MADAGASCAR GROUP TOUR 2023!
A country that overflows with wildlife, the focus remains on finding amphibians and reptiles, along with the plethora of animals that you simply can't miss!
Unlike our other tours, this also goes one step beyond wildlife and nature, allowing you to soak up the culture of this unique destination, which is for many a one-time bucket-list visit.
90% of the island is covered with prairie grasses, along with trees such as the iconic baobab. And approximately 95% of Madagascar's reptiles, 89% of its plant life, and 92% of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth.
Join daily treks with our specialist guides and local experts, ending your stay at the coast with the chance to dive/snorkel or hike more splendid trails.
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£2,265 per person
on sharing (twin-room) basis
Jump on to reserve your spot for just £500... with nothing more to pay until Aug 2023!
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Around 40 species of lemurs are indigenous to the island, and several hedgehoglike insectivores - such as the tenrec - have evolved. You'll find various kinds of chameleons, colourful geckos, Malagasy frogs, fossa, Malagasy civets, and the rather weird looking aye-ayes.
Birds are numerous, with over 115 species endemic to the island. And, a staggering 800 species of butterflies and moths, along with a healthy 400+ species of spiders.
Home to more than 80 species of snakes - none of which are overtly dangerous - the most notable are perhaps the large Madagascar ground and tree boas, with their closest relatives found in the South Pacific and Amazon Basin!
You don’t need to be a professional herper, you just need an appreciation for the outdoors, and a love of nature - but biologists, herpetologists are also welcome!
There’s something for everyone on these trips, with “life-changing” the words that often sums up the experience!
Love the sort of trips you put together. Great meeting so many like minded people. The fact that we keep coming back speaks volumes. Ayesha, 2022
I have, and will continue to recommend you. Just keep the trips coming.
Madagascar 2023: 11th-23rd October
We've taken the successful 2019 and 2018 tours, discussed with our guides and selected the top route for wildlife & cultural experiences!
ARRIVAL IN ANTANANARIVO (Day 1)
Meet at Ivato International Airport and transfer to your hotel.
AU BOIS VERT LODGE
Tucked away 5-minutes from the busy airport, this conveniently located hotel is your base for the first and last night of your holiday. Relax, unwind after the long flight, and - if time permits - meet with your group and tour leader in the evening for a quick tipple and to review plans for the coming days.
Within a 3-hectare park, rooms are traditionally built bungalows. There’s a swimming pool and gym to enjoy or explore the grounds for birdlife and chameleons.
ANTANANARIVO– MORAMANGA- ANDASIBE (Day 2)
140km, approx. 3.5hrs drive
After breakfast, commence the drive to Andasibe, passing through a landscape of rice fields, waterfalls, and scarce forest stations. This first glimpse of Madagascar is a gentle introduction to rural life, with redbrick houses and roadside stalls selling seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Stop along the route for short treks in search of herps and wildlife, and explore the area around the Lodge together in the evening.
VAKONA FOREST LODGE
A unique environment in the Malagasy wilderness: rainforest, amazing fauna and flora. Bordering a man-made lake, Vakona has its own small reserve, Lemur Island, that is home to various lemur species: Bamboo, Black and White Ruffed, Brown, and Diademed Sifaka. Enjoy views of the forest and activities under your own arrangement such as horse-riding/kayaking, or relax at the pool. 28 Bungalows are scattered amongst the gardens and around the restaurant.
ANDASIBE (Day 3)
Andasibe is a fantastic place to experience Madagascar’s lush endemic rainforest.
Visit the Reserve and discover the species dwelling inside the forest, such as Indri Indri, the largest species of lemurs. 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. Its haunting call can be heard for up to 3km in the forest.
There are another 11 species of lemur to spot as you walk through the rainforest, and birdwatchers can look out for the Velvet Asity, Blue Coua and Nuthatch Vanga and many more endemic species. The reserve is also home to many reptiles, invertebrates, and some of Madagascar’s over a thousand orchid species.
In the afternoon, visit the Vakôna Reserve: a private reserve, where you will see varieties of birds, crocodiles, and snakes, plus other lemur species. Look out for the famous “Fosa” which resembles a small cougar but is a relative of the mongoose and is the largest endemic mammal in Madagascar. Before dinner, head out for a night walk along the road to search for nocturnal herps such as the 1-inch painted frogs, mantellas, and listen out for the sounds of the Madagascar Nightjar.
ANDASIBE – ANTANANARIVO (Day 4)
Return to Antananarivo, stopping to visit an exotic park where you can admire varieties of reptiles such as chameleons, and tortoises. At ideal spots, jump out with your guide for short treks in search of snakes and other herps. At the capital, visit the old town and Independence Avenue, an iconic symbol of the sprawling city that’s home to 3 million. After dinner take a guided HERP walk before enjoy a night in the city.
Widely noted as the top boutique-hotel in the Malagasy capital, this large colonial-style mansion is located in a lively area, just ten minutes from the city centre.
ANTANANARIVO – ANTSIRABE – AMBOSITRA (Day 5)
260km, approx. 5 hrs drive
After breakfast, it’s time to hit the road again! A long drive, broken up by stops along the way at Ambatolampy, where you can see how they use recycled aluminum to manufacture pots, and at Antsirabe. Often referred to as Town of Water, due to numerous thermal springs and two crater lakes, Antsirabe is great herping ground!
Continue to Ambositra, in central Madagascar, for your overnight stop. The centre of the country’s wood-carving industry, this is the home of the Zafimaniry tribe.
The best option for accommodation in Ambositra, this clean and basic hotel is tucked away down a quiet side street in the heart of town. There’s a good restaurant and a nice courtyard to chill at. Serving both European and Malagasy cuisine, you’ll usually find there’s some traditional folk music or entertainment in the evening. Head out after dinner in search of herps.
AMBOSITRA – RANOMAFANA (Day 6)
149km, approx. 3.5 hrs drive
After breakfast, a short visit in Ambositra to some of the studios and boutiques of the wood carvers of the local Zafimaniry Tribe. They are specialists in marquetry work, wooden sculptures, and figures of all kinds. Drive out to see the mighty Benedictine Monastery opposite the Cathedral at Soatanana, a village where farmers from the surrounding area offer their goods, and you can stroll peacefully. Drive on to Ranomafana, a region of stunning beauty and immense natural diversity.
Before dinner, grab your flashlights for a trek along the road to look for nocturnal animals. With a bit of luck, discover fast moving brown mouse lemurs, sleeping chameleon species of all sizes, and lively frogs.
A rustic but cozy lodge, at the edge of the Ranomafana National Park, that overlooks mountains and rainforest. Search for reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, and more in the gardens.
RANOMAFANA (Day 7)
Usually a highlight of Madagascar tours, head to the Ranomafana National Park, spanning some 40,000 hectares of rainforest.
The park is on the edge of Madagascar’s High Plateau; it is extremely mountainous, with elevations ranging from 500-meters to 1,500 meters. The steepness of the slopes has preserved the park from exploitation and the range of altitudes allows for many different forest types, from lowland rainforest to cloud forest and high plateau forest.
The park is divided into a core protected zone of 41,500 hectares surrounded by a peripheral zone in which some exploitation of the forest is permitted. The peripheral zone contains more than 100 villages with over 25,000 residents, most of who are subsistence farmers. Home to red-bellied lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, Milne-Edwards’ sifaka, small toothed sportive lemur, eastern woolly lemur and lesser bamboo lemur - plus the rare greater bamboo lemur and golden bamboo lemur. One of the country’s most important National Parks, over 30 endemic species of bird are isolated to this region, plus mongoose, tenrecs, bats, leaf-tailed geckos, 62 species of snakes, 130+ species of frogs and the Malagasy striped civet. Keep an eye out for giraffe-necked weevils, with the males fighting each other with their elongated necks!
RANOMAFANA – RANOHIRA (Day 8)
295km, approx. 5.5 hrs
After breakfast, drive to Ranohira with a stop in Ambalavao at the 50km mark. Learn the manufactory of the Antemoro paper, made from the bark of the Havoha tree, according to a method left by Arabs. Join in at the largest known market day for zebu cattle.
Ambalavao lies at the foot of the Andringitra massif. Its highest peak is the 2658mtr Pic Boby, the second highest peak of Madagascar. About 12km from Ambalavao, stop to visit the small reserve Anja, laying at the foot of the rock formation called "Three Sisters". You’ll find several hundred catta lemurs here, in numerous family groups, resting, climbing or feeding.
Finally continue on a (surprisingly!) good road via Ihosy, the centre of the Bara tribe, and the plateau of Horombe (an endless pasture for cattle), to Ranohira. Grass steppes are interrupted by gigantic granite rocks and river courses, in which villages surrounded by greenery spread out under mango trees. Stop for herping throughout the day and join together after dinner to explore the area.
RELAIS DE LA REINE
Despite its isolation, this ecolodge spa hotel is a wonderful stop over. Constructed from granite, the sandstone rocks and lush vegetation act as a camouflage within the 50-hectare private park. Unique geology, flora and fauna, combine with the region’s history of sapphire mining. As a group, explore the grounds, in search of all manner of wildlife. Later, relax at the pool, rent quad or mountain bikes, horse ride or take a spa treatment.
RANOHIRA (Day 9)
Start today with an early morning hike, anywhere between 3-5 hours. A little challenging, across sometimes steep rocky paths, you’ll be led by a local guide in the awesome Isalo National Park - epic herping ground! Made up of rugged sandstone rock massifs, and with exceptional flora and fauna, including Pachypodium (elephant paw), gorges, various endemic plants and… of course… lemurs: kattas, sifakas, and brown. Visit the natural swimming pool, where you can cool down and refresh - if not filled with sand from heavy rainfall.
And take a side trip to the "Window of Isalo (la fenêtre)" at sunset, when the last light makes everything look golden, and visit the nearby geological museum with information on the evolution of the entire region.
RANOHIRA - TULEAR - IFATY (Day 10)
240km, approx. 4 hrs + 27km, approx. 1.5 hrs
Back in the van today, along a mostly straight road, pass tall bushes and small cactus forests, interrupted by typical Mahafali tombs decorated with motifs and wooden steles. And start to spot more of the mighty baobab trees.
In Ilakak learn of the dangerous work at the local sapphire mines. 20Km before Sakaraha, cross the remains of the protected dry forest areas of Zombitse and Vohibasia National Park. Rarely visited, stop here for some guided herping and eyes peeled for many endemic birds. 40+ species of frogs and reptiles can be found here, along with a large number of butterflies that are attracted to the rich mineral soil. There are different coloured geckos, the Madagascar Iguana, seven species of lemur and more!
Visit the Arboretum of Antsokay, a collection of endemic plants of Madagascar - especially many succulents - established decades ago by a Swiss amateur botanist, Hermann Petignat. His son continues to run the 40-hectare site. A collection of over 900 species of plants from southwestern Madagascar, including 90% that are endemic to the region. As you wander the trails there’s an abundance of wildlife.
Stop for another short break in Tuléar - a port on Saint-Augustin Bay of the Mozambique Channel - before transferring to Ifaty, a beautiful sloping beach that lies 26km north of Tulear. Protected by a stunning coral reef, inland there’s endemic thorn bush species and mangroves.
The Ifaty southern region is delightfully laidback, comprised of just two small fishing villages - Mangily and Madio Rano. Unwind from the previous days of travel, join in with guided treks or snorkel/dive. Watch the traditional “pirogue” fishing boats or just hang out under palm trees. The area is blessed with three areas of private forest - the spiny forest is filled with wild and spiky flora, ring-tailed lemurs, fantastic birding and a myriad of reptiles.
The Village des Tortues is a forested area that operates a French-run turtle breeding and conservation project. With the other forested area home to some of the largest ancient baobab trees in the southwest - some said to be over 1200 years old. Dry and hot, there’s again excellent herping to be enjoyed during the early mornings and evenings.
Remote solitude, surrounded by beautiful views is how many describe Nautilus. With a spectacular beach setting, rooms are basic and comfortable, and there’s an open-air canopy dining area. Electricity is usually only in the evenings, with WiFi available during that time.
IFATY (Day 11)
The plan is up to you today! Sunbathe poolside or at the beach, try your hand at jetski or other watersports, and go diving or snorkelling (at your own expense). Or, head over to the nearby forests for more guided herp hikes, a visit to the turtle sanctuary, or check out the might baobobs. Parks are open daily from 5.30am to 4.30pm.
IFATY -TULEAR – ANTANANARIVO (Day 12)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to the capital.
Transfer to the hotel and check-in for the last night at Au Bois Vert Lodge.
ANTANANARIVO – HOME (Day 13)
Time to depart, but if your flight is in the afternoon/evening, join the excursion to the Lemurs Park (21km), where you’ll enjoy a last hang with lemurs in this forested area. At the end of the afternoon transfer to the airport for your flight home.
A herptologist Greig Smith Travels guide
Local guides where mentioned
Guided herp treks sporadically throughout each day and evening
All transfers in Madagascar
All accommodation on bed and breakfast, in sharing (twin) basis
All park and reserve fees
A/C 4WD car or coach with dedicated driver
Excursion to Lemurs Park and visit to handicrafts market
Tourist levy and VAT
What’s Not Included
International flights to Madagascar
you may purchase from Greig Smith Travels or arrange privately
not available at time of sale
to be arranged and invoiced by Greig Smith Travels
expect cost £230-250, based on 2022 prices (per person)
All food and beverges not mentioned above.
Insurance - it is mandatory to hold adequate travel insurance
Vaccinations or medical costs
Extra activities at Ifaty or other hotels
Image 2018-11-12 at 5.46.06 PM
£2,265 per person on sharing (twin-room) basis
Guaranteed to sell out quickly - don't miss your chance.
Reserve your place for just £500 now, with the balance not due until August 2023