Cut off from other landmasses 80 million years ago, Madagascar is a wonderland of unique species, where playful lemurs swing in the forest canopy, tiny neon-colored chameleons cling to lush ferns, and orchids peek out from the jungle floor. From the dense rain forests of Ranomafana to the canyons of Isalo, explore the island with a wildlife expert and get a close-up view of flora and fauna that exist nowhere else in the world.
Arrive in Antananarivo, known locally as “Tana.” Transfer to our hotel and enjoy an evening on your own.
Drive to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, arriving in time for lunch. Head into Vakona Private Park to look for orchids, lemurs, and birds amid lush lianas and ferns. Spend the next day exploring Andasibe-Mantadia National Park on a variety of hikes, and keep your eye out for 14 lemur species as well as birds, such as the beautiful blue coua. Observe at close range ruffed, brown, bamboo, and ring-tailed lemurs rescued from the pet trade. Enjoy a guided night stroll, spotting brightly colored chameleons, frogs, and lizards—many no bigger than your pinkie.
Rise early for an excursion into the Analamazaotra Reserve to track the indri, the largest lemur species. Listen for their eerie calls echoing through the canopy, and watch for indri families in the treetops. Travel through the highlands to Antsirabe.
Continue south today, stopping in the town of Ambositra to visit a woodcarving workshop. Then travel into the thick forests to our lodge outside Ranomafana National Park.
Spend two full days exploring Ranomafana, declared part of a UNESCO World Heritage site for its incredible biodiversity. In 1986, National Geographic grantee and leading primatologist Patricia Wright discovered a new lemur species here—the golden bamboo lemur. She spearheaded the effort to protect this rain forest and continues to conduct important research at her on-site field station. On hikes, look for more than ten species of lemurs, including red-bellied lemurs, Milne-Edward’s sifakas, and greater dwarf lemurs; as well as tenrecs; mongooses; and myriad butterflies, frogs, and birds. Visit the Centre ValBio, founded by Dr. Wright, and hear about the latest studies that Pat and her team are conducting. On evening walks, watch the park come alive after dark and keep your eye out for nocturnal animals like Malagasy civets and mouse lemurs.
Head west into the savanna toward Isalo National Park. Pause for lunch in Ambalavao, and visit a factory where Antaimoro paper is made from hand. Stop by a weaving workshop to learn traditional methods for harvesting, spinning, and weaving silk. Check in to our lodge late this afternoon.
Isalo is a dramatic landscape of sandstone canyons and unusual rock formations dotted with gem-colored natural pools. Ring-tailed lemurs and Verreaux’s sifakas make their home in the park, as well as endemic species such as the Benson’s rock thrush and a plant called elephant’s foot. Hike the trails and stop for a picnic. Catch the sunset this evening at the sandstone “window of Isalo."
After breakfast, travel to the coastal town of Toliara. From here, a boat ride brings us down the coast to our oceanfront lodge in time for lunch. Take advantage of a free afternoon to swim, or relax on the beach.
Early this morning, set off for Tsimanampetsotsa National Park. National Geographic has funded research on lemurs here, including an extinct gorilla-sized lemur species whose remains were found in the park’s caves. Wander among Dr. Seuss-like baobab trees; explore the grottos where blind fish swim; and spot some of the park’s 100-plus bird species, including greater and dwarf flamingos and the Madagascar plover. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure back at the lodge.
Transfer to the airport in Toliara and fly to Antananarivo. Gather for a farewell dinner tonight.
Visit the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga —a royal complex (or rova) that dates back to the 16th century and a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. Later in the day, transfer to the airport and depart on your flight home.