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Much like Galįpagos, this is a place that conjures up images of amazing wildlife - wildlife that is among the best in the world in terms of diversity and abundance, and in some cases is as approachable as the wildlife of Galįpagos. Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, having broken away from Africa well over 150 million years ago. This isolation makes it a living laboratory of evolution, with plants and animals found nowhere else on earth - lemurs, chameleons, geckos, frogs, tortoises, and myriad birds. ...Ringtail Lemurs gathering in groups on the ground to warm up in the morning sun... The haunting calls of Indris high in the forest canopy... A glimpse of a Sifaka as it skips across the trail ahead... Radiated Tortoises, well, just sitting there... At the same time the forests and valleys are filled with wonderful birds - the iridescent Madagascar Kingfishers flitting along the waterways, paradise flycatchers, Madagascar White eyes, Giant Coua, Madagascar Scops Owl, Madagascar Fish-Eagle... The flora too is astounding, from the surreal Boabab trees, to the spiny forests of the west and south, or rainforests of the east.

The landscapes are equally as spectacular - the bright red soil of the highlands; the emerald green forest canopy festooned with orchids and other epiphytes; shades of grey in the limestone karst of the Tsingy; green rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls; white sand beaches, and all of it surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Madagascar truly is a land of rich colors and superlatives!

Neither solely a birding or wildlife tour, nor just a cultural tour, this is a general Natural History tour - a mix of amazing wildlife, spectacular scenery and rich cultural discoveries. The people of Madagascar are amazingly welcoming. They are gracious, friendly and nearly always smiling (and quite often singing). Madagascar is an explorer and photographer's dream in all ways!

We invite you to join us in Madagascar, on one of life's truly great expeditions!

Our expedition is 26 or 27 days in total, including travel days, timed for the season where birds are mating and wildlife is active, including a good possiblity to see lemur babies, and whale sightings along the east and southwest coasts. With more than 3 weeks in Madagascar this is truly an in-depth exploration, taking in 6 distinct reserve areas, including the best wildlife, plus the capital city of Antananarivo.

October 18-November 13, 2016 (sold out: we anticipate returning to Madagascar October 2018)

Group size is limited to just 12 participants, plus the Tour Leader and in-country guides.


Early this afternoon meet at the Air Madagascar ticket counter in the Charles De Gaulle (Paris) International airport for our afternoon departure on Air Madagascar.

Our flight will arrive in Madagascar early this morning. Visas may be secured on arrival. After clearing customs and immigration we will transfer the short distance into Antananarivo (Tana) – the capital city. The city is spread over several hilltops, with the surrounding flatlands dominated by rice farming and agriculture. The lovely Hotel Pavillon de l “Emyrne, set amid the winding streets of central Tana, will have our rooms waiting for us on arrival so that we may rest this morning. Following lunch at or near the hotel we will explore the old city, including the area around the Palais de la Reine, or Queen’s Palace… fantastic views, all steeped in history.

Morning flight to Maroansetra, a busy but also very Malagasy port town on the east coast. Looking down from the flight, as we near the coast the tropical greens and red earth of the highlands will give way to the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. From the airport we will transfer to the port, then continue by boat to the remote Masoala Peninsula and the Masoala Forest Lodge (roughly 90 minutes by speedboat). The Masoala Peninsula is largely National Park, and is a fascinating area where the rain forest comes practically down to the ocean edge, with coastal vegetation different from inland rain forest. This will be our first experience with Madagascar“s nature, where almost everything is endemic! We’ll be on the look out for nocturnal lemurs, frogs, reptiles... This lodge is a luxury tented camp, with 6 twin rooms, so we will be taking the entire camp.

October 21, 22 & 23 ∙ MASOALA PENINSULA
Three full days of exploration in the park, from forest waterfalls, winding streams and extensive boulder strewn empty beaches. White-fronted Brown Lemurs, Red-ruffed Lemurs, Tenrecs (similar to a hedgehog, but cuter), Tomato Frogs, Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher, Common Newtonia, Madagascar White-Eye, Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher, Helmet Vanga and more all might be possible. In addition to hiking and canoe excursions there are options for kayaking and snorkeling along the shoreline (kayak & snorkeling equipment included). At night we will look for Eastern Woolly Lemurs, and Small-toothed Sportive Lemurs, as well as weird reptiles! Overnights: Masoala Forest Lodge.

Early this morning we return to Maroansetra. Two short flights will have us i Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro), on the southern coast, in time for a late lunch. On arrival we will set out by private mini-bus for the inland Berenty Reserve. Overnight: Berenty Private Reserve.

October 25 ∙ BERENTY
At Berenty we will thoroughly explore the riverine gallery forest, where we will find large troops of curious Ring-tailed Lemurs, plus Verreaux Sifaka, Madagascar Flying Fox, Giant Coua, Hook-billed Vanga and so much more. We will again plan a night hike here, plus possibly visit one of the surrounding sisal plantations. Overnights: Berenty Private Reserve.

Today we return to Fort Dauphin, likely stopping at a local market plus the Andohahela National Park with its spiny and transitional forests, along the way. Overnight: Hotel la Croix du Sud, Fort Dauphin.

Late morning we transfer to the airport for our connecting flights to Toliara via Tana. Depending on the schedule we might have time to explore a bit, even fitting in a visit to a local museum which has a preserved specimen of the prehistoric coelocanth fish on display. Overnight: Serena Hotel, Toliara.

This morning we will transfer by motorboat, followed by 4-wheel drive jeeps… traveling down this remote section of the coast. En route we will take an outrigger pirogue ride to the tiny island of Nosy Ve, which is a breeding ground for the beautiful Red-tailed Tropicbird. Exploring on foot – easy hiking – will reveal interesting shorebirds and several species of herons. Enjoy a packed lunch on the beach before returning to the mainland and resuming our journey. We are in the heart of the dry spiny forests of the southwest now, ultimately arriving in the tiny fishing village of Ambola. Overnight: Anakao Ocean Lodge.

A full day touring the Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, with the option to travel in the local fashion, by Omby (ox) cart (travel by 4-wheel drive is also possible). The park is famous for its spiny forest (many plants look like cacti, but are in a separate Didiereaceae family), blind cave fish, and a huge lake populated by Greater Flamingo. As the day fades Ringtail Lemurs return to the nearby cliffs to rest for the night. Only opened to visitors a few years ago, the visit here will be a true adventure. Overnight: Anakao Ocean Lodge.

Morning dawns here with small fishing pirogues sailing out with the breeze, to return in the afternoon with their catch. We will plan a snorkeling outing here, going out to the sheltering reef where the snorkeling is the best (several species might look familiar from the Galįpagos). The water is reasonably warm, and the coral has suffered some in recent years. We also anticipate leisure time here, for simply taking in where you are – beachcombing, visiting the village, hiking, reading, or simply savoring where you are. Overnight: Anakao Ocean Lodge.

This morning we return by vehicle and boat to Toliara, connecting with a midday flight up the west coast to the commerce-rich city of Morondava. We will have time for a bit of exploration o arrival. Overnight: the beachfront Hotel Chez Maggie, Morondava.

November 1 ∙ KIRINDY
Traveling by 4-wheel drive vehicles we depart for the Kirindy deciduous dry forest reserve, via the famous Avenue des Baobabs. These amazing trees look as if they have put their head in the ground, and roots in the air! The accommodation at Kirindy is simple, but just for one night. On the other hand, wildlife is spectacular: Verreaux Sifaka, Red-fronted Lemur, Grey Mouse-Lemur, Leaf-tailed Gecko and chameleons. Also, if we are lucky, Madagascar Ground Boa, the rare and strange Giant Jumping Rat, and the Fosa – Madagascar’s top predator. Birds include Crested Coua, Madagascar Green Pigeon, and Madagascar Nightjar. Overnight: Kirindy Preserve.

November 2 ∙ KIRINDY to BEKOPAKA
Today we continue inland and north towards the village of Bekopaka. Our journey involves two traditional river crossings by simple ferry, and gives a good glimpse into the lives of the Sakalava people, with their herds of cattle and scattered homes. Arriving at Bekopaka early evening, we’ll have time to settle in before dinner at the lovely hilltop Hotel L “Orchidee Bemaraha (complete with a swimming pool). Overnight: Hotel L ‘Orchidee Bemaraha.

November 3, 4 & 5 ∙ TSINGY de BEMARAHA
We will have three full days to explore this area of amazing limestone karst landscape (a UNESCO World Heritage site); the Petit Tsingy and the Grand Tsingy – utterly indescribable landscape, plus unique wildlife surprises such as the delightful Decken“s Sifaka, Red-fronted Brown Lemur, Giant Jumping Rat, Sickle-billed Vanga, Madagascar Wood-rail (soon to be declared a new species; the Tsingy Wood-rail) and maybe the rare Madagascar Fish-Eagle on the Manambolo River. As a limestone area, there are some amazing caves to explore, and the Tsingy itself has been made accessible via hanging bridges, sturdy ladders and ingenious footholds - fantastic explorations! One day we will savor a tranquil pirogue paddle along the river with a picnic lunch on a sandbar. Overnights: L “Orchidee Bemaraha.

Today we return to Morondava. Our goal is to return to the Avenue of the Boababs at sunset - one of the world-famous Madagascar photo stops... Overnight: Hotel Chez Maggie, Morondava.

November 7 ∙ MORONDAVA
We have several options today, possibly including a tour of the local mangrove lagoons, or a visit to Belo-sur-Mer, where huge ocean-going wooden “boutres” are built,or another neighboring village that is opening up... we will choose the most interesting option available. Overnight: Hotel Chez Maggie, Morondava.

November 8 ∙ MORONDAVA & TANA
This morning will be a choice, either at leisure at the hotel and the surrounding beaches (where the activity begins early with local fishermen readying their vessels), or a guided visit to the colorful and varied markets of this bustling town. This afternoon we catch our last internal flight, returning to Tana. Visit the artisan market area of the Route des Digues; crafts good galore, of generally very high quality and great ingenuity. Overnight: Pavillon de l “Emyrne.

November 9 ∙ TANA to PERINET
This morning we travel overland, heading east, descending from the dry highlands to the farm and rainforest dominated landscape surrounding Andasibe National Park (Perinet). This afternoon/early evening we explore these rich environs, looking for lemurs, endemic frogs, tiny chameleons, and the amazing leaf-tailed Gecko. Overnight: Vakona Lodge.

November 10 ∙ PERINET
Today is a full day of exploration in the Mantadia national park; a park especially rich in birdlife - Nuthatch Vanga, the elusive Red-breasted and Red-fronted Couas, and Madagascar Rail. Overnight: Vakona Lodge.

November 11 ∙ PERINET to TANA
The Perinet Reserve (Mantadia-Andasibe National Park) area is home to the largest of the lemurs, the Indri - its call through the forests is haunting, and close up, indescribable! This morning a hike will take us to an area where we have excellent chances of seeing this fascinating creature close up. After lunch, and an optional visit Lemur Island – a small island preserve where you might have closer-than-wild encounters with several species of lemur – we depart for Tana. The cool forests of the Eastern slopes give way to the more sparsely vegetated hauts-plateaux, with the red thatched houses, and bustling village and city life. Overnight: Pavillon de l “Emyrne.

Our final day of exploration in Tana will take us out of the main city area to Ambohimanga, the former country palace for Andrianampoinimeria (18th century King of the Merina). This place is a haven of peace away from the city, and a place of great devotion and tradition for today's Merina people The history of the kings and Queens of Madagascar is both colorful and violent, and best told here, where it all began... We keep our rooms at the Pavilion until departure. Following a farewell dinner we will transfer to the airport for our international flight home.

November 13 ∙ PARIS
Mid-morning arrival in Paris.

The currency of Madagascar is the Ariary, which is at least partially tied to the Euro (Madagascar was a French colony until 1960, when it gained independence). Because of this all in-country prices (hotels, transportation, guides, entrance fees, meals, etc.) will fluctuate based on the strength of the Euro as compared to the U.S. Dollar.

2016: $8,545 per person (double occupancy) / $9,400 single but willing to share / $10,445 guaranteed single

For single travelers we are happy to try and schedule a roommate for you. If we fail to find a roommate you will be invoiced at the "willing to share" rate. Alternately we have a limited number of guaranteed singles available if you prefer.

All lodging in Madagascar; all meals with group within Madagascar; tea, coffee & bottled water with meals; bottled water whilst traveling; baggage handling at airports; all tours foreseen as part of our trip; private road transport, where possible with English-speaking driver, always with French-speaking driver; maritime transfers to and from Masoala Forest Lodge, and Domaine d “Ambola; national park and preserve entrance fees; an expert tour leader accompanying the group within Madagascar; local guides within the national parks & preserves (English speaking when possible, although some will likely be French speaking); tips to local guides, hotel staff, and baggage handlers at airports; pre-departure materials, guide book & map.

International airfare to and from Madagascar; internal airfares; passport or visa fees; travel insurance (evacuation insurance required); travel inoculations or medications; drinks (except as noted); tips to the Tour Leader; items of a personal nature, including laundry and communications charges.

A deposit of $1,000 per person is required to reserve space. The balance of the Land Cost is due 90 days prior to departure. We accept personal checks, Visa & MasterCard for deposits and payments.

Any cancellations shall be in writing. All deposits and payments are non-refundable. In this respect, participants are strongly encouraged to purchase Travel Protection Insurance. At a minimum all participants are required to carry Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage.

We will arrange all flights from Paris, within Madagascar, and return to Paris, with Air Madagascar (AirMad). By utilizing the Air Madagascar group desk and all flying on the same route/dates we are able to have priority reservations on our multiple internal flights, plus beat the standard fares. The total flights in past years were roughly $2,250, with something similar anticipated for 2015.

Accommodations will vary with the locations, typically being the best available in any area. They will range from beautiful forest lodges, to deluxe rainforest tented camps, to wonderful beachside accommodations, to boutique city hotels. All accommodations are on a shared double basis. The various hotels and lodges include private baths (except at Kirindy, which is rather rustic) plus mosquito nets over the beds.

All meals within Madagascar are included. Breakfasts will likely be at the hotels, and typically include a choice of eggs, French bread or rolls, juice or fruit, etc. Lunches and dinners tend to be large, and might be at a village restaurant or hotel. We will probably have at least one or two countryside picnics during our travels as well. While it might be possible to keep to a vegetarian diet, it is unfortunately impossible to accommodate vegan diets or some food allergies – if concerned about this please talk to us prior to joining the expedition.

The Tour Leader for these expeditions is Richard Parsons. Originally from England, Richard is a former resident of Madagascar, and now 20-plus year resident of Ecuador. He not only speaks some Malagasy plus fluent French, but can culturally interact with the locals on many levels. In addition to creating the Semester Abroad programs in Madagascar, his resume includes teaching English in the Dominican Republic, guiding in Galįpagos, and founder/owner of the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve in Ecuador. Richard created this Madagascar itinerary specifically for our groups, to share the best of the diverse wildlife, scenery and cultural experiences with our travelers. His passion for Madagascar and her peoples is unmatched.

An amazing adventure... Incredible flora and fauna... Smiling people... White sand beaches... Beautiful music... Sweeping panoramas... Dancing lemurs...

You might expect to be traveling by jet, turbo prop, speed boat, dugout canoe, 4-wheel drive, mini-bus, deluxe bus, omby cart, river ferry, or pousse-pousse (rickshaw), but first and foremost you will be walking. And, walking a lot. We travel slowly to really see and experience where we are. Our itinerary is longer, taking in most of the major areas. We will fly between many distant parks and preserves to save time on the roads, and give us more time on the trails.

The photographic opportunities are boundless. You will encounter much of the wildlife at close range, including some lemurs and birds, plus reptiles, bugs and amphibians. Many lemur species spend their days high in the forest canopy however, so some views will be more distant. Likewise of course for many of the birds. We will take both day and evening hikes to maximize what we see as some species are only found after dark. The sweeping landscapes always compete for our photographic attention as well. Plus, the people of Madagascar are always happy to interact with us, and usually happy to have their photo taken as well (young and old, everyone loves seeing the results on the digital camera backs!).

Travel to Madagascar is definitely not for everyone. Madagascar is a third world country, and a very poor and remote one at that. A previous group joked that it was like traveling in a different dimension - nothing would be quite as you expected it to be. One must travel with a sense of humor, and be able to roll with any changes. Flight schedules change almost daily. The roads are famously bad and some of the drives quite long. The hikes can be on very uneven trails with rocks, roots, and other hidden obstacles. There are few public toilets, so you will likely find yourself behind a bush or tree in the countryside on occasion. The electricity is erratic. The water unsafe (although bottled water is readily available). The food was tasty, and very plentiful, but service slow and the choices limited. It can be cold and wet in the rainforest, and exceedingly hot and dry in the spiny forests. You might be caked with dust and dirt following a day in the 4-wheel drives. We plan to visit some very remote areas, and medical care can be sparse even in the towns. And yet, it is wonderful, magical, captivating and so worth the effort! In fact, nearly everyone has expressed interest in returning to see more!

The Hotel Pavillon de l “Emyrne will be our base when in Tana. In addition to being a wonderful hotel, with great food and lovely gardens, it is possible to store any excess baggage here while away on our various expeditions around the country (especially on the trips to Masoala and Ambola, involving the boat crossings, there is limited space to carry luggage). Before each foray from the city Richard will discuss anticipated climate and conditions so that you might fine-tune your packing if you wish. It should also be possible to leave laundry at the hotel in Tana during one stay, and pick it up a few days later when we return.

This itinerary, plan, and even trip dates should be viewed a “fluid.” Changes are to be expected, between Air Madagascar and Madagascar in general, and we will have to ask for your understanding on this. Each year we have seen the airline change international schedules several months prior to departure, sometimes causing the expedition to be shortened or lengthened slightly. Our plan is to visit all areas in the itinerary, although the order that we visit them is always subject to change! We will be following this itinerary as closely as Madagascar permits!

Photography by Mark Grantham & Mike Tossy

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