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.
Encounter fascinating endemic species with a wildlife biologist, including the wailing indri lemur, the dancing sifaka, tiny amphibians, and unusual birds.
Visit the field station of primatologist and National Geographic grantee Patricia Wright, one of the world’s foremost experts on lemurs.
Explore the iconic baobab trees of Tsimanampetsotsa National Park where National Geographic funded research on an extinct gorilla-sized lemur species.
Itinerary - 13 Days
Day 1 — Antananarivo, Madagascar
Arrive in Antananarivo, known locally as “Tana.” Transfer to our hotel and enjoy an evening on your own.
Le Louvre Hôtel & Spa
Days 2 & 3 — Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
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.
Vakona Forest Lodge or Andasibe Hotel (B,L,D daily)
Day 4 — Analamazaotra/Antsirabe
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. Flower Palace Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Antsirabe/Ranomafana National Park
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.
Setam Lodge or Hotel Thermal Ranomafana (B,L,D)
Days 6 & 7 — 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. Hotel Thermal Ranomafana (B,L,D daily)
Day 8 — Isalo National Park
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 Rock Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Isalo National Park
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."
Isalo Rock Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Toliara/Anakao
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. Anakao Ocean Lodge and Spa (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Tsimanampetsotsa National Park/Anakao
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. Anakao Ocean Lodge and Spa (B,L,D)
Day 12 — Toliara/Antananarivo
Transfer to the airport in Toliara and fly to Antananarivo. Gather for a farewell dinner
tonight. Relais des Plateaux (B,L,D)
Day 13 — Antananarivo
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. (B)
Wildlife biologist, conservationist, and National Geographic Explorer Luke Dollar first came to Madagascar as an undergraduate field assistant in 1994. He spent more than a decade there conducting research on the island’s fossa—a catlike nocturnal mammal—and the lemurs on which it preys. Motivated by the habitat loss he witnessed, he has worked ever since to translate field studies and local conservation efforts into effective public policies. Luke now manages National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative.
Luke will join the following departures:
Jul 02 - 14, 2018 Aug 06 - 18, 2018 Oct 08 - 20, 2018
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,000. Airfare to and from Antananarivo and within Madagascar is not included in the expedition cost. The group flight within Madagascar is $325 (subject to change).
Travelers should be physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day. Certain days may have more challenging physical activity, such as ascents/descents on steep mountainous terrain.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
Travelers should by physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of hiking on several days of the trip, at times through dense vegetation or ascents/descents over steep terrain. Tourism infrastructure in Madagascar is still developing, as a result this is a fast-paced expedition involving several long driving days and early mornings to optimize wildlife-viewing opportunities. Accommodations throughout are best available; ranging from a luxury eco-lodge to a rustic, yet comfortable hotel in Antsirabe.