Following the arrival of the group we have the day to explore Madagascar's capital, known as simply 'Tana' to the locals. Built around Anosy Lake, the capital offers much of interest such as the Anosy Flower Market, the Prime Minister's Palace and old typical Merina houses with stunning backdrops of terracing typical of Antananarivo and outstanding views from the Queen's Palace. We discover the lower part of town, exploring the Flower market, Anosy Lake and the Avenue of Independence.
We take a morning walk to the upper part of Antananarivo, ascending to Antaninareina (the commercial and administrative part of town) and walking to the main entrance of the Queen's palace, with outstanding views over Tana. In the afternoon we drive to Ambositra, where we have the chance to visit some Zafimaniry handicraft centres.
A full day walking to Antoetra allowing us to discover and explore the Zafimaniry villages. The Zafimaniry people are renowned for their woodcarvings; in their villages, even the houses are works of art! In 2003, the Zafimaniry people and their work with wood were considered to be masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, a list maintained by UNESCO to protect and preserve their way of life. We will walk through habituated areas - through rice fields, hills and small villages, following regular paths used by locals. The walk is approximately 8 hours in total. After the walk, we drive back to Ambositra.
Today we head south and east to the well visited national park of Ranomafana. The drive takes us through spectacular scenery, past neat Betsileo rice paddies and thick forests. We reach our destination in the afternoon and after some time to rest at the hotel, we take an evening walk along the roadside of Ranomafana to spot nocturnal wildlife.
In the morning we visit Ranomafana National park - a mountainous rainforest park with elevations ranging from 600m to 1400m that contains many different forest types (from lowland rainforest to cloud forest and high plateau forest), and provides opportunity to see various species of lemurs (Golden bamboo lemurs, Greater and Lesser bamboo lemurs, Red-bellied lemurs, Red-fronted lemurs, Mile Edward's Sifaka) as well as birds, frogs, reptiles, snails and orchids. In the afternoon, we drive to Ambalavao, the commercial centre of the southern Betsileo region, renowned for its folk art and crafts. Whilst here we also visit a wine farm and also take the opportunity to learn about the production of the Antemoro-paper: a paper which is produced from the bark of the Havoha-tree.
Early transfer to Andringitra National Park - one of the most beautiful and biodiverse parks in Madagascar. Andringitra National Park has been managed by the WWF since 1993, and has three distinct eco-zones: low altitude rainforest, montane rainforest and high altitude vegetation. Although Andringitra contains diverse wildlife (over 100 bird species, 50 mammal species, including 13 lemurs types, and 55 species of frogs), the prime reason for visiting is for the stunning landscape, vegetation and superb trekking. More than 1000 plant species are known to exist in this national park alone, and the guides are highly knowledgeable on the plants contained within the park and their medicinal uses. In the morning we visit two famous waterfalls: 'Riandahy' and 'Raimbavy' and then we begin our trek to reach the second highest peak in Madagascar, Peak Boby. Peak Boby is also known as 'Pic d'Imarivolanitra' which means 'close to the sky'. The trek begins in forest which slowly becomes replaced by alpine meadows covered with orchids by the end of the rainy season. Leaving the forest we ascend a steep path which arrives onto the Andohariana plateau, climbing higher behind granite mountain tops. As we walk through the high montane vegetation we reach a natural pool, which offers a freezing but very refreshing swim! After approximately 6 hours of walking, we camp at Anderamposty (2100m)
The longest day of treks, we begin our climb to the summit of Peak Boby early, to avoid climbing in the full heat of the day. This is a day to keep your camera handy as the trek climbs higher, giving unrivalled views and superb high-altitude flora. Although this is the highest accessible peak in Madagascar, it is a technically easy ascent up carved steps, and we should reach the summit after about 2 hours. We descend the same route back to our campsite where we have a chance to relax by the river while our lunch is prepared. After lunch, we head out through moon-like landscapes, granite cliffs and a forest of palm trees known as Gloka, on our way to our campsite. After approximately 6 hours of walking we camp at Iantaranomby (1650m).
Today we have our final day of walking in Andringitra National Park. After breakfast we leave the mountains, exploring some of the villages on foot. With the decreasing altitude, we pass by many forms of succulent plants, such as the Pachypodium (looking like a mini baobab tree), Euphorbia and through savannah landscape. After approximately 4 hours, we camp at Meva Campsite in Tsaranoro Valley (900m)
We drive to the little town of Ranohira today, which is the base for visiting Isalo National Park. Along the way we visit the small reserve of Anja, where Katta (otherwise known as Ring-tailed) lemurs can be observed in their natural surroundings
Day 10 - 11
One of the highlights of the trip, as we spend two days 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 of Makis in search of cheeky Ring-tailed lemurs and the Verreaux 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 formations, strange plants and the enveloping silence make this one of the most captivating places in Africa.
We drive to Tulear, among the dry forests of the west and the spiny desert of the south, and we pass both the 'Mahafaly tombs' and the 'Antandroy tombs', briefly observing their ornate decorations. Antandroy and Mahafaly are reputed to be the most impressive of all Malagasy tombs, with the Antandroy tombs being large and brightly painted, relating to the life story and wishes of the deceased. They are also topped with zebu skulls which were sacrificed during the funeral festivity - a ceremony of great significance. Mahafaly tombs are characterized by their wooden sculptures known as 'Aloalo', relating to the life of the deceased and their unfulfilled dreams, as well as their rank within the clan. After a brief stop in Tulear, we continue to the coastal town of Ifaty.
Today we have a free day in Ifaty. Running all the way around the south-west Malagasy coastline, Ifaty lies on one of the world's largest barrier reefs and hence is an excellent venue for scuba diving. Between late June and early September, whales can be observed off Ifaty's beautiful white beaches and the offshore islet of Nosy Ve is a terrific place for snorkelling. Protected by coral reefs, the beach and waters beyond the hotel offer a welcome rest from your trekking itinerary for those who wish just to relax.
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.