Our Rainforests, Mountains & Beaches of Southern Madagascar tour focuses on the varying scenic delights of Eastern and Southern Madagascar as you head south through the lush central highlands visiting Ranomafana National Park (with its extensive wildlife including the rare Golden Bamboo lemurs) and the very scenic Isalo National Park to end on the dry South-west coast of Madagascar for some days of relaxation at the beach. En route you visit charming towns and villages and get a chance to immerse yourself more fully in local Malagasy life and culture.

This is a wonderful mix of wildlife (with plenty of endemic species to be seen in Andasibe and Ranomafana), stunning scenery and relaxation. It also has quite a bit of walking so we recommend that you are at least moderately fit as much of the wildlife-viewing in the parks is by foot.

This itinerary is quite unusual in Madagascar in that you do not to keep returning to Tana during your tour. You are with your private guide from Andasibe all the way through Southern Madagascar to the south-west coast and then you have a few days ‘on your own at the beach. However you will also make use of the local English-speaking park guides when you are in the national parks at Andasibe, Ranomafana & Isalo.

Note: It is a very long travelling day from Andasibe to Antsirabe (on Day 5). So if you prefer, you can opt to have 2 nights at Andasibe with a night en route in Tana. Furthermore we have added a night

This is a sample itinerary and so it can be adapted to suit you. We show the 13 night version but you can also opt to leave out Andasibe-Mantadia National Park which will make it into a 10 night itinerary…

Rainforests, Mountains & Beaches of Southern Madagascar safari (13 nights) at a glance:

1 night Royal Palissandre Hotel, Antananarivo (Tana), B&B
3 nights Vakona Forest Lodge, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, Eastern Rainforests, B&B
1 night Couleur Bleu Guesthouse, Antsirabe, B&B
1 night Setam Lodge, Ranofamana National Park, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
1 night Tsara Guesthouse, Fianarantsoa, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
2 nights Relais de la Reine, Isalo National Park, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
4 nights Le Paradisier Hotel, Ifaty, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

The 10 night version simply leaves out the 3 nights at Vakona Forest Lodge and heads straight south from Antananarivo.

See Day by Day
Day 1
Overnight in Antananarivo, Royal Palissandre Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

On arrival in Antananarivo airport, you proceed to the Arrivals Hall, where you are met by our English-speaking Malagasy agent. They will then assist you with exchanging money before you are transferred to the Lokanga Boutique Hotel, Pavillion de l’Ermyne or Royal Palissandre for your overnight stay.

Tana, (as the capital city of Madagascar, Antananarivo, is called) is a brightly coloured melange of French colonial architecture, multi-storied houses and narrow alleys.

A city with unique architecture, oodles of charm and bustling streets, it overlooks over the rolling central highlands of Madagascar surrounded by fields of rice paddies. Please click for background information.

The attractive 4 star Royal Palissandre Hotel is one of the more modern of the Tana hotels and is one of our favourites. It has a pleasant hillside setting overlooking the ‘City of Thousands’. It is an attractive building with rose brickwork, Mantasoa stonework, and much use of rosewood and marble in the interior.

Accommodation: Royal Palissandre Hotel
Located in: Antananarivo - Madagascar

Day 2
Scenic transfer to Andasibe National Park, Eastern Rainforest, Vakona Forest Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

You are collected by your guide and drive to the Eastern rain forests and Andasibe. This scenic transfer takes approx 3-3½ hours on a good but winding road with picturesque scenery en route. Along the way there are lovely views of rice paddies and the unique red-bricked houses of the Merina people, the dominant culture in this region.

You have the rest of the day to explore the forests at your own leisure. From late August to March you may be able to join an optional night walk into the park to see the nocturnal lemur species and Tenrecs among others.

Andasibe National Park

The eastern rain-forests of Madagascar are a must-see on any Madagascar lemur safari. The tropical montane rain-forest of Madagascar is one of the densest in the world and its floral diversity is particularly rich. A big part of that attraction is the appeal of the Indri lemurs which have their own special protected part of the Andasibe park.

Note: Ideally we recommend 3 nights for your Andasibe safari as then you can visit both the Indri (Perinet) Special Reserve to see the indri and also the wilder Mantadia area on the following day. However alternatively you can break the long travel day on Day 5 by returning to Antananarivo to overnight on Day 4.

The lovely Vakona Forest Lodge lies 8 km from Andasibe (Périnet), between Andasibe and the Mantadia National Park. The building has been designed around an octagonal reception area (common in Malagasy architecture) with a lounge, bar and restaurant with a huge fireplace in the middle to keep the airy space warm in winter. There’s also a small library. Outside you can relax on the veranda overlooking the forest and lake or around the large central swimming pool.


Accommodation: Vakona Forest Lodge
Located in: Andasibe National Park - Madagascar

Days 3 to 4
Explore the rainforests

On Day 3, you have the whole day to explore the rain forest with the Park’s specialist guides. We recommend taking the very early morning walk into the most accessible part of Andasibe National Park, the Indri Special Reserve to see the lemurs whilst they are most active. Click here for more information on Andasibe National Park.

On Day 4 you enjoy a full day visit to the wilder, nearby rain forest of Mantadia National Park. This offers fairly challenging terrain, so it best if you are reasonably fit, but you can do as much as you feel comfortable with.

Day 5
Travel to Antsirabe via Tana, Couleur Cafe, Bed & Breakfast

This is a long driving day as you drive back to Tana but then continue on to Antsirabe. Along the way you see Merina villages on dotted amongst the highland landscape and eroded hills called ‘lavaka’. En route you will see many burial tombs; some simple, others elaborate which play an important role in the local people and their fascination with the afterlife. The landscape is somewhat reminiscent of the Far East with its rice fields and lush green landscape.

Antsirabe (‘the place of salt’) is a colonial spa town on Madagascar’s high plateau. With a cool climate and thermal springs, it is one of the most attractive towns in Madagascar. Its former colonial glory can be seen in the wide boulevards, cathedral and the original thermal baths. But this is now jumbled up with modern Malagasy life with colourful pousse-pousse carriages and street vendors everywhere you look. Antsirabe is also known for its gems and semi-precious stones.

Couleur Cafe is a small little guesthouse with eight bungalows in a charming garden. The rooms are light and airy each with a bathroom with shower and a fireplace as it can get very chilly in the evenings on the high plateau! The main lodge has a sitting room and a communal dining table as well as a small curio shop selling local wares.

Accommodation: Couleur Cafe
Located in: Isalo & the Route South - Madagascar

Day 6
Travel to Ranomafana, Setam Lodge or similar, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

This is quite a long driving day – but probably one of the most picturesque – as you continue through the highlands to Ranomafana National Park visiting the wood carving centre of Ambositra en route.

The Ranomafana National Park was created in 1991 to protect some of the mid-altitude virgin rain forest in this mountainous region. If you are interested in botany, this park should be on your ‘must- see’ list for Madagascar. It first came to world attention with the discovery of the very rare Golden bamboo lemur. These can often be seen grazing in the bamboo stands, but this is just one of 12 species of lemur here.

Setam Lodge is a comfortable 3 star lodge walking distance to the Ranomafana National Park. Ten bungalows are perched on a steeply terraced site look out over the river valley below and the stunning views of the mountains and surrounding rain forest.

If you wish you can take an optional nocturnal walk in search of chameleons, mouse lemurs and some striped civet which have become very inquisitive and habituated to humans.

Accommodation: Setam Lodge
Located in:

Day 7
Morning tour of Ranomafana NP and then drive to Fianarantsoa, Tsara Guest House or similar, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

Meet with a local guide and set off on foot for a morning trekking in the park for about 3-4 hours. The habitat is primarily rain forest which straddles the hillsides and can be quite humid. The paths are well defined and well kept, although they can be quite steep at times and slippery after rain. The park covers nearly 40,000ha and some of the commonly seen lemurs include the diademed sifakas which love to leap through the forest canopy, red-bellied and red-fronted lemurs, the golden and greater bamboo lemurs and the eastern grey bamboo lemur.

But lemurs are not the only attraction! It is also home to striped civets, seven species of tenrec and various mongoose species and an array of interesting reptiles. Keep an eye out for the incredible giraffe beetle. Birding is excellent in the Ranomafana National Park with at least 30 endemic species.

After a full morning in the park, you continue south to the attractive town of Fianarantsoa (1-2 hours drive). Fianarantsoa is one of the more attractive Malagasy cities with the ambience of a large sleepy town. It has a lovely setting on a series of terraced hillsides, rather like a smaller version of Tana. Also like Tana it has an atmospheric old upper town with crumbling colonial buildings, narrow winding streets and plethora of churches. Fianar (as Fianarantsoa is nicknamed) is also the perfect place to enjoy sense of Malagasy city life with lots of street traders selling all manner of produce including local spices.

Tsara Guesthouse has 18 en suite rooms which are all individual, as well as a lively restaurant, bar and small garden.

Days 8 & 9
Travel South to Isalo National Park, Relais de la Reine, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

Today, as you head south from Fianarantsoa, the scenery begins to change as you leave the ‘Gateway to the South’ mountains. Here the village architecture also begins to change, from the taller buildings of the central highlands where the people are more akin to those from south-east Asia to the simple ‘African-style’ houses.

The striking Isalo National Park stands out, literally and figuratively. The Isalo massif lies amidst the relatively flat grasslands and is a focal point for all visitors travelling south. It offers an awe-inspiring landscape where quirky eroded sandstone outcrops protrude in architectural formations, suggesting many shapes such as ‘the tortoise’, ‘the masks’ and ‘the crocodiles’. Dramatic gorges and canyons have small streams and natural pools are coloured a surreal brilliant turquoise-green , the colour emanating from their mineral content.

The following day, Day 9, you enjoy a full day excursion into Isola National Park.The park is largely inaccessible by vehicle so you can enjoy trails up the ravines and also onto the top of the main massif. With a local guide, you’ll be able to walk to Monkey Canyon.Ring tailed lemur and sifaka are frequently sighted. There is a delightful natural spring which is great for a quick dip to cool off.

You stay for 2 nights at Relais de la Reine which lies on the southern boundary of the Isalo National Park hidden away in the granite boulders. The main lodge enjoys a panoramic view over the Isalo massif. 30 rooms, each with wooden floors, sepia photos and its own veranda, are set in the lush gardens filled with bougainvillea and scented jasmine.

Accommodation: Relais de la Reine
Located in: Isalo & the Route South - Madagascar

Day 10
Head to Ifaty on the coast for 4 nights, Le Paradisier Hotel, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

Today you head to the south-west coast (approx 4½ hours) into the terrain of the somewhat surreal ‘spiny forest’ with cactus, euphorbias, even baobabs.

Ifaty lies close to the town of Tulear on the South-west coast and offers sand, sea and snorkeling. It is the ideal place to relax after your wildlife safari. Situated in the largest lagoon of the country, Ifaty is protected by a large coral reef hence the good diving and snorkeling. Ifaty is also a popular place for birdwatchers, given its proximity to a fast-dwindling area of spiny forest where some of the southern endemics can be seen. Here you can also experience the Vezo fishermen’s life. Many mangrove trees line the coast alternated by  villages which earn their living on fishing. Click here for more…

Le Paradisier Hotel is set on the golden dunes overlooking the southern beach of Ifaty lagoon, There are 20 well-designed bungalows built of stone and thatch, each with a bathroom and mezzanine living level and balcony which offers unsurpassed sea views on three sides.

Accommodation: Le Paradisier Hotel
Located in: Madagascar - Southern Madagascar

Day 14
Transfer to Tulear Airport for flight back to Tana. Breakfast

Today you take the short road transfer to the town of Tulear (45 minutes) and fly back to Tana.

Note: Flight schedules change regularly in Madagascar. In order to connect with your homeward flight, you may need to change to have the final night in Tana as well (or add a night.) This also depends on which airline you are taking…

View Interactive Itinerary
See Route on Map
Accommodation on Bed & Breakfast basis; Dinner included on 8 nights, Entrance and local guide fees in all parks and reserves; English-speaking tour guide in reserves, domestic flights from Tulear to Antananarivo
Drinks and personal expenses; personal items such as phone, laundry, gratutities.
Health requirements:
Anti-malaria precautions essential. It is also suggested that you drink bottled water and take care to avoid uncooked and unpeeled fruits and vegetables. Medical facilities are few and far between.
Flight schedules change regularly in Madagascar. In order to connect with your homeward flight, you may need to change to have the final night in Tana as well (or add a night.) This also depends on which airline you are taking
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