This is one of the best family adventures to be had, where we will discover some of the best that South West Madagascar has to offer, from exploring stunning National Parks where we will get the opportunity to see lemurs, chameleons and plenty of birdlife to visiting small towns and communities where we will get a chance to experience real Malagasy life before ending up at Ifaty facing the Mozambique Channel with its clear waters, white sands, safe beaches and whale watching opportunities.
The highlights of the trip? Too many to mention really.
– R. Walmsley
Madagascar is a one-off; there is no other place like it. Its landscapes, animals and plants are simply fantastic! Near the equator with an astonishing array of habitats, ranging from rainforests to deserts and from mountain tops to mangrove swamps, it is one of the most important countries for biodiversity on the planet. The tropical climate is a perfect host to the process of nature and, like nowhere else, the variety and richness of life has flourished. We will see much of the unique flora and fauna on this great family adventure which is sure to satisfy everyone in the family.
As part of our commitment to responsible travel and in conjunction with Woodenstock.org we finance a tree nursery and orchard in Italavina – which is a long term reforestation project.
South West Madagascar Family Adventure Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Tana
After arriving in Antananarivo (or Tana, as it is known by the locals) late pm, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel
Overnight – Hotel
Day 2: Antsirabe (B,L,D)
After breakfast you will meet your guide and we will set out by car to Antsirabe, a tidy, well maintained town which combines the tranquility of a small European provincial town with the exuberance of traditional Malagasy buildings.
The journey takes approx. 3+ hours on a good, windy road, and along the way you can choose to stop off and visit Ambatolampy (the biggest town between Tana and Antsirabe) where we may get the chance to see craftsmen building aluminium pots amongst other things. Alternatively, if time allows, you can also visit lake Tritriva (2hr round trip) – a stunning lake of volcanic origin with blue/green waters, surrounded by beautiful scenery – we can walk around the lake in approx. 1 hour and during this time we will likely meet many local Malagasy people. Where we will stop and what you will do today will depend on your preferences.
Upon arrival at Antsirabe you could choose to visit the stone cutting workshop where crystals are cut.
Overnight – Hotel
Day 3: Ranomafana National Park (B,L,D)
This morning we will set off for Ranomafana National Park (approx. 4+hr journey on good but a windy roads) En-route we can stop off at Ambositra where we’ll get the chance to visit the famous woodcarving workshops, or possibly visit our reforestation project at Italavina.
Ranomafana is particularly rich and beautiful, a mountainous subtropical park which contains lowland moist forest, cloud forest and high plateau forest and is the home to a large number of lemur species (13 in total), as well as 118 types of birds and more than 70 species of amphibians and reptiles so it is really a great place to see some of the unique species living in Madagascar. Lemurs include the black and white ruffed lemur, golden bamboo lemur and the exceptionally rare greater bamboo lemur which is relatively easy to see in Ranomafana. Wildlife viewing is good all year round but is most productive from mid-Sept to May. We will stay just outside Ranomafana (just 10 minutes from the park entrance). If we arrive early there is the possibility of visiting the thermal baths.
Overnight – Hotel
Day 4: Forest Trail (B,L,D)
We will head out on a forest trail today along some of the many easy mountainous tracks, there will be plenty of opportunities to see lemurs and much of the other wildlife first hand, as well as to enjoy the stunning cascades and waterfalls.
Overnight – Hotel
Day 5: To Ambalavao (B,L,D)
This morning we have the option of paddling on the Namorona river in Ranomafana before heading to Ambalavao via Fianarantsoa. Fianarantsoa is the largest town in the highlands, south of Tana. The old town is a unique site which consists of old houses and buildings dating back to the 19th century. Adults and children alike may be interested in the Antaimoro paper factory where you can watch a family go through each stage of paper making, from mushing up the sisal to adding the decorative flower petals and stems to the drying phase. Examples of the finished product are available for purchase and make great gifts or souvenirs.
After lunch in the town we head to Ambavalao which is a very attractive small town, typical of the Central Highlands. The old part of town is famed for its wooden balconies with elaborate carvings and tiled roofs. Also known for its papermaking there is lots to see here including a lively cattle market on Wednesdays and Thursdays on the outskirts of town where you will be able to see a large number of Zebu and herdsmen on the roads.
After visiting the town we will drive to our hotel, a few kms past Ambalavao.
Overnight – Bungalows
Day 6: Anja Reserve (B,L,D)
Another exciting day ahead as we visit the Anja reserve (just a few kms from Ambalavao – so you can choose to walk there if you prefer). Anja is actually one of the more touristy places we visit, however the site remains beautiful and it offers an unique occasion to interact with ‘wild’ animals somewhere between tamed and familiar! We spend 1 ½ hrs on a guided tour exploring this area & checking out the caves (including some rock scrambling). This afternoon we will drive to Tsarasoa (which takes approx 1 ½ hrs) which will be our home for the next couple of days.
Overnight – Bungalows
Day 7 – 8: Tsarasoa (B,L,D)
Tsarasoa itself is the base for our local agents reforestation which is a big passion that both they and Pioneer Expeditions’ share. We will have the opportunity to visit and see the reforestation effort for ourselves. Depending on the time of year we may also get the chance to plant some young saplings (between mid Oct – end March). We will spend the next couple of days exploring this stunning area on foot and meeting all the locals – a fantastic opportunity to see Madagascar in all its natural glory.
Overnight – Bungalow
Day 9: Tsarasoa (B,L,D)
We will have another chance to explore Tsarasoa before having an early lunch and setting off by car to Isalo which should take us just under 4 hours on track and road. The site of Isalo Massif is stunning. The huge massif is formed by erosion and has left spectacular deep canyons and great scenery. This combined with the general silence of the area is why it is considered a sacred site by the ‘Bara’ people.
Overnight – Eco-Lodge
Day 10: Isalo National Park (B,L,D)
We will spend the day exploring the Isalo massif on foot. The Isalo National Park protects over 81,000 hectares of widely eroded Jurassic sandstone massif. The grassy plains are surrounded by sandstone ridges. Most vegetated areas of the park are covered with dry grassland or sparse, low deciduous woodland, however near streams and in deeper canyons there are also ferns, pandanus and feathery palm trees. Animal life isn’t the parks most prominent feature, but there a few species to look for including two species of lemur (ringtale and brown) as well as the Verreaux’s sifaka. It is also home to approx 55 species of bird including the rare Benson’s rock-thrush.
We will be able to enjoy the varied landscapes and swim in a natural pool if you wish to. We will have a picnic lunch on the trail.
Overnight – Eco-Lodge
Day 11: Ifaty (B)
Today we head to Ifaty and the Indian Ocean, with an optional stop en-route to visit the Antsokoay Botanical park. This park was established in 1980 with the sole purpose to breed and grow plants and trees which are most at risk as a result of deforestation, and bushfires etc. A guided tour through the botanical trail is a great way to see much of the diverse South Western Madagascan flora.
Our next few nights will be spent relaxing at a hotel facing the Mozambique Channel and superb reef of Ifaty, this hotel provides a perfect setting for a relaxing beach break at the end of your adventure.
Day 12: Ifaty (B)
Local fishermen will also be happy to offer you a trip in their traditional fishing boats (pirogues). Or if you prefer you can simply relax on the stunning white sandy beaches or swim in the turquoise waters.
Day 13: Ifaty (B)
This morning (if you choose) we can visit the Spiny Forest (there are 3 pockets). Please note this excursion is not included in the itinerary however can be booked directly with the hotel.
Day 14: Ifaty to Antananarivo (B,D)
We will catch the Air Madagascar flight from Tulear to Tana. Depending on your time of arrival in Tana you can visit the handicraft market before transferring to your hotel
Day 15: End of Trip (B)
Transfer to airport in time for flight home. If you are on the Air France or Air Kenya trip which leaves early morning of day 13) you can opt to have a day use room &/or driver /guide for the day (not included).
NB: This itinerary is subject to change – arrangements, routes and facilities are subject to variation depending on local conditions. Please note times given are approximate driving times and do not include stops, the journey times are therefore longer.
On this particular trip there is a minimum age of 8 and some previous outdoors experience is useful.
We can also tailor itineraries to suit your exact requirements including catering for younger children
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What can we say? The itinerary, guides and drivers were all spot on. We enjoyed all the parks on the way down to Tulear and managed to see most types of Lemur and Sifakas including several that only come out at night. Snakes, Chameleons, stick insects, birds....wildlife at evyer turn. The highlights of the trip? Too many to mention really. We loved Ranomafana - helped by it being Heri's home town - and saw a huge amount of wildlife. Swimming in the pool in Isalo and the walk up the "hidden canyon" to the waterfalls at the top. The faded spleandour of Antisirabe. We also loved Gilles' place - helped by him hosting us and giving us a personal guided tour of the trees (we didn't mind at all that the second room wasn't completed, but the views from the balcony are immense!). So sad about the fire the week after we left. Le Paradisier was exquisite - slightly odd being the only guests - and the trip out with the local fisherman ended with the most amazing grilled lobster on the beach up at their village (well negotiated by Tom). We tried Whale watching but only saw dolphins - probably the only time we failed in our quest to see the wildlife we were after.
Heri and Tsiry were great. Heri was never short of information or general chatter and he & Melanie got on like a house on fire - between them they managed to continue a conversation the whole time we were travelling. Indeed we didn't realise that Tsiry spoke much English until he picked us up in Tana for our last day! I cannot recommend them highly enough. Faultless. Every evening when we arrived at a new place, they would head off into town and arrange our guide for the next day - we always had the best guides & spotters available thanks to Heri's pre-planning.
But the trip to the Tsingy was the tops. We had a night in Tulear courtesy of Air Mad and them met Fred and our new driver (his name escapes me and the boys aren't around to remind me) at Morondava. What a trip up to Bekopaka! The driver was again perfect - and the ferries were amazing. We were lost for words in the Tsingy. Fred managed to negotiate his way around a Park guides strike in the Petit Tsingy and then the Grand Tsingy was jaw-dropping. The Soleil des Tsingy was luxury - we met a Dutch family who had driven there from Tana and whose children were refusing to get back in the car! Fred was great on our final day back in Morandava and then it was so nice to see Tsiry again when we got back to Tana - and we also got to meet Manantena.
And all through the people were so friendly, so welcoming and we certainly fell in love with Madagascar. While we were certainly isolated from the problems of the country, we got a good feel for the people, landscape and wildlife and felt so sad that there were so few tourists and so much corruption in the country....but we've certainly been signing its praises ever since we got home. We felt perfectly safe the whole time except in the Lower Town in Tana...but we were ready for that!
In summary - all the hotels and guest houses were superb....from Hotel Aty & Cristo right up to Le Paradisier & Soleil des Tsingy (with the small exception of Espace Zongo which didn't have the character or welcome of the others). And the guides & drivers - immense!
Fantastic holiday, many thanks for organising everything. The team were excellent, first class - great guiding from Max, he was perfect for our family