Rainforests, Mountains & Beaches of Southern Madagascar

Our Rainforests, Mountains & Beaches of Southern Madagascar tour focuses on the varying scenic delights of Eastern and Southern Madagascar. 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. Then it ends pm the dry South-west coast of Madagascar for some days of relaxation at the beach. En route you visit charming Malagasy towns and villages and get a chance to immerse yourself  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 at the beach.

As always, this is a sample itinerary. And so it can be adapted to suit you with a couple of interesting variations. We show the 13 night version below. But you can also opt to leave out Andasibe National Park to make an 11 night itinerary…

Accommodation (11 nights) at a glance:

Overnight night Royal Palissandre Hotel, Antananarivo (Tana), Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
1 night Couleur Bleu Guesthouse, Antsirabe, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
1 night Hotel Artisan, Ambositra, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
2 nights Thermal Hotel, Ranofamana National Park, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
2 nights Relais de la Reine, Isalo National Park, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
3 nights Le Paradisier Hotel, Ifaty, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

1 night, Royal Palissandre Hotel, Antananarivo (or change to Lokanga Boutique Hotel), Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

2 (or 3) night Optional Extension to Andasibe

2 nights Vakona Forest Lodge, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, Eastern Rainforests, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

This extension can be at the end, as shown here. However its is better at the end as then you can travel direct from Vakona to Ivato Airport. With no need to spend a final night in Tana – unless you have a very early flight departure.

(If you incorporate it earlier – on Day 2 – then you would need to make it a 3 night extension (14 nights in total). So that the day ending at Antsirabe becomes Day 5. )

 

 

See Day by Day
Day 1

Transfer to your Tana hotel, Royal Palissandre or similar, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

On arrival at Ivato (Antananarivo) Airport, you are met and transferred to your hotel. On your way you will see rice paddies, and a colourful patch-work of houses. Plus all the daily life in this city of about 2 million inhabitants. Tananarivians mostly live from day to day jobs. This is called “Ady Gasy”: tires repairing, selling Chinese-made products in the streets, selling scrap.

City Tour – Time Permitting
Depending on your flight time, you will start with a tour of the city. We begin in the hills above the city with a visit to Ambohimangat, one of the 12 sacred hills of Tana. This is a World heritage site as classified UNESCO. This historical place was where the King Andrianampoinimerina started to unify the different kingdoms into one Madagascar. It still holds a strong spiritual significance. People go there with offerings and ask the blessing from the holy king sprit. From the palace you have a panoramic view over Tana. We return to the city where we tour for high, low and middle parts of the city – both in elevation and in wealth.

Antananarivo
Tana, (as the capital city of Madagascar is conveniently called) is a brightly coloured mélange of French colonial architecture, multistoried houses and narrow alleys.

Tana must have been a beautiful city at one time. Today, the city is quite often a shock to first time visitors – throngs of people, buildings in a state of decay, street urchins, hooting and belching old French cars and the lively hustle and bustle of the street markets, all combine to make Antananarivo (Tana) a bit overwhelming at first. However, once this realization sets in, Tana becomes quite a fascinating city to explore. The city sprawls over several hills with lots of narrow houses, cobblestone streets and stone staircases linking one street to another. Each street seems lined with traders and the array of merchandise on offer in the stalls and markets is in a class of its own. Malagasy embroidery, semi-precious stones and local crafts are all jumbled together.

Royal Palissandre Hotel
The attractive 4 star Royal Palissandre Hotel is one of the more modern of the Tana hotels. It has a pleasant hillside setting overlooking the ‘City of Thousands’. There are 46 are simply furnished but well-appointed rooms. All have air conditioning, polished wooden floors, safe, minibar, TV, Wi-Fi, telephone and full bathroom with bath and shower.


Accommodation: Royal Palissandre Hotel
Located in: Antananarivo - Madagascar

Day 2
Travel to Antsirabe via Tana, Couleur Cafe,Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

Today you head south to Antsirabe (170km, approx 3 hours drive). 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 3
Travel to Ambositra , Hotel Artisan, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

This morning after breakfast, we continue our drive to Ambositra (approx 4 hours). This is the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry. We continue through the highland landscape, eucalyptus forest and Rocky Mountains. We’ll pass the “col of tapia”. The tapia is a type of tree which resists all fire. We arrive in Ambositra at around noon and transfer to the hotel.

Ambositra is the capital of Zafimaniry which becomes of the name of the famous woodcraft of this region. The Zafimaniry people build entire houses using their own wooden architecture. Their art is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. We enjoy a walking tour of the town as all points of interest can be found along the main road. Plus there’s an opportunity to buy some of their wooden handicrafts.

Note: If you are really short of time, you could choose to combine Days 3 and 4 to make one long driving day of approx 7+ hours. But we dont recommend it!

Southern Madagascar valley

Day 4

Travel to Ranomafana, Themal Hotel or similar, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

This is quite a long driving day (4-5 hours) – 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.

There’s an option of a night walk, especially between September and April.

This allows you to see the nocturnal lemur species which race up and down the trees such as the eastern woolly lemur, rufous mouse lemur, the brown mouse lemur and the greater dwarf lemur, as well as chameleons and the striped civet which seem to have become very inquisitive and habituated to humans.


Accommodation: Setam Lodge
Located in:

Day 5

Morning tour of Ranomafana NP

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, 7 species of tenrec, various mongoose species and an array of interesting reptiles. Keep an eye out for the incredible giraffe beetle. Plus birding is excellent in the Ranomafana National Park with at least 30 endemic species.

Ranomafana

Note: You have a choice whether to spend a second night here. Or to continue to Fianarantsoa. The former gives you two nights in one place. The latter breaks the next day’s travelling. If you choose to stay a second night, then the afternoon is at leisure. You can swim in the natural hot thermal waters.


Days 6 & 7

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

Head south to Fianarantsoa for a brief visit before continuing to Isalo. (If you travelled south on Day 5, then you would have time to enjoy a short walking tour of the city in the late afternoon.)

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.

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.

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 7

Full day enjoying Isalo National Park

Today you enjoy a full day excursion into Isola.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.

 


Days 8 to 10

Head to Ifaty on the coast for 3 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…

Madagascar white tropical beaches

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 11
Transfer to Tulear Airport for flight back to Tana. Overnight in Tana, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast

Today you take the short road transfer back to the town of Tulear (60 minutes) and fly back to Tana.

Note: Flight schedules change regularly in Madagascar. In order to guarantee to connect with your homeward flight, we have assumed that you will need to spend a final night in Tana.

Stay overnight at Hotel Palissandre again. Or you may prefer to opt for the Lokanga Boutique Hotel which lies in the old part of town high above the city, with stunning views.  (This is a similar price but, being small, it is not always available.)


Accommodation: Lokanga Boutique Hotel
Located in: Antananarivo - Madagascar

Accommodation: Royal Palissandre Hotel
Located in: Antananarivo - Madagascar

Day 12

Transfer back to Ivato airport. You may like to take a city tour in the morning (optional extra cost) if you didnt have time on Day 1. (See Day 1 for a description.)

Alternatively you can extend this tour to visit the eastern Rainforests of Andasibe…


Day 12 - optional 2 night extension to Andasibe National Park
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. 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.

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.

 


Optional Day 13
Explore the rainforests

Today 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.


Optional Day 14
Early morning visit to the park, before transferring back to Ivato Airport for your homeward flight

Today you enjoy a final early morning visit to the park, prior to transferring back to the airport in time for evening flight home.

Note: If your flight is earlier in the day, we recommend adding an extra night to allow enough time to visit both the Indri (Perinet) Special Reserve to see the indri and also the wilder Mantadia part of the national park.  This night would be at an extra cost.


View Interactive Itinerary
See Route on Map
Includes:
All accommodation, meals as specified, services of an English-speaking driver, for transfers, tours with park guides in the National Parks (Only official guides are allowed to conduct the walking tours.)
Excludes:
Domestic flights – typical prices are shown but a confirmed price is given on the quote, optional tours, all services & meals not specified, drinks, visa costs and items of a personal nature eg. tips, curios
Best time to go:
Drier months of April through to mid December
Minimum number:
2 people
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.
Notes:
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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