Essential Madagascar is a journey of discovery to this remarkable island nation that broke off from the super-continent Pangaea almost 200-million years ago. Evolving in isolation in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is home to more than 200,000 species, 80 per cent of which are found nowhere else on earth.
But this is not just a tour to see the extraordinary endemic flora and fauna of Madagascar: it is an opportunity to become fully immersed in the rich Malagasy culture. Our adventure begins in Antananarivo – affectionately known as ‘Tana’ by the locals – before heading to the central highlands and the southern part of this extraordinary island. We visit the magnificent national parks of Ranomafana and Isalo, where many species of lemur exist, including the shy and elusive Golden Bamboo lemur. We are privileged to witness the ‘turning of the bones’ ceremony – a day of great joy for the Malagasy families, as they celebrate the lives of their departed ancestors. Moving further south we visit the wonderful Vezo people who live in traditional fishing villages at Ifaty. Finally we return to the north of the island and visit Andasibe – where we encounter the largest lemur in Madagascar – the Indri. We invite you to join us as we journey to the heart of the cultural melting pot that is Madagascar!
Tour Fitness Level: Active
- Tour Madagascar’s capital city ‘Tana’ in an open top Citroen car
- Experience the ancient Malagasy ritual, ‘turning of the bones’, exclusive to Travel Directors
- See the endemic golden bamboo lemur in the rainforest of Ranomafana
- Bask in the world-class accommodation of Jardin du Roy, Isalo
- Wander through the ancient and ‘other-worldy’ vegetation of Isalo National Park
- Enjoy an exclusive dinner at the foot of a 1200-year-old baobab tree
- Go whale watching in the warm waters of the Mozambique Channel
- Watch fisherman unloading their catch on a remote beach in southern Madagascar
- Travel to Andasibe National Park on one of only three Michelin trains left in the world
- Hear the early morning howls of the endemic Indri lemur from our exclusive lodge
- Visit Lemur Island and enjoy the joyful experience of lemurs interacting with our group
- Get the most from your Madagascar experience with Travel Directors’ expert guides and naturalists throughout the tour
- All flights between Australia and Madagascar
- Internal flight in Madagascar
- All ticketable air taxes (may be subject to change)
- All national park entrance fees
- All accommodation (based on twin share)
- All meals as specified
- Travel Directors’ tour escort throughout
- Expert local guides
- All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
- All local sightseeing as per itinerary
- All tips and gratuities
Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final tour costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $3,000 paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.
01/08/2018 Australia – Mauritius – Antananarivo (D)
Depart from you chosen capital city to connect with the flight from Perth.
Depart Perth Air Mauritius MK 441, 13.05 Arrive Mauritius 17.45
Overnight in Mauritius.
02/08/2018 Antananarivo (BLD)
Depart Mauritius Air Mauritius MK288, 14.10 Arrive Antananarivo 15.05
On arrival in Antananarivo we transfer to our hotel which is located in a district known as ‘Little Paris’.
03/08/2018 Antananarivo – Antsirabe (BLD)
This morning we explore the city of Tana, as it is affectionately known by locals. Located between two mountains, it is a terraced city of low-rise buildings which form a labyrinth of arches, narrow paths, balconies and staircases before driving south, passing through typically beautiful highland country. Here the landscape is dotted with beautiful valleys and rice paddies and we have many photographic opportunities as we head towards Antsirabe.
Royal Palace Hotel
04/08/2018 Antsirabe (BLD)
This morning we take a sightseeing tour of the city by rickshaw and discover some of the amazing arts and crafts of the Malagasy people. This afternoon we are privileged to be guests at the annual Famadihana (‘Turning of the Bones’) ceremony which is a funerary tradition of the Malagasy people. Family crypts are opened up and the remains of dead ancestors are brought out to be wrapped in new cloth. Far from being a solemn occasion, it is day of great joy which celebrates family and kinship.
05/08/2018 Antsirabe – Ambositra – Ranomafana National Park (BLD)
Heading further south, we soon reach the woodcarving town of Ambositra. We stop here to see perhaps some of the most unusual and skilled craftsmanship to be found anywhere in the world. Some of the intricate carving and inlay work is simply stunning. Soon after Ambositra we start to see people dressed in the traditional clothing of the area, the colourful pancho lamba. Reaching the turnoff for Ranomafana National Park, we follow the Namorona River to arrive at our destination. As night falls we take a walk into the National Park to discover frogs, chameleons and the nocturnal mouse lemur, which is the smallest primate in the world.
06/08/2018 Ranomafana National Park (BLD)
Today is a special one, as we enter the magnificent 41,000-hectare rainforest that is home to the golden bamboo lemur. Discovered only in 1986 and found nowhere else in the world, this lemur feeds exclusively on a native bamboo, which contains cyanide and is found only in this area. This rainforest is also home to a dizzying array of reptiles and other species of lemur including red-bellied lemurs and the amazing Milne Edwards Sifaka, commonly known as the chocolate lemur. Ranomafana is also a paradise for birdlife, much of it endemic to Madagascar.
07/08/2018 Ranomafana National Park – Anja Park – Isalo National Park (BLD)
Leaving Ranomafana, we continue our drive south through the highlands. En-route to Isalo we stop at Anja Park – a community-owned reserve that is home to the ring- tailed lemur – the national animal of Madagascar – and many species of bird, including the Madagascar hoopoe and crested drongo. We then continue across the Horombe Plateau where the vegetation and landscape change dramatically to incredible granite outcrops and grasslands. Finally we descend to the fringes of Isalo National Park.
Hotel le Jardin du Roy
08/08/2018 Isalo (BLD)
Encompassing the entire length of the Isalo massif, this 81,000-hectare national park is characterised by vast eroded sandstone formations. Along the trail there are some Bara burial sites that line the path as it passes through scenery resembling the Grand Canyon. Soon we descend further and come across an oasis where tumbling waterfalls form a natural swimming pool. This kingdom is home to an amazing array of flora, which is unique even in Madagascar. After lunch we return to our hotel where the afternoon is at leisure. Early evening we venture out to ‘La Fenetre de l’Isalo’ – a natural sandstone outcrop shaped like a window, which offers wonderful photographic opportunities as the sun goes down.
09/08/2018 Isalo – Ifaty (BLD)
After breakfast we start our journey to the southwest of the island. Along the way we see the big colourful tombs of the Mahafaly tribe, and visit a local rum-making village. Soon after we see our first ancient Baobab trees as we enter the silver grey spiny forest which finally gives way to the azure waters of the Mozambique Channel. After lunch in Ifaty we explore the incredible botanical gardens where we can see Octopus trees and Baobab trees the height of skyscrapers! The vegetation of this park is 90% endemic to Madagascar.
10/08/2018 Ifaty (BLD)
The economy in and around Ifaty is centred on fishing. For generations the people of this area have fished employing the same traditional techniques that are used today. We visit the fascinating village of Ambolimailaka and meet fishermen and local Vezo people who inhabit this part of the island. A unique part of the country, this is a fantastic opportunity to experience the ‘Zanzibar quarter’ of Madagascar.
11/08/2018 Ifaty – Tulear – Antananarivo – Andasibe (BLD)
This morning we transfer early in the morning to Tulear airport for our domestic flight to Tana.
Depart Tulear, Air Madagascar MD 713, 08.25 Arrive Antananarivo 09.30
On arrival we transfer to Andasibe. The drive takes us through granite outcrops and then through a mosaic of paddy fields and lovely Merina villages that form the highlands of Madagascar.
12/08/2018 Andasibe (BLD)
Perhaps the most important national park in Madagascar, Analamazaotra is home to the largest lemur in the world, the Indri. Entirely endemic and unable to exist in captivity, this vegetarian lemur resembles a panda. It has no tail, walks on two legs, and can reach a height of more than three feet. It is sometimes described as looking like a four-year-old in a panda suit. The Indri is monogamous and when one partner dies, the other will continue mourning for its spouse for the rest of its life. The Indri is found only in this park and today there are only about thirty families in existence. This afternoon we travel to the Perinet Reserve where we visit Lemur Island. Here we have the opportunity to interact with the five species of semi-tame lemurs that live here.
13/08/2018 Andasibe – Antananarivo (BLD)
Today we travel back to Antananarivo and in the afternoon visit the superb curio market.
14/08/2018 Antananarivo – Mauritius – Perth (B)
This morning we have some free time before transferring to the airport for our flight to Perth via Mauritius.
Depart Antananarivo Air Mauritius MK 289, 16.50 Arrive Mauritius 19.35
Depart Mauritius Air Mauritius MK 440, 22.40
Arrive Perth 09.10
Travellers from elsewhere in Australia connect with the flight to your chosen capital city.
This tour is graded as ‘Active’. What is the reason?
In Madagascar we visit three national parks, which can only be reached on foot. Each national park will require a hike of up to 5kms and the terrain in Ranomafana is particularly hilly and uneven.
How long is the flight from Perth to Antananarivo?
Flying time from Perth to Mauritius is 8hr 35m. The connecting flight from Mauritius to Antananarivo is 50 minutes.
How safe is Madagascar?
Sensible precautions should be taken in the capital, Antananarivo, as with most large cities. Outside of the capital, the situation is secure.
What kind of clothing should I take?
Temperatures in Madagascar, particularly in the highlands, can be surprisingly cool, although the days are typically warm and sunny. Mosquitos are most prevalent in the early morning and evening, so long-sleeved shirts and long trousers should be worn at these times. Earthy-coloured clothing is best for walks in the national parks and we recommend bringing two pairs of comfortable walking shoes/boots and a good fleece.
How much spending money do I need for the entire trip?
Because almost everything is included, 750 Euros per person is usually ample for the whole journey. However, if you’re a keen shopper and like to buy lots of gifts and souvenirs, you may require more.
Are credit cards acceptable?
Credit cards are acceptable and ATMs are available in Madagascar – although they are not easy to find outside the capital, Antananarivo, and therefore should not be relied upon as a main source of funds.
Do I need vaccinations for this journey?
We recommend vaccination for typhoid, hepatitis A & B, diphtheria and tetanus. You should also seek advice from your doctor.
Is the water safe to drink en-route and what is the general standard of hygiene?
We err on the side of caution on all of our tours and advise travellers to drink only bottled water. This is easy to obtain everywhere. The general standard of hygiene in all three countries is surprisingly high, and as with all of our tours, we hand pick all of our restaurants for their quality and safety.
What is the climate like at the time we travel?
The weather can be cool in the early morning and evening, but generally ranges from 15-30 degrees. We recommend taking a good warm fleece for the evenings.
Do I need visas?
An Australian or British passport holder will need a visa for Madagascar which is granted on arrival at Ivato airport, Antananarivo. The cost of the visa is included in the tour price.
A lot of companies have many expensive optional extras on their tours. Do you?
We do not believe in a lot of expensive ‘optional tours’. Our itineraries are designed to make the best possible use of time and to include all the must-see sights, plus additional surprises. Therefore, practically everything is included in the tour cost.
What is the infrastructure like in Madagascar?
Madagascar had been on our radar for more than ten years before we finally took a tour group there in 2011, when we were confident that hotels and roads were constructed or completed and of a good standard. Madagascar now has excellent tourist infrastructure with some resorts of a world-class standard.
What currency should I take on this tour?
The currency for this journey is Euros. They should be in low denominations, clean and undamaged, and dated post-2006.
Are there internet facilities available en-route?
In the capital cities internet facilities are available, however in the country areas there is limited or no internet access.
Do mobile telephones work?
Both Telstra and Optus have partner networks in Mauritius, Reunion and Madagascar.
How much should we tip the guides and porters?
There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tipping and gratuities are included in the tour cost.
Listed below is a selection of books which you may wish to read prior to, or during, your journey.
Madagascar: A World out of Time
Lemurs of Madagascar
The Remarkable Baobab
The Primates of Madagascar
Muddling Through in Madagascar