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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 an array of endemic species including the wailing indri lemur, the dancing sifaka, tiny amphibians, and unusual birds.
Visit the field station of primatologist and National Geographic grantee Pat Wright.
Go snorkeling in the waters of the
Mozambique Channel from a beachfront lodge.
Explore the royal city in Antananarivo, and learn about the African and Polynesian roots of Malagasy culture.
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. Before a welcome dinner, go on a guided night stroll, spotting brightly colored chameleons, frogs, and lizards—many no bigger than your pinkie. Spend the next day exploring Andasibe-Mantadia National Park on a variety
of walks and hikes, and keep your eye out for 14 lemur species as well as birds including the
beautiful blue coua. Take a dugout canoe to observe ruffed, brown, bamboo, and ring-tailed lemurs rescued from the pet trade, at close range. Enjoy another nocturnal walk after dinner.
Vakona Forest Lodge or Andasibe Hotel (B, L, D daily)
Day 4 — Analamazaotra/Antsirabe
Rise early for an excursion into the Analamazaotra National Park 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, and enjoy a soak in the thermal hot springs when we arrive. 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 field station here. On hikes and walks, look for more than ten species of lemurs, including red-bellied lemurs, Milne-Edward’s sifaka, 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. (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 beside a deep-green natural pool. Catch the sunset this evening at the sandstone “window of Isalo.
(B, L, D)
Day 10 — Toliara/Anakao
After breakfast, travel to the coastal town of Toliara. From here, a short boat ride brings us down the coast to our oceanfront lodge in time for lunch. Take advantage of a free afternoon to swim, snorkel, 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. (B, L, D)
Day 12 — Toliara/Antananarivo
Transfer to the airport in Toliara and fly to Antananarivo. Gather for a farewell dinner
tonight. Le Louvre Hôtel & Spa (B, L, D)
Day 13 — Antananarivo
Go behind-the-scenes at Tsimbazaza Botanical Gardens with the nine-time National Geographic grantee Dr. Christopher Birkinshaw, and learn about efforts to conserve native flora. Visit the Rova of Antananarivo—a royal complex that dates back to the 16th century. Learn about the history of Madagascar, the Merina people, and their
traditions. 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 the Society’s Big Cats Initiative.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,000. Airfare to/from Antananarivo and within Madagascar is not included in the expedition cost. The group flight within Madagascar is $325 (subject to change).