Madagascar: Land of Lemurs
Discover dozens of lemur species, camouflaged chameleons, rare birds, and distinctive frogs as you traverse a cross-section of the “8th continent”
12 Days / 11 Nights
Activity Level Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.
Moderate to Challenging
Follow an astonishing evolutionary path through one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots harboring an exotic array of fantastic creatures, epic landscapes, and a blended Malagasy culture of Malayo-Indonesian and African-Arab ancestry. Designed for intrepid wildlife enthusiasts, this active Madagascar adventure reveals dozens of lemur species, camouflaged chameleons, rare birds, and distinctive frogs as you traverse a cross-section of the “8th continent” through the rainforests of the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and Perinet Reserve, to the endless beaches, baobabs, and spiny forests of the arid south.
Accommodations are carefully selected for comfort, Malagasy charm, and access to nature reserves and native communities. Within this intense kaleidoscope of nature, pass through rural farmlands and small communities learning about Madagascar’s socio-economic and environmental challenges, and experience the daily life and customs of the indigenous Antandroy tribe, hardly touched by development. Throughout this adventure, you are accompanied by local naturalist guides in each region.
A Few More Reasons to Go:
Wildlife trekking on day and night walks
White sand beach with snorkeling
Discover dozens of lemur species
Ivato Airport TNR
Ivato Airport TNR
Arrival in Antananarivo
Welcome to Madagascar! Upon arrival at Ivato Airport, you are met by your guide and accompanied to your hotel in Antananarivo, or ‘Tana’, as the locals call it. This urban hub has a captivating mix of traditional and French colonial architecture and an Indonesian influence. There is time to settle in and possibly explore the enormous Analakely Market, with its colored parasols and tiled roofs, before dinner.
About La Maison Gallieni
La Maison Gallieni is an intimate bed and breakfast in a historic house built in 1879 which was used to house the first bank created in Madagascar. Located on a hill in the historic heart of the Malagasy capital, it offers a spectacular view overlooking the town. Warm, contemporary design and elements of brick, wood, and stone create a soothing atmosphere throughout the house and its four rooms. Each room is equipped with air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a safe, a phone, and WIFI. Guests can enjoy the house library, outdoor lounge, swimming pool, garden, delicious home-made breakfast, and refined home cooking. Environmentally-friendly, the building uses ecological light sources and recycled rainwater. The upper levels of the mansion house the Consulate of Monaco.
Andasibe and Mantadia National Park
Head east to the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, a rainforest reserve, about a four-hour drive from the city. The journey is an introduction to rural life with scenes of farmers working in their rice fields, redbrick houses and roadside stalls selling fruits and vegetables. Sample some “koba”, a traditional sweet made from ground peanuts, brown sugar and rice flour, wrapped and roasted in banana leaves. Passing through the bustling city of Moramanga, take a ride on a pousse-pousse (bicycle rickshaw). Andasibe encompasses two protected areas, the Analamazaotra (or Perinet) Special Reserve and the much larger Mantadia National Park. Stroll through Andasibe village and visit a nearby private park run by the locals for close up views of indri indri, brown lemurs and diademed sifaka, as well as chameleons and birds. A night walk in the forest with a local guide reveals a variety of nocturnal species: mouse lemurs, white footed sportive lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, woolly lemurs, chameleons and frogs. A gourmet dinner completes your day.
About Mantadia Lodge
Located high on a hill, with panoramic views of the rainforest, Mantadia Lodge is conveniently located just outside of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. This chic and modern accommodation hosts 25 rooms equipped with WiFi, private terrace, and living rooms with wood burning stoves. Guests can enjoy the dining room’s spectacular view, reading area, bar, infinity pool, and massage rooms. Meals are crafted in the French tradition with locally sourced ingredients. Local guides lead the way as you explore the neighboring National Park or go for a night walk to find the more secretive nocturnal species of chameleon and lemur.
Mantadia National Park
A full day in the magnificent Mantadia National Park (1.5-hour-drive) provides the chance to see several lemur species such as the indri indri, diademed sifaka, grey bamboo lemur, red-bellied lemur, and white ruffed lemur. Hike through dense forest on primitive trails and marvel at the abundance of birds including the scaly ground roller, the pitta-like ground roller and the breasted coua. This is a naturalist’s goldmine with many seldom-seen species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Enjoy a memorable picnic by the Rianasoa Waterfall before visiting Lemur Island, a private reserve that protects rescued and habituated lemurs including bamboo lemur, black and white-ruffed lemur, brown lemur, and diademed sifaka. In the evening there’s an option for another guided night walk.
Perinet Reserve to Antananarivo
A morning visit to the popular Perinet Reserve offers another opportunity to go in search of the rare indri indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur, whose unforgettable, loud wail can be heard emanating from the misty forest. 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 walk through the rainforest. Birdwatchers should look for the velvet asity, the blue coua, the nuthatch vanga and plenty more endemic species. Perinet is also home to many reptiles, invertebrates, and some of Madagascar’s thousand-plus orchid species. Return to Antananarivo, with a picnic lunch en route. Explore the historical ‘la haute ville’ (upper town) with its noble brick mansions and their colonnades, sculpted balconies and large verandas, and visit the massive Rovan’i Manjakamiadana (Queen’s Palace) – a sacred place containing royal tombstones, where traditional rites still take place today.
Fort Dauphin and Madrare River Camp
Fly south to Fort Dauphin three hours where you are met by your guide and escorted to a local restaurant for lunch. Embark on a four-hour drive along a very rough road to Mandrare River Camp, settle into your tent, and savor the majestic views over the Mandrare River. Just before sunset, depart for a night walk in the Forest of Zenavo to watch diurnal lemurs bedding down and the nocturnal lemurs beginning to wake up in the eerie and prehistoric spiny forest. If you’re keen-eyed and lucky, you may spot sifakas and white-footed sportive lemurs, both species of mouse lemur, sleeping birds, chameleons, owls, and nocturnal sportive lemurs.
About Mandrare River Camp
Mandrare River Camp’s fully-equipped tents offer intimate access and insight to the spiny forest; home to an abundance of unique wildlife and the fascinating Antandroy tribe that inhabit this arid and otherworldly landscape. Ornate wooden furniture in each tent is individually hand-carved to depict a different local wildlife theme and each tent offers a private terrace, four-poster mosquito netted bed, wardrobe and dressing table, hot water, and baggage trunk. Dine around hand-carved palissandre wood tables in the warm glow of hurricane lamps accompanied by the calls of birds and other forest animals. Search the forests day and night for the five different species of lemur in the area. Visit the sacred forests, learn about the local villagers and their ancestral traditions, and visit the local markets. Mandrare is fully solar-powered, drawing all electricity and hot water needs from the sun. This helps contribute to the environment by reducing the carbon footprint and not adding to the pressure of deforestation in Madagascar. Mandrare River Camp also contributes to community projects helping local schools, rebuilding vital roads and protecting local forests that reenergize pride in local traditions, culture, and the environment.
Gallery Forest and Spiny Forest
Enjoy breakfast and coffee to the sounds of Madagascar birdcalls as the sun rises over the Mandrare River before you head out for the spectacular sacred gallery forest to the south of the camp. Depending on the river depth, you may walk or take a boat across the Mandrare River to reach this largely deciduous forest. One of the most famous inhabitants is the beautiful and entertaining Verreaux’s sifaka, an endangered lemur species sustained by moisture in succulent leaves; inquisitive groups of ring-tailed lemurs are also encountered on this walking excursion. Return to camp for lunch and a relaxed afternoon beside the pool. An indigenous tracker from the local community introduces you to the Antandroy culture and customs on an extraordinary walk through the sacred spiny forest among ancestral tombs of the local Antandroy tribe and an array of desert-adapted flora and fauna unique to this arid biome. Your naturalist guide and a tracker from the local community is on hand to give you an introduction. Cool down with sundowners on the Mandrare River bank.
Sunrise Walk in Spiny Forest and Village Visit
After a pre-dawn tea or coffee and a quick bite to eat, head to the spiny forest for a sunrise walk. Witness the sunlight break through the octopus trees while looking out for endemic birds such as crested coua, vangas and the running coua. As the lemurs warm up in the sun, you might even catch them leaping up to nine meters between spiny plants seemingly immune to the sharp thorns. Return to the camp for breakfast before a visit to the local market or the local village to meet the fascinating Antandroy tribe. A leisurely lunch at camp is followed by a relaxed afternoon watching life along the river from your tent terrace. Sundowner cocktails are served amid the towering baobabs. Watching the sun set and the moon rise with a view across these other-worldly trees is a magical experience. The local villagers may come to perform traditional dances. Storytelling, song, music and dance is at the heart of Antandroy culture to accompany the major rituals and events of everyday life.
Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest
Bid farewell to Mandrare on a four-hour, rough-road return journey to Fort Dauphin for lunch. Meet your next guide and continue on to Saint Luce (2.5 hours – more rough roads). This idyllic retreat is set on an exclusive sandy bay, fringed with forest-covered mountains and wildlife-rich mangroves. Explore this last untouched patch of coastal rainforest in southern Madagascar. Keep your eyes open for the five species and three sub-species of lemur, over 80 bird species, most of which are endemic, and an abundance of geckos, chameleons, and reptiles. Watch for nocturnal lemurs leaping through the trees, Madagascar scops owl, leaf-tailed geckos, and other masters of camouflage. Return to the lodge for dinner with local seafood as the centerpiece of the menu.
About Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge
Surrounded by sparkling blue seas, verdant rainforests and abundant wildlife, Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge offers both serenity and adventure in a comfortable, intimate setting. The spacious, well-appointed, thatch-roofed rooms lead directly onto pristine white sand beaches and the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Four luxury bungalows and one family villa are discreetly tucked along the edge of the forest, with private wooden terraces and stunning views across the bay. These rooms meld local wood, ravinala thatch and stone with modern comforts to create the perfect rustic luxury experience. Each accommodation offers private terrace with hammock, king-sized bed – 270 degree windows, full en-suite with hot fresh water, walk-in shower, solar electricity, mosquito nets, sun loungers and room safes. Go whale spotting, search the rainforest day and night for the five different species of lemur in the area, go snorkeling to uncover underwater mysteries or head up the mangroves to encounter crocodiles and unique birds. A mouthwatering feast of lobsters, oysters, mussels, and fresh fish flows from the kitchen and are enjoyed in the open sided, bar/dining area. Manafiafy is fully solar-powered, drawing all electricity and hot water needs from the sun to reduce the carbon footprint and contributes to community projects helping local schools, rebuilding vital roads and protecting local forests.
Antanosy Village and Mangrove Excursion
After a sunrise breakfast of fresh fruit, pain au chocolat and more, visit the Stitch project and woodworking shop to interact with the Antanosy community. Stitch was created to provide local women with sustainable livelihoods by training them in embroidery, English and business skills. Embroidery is a traditional Malagasy skill, which the women practice making beautiful purses, belts, and décor. Return to camp for a three-course lunch before your afternoon excursion to the nearby Sainte-Luce mangrove network by motorboat or kayak. The extensive mangrove and wetland eco-system stretches from Manafiafy to Fort Dauphin with the magnificent Anosy mountain range as its backdrop. Endemic bird species include the Madagascar malachite kingfisher, Madagascar pygmy kingfisher, Madagascar harrier hawk, Madagascar crested ibis and blue coua.
Sunrise Rainforest Walk and Afternoon Options
Before sunrise, head out on a walking safari with your guide in search of red-collared lemur conspiracies (the scientific name for lemur groups) leaping through the coastal rainforest canopy as they forage for food. Endemic to south-eastern Madagascar, the red-collared lemur lives in conspiracies of up to 20 individuals and is largely active at dawn and dusk. This is a great time for birding, with couas, vangas and parrots all singing in chorus to greet the day. Return to the lodge for a well-deserved breakfast. The rest of the day is yours with optional activities including a snorkelling excursion, a trip to see Madagascar’s largest bat, the flying fox, roosting in a nearby community forest, or deep-sea fishing (at additional cost, please inquire at check-in). Gourmet dinner at the lodge.
Fort Dauphin to Antananarivo
Bid farewell to the beach as you drive back to Fort Dauphin (2.5 hours very rough roads) and transfer to the airport for your flight back to Tana (3 hours). Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel in the upper town of Antananarivo. Depending upon the flight schedules, you may have time to visit Ambohimanga, 12 miles north-east of Tana. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the ancestral home of the Merina kings and queens who united Madagascar under one rule. It is a fortified sacred hill with 16 gates leading to the former house of King Andrianampoinimerina, together with a series of elegant royal summer homes. The King ruled the Kingdom of Imerina from 1787 until his death in 1810, and these amazingly well-preserved sites are a window into Tana’s royal history.
Arrival & Departure
Your trip begins with your arrival into Ivato Airport on Day 1. Upon arrival, you will be met by an Austin Adventures representative who will transfer you to La Maison Gallieni for check-in. On Day 12, you will be transferred to Ivato Airport for your flight home, approximately three hours prior to your flight departure time.
- Drive to Mantadia, village visit in Andasibe, night walk
- Morning visit to Perinet Reserve, drive to Tana, picnic lunch, visit to Queen’s Palace
- Sacred gallery forest walk, spiny forest wildlife walk
Within this intense kaleidoscope of nature, pass through rural farmlands and small communities learning about Madagascar’s socio-economic and environmental challenges, and experience the daily life and customs of the indigenous Antandroy tribe, hardly touched by development. Throughout this adventure, you are accompanied by local naturalist guides in each region.
The hallmark of an Austin Adventures vacation is our exceptional dining. All meals: breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, refreshments and receptions are included as indicated by itinerary. (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner). Alcoholic beverages and related gratuities are not included in the trip price.
After receiving your reservation and deposit, we’ll send you a pre-trip planner with general information about the area you’ll be visiting, a packing list, exercise guidelines, a guest information questionnaire and a liability release agreement for you to sign and return within 10 days.
Included in the Trip Price
- All guided tours and excursions
- English-speaking naturalist guides
- Airport-hotel transfers, land transportation; internal flights Antananarivo-Fort DauphinAntananarivo
- 11 nights’ hotel accommodation as indicated
- Laundry service at Mandrare and Manafiafy
- Meals as indicated [B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner]
- Soft drinks, local beers, house wines and spirits at Mandrare and Manafiafy
Not Included in the Trip Price
- International airfare
- Tips and gratuities
- Drinks, alcoholic beverages, and meals other than listed above
- Laundry service in Antananarivo
- Personal expenses for extra services, optional activities, or changes in your itinerary for reasons beyond our control
- Travel insurance for trip cancellation, medical services, or evacuation
- Any other items not mentioned above
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.1 Easy (1)
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.2 Moderately Easy (2)
Want to know how to fully experience the depth of beauty and culture in a place? Ask Carol Austin. A Montana native who treasures the land and people in her own backyard—be it Yellowstone, the Beartooths, or the family around her dinner table—Carol knows how to embrace any destination she explores, a feat at 40+ countries and counting. And with more than 20 years in the travel industry, she’s really good at helping guests plan—and fully enjoy—their adventure vacation, too. She co-founded Austin Adventures with her husband, Dan Austin.