Exotic Madagascar | Wildlife and Culture of the Red Island

Exotic Madagascar | Wildlife and Culture of the Red Island

About this trip

Madagascar inspires the imagination with its playful lemurs, strange-looking baobab trees, and distinct red-hued soil. The vast majority of its flora and fauna are endemic to the island, making it a true biodiversity hotspot. On this exploration of the “eighth continent,” come face-to-face with wildlife like chameleons, geckos, flying foxes, rare birds, and the country’s many lemur species, from the giant indri to the diminutive mouse lemurs. Madagascar’s vegetation is equally fascinating and is characterized by spiny forests, endangered palms, hundreds of orchid varieties, carnivorous plants, and dwarf baobabs. Take guided hikes in national parks and private reserves, learn about the Malagasy way of life, and relax in the turquoise waters off the coast of the “Great Red Island.”

Highlights

  • Visit Lemur Island, a sanctuary where you can interact with and photograph lemurs rescued from the pet trade.
  • Hike in the rainforests of Ranomafana National Park and learn about flora, fauna, and research efforts at Centre ValBio, a leading field research facility run by renowned primatologist Dr. Patricia Wright.
  • Explore the sandstone canyons, rocky deserts, and cascading waterfalls of Isalo National Park and swim in a natural pool.
  • Meet with local Malagasy community members to learn about commerce, conservation, art, and women’s initiatives.
11 Travelers

$6,075

Land Cost

Group size

Book 10 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

13 Travelers

$5,775

Land Cost

Group size

Book 12 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

Day 1

Depart the US for Madagascar.

Antananarivo

Day 2

Arrive in Antananarivo, Madagascar's capital, on a late-night flight. After clearing immigration and customs and exchanging money at the airport, meet our local guide and transfer to the hotel. Check in and rest after the long flight. (Please note: We recommend considering a stopover in Paris en route, or coming in a day early, to rest.)

Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux

Antananarivo

Day 3

Enjoy a morning at leisure to recover from the long journey. After lunch and a program orientation, receive an overview of Madagascar's culture, economy, political structure, and diverse natural environments. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux

Andasibe

Day 4

Today travel east to Andasibe, admiring the large Raphia farinifera palms along the way. After checking in at the hotel, visit Lemur Island, established by Vakona Lodge to provide sanctuary for displaced lemurs that were former pets and not suited for reintroduction into the wild. The lemurs are isolated on the island and accustomed to human visitors, which offers guests the unique opportunity to interact and be photographed with them. This evening, enjoy dinner overlooking the Madagascan rainforest.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge

Andasibe

Day 5

Rise early for a full-day exploration of the Analamazaotra Reserve in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. The primary forests of Andasibe-Mantadia contain a dense, humid, primary forest rich with lianas, moss, fern trees, and more than 100 orchid species. Other common plants growing here are Pandanus utilis, traveler's tree, Tambourissa, bamboos, and some precious woods like rosewood and ebony. Conservation of the forest is a critical challenge in this region due to the graphite mines inside the park; we will discuss conservation initiatives as they relate to natural resources. Tonight, take a walk in the Mitsinjo Analamazaotra Forest Station, a community-managed protected area, to look for nocturnal wildlife such as the locally endemic Goodman's mouse lemur, furry-eared and hairy-eared dwarf lemurs, leaf-tailed geckos, and the tree frogs Boophis viridis and Boophis pyrrhus.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge

Andasibe

Day 6

This morning, have breakfast while listening to the peculiar call of the endangered indri, the largest living lemur species-some reach up to three feet tall! Andasibe-Mantadia is an ideal place to observe the indri, as there are some indri families there that have been habituated to humans. Considered a sacred animal in Madagascar, the indri is the focus of several myths. An additional 13 lemur species can be seen, including the woody lemur, gray bamboo lemur, diademed sifaka, brown lemur, red mouse lemur, red-bellied lemur, black-and-white ruffed lemur, and aye-aye. These forests are also home to more than a dozen other mammal species, more than 100 types of birds, 50 species of reptiles, and 80 amphibian species.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge

Antananarivo

Day 7

Return to Antananarivo this morning, with lunch at a local restaurant upon arrival. The afternoon is at leisure to rest.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Royal Palissandre

Antsirabe

Day 8

After breakfast, begin the drive south to Antsirabe. En route, visit the small town of Ambatolampy and its aluminum pot factory for a glimpse into Madagascan industry. Though this factory is small-scale, one craftsman can make as many as 20 of these robust pots per day! Visit the local market, where our guide will explain the seasonality of foods available and how commerce works. Have lunch at the Rendez-vous des pêcheurs in town and then continue to Antsirabe. After checking in, have dinner at the hotel.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Couleur Cafe

Ranomofana National Park

Day 9

Depart for the mountainous Ranomafana National Park, on the edge of Madagascar's High Plateau with elevations ranging from 1,640 to 4,921 feet. Ranomafana contains a variety of forest environments and is part of the Rainforests of the Atsinanana World Heritage Site. It has served as a model for subsequent parks and reserves in Madagascar and abroad. En route, stop in Ambositra to visit a workshop and discuss commerce in rural Madagascar. Check in at the lodge and have dinner. This evening, take a walk along the road bordering the national park in search of nocturnal species like chameleons and mouse lemurs.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Setam Lodge

Ranomofana National Park

Day 10

After breakfast, hike in the 102,000-acre Ranomafana National Park. Please note that hikes are moderately difficult and uphill on the way in, and often include off-trail experiences. The pace will be based on the physical ability of the participants. Ranomafana's rainforest is home to the critically endangered greater bamboo lemur, golden bamboo lemur, and 11 other lemur species, plus species of precious woods, palm trees, orchids, and carnivorous plants. Have lunch at Centre ValBio (CVB), a world-famous research station established in 2003 and managed by Stony Brook University. Run by Dr. Patricia Wright, an accomplished American primatologist and conservationist, the CVB focuses on biodiversity, community health, environmental arts, and reforestation. Receive a presentation on the flora, fauna, and research efforts at ValBio. Next, visit a nearby Tanala village to learn about this Malagasy ethnic group. Meet the village leader and enjoy singing and dancing with community members.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Setam Lodge

Isalo National Park

Day 11

After breakfast, begin the journey to the Great South and Madagascar's most-visited park, Isalo. The day's drive is along some of the best roads in the country and the scenery is breathtaking. En route, stop at Anja Community Reserve, a 74-acre forest managed by the local community and a vital example of sustainable tourism in Madagascar. The reserve boasts a diverse variety of endemic species, including several families of orchids and saxicolous plants. The target here is the ring-tailed lemur. Have lunch at a nearby restaurant, then continue the journey to Isalo. After a long day of driving, check in at the hotel, have dinner, and relax in anticipation of Isalo and its beautiful landscapes of sandstone canyons, fauna and flora, natural swimming pools, and waterfalls.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine

Isalo National Park

Day 12

Spend the day exploring Isalo National Park, a continental sandstone plateau dating to the Jurassic Period. Hike across varied landscapes with different forms of sandstones, dotted with the famous dwarf baobab. After an hour's walk with short climbs, stop to rest in a spectacular valley with beautiful views. The overlook shows miles of azure sky, rocky desert, and winding greenery. Continue to a white-sand natural pool for the chance to go swimming before hiking back to the starting point. Return to the hotel for a cocktail and dinner.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine

Ifaty

Day 13

This morning, we continue the final leg of our journey southward. Stop at Antsokay Arboretum, a 100-acre site created in 1980 by Swiss amateur biologist Hermann Petignat and dedicated to conservation of the country's endemic flora. Continue to the seaside town of Toliara, situated near the Tropic of Capricorn.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Le Paradisier

Ifaty

Day 14

Rise early for a special sunrise walk in Reniala Private Reserve, managed by a local environmental association working to develop ecotourism in the area. Hike some of the trails to explore the spiny forest, a unique ecosystem which only occurs in the southwest of Madagascar. The reserve contains more than 2,000 plant species, as well as impressively old baobabs, including one that is 41 feet in diameter. There are also 65 species of birds; rare endemics such as the Red-capped Coua and the Blue Vanga can easily be seen. Return to the hotel for a late breakfast, and explore the beach or hotel amenities. This evening, enjoy a special dinner under the baobab trees.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Le Paradisier

Antananarivo

Day 15

Fly back to Antananarivo today.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux

Depart

Day 16

Explore the city during a drive to Ambohimanga Royal Hill, a hilltop fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the palace dwellings and heritage of Madagascar, then head to lunch at an open-air restaurant. The traditional meal will also be accompanied by the singing and dancing of a local dance troupe. Return to the hotel for dinner and time to pack, enjoying the use of a day room as we await our departure flights. This evening, head to the airport for the flight back to the US.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux Day Room

U.S. arrival

Day 17

Arrive back in the US following the overnight flight.