Classic Southern Madagascar Driving Safari
This is a 16-day driving Safari to Andasibe-Mantadia region and Southern Madagascar starting and ending in Antananarivo (Tana).
Spend a night in Tana before starting your journey South to Ambatolampy village and to the city of Antsirabe for overnight.
Continue to Ambositra (woodcarving industry) and then to Ranomafana National Park (a tropical rainforest) going in search of lemurs, birdlife and more.
Drive to Ambalavao (paper factory) and then on to Anja Park for nature walk/drive looking for ring-tailed lemurs and more.
Continue on to Isalo National park, rich in bird life, reptiles, frogs and mammals. Hike Cascade des Nymphes (waterfall) and enjoy panoramic views over the green canyon.
Also visit Piscine Naturelle, a natural stone cave overlooking a crystal-clear waterfall. Spend time in the port town of Tulear and include a visit to Antsokay Arboretum, a sanctuary for lemurs, tortoises and more.
Drive on with guide/driver to Ifaty and visit the Renlala Spiny Forest Reserve. Go in search of baobab trees, reptiles and mammals including the grey mouse lemur.
Also visit the Honko Mangrove Project containing 7 species of mangrove trees, wetland birds and more.
Fly back to Tana and visit the Ambohimanga Palace. Overnight in Tana and then drive on to the Mandraka Nature Farm for a short visit and then end the day at Andasibe-Mntadia National Park, a dense mid-altitude rainforest.
Spend a few days in this region, going out for walks and hikes looking for lemur species in Mantadia with the highlight being the black and white ruffed lemur and the striking diademed Sifaka.
Also visit Analamazaotra Reserve (Perinet) home of the Indri Indri, largest of all living lemurs.
Drive back to Tana and so ends your Adventure!
Notes Regarding this itinerary:
Please note this Custom Design sample itinerary is based on travel in September 2020 for a group of 2 travelers sharing accommodation. Please contact Africa Easy with preferred dates of travel and number of travelers.
Interested in more information? Please contact Africa Easy by calling 1-800-617-2319 or click here to e-mail the Africa Easy Team.
Classic Southern Madagascar Driving Safari
Day 01: Arrive Antananarivo – Overnight at Hotel Colbert (or similar)
Arrive to Antananarivo, Madagascar International Airport (TNR). After clearing customs and immigration, meet your English-speaking Malagasy tour guide (who will be with you until Tulear) and who will privately transfer you to an artisan handicraft market for a visit and an opportunity to do some shopping. Then, transfer to Hotel Colbert (or similar). Upon arrival, check in for 1 night on a Bed & Breakfast basis. Lunch and dinner on own account.
Antananarivo (Tananarive), the capital of Madagascar is located quite in the centre of this huge island and it is built on a sloppy rocky ridge of four kilometers length and a maximum 200 m altitude. With approximately 1,4 million inhabitants it is the biggest city of the country and, located at al altitude of 1.275 m also one of the highest. Madagascar´s capital image is dominated by a mass of buildings built with very little urban plans.
Day 02: Drive Antananarivo to Antsirabe – Overnight at Plumeria Hotel (or similar)
After breakfast at your hotel (included), check out of Hotel Colbert. You will be met by your guide & driver who will take you on a morning Antananarivo city tour with a visit of the Prime Minister’s Palace and a drive by viewing of the Queen’s Palace before privately transferring you a few hours south to Antisrabe. On the way, visit a traditional blacksmith and then drive through the village of Ambatolampy. Arrive to Antsirabe and transfer to your hotel. Check in to the Plumeria Hotel (or similar) for 1 night on a Full Board basis. Enjoy lunch at your hotel (included). Spend the rest of the day exploring the city and visiting a few handicraft workshops before dinner (included) and your overnight.
Day 03: Drive Antsirabe to Ranomafana National Park via Ambositra – Overnight at SETAM Lodge (or similar)
After breakfast at your hotel (included), check out of your hotel and meet your guide & driver who will privately transfer you from Antsirabe to Ranomafana. From Antsirabe to Ambositra your guide will show you the landscape, everyday life, and Malagasy culture. After approx. 2 ½ hours you will arrive to Ambositra where you will have a visit of the Zafimaniry woodcarving galley shop. After your visit, continue driving on the narrow windy road to Ambohimahasoa where the landscape is mainly composed of secondary forest. Your guide will introduce you to the fauna and flora, as you will pass next to the northwest limit of the rainforest corridor. After an approx. 1-hour drive, you will leave the national road to take the junction to Ranomafana. The landscape is mainly composed of eucalyptus scarce forest then to rainforest. The national park is at about 2 hours from this junction. Upon arrival, check in to SETAM Lodge (or similar) for 2 nights on a Full Board basis.
Ambositra’s vicinity to the forest has turned it into the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry. Its name means “the place of the eunuchs” supposedly because the Merina tribe castrated all defeated warriors of the local tribe, the Zafimaniry. The cultural influence of this tribe can be found in the traditional motifs of the local houses with their intricately carved balconies, panels and shutters.
Day 04: AM & PM Visits to Ranomafana National Park – Overnight at SETAM Lodge (or similar)
After breakfast at the hotel (included), depart with your guide & driver to enjoy a morning visit in Ranomafana National Park. Return to your lodge for lunch (included), before heading back to Ranomafana National Park for an afternoon visit and a visit of the Centre ValBio Research Station. Return to SETAM Lodge (or similar) for dinner (included) & overnight on a Full Board basis.
About Ranomafana National Park
With more than 160 square miles of tropical rainforest, Ranomafana National Park is home to several rare species of flora and fauna including the golden bamboo lemur, the greater bamboo lemur, black and white ruffed lemur and Milne-Edwards sifaka, and over 120 species of frogs. Pitta like ground rollers, blue vangas, short-legged ground rollers and brown mesites can be seen. The park was established in 1991 with the purpose of conserving the unique biodiversity of the local ecosystem and reducing the human pressures on the protected area. It is part of the World Heritage Site Rainforests of the Atsinanana. Adjacent to the park is the Centre ValBio research station, established in 2003 and managed by Stony Brook University with a focus on biodiversity research, community health and education, environmental arts and reforestation.
Day 05: Drive Ranomafana to Ambalavao – Overnight at Varangue Betsileo (or similar)
After breakfast at your hotel (included), depart Ranomafana with your guide & driver on an approx. 3-hour drive to Ambalavao. Visit a traditional weaving atelier and the Antaimoro paper factory and a short visit of Anja Park before lunch at a local restaurant (included). Check in to La Varangue Betsileo (or similar) for 1 night on a Full Board basis.
The pleasant town of Ambalavao, the “Door to the South”, is situated south of Fianarantsoa. Here the temperature is considerably warmer as the place is located far away the mountainous regions where Fianarantsoa is set. Ambavalao is remarkably one of the nicest cities of the highlands. Its cozy and brightly painted buildings with their steeply tiled roofs and carved wooden balconies invite for a slow-paced stroll. Wednesdays the laidback atmosphere suddenly transforms as the town fills with cattle holders from the whole country that make all the way even from the distant Tulear to attend the biggest zebu market in Madagascar.
About Antaimoro Paper Factory
Ambavalao as well is home to the renowned Antaimoro craft paper, which is beautifully decorated with dried flowers and leaves. The paper factory (Antaimoro Paper Factory, 75 340 01; admission free, 7.30 – 11.30 am and 1-5 pm) is situated near the Hotel aux Boungainvillées and is well worth a visit. Similar to papyrus, this paper is impregnated with flowers and leaves and then used for albums, lampshades or simply for mural display. Visitors can see how women produce paper by hand from bark of the Avoha tree displaying a centenary tradition that goes back to the times of the first Muslim immigrants who reached Madagascar’s eastern coast and wrote verses from the Koran on this paper, being this the only script known in Madagascar before letters from the Roman alphabet were used to transcript the spoken Malagasy language. Nowadays sisal paste is also used sometimes. The bark is first boiled, sorted and then crushed to form a pulp. The past resulting from this process is then left in the sun to dry in a cotton strainer. Before the sheets of paper completely dry each sheet is decorated by hand with fresh flowers and leaves to beautiful designs, each different according to the manufacturers taste. Dried flowers are then brushed over with a thin solution.
Day 06: AM visit of Anja Park drive to Isalo National Park – Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine (or similar)
After breakfast (included), you will be met and privately transferred to Anja Park for your morning visit. After lunch back at your hotel, you will be met and privately transferred to Isalo National Park, an approx. 3.5-hour drive. Upon arrival, check in to Relais de la Reine (or similar) for 1 night on a Full Board basis. Enjoy dinner at your hotel (included).
About Anja Park Community Reserve
In 1996, a group of young people near Ambalavao decided to muster all their courage and conserve nature. With help of Malagasy government and financial help by foreign organisations (e.g. WWF and EAZA) they cared for using only certain areas for cultural landscapes, reforest the area and educate people about ecotourism. The rocky landscape mainly consists of granite, and is located at the feet of the “three sisters” (telo mirahavavy), a nearly 500 m high rock formation. Today Anja Park is a home to the famous ring-tailed lemurs (Kattas), big Dumeril boas and five other snake species, several chameleons (among them Furcifer campani, the carpet chameleon Furcifer lateralis and the only here occuring Brookesia brunoi), several birds and other animals worthy of protection. The lowland streakend tenrek, a rare inhabitant of Anja Community Reserve, is a lot more diffcult and seldom to watch. The ring-tailed-lemurs of the park are used to humans and usually come very close to visitors, which makes the reserve a little attraction to travellers from all countries.
Day 07: AM Cascade des Nymphes. PM Isalo Park Museum & Window of Isalo – Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine (or similar)
After breakfast (included), you and your guide will visit the Cascade des Nymphes in Isalo Park. This tour takes you through the canyon to the Black or Blue Swimming Pool. You will climb along waterfalls inhabited by many rare birds, butterflies and lizards. From the top, one has a panoramic view over the green canyon. Throughout this trek you will have the possibility to spot lemurs. The highlight is a bath in the dark waters of the Cascade of the Nymphs. For lunch, you will be returned to your hotel. In the afternoon, you will drive to the Isalo Park Museum for a visit and then to the Window of Isalo for sunset. Tonight, with your guide, you will be given a choice of options for tomorrows touring. Overnight at Relais de la Reine (or similar) on a Full Board basis.
About Isalo National Park
Isalo National Park is known for its wide variety of terrain, including sandstone formations, deep canyons, palm-lined oases, and grassland. A total of 340 faunal species are known to inhabit the area, including 82 species of birds, 33 species of reptiles, 15 species of frogs and 14 species of mammals. The many species of bird found here include Benson’s rock thrush, the knob-billed duck and the Madagascar ibis. Several different species of lemur are also found in the park.
Day 08: Full day in Isalo National Park – Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine (or similar)
After breakfast at your hotel (included), you and your guide will depart for your full day of touring based on your interests and experiences discussed the evening prior in the Isalo National Park region. Return to Le Relais de la Reine (or similar) for dinner (included), and overnight on a Full Board basis.
Day 09: AM Isalo at Piscine Naturelle. Drive to Toliara – Overnight at Auberge de la Table (or similar)
Early breakfast at your hotel (included), before departing with your guide for a morning visit to Piscine Naturelle in Isalo National Park. Return to your hotel for lunch (included) before check out. In the afternoon drive with your guide to Toliara (approx. 4.5 hours). Upon arrival, check in for 2 nights to Auberge de la Table (or similar) on a Full Board basis. Enjoy dinner at your hotel tonight (included).
About Piscine Naturelle
A natural stone cave overlooks a crystal-clear waterfall, which tumbles into a deep green pool surrounded by overhanging pandanus trees. The piscine is a true oasis in the heat of the canyons. This tour is ideally combined with the canyon des Singes, as the piscine offers a very welcome refreshment after an exhausting hike.
Day 10: AM visit to Antsokay Arboretum. Drive to Ifaty. Visit of Honko Project – Overnight at Auberge de la Table (or similar)
After your breakfast at Auberge de la Table (included), depart this morning for a visit to the Antsokay Arboretum. Next you will drive approx. 1.5 hours with your guide to Ifaty to inspect the Reniala ‘Spiny Forest’. Lunch is included and will be at the Dunes Hotel before your visit to the Honko community based mangrove reserve. Return with your guide to the Auberge de la Table (or similar) for dinner (included) & your overnight on a Full Board basis.
About the Aboretum in Atsokay
Antsokay Arboretum was opened around 1980 on the initiative of a Swiss botanist Hermann Petignat. The site is located at 12 km southeast of the city of Toliara, 2 km north of the Tropic of Capricorn and 3 km from the Mozambique Canal waters. Antsokay means a small nearby hamlet of limestone found which are used to make quicklime.
On an area of 40 hectares, surrounded by a hedgerow plant, the owner has undertaken to reproduce and multiply either by seed, cuttings or transplants, the most endangered species of plants in order to preserve the largest number of the constant deforestation, bush fires and looters.
The mission of the Antsokay Arboretum is to contribute to the conservation of endemic flora of the southwestern Madagascar highlighting three general objectives:
– Maintain and increase a collection of plants of southwestern Madagascar
– Undertake conservation programs and botanical research
– Promoting public awareness and knowledge of plants and the importance of their conservation through environmental education
About Reniala Spiny Forest (Meaning Baoab in Malagasy)
Private Reserve is a small 45-ha protected area close to the village of Ifaty-Mangily, at about 45mn drive north from the town of Tulear. The reserve is trying to develop eco-tourism in the area. The spiny forest is an oddest and unique habitat. Reniala is a small community-managed reserve of only 45 ha, but is a properly protected portion of spiny forest crowded with species found nowhere else on earth. It hosts more than 2,000 plant species, 95% of which are endemic to this rare habitat, including a whole plant family, the alien-like octopus trees (Didieraceae). Along the reserve’s botanical trail you will come across some of the most spectacular and oldest baobabs in Madagascar (there is a giant baobab of 12.5 m diameter). In the bird sanctuary look out for mammals including the grey mouse lemurs, rare endemic reptiles including beautiful spider and radiated tortoises, and some of Madagascar’s most sought-after endemic birds including red-capped coua and blue vanga.
About the Honko project
In 2007, two ex-Reef Doctor scientists, Benjamin De Ridder and Carola Zardo founded Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education (Honko), a Belgian registered non-profit organization. For 10 years, Honko (translating as ‘mangrove’ in Malagasy) worked in partnership with the coastal communities to develop sustainable methods of preserving and managing mangroves and associated wetlands in the Ambondrolava mangrove complex within the Bay of Ranobe. This 120-hectare area contains 7 species of mangrove trees and ~70 wetland birds (the highest recorded wetland bird diversity in the region). It is also home to five mangrove-dependent communities: Belalanda, Tanambao, Belitsake, Ambondrolava and Ambotsibotsike
Unfortunately, mangroves in Southwest Madagascar are under threat from over-exploitation. Increased demand for charcoal production and building materials, and over-fishing has resulted in widespread habitat degradation and fragmentation. In addition to the loss of an ecologically important habitat, this also has worrying ecological and socio-economic implications since coastal communities are dependent on these forests for their livelihoods and food security.
Honko’s Volunteer Mangrove Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides volunteers an opportunity to take part in monitoring mangrove forest health and master basic mangrove ecology field techniques, while providing Honko with crucial data to inform their community-based initiatives. Volunteers spend most of the week in the depths of the mangrove following Honko’s monitoring protocol, but there are also many opportunities to help with bird surveys and Honko’s many community projects, such as ecotourism, environmental education, and tilapia farming.
Mangroves are ecologically and economically important intertidal coastal forests. They are considered one of the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems on Earth. Mangrove forests act as important nursery and feeding habitats for a wide range of organisms such as reef fish, shellfish, birds, turtles, and even dugongs. Their intricate root system provides much needed shelter for fish and invertebrates. Approximately 75% of commercially caught fish are associated with these coastal forests. Mangroves stabilize coastlines and protect against erosion. They also trap sediments and pollutants, preventing them from flowing out to sea. The loss of this function would have detrimental impacts on sea grass and coral reef ecosystems.
What’s more, mangroves effectively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it for millennia in their rich soils. The storing of this ‘Blue Carbon’ from the atmosphere plays an essential role in reducing impacts of global climate change. However, the degradation or destruction of mangroves leads to the emission of the carbon they have stored for centuries into the atmosphere and oceans, turning these ecosystems into sources of greenhouse gases. Therefore, the protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems such as mangroves and sea grass forms an essential component of the solution to global climate change.
Day 11: Fly Tulear to Antananarivo. PM City Tour – Overnight at Hotel Colbert (or similar)
After breakfast at your hotel (included), you will be met and privately transferred to the Toliara Airport (TLE) for your Tsara Dia flight to Antananarivo (TNR): 24SEP TZ213 TLE/TNR 12:55/14:35.
Upon arrival in Antananarivo, collect your bags and make your way to the arrivals hall. You will meet your new local guide there who will privately transfer you to Hotel Colbert (or similar). Check in to Hotel Colbert (or similar) for 1 night on a Bed & Breakfast basis. Lunch and dinner are on your own account tonight.
Day 12: AM Ambohimanga Palace. Drive to Andasibe via Mandraka Nature Farm – Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge (or similar)
After breakfast at Hotel Colbert (included), your guide & driver will collect you for a morning tour of Ambohimanga, ‘Blue Hills’ Palace. You will then be privately transferred approximately 4 hours to Andasibe, stopping en route for lunch (included) and a visit the Mandraka Nature Farm. Here you will have an up-close look at some of Madagascar’s most camouflaged creatures. The farm has a collection of Madagascar Stick Insects, beautiful Moths and Butterflies, many species of Chameleons, as well as numerous Frogs and Reptiles. Upon arrival in Andasibe, check in to Vakona Forest Lodge (or similar) for 3 nights on a Full Board basis.
About Ambohimanga (Blue Hill) Palace
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, meaning blue hill, is located about 24km northeast of Antananarivo. The location is where the line of kings and queens that once united Madagascar came from and where the subsequent royals spent much of their recreational time. Ambohimanga is one of the twelve sacred hills of the Imerina and a place of worship by many Malagasy pilgrims today. A sacrificial stone in front of the rova is used during certain holidays. The walled historical village contains burial sites of members of former Royal Imerina families from 19th century. The location was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and includes seven gates, although some are mostly overgrown by bushes.
Day 13: AM Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. PM Lemur Island – Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge (or similar)
After breakfast at the lodge (included), you will drive for approximately 30 minutes for a morning visit at Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Enjoy lunch at the lodge (included) before departing in the afternoon for a visit to Lemur Island. Dinner (included) and your overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge (or similar) on a Full Board basis.
About Mantadia National Park
Mantadia National Park is for the true wildlife enthusiast. Dense mid-altitude rainforest covers a series of hills ranging from 800 to 1,260 meters in altitude. Towering trees have buttress roots, there are vines, orchids and ferns and at higher altitudes luxuriant growth of mosses and lichens. The only way to explore Mantadia is on foot. Trails lead through the dense forest, over tree trunks and up and down hills – the land is rarely flat. Walking along you see tiny frogs leaping out of the path and chameleons on the ends of dripping branches. At dusk, keep your eyes out for the slow moving Madagascar tree boa. There are numerous lemur species in Mantadia and highlights include the black and white ruffed lemur, indri and the striking diademed sifaka.
Day 14: AM visit of Perinet Reserve. PM at leisure. Night walk – Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge (or similar)
After breakfast at your lodge (included), you will be met and privately transferred approx. 20 minutes to Analamazaotra (Perinet) Reserve for your morning visit. Return to the lodge for lunch (included) and an afternoon at your leisure. Enjoy an early dinner at the lodge (included) before your night walk and returning to Vakona Forest Lodge (or similar) for your overnight on a Full Board basis.
Analamazaotra Reserve (Perinet)
Home of the Indri Indri. The Indri is the largest of all living lemurs and can be found nowhere else in the world. Early morning brings on a wave of their elaborate calls. The haunting “singing” echoes throughout the forest. The reserve is also home to grey bamboo lemurs and brown lemurs. Other inhabitants include the Parson’s chameleons, which can exceed half a meter in length, the Madagascar tree boa, and numerous birds.
Day 15: Drive to Antananarivo – Overnight at Hotel Colbert (or similar)
After breakfast at your hotel (included), you will privately be transferred to Antananarivo, stopping for lunch en route (included). Upon arrival in Antananarivo, check in to Hotel Colbert (or similar) for 1 night on a Bed and Breakfast basis. Lunch and dinner are on your own account today.
Day 16: Day Room at Hotel Colbert (or similar). Depart for Home.
After breakfast at your hotel (included), spend the day at your leisure with use of a day room at Hotel Colbert (or similar). In the late morning/early afternoon you will be collected and privately transferred to the Antananarivo International Airport. Check in a minimum of 2 hours prior for your international flight home.
Note: The above itinerary and arranged sightseeing is subject to change. Please contact us with your preferred travel dates and goals to confirm your trip.
Classic Southern Madagascar Driving Safari
Based on September 2020 Rates:
Safari Package Rate: Approx. $7,155.00 approx. per person sharing
Flight within Madagascar: Approx. $485.00 per person
Fares are subject to change until booked.
Please note this Custom Design sample itinerary is based on travel in Sep 2020 for a group of 2 travelers sharing accommodation. Please contact Africa Easy with preferred dates of travel and number of travelers.
– Rates are based on per person sharing and are approximate until the time of booking.
– Accommodation is subject to change based on availability on dates requested.
– Rates are quoted in USD and subject to change without prior notice due to circumstances beyond our control; i.e. fuel increases, currency fluctuations, etc.
– The above rate is subject to seasonal adjustments
Flight within Madagascar:
The following scheduled flight will be required for the above itinerary. Africa Easy will book this flight for you. Please note: the flight is not included in the safari package rate. We have quoted the airfare separately in the rates section below.
Day 11: TZ213 TLE/TNR 12:55/14:35.
Please note: The Madagascar 2020 flight schedules and fares are not available at this time. The 2020 flight times will be added to the itinerary when they become available and are subject to change. Fares are approximate until the time of booking.
Africa Easy does not make international air reservations and international air is not included in your quote. However, please do let us know if you would like assistance with booking your international air. We would be happy to put you in touch with our airline partner, Exito Travel to assist you with your international air reservation.
– Fully guided, 2 different guides with 2 different drivers
– Accommodation & meals as listed in itinerary.
– All meals outside Antananarivo are included. Bed & Breakfast only in Antananarivo.
– Private transfers airport/hotel/airport
– Round trip to Andasibe with 4WD
– Park entrance fees and all local ranger wages
– Touring as per itinerary including: Visit to Mandraka Nature farm, ateliers, workshops. Fianaratsoa City Tour, Tana City Tour and Ambohimanga visit.
– International air to and from Madagascar
– Flight TLE/TNR is not included in safari package rate
– Lunch & dinners while in Antananarivo
– Travel & Medical Insurance
– Visa and passport fees
– Any additional meals not listed as included
– Any additional activities not included above
– Items of a personal nature including souvenirs and laundry service
– Premium beverages including alcoholic beverages
Deposit & Payments
A completed & signed Africa Easy Reservation Form, along with your 20% safari package deposit and full regional and/or domestic air payment (if applicable) is required at the time of booking.
This itinerary is subject to the availability of all services at the time of making a reservation. No space is being held at this time. Please contact Africa Easy for the full terms and conditions that apply. We are happy to answer questions and discuss your trip.
What to Expect
A moderate level of exertion is required for this itinerary. The itinerary includes walks/nature hikes on dirt paths that are often over uneven terrain. Walking can be up and down steep and sometimes slippery hills, over or around exposed tree roots, and can also occasionally be off-trail where you may encounter wet leaves, tree roots and hanging vines. All guests must be able to climb steps unassisted.
Days are often long, and most wildlife-viewing activities are conducted on foot and require a combination of endurance, balance and a good view of the trail underfoot. Most of the required walking activities are considered moderate with regard to exertion level, though some are more difficult, particularly in the rain forests. Excursions can last several hours.
Some of the roads are winding, and guests who are prone to motion sickness are advised to carry medication for such conditions. It is common for roads to have potholes, creating bumpy driving conditions.
Depending on the time you travel, heat and humidity may be a factor making nature hikes more challenging.
Interested in more information? Please contact Africa Easy by calling 1-800-617-2319 or click here to e-mail the Africa Easy Team.
Please contact Africa Easy with preferred dates of travel.