Madagascar Family Holiday
15 day holiday from - £1,965 per person based on 2 adults and 2 children in a quad room. Excluding international flights.
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- Incredible endemic flora and fauna and many opportunities to see a large range of lemur species
- Diverse landscapes from rainforest and mountains to limestone massifs and coastal islands.
- Encounter the Betsimisaraka tribe and see some of their customs, skills and crafts.
- Explore some of the course of the extraordinary feat of the colonial-period Pangalanes Canal.
- Experience the fantastical tsingy features of the national parks.
- Take advantage of a huge range of activities on offer from aerial wire-courses to bush golf.
- Relax, snorkel and soak up the atmosphere on some of Madagascar’s paradise isles.
Suggested Madagascar Family Holiday Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive Antananarivo
Arrive in ‘Tana’. On arrival, you will be met and our representative will provide your transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time to explore the city. Overnight Gassy Country House
Day 2 – Antananarivo – Andasibe (Drive – 3 hours)
Depart after breakfast and drive eastward towards Andasibe, descending from the ‘hauts plateaux’ through the lush green landscape of rice terraces and scattered villages, a route which lends a blend of unexpected dramatic views, snapshots of the bustling local lifestyles, glassy lakes and stunning primary forest. During the 3 hour drive, you pause at a local waterfall, a place for “collective laundry” and indeed, highland tribal tradition dictates that, after funerals, whole families do their washing here, so the river purges away all the bad luck. A brief stop in Manjakandriana, an important agricultural city, supplying dairy and vegetables to the whole region. En route, we visit Pyereras Reptiles Park to get up close to its rare chameleons, snakes and frogs. As we enter the more humid region, keep a watch out for your first glimpse of lemurs. Upon arrival at Andasibe, you take a guided dusk walk inside the forest; there is a good chance of spotting two species of lemurs: Coquerel's Sifaka and the Brown Lemur. Overnight Vakona Lodge (B)
Day 3 – Andasibe National Park
Andasibe is probably the best national park in Madagascar and a good place to watch the Indri, the largest species of lemur on the island. We take a morning walk through the forest in search of this enigmatic creature as well as other wildlife, accompanied by an expert guide. Expect to see a huge range of flora and fauna, strolling beneath the extensive canopy of trees to the backdrop of the forest chorus. In the late afternoon you can visit a Betsimisaraka village, experiencing first-hand their tribal crafts, skills, customs and dances. Overnight Vakona Lodge (B)
Andasibe National Park
Andasibe National Park was created in 1989 amidst fears that logging and agriculture were rapidly destroying the rainforested east coast of Madagascar. Today its 155 square km humid forest provides sanctuary to some of the best of Madagascar’s wildlife, including the endangered aye-aye, bamboo lemurs, and chameleons. Most famously, it provides excellent opportunities for spotting the indri, largest of the lemurs, mistakenly named by French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat, when a local guide pointed it out shouting “Indri” - “look at that” in Malagasy. The name stuck! These beautiful animals have black and white markings and pale green eyes, a spectacular whooping call and live in the tree canopy. The park itself contains montane forest and a wealth of plant and birdlife. Madagascar’s geographical isolation means that many of these, from yellow-star thumb orchids and the tiny golden mantilla frog to the extraordinary giraffe-necked weevil and coral-billed nuthatch vanga, are endemics. In all, 109 species of birds, 28, species of reptile, 9 species of lemur and an almost incredible 24 species of frog make Andasibe both richly diverse and vital for wildlife.
The dominant tribal group in Andasibe village, the Betsimisaraka people also are the second most abundant tribe in Madagascar. Their name, meaning ‘The Many Inseparables’ indicates both their proliferation on the island and their close-knit culture. They have their strongholds in the east and were successful traders with Asian, Arab and European visitors. Typically, they work in the rice, lychee, coffee and vanilla growing areas and often wear clothing woven from local raffia. One distinct trait is their belief in a series of ‘fady’ (taboo) codes and the ‘kalamoro’, small mischievous woodland sprites who plague their villages. The ‘basesa’ style of music, often sung in Betsimisaraka tongue, is played alongside traditional dances which can be played on anything from accordions to electric guitars!
Day 4 – Andasibe – Manabato – Akanin’ Ny Nofy (Drive – 3 hours; boat – 1 hour)
Head eastwards, stopping in Brickaville, centre of sugarcane and citrus production, before plunging into the wilder reaches, taking the dirt road to Manambato, a stunning resort on the pearlescent white sands of Lake Rasoabe. From there you enjoy a 1 hour boat to reach the idyllic retreat of Akanin’ Ny Nofy. We cross a string of picturesque forest fringed lakes, before steering into the amazing Pangalanes Canal, built during the colonial period, where we can admire many birds amidst the luxuriant vegetation. Accommodation is sympathetic to the environs: low level and rustic by design. Overnight Palmarium Hotel (B)
Lemurs are a unique group of primates found only on Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. There are fifty species of lemurs, seventeen of which are on the endangered species list. Lemurs are prosimians, or primitive primates. They are social animals with long limbs, flexible toes and fingers, and long noses. Habitat loss is the main threat to lemurs today, as native forests are cleared for farmland. How and when lemurs became separated from the monkey family is unclear. Although it was once thought that lemurs were on Madagascar when the island separated from Africa, recent advances have shown that Madagascar was separated from Africa by hundreds of kilometres before lemurs evolved. Accordingly, the ancestors of Madagascar's lemurs must have crossed over from Africa on floating vegetation early in primate evolution and become isolated from Africa. Once on Madagascar, the lemurs evolved into the different species. Then, about 2,000 years ago, the first human settlers arrived on Madagascar from the Malaysian-Indonesian area. By the time the Europeans who wrote about the natural history of the island reached Madagascar in the mid-1600s, 17 species of lemurs had become extinct.
Day 5 – Akanin’ny Nofy
Akanin’ny Nofy means ‘Nest of the Dreams’: surrounded by the exquisite beauty of Ampitabe lake, boarded by dazzling white sands, crystal clean water, and only accessible by boat, the title seems apt. It is an ideal escape from the buzz of outside world in the heart of a natural paradise. Just beside the hotel, there is an excellent opportunity to really get close to many different kinds of animals – lemurs, chameleons, frogs included – inside the luxuriant rainy tropical forest private park of Palmarium Reserve. A day or night walk through the palms reveals highlights such as the indri, sifaka, ruffed and crowned lemurs that seem to have a natural curiosity for humans. With its wide tropical garden, many orchids and even the carnivorous pitcher plants can be spotted. Overnight at Palmarium Hotel (B)
Day 6: Akanin’ny Nofy – Tamatave – Antananarivo (Boat – 2 hours; Flight – 1 hour)
After a breath-taking view of the sun ascending over the lake at breakfast, head to the harbour. From here, embark on a spellbinding and tranquil 2 hour boat ride along the Pangalanes Canal to Tamatave. As with much of Madagascar, the journey itself is as mesmerising as the destination, with wildlife abounding and human activity in regular evidence along the shores. Transfer to the airport and fly back to Tana. Overnight Gassy Country House(B)
Canal des Pangalanes
The ingenious waterway of the Pangalanes Canal system has its origin in colonial times: the rough Indian Ocean fringes encouraged engineers to craft this network of linked lakes, river courses and lagoons to enable trade to pass unmolested along the coast. Having fallen into disuse, the 1980s saw a revival; courses were dredged and silted passages unblocked, so that now the pirogues, fishing boats and private craft can ply their way along its meandering and delightful route. Although no longer the key trading artery of its heyday, the canal still ripples with local life: along the shores, expect to see fishermen, fish traps, cones of wood, charcoal and cassava, as well as women washing clothing and children playing beside sandy shores and thatched wooden homes.
Day 7: Antananarivo – Diego-Suarez (Flight – 2 hours)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to Diégo-Suarez. After landing, there will be time to take in a short city tour of Diego, view its extraordinary natural harbour and explore its colonial and modern history. Of particular interest is the Commonwealth war cemetery which marks the graves of those who died in a little-known, but fascinating conflict during World War II. Afterwards, transfer to your lodge, Jungle Park. Much of the accommodation is treehouses and offers a beautiful view of the area. The park offers a wide range of activities for all comers, or can simply provide the chance to relax amidst the idyllic natural environment. Overnight Jungle Lodge in a Jungle Treehouse. (BD
Day 8: Diego Suarez
Immerse yourself fully in the stunning surroundings of Jungle Park: it offers the perfect setting for the youthful or energetic to take full advantage of the superb natural environment. The park prides itself on its diversity of activities and its sustainable ecotourism. Many activities are offered on the spot: the chance to explore the local scenery comes with hiking, bird watching and climbing, whilst more strenuous pass-times such as paintballing, bush golf, caving and even a challenging high-wire and zip-wire course are available to satisfy the full family range of tastes. Overnight Jungle Lodge in a Jungle Treehouse. (BD)
Named originally after its brutal Portuguese explorer who terrorised the indigenous population in the 16th century, the town was renamed Antsiranana (“Port” in Malagasy), but is little used. The setting above a huge deep-water natural port reveals its essential purpose, though its trading successes have been restricted in modern times by a lack of a decent road link. Diego Suarez was the setting for an unheralded, but significant skirmish during World War II: as a possession of the French Empire, the Allies were concerned that the puppet Vichy-French administration were about to offer access to the burgeoning Japanese territorial aspirations, from where attacks could easily be launched on key Allied positions along the Indian Ocean. This gave birth to Operation Ironclad, where a naval taskforce invaded Diego Suarez in May 1942 and, after intense fighting – 3 posthumous Victoria Crosses were submitted – captured it and, by November, the entire island. Today, the war cemetery tells the tale of the raid and of the 312 Allied troops buried there. The rest of the town retains much of its colonial grandeur as is generally a languid and relaxing place to wander through, the highlights being the welcoming craft shops and beachside restaurants.
Day 9: Diego Suarez – Joffreville – Tsingy Rouge – Ankarana (Drive 4 hours)
After breakfast, drive to Joffreville and experience the exquisite beauty and natural bounty of a morning visit to Amber Mountain (Montagne d’Ambre) National Park. Then, en route to your final destination, drive down a short detour along a dirt track to the hauntingly beautiful, Tsingy Rouge. Admire these evocative russet-tinted natural sculptures resulting from seasonal erosion by the local river. From there we skirt the edge of Amber Mountain National Park and its continued opportunities for wildlife sightings, heading 2 hours south until we reach Ankarana National Park. Overnight Ankarana Lodge (B)
Amber Mountain National Park
Created in 1956 this national park, located just 7 km south of Joffreville, is a tropical rainforest with an area of 182 km square. The altitude in the park ranges from 850m - 1485m and this helps to create its own microclimate which makes the flora and fauna unique. Seven species of lemur have been recorded in the park including the crowned lemur and Sanford's brown lemur which are usually easily spotted. Tiny lizards, mesmerising chameleons and quite breath-taking birdlife abounds: the Madagascar paradise flycatcher and the pitta-like ground roller are two gorgeous examples, while the local endemic star (out of 35 endemic species) is the tame and easily spotted Amber Mountain rock thrush. With a high annual rainfall rate, the park is covered with upland moist tropical forest, with numerous giant tree species, smaller ferns and several unique orchid species. This creates dramatic karst limestone scenery, including the perpendicular magnificence of the Tsingy Ankarana. Amongst its sundry scenic highlights is “Sacred Waterfall”, a splendid reward for a short stroll into the lush forest, lending excellent opportunities to spot lemurs and birds. The range of walking circuits is excellent: the Cascade Antankarana circuit is a very accessible option; the Cascade Antomboka is a little more of a challenge; other treks lead to the misty, crystal-clear crater lakes. It is also possible to ascend Amber Mountain itself and enjoy a spectacular view across the entire forest canopy.
Day 10: Ankarana Special Reserve
After breakfast, you start your day exploration of the "Tsingy Ankarana", where erosion of limestone highlands has conjured up a landscape of fantastic proportions, with spires and arêtes of karst scenery all around. The vegetation itself is as idiosyncratic as the Tsingy itself. A wander through the forest beneath the dizzying canopy, you will be surrounded by a huge range of trees, from figs, and palms to superb specimens of the Madagascan baobab. The park offers a huge range of trails and is stuff of dreams for adventure and wildlife lovers. Each new corner reveals geographically isolated and distinct landscape features and possible wildlife sightings. Only explored in detail in the 1960s, the cave systems in particular offer opportunities for investigation, either on or below the surface of the plethora of limestone features. Overnight Ankarana Lodge (B)
Ankarana Special Reserve
Ankarana Special Reserve is located about 2 hours south of Diego Suarez (Antsiranana) and covers around 183 km square, rising dramatically from the surrounding savanna landscape. Experiencing 2000mm mostly seasonal rainfall per anum, Ankarana is known for its spectacularly formed limestone karst pinnacles called tsingy along with its extensive cave system and network of underground rivers, some of which contain the world’s only subterranean crocodiles. Profuse, dry deciduous forest is found in much of the reserve and this habitat is one of the most densely populated primate regions in the world: visitors may encounter the crowned lemur, Sanford's brown lemur, Perrier's black lemur, the northern sportive lemur, the crowned and dwarf lemurs. A variety of chameleons and the baffling nocturnal leaf-tailed gecko can also be found in the reserve. Ankarana also boasts over 100 species of birds and the villain of the ‘Madagascar’ animated film, the fossa. The cave system itself is steeped in local legend and history, providing the Antankarana with safe refuge during the 18th century tribal wars. It is easy to see how, as the deep chasms and intricate passages harbour heavy vegetation and an abundance of wildlife.
Day 11: Ankarana – Ankify – Nosy Be (Drive – 3 hours, Boat – 1 hour)
Travel to Ambanja, passing alongside the stunning Tsaratanana Mountains which is home to Maromokotro, the highest peak in the country. The route reveals a seemingly infinite maze of ridges and peaks, stretching as far as the eye can see, and offers an abundance of photography opportunities. Continue to welcoming Cyrille plantation, an ethical co-operative style farm, which offers an excellent explanation of the crops such as cacao, coffee and vanilla that are prevalent in this fertile region of Madagascar. A short trip north leads to Ankify, a small picturesque harbour surrounded by hillsides of small fruit plantations. From here take the speed boat to Nosy Be, the seascape opening up to reveal glorious sandy shores and sumptuous islands. On arrival transfer to your hotel in Nosy Be. Overnight Home the Residence Madagascar (B)
Day 12: Nosy Be: Nosy Komba (Boat – 15 minutes); Nosy Tanikely (Boat – 15 minutes)
Today, excursions are available to nearby isolated and tranquil isles, accessible only by boat. First stop is Nosy Komba (literally ‘island of lemurs’). Black lemurs are easily seen here and guided walks, local handicrafts and even tribal dancing are all available. Continue to Nosy Tanikely, a tiny island with a matching light house, but hugely blessed in its marine and island wildlife. The idyllic white sands and exquisite turquoise shallows make it a veritable paradise: an ideal spot for watersports such as diving, fishing, and especially snorkelling where, with relative ease, you can see an amazing variety of corals, starfish, anemones, every colour and shape of fish, turtles and lobsters. Even a stroll on the dazzling shoreline can afford views of flying foxes and an array of birdlife. Return to Nosy Be at the end of the afternoon. Overnight Home the Residence Madagascar (B)
Day 13: Nosy Be & Nosy Iranja (Boat – 90 minutes)
Nosy Iranja, located to the southwest of Nosy Be, is referred to as “Turtles’ Island” after the visiting hawksbill and green turtles that bury their eggs in its immaculate white beaches. This flawless sanctuary, two tiny islands linked by an ivory sandbar, is also home to unique fauna and flora that live in gentle tranquillity surrounded by azure seas and natural coral reefs, teeming with exotic fish and even offering a vantage point for viewing passing humpback whales. Sun kissed beaches; an abundance of nature and a tropical climate provide the perfect setting for an unforgettable visit to this paradise. The island also boasts an intriguing lighthouse, designed by the famous Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. Back to Nosy Be by 2.00 pm, allowing time to enjoy some relaxation beside the shores of the Indian Ocean at the hotel. Overnight Home the Residence Madagascar (B) Note – It is possible to extend the number of days you spend at Nosy Be – contact us for prices.
Day 14: Nosy Be – Antananarivo (Flight – 1 hour)
Fly back to Tana and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your flight, there may be time to further explore the hills and attractions of the capital city, picking up some keepsakes from the excellent range of markets, bazaars and craft stalls. Overnight at Gassy Country House (B)
Day 15: Antananarivo – home
After breakfast, there is time for an excursion to nearby Tsarasaotra National Park, a serene setting from which to bid farewell to Madagascar, boasting a wildlife rich forest and a lake abundant in bird species. Soak up the atmosphere, try to spot one of the 14 endangered endemics, or watch the black heron’s fascinating wing-canopy fishing technique. Even the sport of tree-climbing is on offer here, for the more adventurous. Day use is available at Gassy Country House until 6pm before transferring to the airport for your late evening flight (B)