On arrival into the hilly Malagasy capital you are met by A&K and transferred to your hotel in the embassy district of Haute-Ville (upper town). This part of the city is a tangled assortment of steep, partly cobbled streets; red-tiled rooves; and pastel-coloured houses with a lovely cool climate. After time to settle in, your Guest Host, Charlie Gardner, will introduce himself and give you a briefing on the adventure ahead over welcome drinks and dinner in the hotel.
Antananarivo – Andasibe
We head out of the city today heading east to Andasibe, our first destination about four hours’ drive from the city. The journey provides a gentle introduction to rural life here as we pass rice fields, redbrick houses and roadside stalls selling seasonal fruits and vegetables. Andasibe is a stunning rainforest park comprising two protected areas — the Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park. Perinet is world famous for its population of Indri, which is the largest living lemur species. After arriving at your lodge in time for lunch, spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure before joining a guided night walk late this evening in the forest surrounding the reserve. Look out for a variety of nocturnal lemur: mouse lemur, white footed sportive lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, as well as the woolly lemur.
Today we go in search of the comical Indri in the 810 hectare Perinet Reserve. With a barely visible tail, black and white markings, and a surprised teddy–bear face, this lemur is one of the few animals in the world that cannot survive in captivity. There are another 11 species of lemur to spot as we walk through the rainforest. We may find a troop of grey bamboo lemur, common brown lemur, Diademed Sifaka, and black and white ruffed lemur. Birdwatchers should look out for the velvet asity, blue coua and nuthatch vanga, and many more endemic species. Perinet is also home to many reptiles, invertebrates and some of Madagascar’s thousand orchid species.
Andasibe – Antananarivo
A visit first thing this morning to Lemur Island, a small private reserve that protects a number of habituated lemur. There are four species to see here: the bamboo lemur, the black and white ruffed lemur, brown lemur, and one diademed sifaka. We return to the capital after lunch.
Tana – Ifotaka
This morning fly to the port city of Fort Dauphin in the far south of the island. In order to provide travellers with exclusive accommodation at the Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge and Mandrare River Camp, the group will be divided. Group One visits Mandrare River Days 5-8 and Manafiafy Beach Days 8-11. Group Two does the reverse. Your Guest Host, Charlie, will remain at Mandrare Days 5-11 while your local escort stays at Manafiafy. The itinerary following relates to the programme scheduled for Group One.
We head into the interior by road to Mandrare River Camp with its classic tented safari accommodation and majestic views over the Mandrare River. In the late afternoon, we venture on foot into the Sacred Spiny forest which has the highest percentage of endemic plants in any habitat in Madagascar and is dominated by the distinctive thorny octopus tree. In addition to some extraordinary wildlife, including Verreaux sifaka, chameleons and ground boa constrictor, the forest is also filled with 500-year-old baobabs and the ancestral tombs of the local Antandroy tribe, one of the most traditional in Madagascar. You’ll be introduced to their culture and customs before sundowners on the river bank.
This morning visit the stunning Sacred Gallery forest south of camp. Depending on water levels, walk or take a boat across the Mandrare River to reach the largely deciduous forest. Inquisitive groups of ring tailed lemurs and the always entertaining Verreaux sifaka are the highlight of this excursion. Return to camp for lunch and a relaxed afternoon. A night walk in the Forest of Zenavo is a fantastic way to see diurnal lemur bedding down, and the nocturnal lemurs emerging in the eerie and prehistoric Spiny Forest. Look out for sifakas and sleeping white-footed sportive lemur and once the sun has set, two mouse lemur species, sleeping birds, chameleons, owls and the now active sportive lemur.
Another visit to the Spiny Forest for an early morning walk. See the sunlight break through the octopus trees while looking out for the many endemic birds such as crested coua, a variety of vangas and the running coua. Return to camp for breakfast followed by a visit to the local market or the local village to meet members of the fascinating Antandroy tribe. A relaxed afternoon watching life along the river from your tent terrace. This evening, memorable sundowners are included amidst the baobabs as the sun sets and the moon rises; views across the baobabs to the mountains beyond are simply magical. Later on enjoy a traditional performance by the villagers.
Ifotaka - Manafiafy Beach
We return to Fort Dauphin for lunch and then in the afternoon head north to Manafiafy Beach, a secluded tropical paradise. Also known as Sainte Luce, Manafiafy is a beautiful sandy bay, fringed with forest-covered mountains and wildlife-rich mangroves. We’ll spend the next three nights at the lodge with time for an afternoon swim on arrival and cocktails as the sun sets over the bay.
Two days to do as you please. The lodge offers a wide range of wildlife and sporting activities which are all included: day and night walks in the rainforest to see five species of lemur, snorkelling in the bay and nearby cove, kayaking and scenic boat trips to the mangroves, a whale-watching tower (humpback whales on their migratory path between July to September), boat trips to the nearby islands for a secluded picnic lunch, walks along long empty beaches, and trips to the local village and school, supported by the lodge.
Manafiafy - Antananarivo
Return by road to Fort Dauphin airport where the group reunites for the flight back to Tana. This evening farewell cocktails and dinner is planned at Le Café de la Gare, a lovely restaurant in Tana’s abandoned central railway station. This typically French station was built in 1910.
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.