 90 species of bird and 50 types of reptile, some of which we might be lucky to spot on our hikes. Please note that while our time in this area is a real highlight of this tour for most, those suffering from vertigo and claustrophobia may find some parts of the walks here quite challenging. There are places where we will go through caves as well as through narrow chasms; harnesses are used for the more challenging parts of the climb for safety reasons, and you should be prepared for this.
In the afternoon we will head back to Bekopaka. There is an option to visit Manambolo gorge, home to many interesting rock formations, by canoe and to see the Tombs of the Vazimba tribe from the river. These ancient people were the original inhabitants of Madagascar and grew no more than one metre tall. Those who do not wish to join this optional excursion are welcome to relax at the hotel or enjoy a swim at the hotel pool.
After breakfast we will head back south by 4WD vehicles to Morondava. We will pass by the Sakalava tribe tombs along the way – specially known for the very unusual paintings and carvings that decorate the outside of each tomb.
We fly back to the capital, Antananarivo this morning, and have the afternoon free to explore the city.