ARRIVE ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR
On arrival at 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 roofs and pastel-colored 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.
Head east out of the city today to Andasibe through a panorama of rice fields, red-brick 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. During your stay, take a guided night walk in the forest surrounding the reserve. Look out for a variety of nocturnal lemur, including the mouse lemur, white-footed sportive lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur and woolly lemur.
Spend a day in the 2,000-acre Perinet Special Reserve in search of the comical indri. 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 you wander through the rainforest. You may find a troop of gray bamboo lemur, common brown lemur, diademed sifaka and black-and-white ruffed lemur. Birdwatchers should look out for the velvet asity, blue coua, nuthatch vanga and many more endemic species. Perinet is also home to several reptiles, invertebrates and some of Madagascar’s thousand orchid species.
Visit Mitsinjo Reserve, a private forest reserve operated by a local NGO funding reforestation, community education and Madagascar’s first amphibian captive-breeding facility. See a stunning array of wildlife, and help protect indigenous flora in a planting program.
Another highlight is your visit to Lemur Island, which protects a number of habituated lemurs. There are four species to see: bamboo lemur, black-and-white ruffed lemur, brown lemur and one diademed sifaka.
Return to the capital. This afternoon, explore the historic upper town with your guide. Visit the Queen’s Palace and the newly built photography museum, which showcases historic images of Madagascar and the capital.
This morning, take a private charter flight to Mandrare River Camp in the far south of the island, a classic tented safari accommodation offering majestic views over the Mandrare River. The next three days are spent exploring this extraordinary area. 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 — such as Verreaux’s 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 riverbank.
Another highlight is 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’s sifaka are the highlight of this excursion. 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 lemurs — and once the sun has set — two mouse lemur species, sleeping birds, chameleons, owls and the now active sportive lemurs.
Wandering through the spiny forest on an early morning walk, see the sunlight break through the octopus trees, and look out for endemic birds such as crested coua, running coua and a variety of vangas. An encounter with members of the fascinating Antandroy tribe in the local village is a highlight. There’s plenty of time to relax in camp and sip sundowners amid the baobabs as the sun sets and the moon rises.
Fly to Fort Dauphin this morning on a private charter flight, and travel 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. This afternoon, go for a swim before cocktails as the sun sets over the bay.
Enjoy the next two days 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; snorkeling in the bay and nearby cove; kayaking and scenic boat trips to the mangroves; 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. Your adventure concludes with a sumptuous farewell dinner on the beach complete with an Antanosy musical performance.
After an early breakfast, travel to Fort Dauphin airport for your private charter flight back to Antananarivo. Transfer to the international terminal for your onward flight.