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Madagascar - a paradise island for unique wildlife
Land of the lemurs
Madagascar Wildlife Expedition
lemurs, endemic birds, unique plants and breathtaking scenery
Jul 21 - Aug 03
2012
About 300 miles east of southern East Africa, across the Mozambique Channel, lies the island of Madagascar. Best known for its lemurs, colorful chameleons, stunning orchids, and towering baobab trees, Madagascar is home to some of the world's most unique flora and fauna. Almost all of Madagascar's reptile and amphibian species, half of its birds, and all of its lemurs are endemic to the island; meaning they can be found nowhere else on Earth. But Madagascar is much more than just a place where animals are different. It is a vibrant, diverse, unbelievable place, with breathtaking landscapes, world class beaches and coral reefs, entire forests of unseen plants and after all, a truly shocking array of tribes, cultures, beliefs, customs, tombs and ceremonies. A truly unexplored, truly adventurous travel destination, an amazing natural and cultural experience, with a long way to go with nature conservation and human development. Our highly recommended destination for all adventurers, travelers, nature lovers and photographers.
Detailed itinerary:
Jul 21 Antananarivo
  Today we arrive at Antananarivo, either by Air Madagascar/Air France at 4 am, or by South African Airway at 13:10. After arrival, we transfer to our hotel in the form of a short city seeing tour, and the rest of the day is at leisure until our official program starts with the Welcome Dinner at 7 pm.
  Accommodation: Tana Plaza Hotel
Jul 22 Antananarivo/Andasibe Reserve
  We would like to see as much as we can during our very exciting first day in Madagascar, so we will head out on the streets of Antananarivo as soon as the sun rises. For those with jet lag, sleeping in a bit is a definite option. Once we have taken many photographs of Antananarivo's center in the early soft lights, we will return back to our hotel and have our satisfying breakfast. After breakfast, we check out and visit a few more places of interest in Tana, before we start driving towards Andasibe (Perinet) Reserve. Andasibe is the most accessible of the eastern rainforest parks of Madagascar, which provides the best chance to see the largest lemurs of all: the Indri. The park is only 3 hours drive from the capital, so en route we stop at Marozevo Reptile Farm in Mandraka. Here we can encounter and admire a large collection of chameleons (with the big Calumma parsonii), snakes, lizards and geckos, together with beautiful frogs and butterflies and some mammals (keep fingers crossed for our first lemurs!). After our visit, we have a relatively late lunch in Moramanga, followed by the rest of our road trip to Andasibe-Perinet Reserve. Upon arrival in mid-afternoon, we check in at our great lodge, take a short break and then head out to visit the famous 'Island of Lemurs' at Vakona Lodge. This small island, surrounded by natural waterways, is home to 4 different species of lemurs, providing us with an incredible first opportunity to observe, admire and photograph these famous primates of Madagascar. We return just as the sun sets and have an excellent dinner at the lodge.
  Accommodation: Vakona Forest Lodge
Jul 23 Andasibe Reserve
  Since the best time to see the amazing Indri is when the night transforms into the daylight, we will be up before the rising sun and enter the park shortly after the very first morning lights. Perinet-Andasibe has an extensive trail system, which we will utilize in order to be able to get around and find these wonderful, large creatures. This park is a mid-altitude montane rainforest lodged in the green corridor of the east. It is famous for being the privileged home of the Indri, the world's biggest living lemurs (their morning loud call can be heard surrounding the reserve), but it is also home to other species that create a rich biodiversity: day and night active lemurs, non-primate mammals, birds (with key species like ibises, vangas, couas, ground-rollers, asides and mesites), eastern endemic amphibians and reptiles and numerous invertebrates. A special fauna that shares a rich land of tropical rainforest home to fern trees and birds-nests, orchids, hard wood of Dalbergia and Commiphora species, palms and several medicinal plants. We continue our walks until noon or so, when we return to the hotel for a great mid-day break, lunch and siesta. A couple hours later, we visit the small captive breeding area at our lodge, after which we return to the 'Island f Lemurs' and spend another two valuable hours admiring and photographing these friendly, habituated creatures. After the island, we will enjoy a great dinner and will probably retire right afterwards, to gain enough energy for our upcoming events the following day.
  Accommodation: Vakona Forest Lodge
Jul 24 Andasibe Reserve/Antsirabe
  Today, right after our very early breakfast, we will be back on the famous National Road N7, which will take us through the most scenic southern part of the country, all the way to Tulear. Our fist 'port of call' is the capital, Antananarivo, after which we stop for lunch in a roadside restaurant. From here the road takes us through some amazing landscapes: rice terraces, forests and volcanic rock formations. Our destination for today is a pleasant town, Antsirabe, home to several famous thermal baths. One of them, the legendary, colonial Hotel des Thermes will accommodate us for the night. After check in, we take off and explore the town, its great cathedral and vibrant street life, before the sun sets. After dark, we visit one of the city's famous gemstone factories, followed by an early and excellent dinner in our hotel.
  Accommodation: Hotel des Thermes
Jul 25 Antsirabe/Ambositra/Ranomafana
  Today we explore Antsirabe on foot while the first soft lights of the day last, before taking off early again, in order to be able to fit everything in the program. After our fulfilling colonial breakfast, we visit the famous lavaka (volcanic) formations of the nearby Andraikiba Crater Lake. From here we drive 100 km south to Ambositra and explore the town, with its Zafimaniry woodcarvings and others to see. After sightseeing we have a great lunch in a local restaurant, and then drive to Ranomafana National Park. We hope to arrive just before the sun sets, so that we can take a pleasant evening walk in the gardens, before having our well-deserved showers and dinner. We expect a very active day to come, so an early and long night is recommended.
  Accommodation: Setam Lodge
Jul 26 Ranomafana National Park
  As usual when we are on a wildlife expedition, we utilize the very first hours of the day, when most of our wanted and sought species are active. After an early morning breakfast, we get on the forest trails and try to see some of the endemic and amazing animals that inhabit the park. "Rano" is Malagasy for 'water'; "mafana" is Malagasy for 'hot'. About a hundred years ago a Malagasy discovered hot springs down in the valley, and the French created a spa around them. This has become the town of Ranomafana. In 1986 the Golden Bamboo Lemur was discovered in the forest about 6km from the town, and a few years later the Greater Bamboo Lemur has also been rediscovered. From there on, scientist from all over the world worked with the government of Madagascar to create a National Park to protect the two species. The Park is on the edge of Madagascar's High Plateau, so it is extremely mountainous, with elevations ranging from 600m to 1400m. The steepness of the slopes had preserved the park from exploitation before 1986. The range of altitudes allows for many different forest types, from lowland rainforest to bamboo and cloud forest and high plateau forest. We discover as much of this great richness as we can, before we return to the lodge for lunch and a mid-day siesta. As always, the cooler afternoon hours will find us back on the trails, looking for wildlife watching and photography opportunities. Our walk will lead us into the first hour of the night, as well, to increase our chances of seeing some rare nocturnal bird, lemur and reptile species. Dinner will be served for us at the lodge upon our return from the forest.
  Accommodation: Setam Lodge
Jul 27 Ranomafana/Isalo
  Since the days in Madagascar are very short in the cooler and drier winter period (the time of our visit), it is very necessary that we rise with the sun this morning again and get on the road after our fulfilling breakfast. We have nearly 300 km ahead of us, driving further south, to the world famous landscape park of the Isalo massif. Our first stop is Ambalavao, a very interesting little town about 80 km south from Ranomafana. Ambalavao is best known for its medieval way of producing paper - the famous Antaimoro paper. This paper is a delicate, handmade, flower-decorated paper made from the fibers of the Avoha tree. We will visit a local factory, where the paper is hand made, which will be followed by a lunch at the factory. From here we still have 200 km to go to Ranohira, our accommodation tonight, so the rest of the day is a non-stop drive, in order to be able to get there before sunset. Late in the afternoon we shall reach our accommodation, where we have a sundowner and watch the sunset through the "window of Isalo", before proceeding to our great dinner and comfortable night.
  Accommodation: Le Jardin du Roy
Jul 28 Isalo National Park
  Our day is entirely dedicated to the exploration of Isalo National Park. Since this is a large park with no road access, we are driving to the park headquarters, but from there we are heading off on foot, for an all day trip with packed lunches in our backpacks (if you are unwilling to do a whole day trip, we will provide extra local rangers to return with you before lunch). Isalo is quite unlike any other place in Madagascar. Its appeal is the remarkable landscape of eroded sandstone formations, rare plants and the feeling of space and stillness. The park covers 81.540ha of the Isalo Massif, which rises up from the flat surrounding grassy plains. The sandstone has been eroded into strange shapes, cut through by impressive gorges and canyons. Vegetation is concentrated in the canyon bottoms where streams flow - these wooded areas are dominated by the fire-resistant tree tapia, on which a Malagasy endemic silkworm feeds, along with the locally endemic feather (pandanus) palm. On the cliffs and rocks are several endemic succulents including the elephant's foot and the Isalo aloe. First we hike in one of these deep, forested river gorges to a wonderful waterfall, or even further up to some tiny 'lakes', before we take a break at a campsite, where sighting brown lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs is a real possibility! From here, those not willing to climb any further in the midday heat, can return to Ranohira for lunch, while others will get on a 5 km trail to 'Piscine Naturelle' - a fantastic blue, tiny lake fed by a small creek. Our entire group will reunite at the small lake and enjoy a refreshing swim, before we hike the last 3 kilometers in order to be able to return to the lodge for a well-deserved dinner.
  Accommodation: Le Jardin du Roy
Jul 29 Isalo/Tulear/Ifaty
  Today we have another 200 km drive ahead of us, so no matter how exciting it is to stay at our beautiful lodge and the great scenery of Isalo, all we can do for further exploration today is an early morning walk, prior to breakfast. During this shorter walk, we will have our last chances to take great sunrise images, discover interesting plants and find some other representatives of the unique local wildlife. After breakfast, we check out and get on the road towards a larger coastal colonial town, Tulear. During our drive, the only site of interest we stop for is the unique mahafaly tombs. These are large, colorfully-painted tomb structures of the Mahafaly tribe, which inhabits this area. As we drive further south, the environment is getting drier and drier and our expectation for the absolutely world-unique Madagascar Spiny Forest ecosystem (with many didiera and euphorbia plant species) keeps growing. Once reaching Tulear, we drive through and stop for a few pictures, but then continue a bit further north on the coast, on a bumpy road to a small place called Ifaty. Upon arrival, we check in our hotel, take a refreshing shower and gather for a late lunch. After lunch, we finally get what we have been dreaming of for the last 10 days: an entire afternoon off! Some of us will utilize this time enjoy the magnificent beach or the pool, others will walk the beach to the nearby villages for great photography, and others again will walk into the amazing didiera spiny forests of the property, for their first, exciting experience with this world-unique habitat. Once the sun sets, we carry out a short night walk on the property, before we gather for a great dinner and enjoy the sea breeze that we have not experienced on our voyage before.
  Accommodation: Hotel Le Paradisier
Jul 30 Ifaty
  Our entire day is dedicated to the exploration of one of the real wonderlands of Madagascar: the didiera spiny forest. The Madagascar Spiny Thicket is such an unusual habitat that experts cannot agree on whether to call it a forest or a desert and hence call it a thicket. Its trees are either tall and branchless, often with long, sharp spines, or short, densely branched, with swollen trunks. There is even a palm that has a triangular trunk. All of these unusual characteristics are thought to be adaptations to survive the long, dry periods of up to seven months without rain. The Spiny Thicket is particularly known for its endemic family of spiny Didieraceae trees, including the octopus tree, and Pachypodium, commonly referred to as elephant foot because of its huge bulbous base. The ecoregion contains a large variety of spiny and succulent plants, including the songo be, which can reach up to 15 meters, aloes, baobabs, and Euphorbia, which resembles links of sausage. Endemic birds include Verreaux's Coua, Running Coua, Lefresnaye's Vanga, and Long-tailed ground roller. This latter one is especially beautiful and very hard to see unless encountered early in the morning, thus, once again, we will be on our bus at 6 am, in order to begin our forest walk as soon as we arrive to the trail head. On our fascinating morning walk, we hope to see a lot of the endemic birds and mammals, admire the unique vegetation and encounter some of the typical reptile species, such as Spider tortoise, Radiated tortoise and the Charlarodon madagascariensis. As usual, wildlife will start hiding from the midday heat at around 11 am, so we also return to our lodge for a great siesta and a delicious lunch. The afternoon will give us the usual choices again, from additional forest walks, to beach combing, village visits or if conditions allow, maybe even a snorkeling trip out to the fascinating coral reef. This way or another, we return to our accommodation for dinner and an early night.
  Accommodation: Hotel Le Paradisier
Jul 31 Ifaty/Tulear/Berenty
  Today, for the first time in our itinerary, we utilize air travel, in order to avoid a 24 hours bumpy drive to the southernmost tip of Madagascar. After a leisurely breakfast at 7 am, we take off towards Tulear at 7:30 am. We have to be sharp on time this morning, since our flight is as early as 10:35, which then gives us an opportunity to get to Fort Dauphin as early as 11:40. Upon arrival, we drive to Fort Dauphin center for a pleasant lunch and a short city tour, then continue the drive to Berenty Reserve. En route, we will visit some other interesting tomb sites, at this time from the Antanosy tribe. The de Heaulme family, owners of Berenty Estate, founded a sisal plantation in 1936 beside the Mandrare river in agreement with local clans of the Tandroy tribe. There they conserved 1000 ha of natural forests maintained as reserves to the present. The largest fragment, the 200 ha Berenty Reserve, includes closed canopy gallery forest of ancient tamarind trees, drier open scrub, and the surreal "spiny forest" of southern Madagascar. It is home to six species of lemur, the south's largest colony of Madagascar fruit bats, and 103 bird species, 56 of whom breed in the reserve. After a very bumpy 4 hours drive, we check-in at Berenty Lodge just as the sun sets, and gather at reception after a short refreshment, in order to participate in our first night walk in the reserve. This night walk in the didiera spiny forest is truly magic: White-footed Sportive Lemurs are clinging to the trees, Grey-Brown Mouse Lemurs hop quietly on the smaller branches, and several chameleon species hide quietly on their nocturnal roosting spots. We walk in the reserve for about an hour and a half, take pictures or just enjoy the incredible experience, before we return to the lodge and have our traditional Malagasy dinner.
  Accommodation: Berenty Lodge
Aug 1 Berenty Reserve
  Our entire day is dedicated to further explore Berenty Reserve and to take as many great images of its wildlife as we can. If we could dream of a perfect place for photography, today we will think we had found it! Berenty is a place where Sifakas come to us and 'dance' in front of our eyes, Ring-tailed Lemurs surround us and provide amazing photographic opportunities, and breathtaking didiera bushes make the surrounding and the background as unique as it can possibly be. From sunrise till lunch, we will barely be able to leave the area of our bungalows, there will be so much going on and so much to admire. Just before lunch, we will visit the local museum of the local tribe and after lunch and a short siesta, we will drive to a fantastic didiera forest. Here we can learn about a plant that never has leaves through its entire life, just to name one of the dozens of absolutely unique and unimaginable creatures. Four and five hundred years old baobabs, birds, lemurs, chameleons and a visit to the local village make this afternoon a fantastic excursion. Upon our return to the lodge, those of us interested, will gather again for another night walk, while others will enjoy a lovely shower, before dinner will be served in the restaurant area.
  Accommodation: Berenty Lodge
Aug 2 Berenty Reserve
  Our last full day in Madagascar, another day in photographic and wildlife paradise. During our casual breakfast, we will admire the Ring-tailed Lemurs that walk buy and say hello before they carry on with their daily activity of feeding on the aloe and other plants. Verreaux's Sifakas will be on their usual routes, running (dancing) between tree trunks on the ground, and the ancient forest behind will give the patient observer a fantastic insight of what a malagasy bush looked like before humans arrived. After lunch, we take off to explore yet another interesting corner of the reserve (together with an Ostrich farm), before we return to our rooms to pack up our luggages and gather in the restaurant for our farewell dinner. Behind us is a trip full of great experiences, surprises, fantastic landscape images and unique wildlife encounters. Tonight we celebrate the malagasy people and discuss what we can do to further help them protect and preserve their wonderful homeland. Considering our early departure the following day, we shall retire to our bungalows relatively early tonight.
  Accommodation: Berenty Lodge
Aug 3 Berenty/Fort Dauphin/Antananarivo/homebound
  Our flight to Antananarivo from Fort Dauphin departs at 11:40 this morning, so we have to have breakfast at 6 am and depart latest by 6:30 from Berenty Reserve. After spending 4 hours on the rough road, it will be a great pleasure to arrive at the airport and get on our air-conditioned aircraft. Upon landing in Tana, our wonderful voyage comes to its official end. Some of us might connect to Europe or other destinations later this afternoon, while others stay overnight to catch an early plane to their home destinations the following day. Have a great trip home!
 
Madagascar Trip mapCopyright © WantExpeditions

Trip price: in double room: USD 4,965
  in single room: USD 6,215


Antoinette C. from Santa Cruz:
" I have been all over the planet, and it is usually unappealing for me to return to an already traveled to place a second time. Madagascar, I would return to a second time. It has the beauty of tropical paradise, the vastness of Utah and the Grand Canyon, the diversity of flora and fauna, the intrigue of untouched countryside gift wrapped with charming villages. Tourism is held in high esteem. The WANT organization is definitely that, organized and well operated. One must mention the food because it deserves to be spoken of. Plenty of healthy, delicious, and 3 times a day no complaints meals. There is something to be said when the locals greet a tourist with a smile and welcoming gestures. When it came time to leave, I became all teary eyed."

Trip images:
Landscape at AmbalavaoCopyright © WantExpeditions
Ambalavao streetCopyright © WantExpeditions
The church of AmbositraCopyright © WantExpeditions
The amazing lemursCopyright © WantExpeditions
Giant spider at AnkaranaCopyright © WantExpeditions
The coast at AntsirananaCopyright © WantExpeditions
Flying fox at BerentyCopyright © WantExpeditions
Those amazing lemursCopyright © WantExpeditions
Malagasy ladyCopyright © WantExpeditions
Those amazing lemursCopyright © WantExpeditions
Chameleon at Berenty ReserveCopyright © WantExpeditions
The coast at Fort DauphinCopyright © WantExpeditions
The coast at Fort DauphinCopyright © WantExpeditions
Landscape at Isalo NPCopyright © WantExpeditions
Landscape at Isalo NPCopyright © WantExpeditions
Mahafaly tombCopyright © WantExpeditions
Montagne d'Ambre National ParkCopyright © WantExpeditions
Giraffe weevil at Perinet ReserveCopyright © WantExpeditions
Giraffe weevil at Perinet ReserveCopyright © WantExpeditions
The forests of Perinet ReserveCopyright © WantExpeditions
Indri at Perinet ReserveCopyright © WantExpeditions
Ranomafana National ParkCopyright © WantExpeditions
Antananarivo, the capitalCopyright © WantExpeditions
Antananarivo, the capitalCopyright © WantExpeditions
TuléarCopyright © WantExpeditions
In the spiny forests of the southCopyright © WantExpeditions
In the spiny forests of the southCopyright © WantExpeditions
In the spiny forests of the southCopyright © WantExpeditions
In the spiny forests of the southCopyright © WantExpeditions
In the spiny forests of the southCopyright © WantExpeditions

Trip price: in double room: USD 4,965
  in single room: USD 6,215
Price includes:
· all accomodation
· all meals
· all activities mentioned in the program
· all land transportation
· bottled water in transport vehicles
· all airport and local transfers
· all national park fees
· all entrance fees
· international tour leader
· all tips
· all government taxes and levies

Price excludes:
· international flights
· travel insurance
· personal expenses at accommodation
· departure taxes at airports
· visa fees
· any other items not mentioned above