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Verdant rainforests and dramatic landscapes are the setting for this holiday in Madagascar. Get off the beaten track, trekking through lush tropical vegetation, granite hills, highland meadows and surreal sandstone landscapes.
Explore Tour Leader
4 nights simple camping
1 nights simple community house
6 nights comfortable hotel
3 nights simple hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Antananarivo, built over twelve hills, Madagascar's capital is a blend of the old and new - Old wooden style houses, french colonial buildings and modern offices and apartments.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Antananarivo at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive at Ivato International Airport (TNR) which is around 15 minutes' drive from the hotel. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to explore independently. This once medieval capital, which is affectionately known as 'Tana', where the houses appear stacked one upon the other down the sloping hills of the highlands.
Hotel Au Bois Vert (or similar)
This morning we have an early start for our long journey south by charter bus via Antisarabe to Ambositra. We drive through subtropical highland, the volcanic field around Antisarabe, terraced rice paddies and village communities typical of the Malagasy highlands. We will aim to leave around 8am on day 2, drive to Antsirabe in the central highlands for lunch and then continue south west to Ambositra. On arrival we'll head into town, purchase provisions and drinks for the evening and, time permitting, see the local market and wood carving shops (Ambositra is the centre of the woodcarving tradition of Madagascar). In the evening, we will enjoy a wholesome feast of Madagascan locally prepared dishes, after which our family hosts will play music on drums and flutes and dance before we return to our hotel.
Voteta Bungalows (or similar)
Simple Community House
Continuing south, we drive for a further four hours to Ranomafana. Once we arrive at the park, we'll have a picnic lunch and then trek from the park entrance to the campsite in the primary rain forest keeping an eye out for local wildlife including lemurs along the way . If we are extremely lucky we will see the endangered golden bamboo and greater bamboo lemurs. It was the discovery of the rare golden bamboo lemur here that persuaded the government to create Ranomafana National Park in 1986. The terrain is hilly rainforest and the walk is mainly on unmade forest trails.
We stay at a simple campsite with one long drop toilet and cold water shower.
Today's moderate five kilometre walk is expected to take around three hours with 230 metres of ascent.
Ranomafana Campsite (or similar)
Ranomafana is one of Madagascar's most spectacular national parks. The hills are covered in primary and secondary cloud and rainforest, and there is a great diversity of flora and fauna including 12 species of lemur and over 115 species of birds, some of which are endemic to the area. There are also many small streams and waterfalls running through the park, joining the Namorona River as it flows off the highlands and into the valley.
This morning we take another wildlife walk in to the forest hoping to see more animal species, including the black-and-white ruffed lemur which can only be found in this primary forest area. We then hike out of the forest area along the Varijatsy Trek Circuit to the village of Ranomafana on the banks of the Namorona Rive ending at the thermal baths and swimming pool - the name Ranomafana locally means 'hot water'.
Today's twelve kilometre walk is expected to take around five hours with 800 metres of ascent. As yesterday the terrain is hilly rainforest and the walk is mainly on unmade forest trails.
Manja Hotel (or similar)
Today we travel to Ambalavao via the ancient royal city of Fianarantsoa. Ambalavao is a beautiful town, the houses in the 'Old Town' are brightly coloured with steep tiled roofs and wooden balconies. It is also a lively market town, home to the largest cattle market on Madagascar. After an optional lunch we visit the nearby Anja Reserve, a local community reserve, where we hope to see ring-tailed lemurs before returning to Ambalavao for the evening.
Hotel Bourgainvillia (or similar)
After breakfast we travel by 4WD to Andringitra National Park where we will spend the next three days. On arrival we trek with porters east through several small villages to the first forest campsite, where we have a picnic lunch. The park scenery is stunning, encompassing high mountains, granite outcrops and deep valleys, and supports rainforest, mountain forest and high altitude meadow vegetation. As a consequence it is one of the most biodiverse areas of Madagascar with over 1000 species of plants, 100 species of birds, 50 species of mammals (including 13 of lemurs) and 55 species of frogs. However the park covers a large area and much of it is grassland meadows (it is covered in flowers including orchids December to April) so the wildlife isn't always easy to see. This is a small basic campsite in a forest clearing with simple facilities and no showers, water is taken from the nearby stream. After dinner, we take a nocturnal nature walk looking for some local animal nightlife in the forest.
Today's seven kilometre walk is expected to take around four hours with 300 metres of steep ascent. The path passes through local villages and through fields before meeting the edge of the forest area at the campsite.
Imaitso Campsite (or similar)
Starting early we make a wildlife walk, looking for birds and lemurs, before we begin our trek up to the park's highest campsite, Andriampotsy. We gain altitude on this trek as we pass through the Imaitso forest and arrive at a meadow plateau at the foot of the main Andringitra granite outcrop. We have a picnic lunch on the way up and then follow the trail past several streams to the campsite, the base camp for the climb to the highest point of the reserve, Pic Imarivolanitra. The campsite is basic with one long drop toilet and only bucket washing available, our cook provides us with an evening meal before we turn in for the night.
Today's ten kilometre walk is expected to take around six hours with 520 metres of ascent, mainly uphill along unmade tropical forest paths.
Andriampotsy Campsite (or similar)
Today we walk up between a series of granite boulders to the summit of Imarivolanitra (2,658m), the highest point in southern Madagascar. It is a fairly steady climb on a well-managed path and the views from the top of this mountain down over the park are breathtaking. We then descend along the same paths via last night's campsite to a lower campsite, another basic campsite with one long drop toilet and water is taken from the nearby stream.
Today's challenging eighteen kilometre walk is expected to take around nine hours with 600 metres of ascent and 900 metres of descent. It is a steady ascent along narrow mountain paths followed by a descent on similar paths down through tropical forest.
Belambo Campsite (or similar)
After walking to the park entrance we return by 4WD to Ambalavao, and then head south west by charter bus to Isalo National Park where we stay in Isalo Ranch Hotel. This hotel is on the edge of the Isalo sandstone massif where the dry forest is home to sifaka, ring-tailed lemur and brown lemur.
For the next two nights we stay at an eco-lodge in simply furnished traditional thatched roofed bungalows. From the hotel we can see the sandstone hills that have been eroded by nature to form deep gorges and bizarre shapes. The electricity and hot water is solar generated, there is an on-site restaurant, bar and outdoor swimming pool.
Today's seven kilometre walk is expected to take around three hours with 500 metres of descent. We descend down to the park entrance on unmade forest trails and access roads.
Isalo Ranch Hotel (or similar)
Isalo offers a totally different landscape from either Ranomafana or Andringitra. The main massif is a huge area of sandstone eroded into deep gullies on the eastern side. There are patches of dry forest throughout the reserve which are home to lemur groups although they are shy and rarely seen. The temperatures are much hotter and plant life reflects this with moisture retaining species such as aloes and the extraordinary dwarf baobabs. After a morning wildlife trail we walk with our porters through the sandstone massif of Isalo to natural swimming pools and return to Isalo Ranch.
Today's eight kilometre walk is expected to take around four hours with 250 metres of ascent, along uneven sandstone paths.
This morning we drive west to Toliara. En route we stop at Zombitse National Park, which despite years of slash and burn farming in the area, hosts an area of dry deciduous forest. This harbours a wide variety of wildlife including several lemur species and the elusive fossa (a cat-like mammal endemic to Madagascar), as well as many birds and reptile species. Throughout the forest are magnificent baobab trees. From Toliara we continue to Ifaty Beach, a small resort on the west coast, our base for the next two nights.
Today's four kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours with 250 metres of descent, along uneven sandstone paths.
Bamboo Club (or similar)
Today is free to relax or explore the area. Ifaty Beach is a huge sandy bay which looks out over a lagoon protected by a barrier reef up to seven kilometres from the shore. Traditional fishing villages are scattered along the bay and fishing is still done in sail powered outrigger canoes. There is an option to visit the reef for snorkelling. There is also is an excellent forest walk in the Reniala Reserve just inland from the beach area, where strange spiny forest can be found and some of the most attractive of the endemic bird species, such as the long-tailed ground roller, sub-desert mesite and sickle-billed vanga.
Today's optional two kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours.
Today we fly from Toliara to Antananarivo airport from where we transfer to our hotel. The time of the flight varies so the rest of the day is free to relax.
This morning we transfer to Ambohitrabiby Hill, on the outskirts of Antananarivo, by bus and take a gentle walk to the top of this sacred hill. The walk takes us through local highland villages and rice paddies, learning about local silk weaving along the way before returning to Antananarivo in the afternoon.
Today's six kilometre walk is expected to take around three hours with 250 metres of ascent, along simple footpaths.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Antananarivo.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Antananarivo at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Ivato International Airport (TNR) which is around 15 minutes' drive from the hotel.
Total distance : 79 kilometres
The climate is tropical, but cooler in the highlands (dropping as low as 5°C at night in July/August in Antananarivo and Andasibe). The dry season is March to October continuing into November in most areas. The east coast is best March-May and September-November, January-March is cyclone season. The south west area is hot, dry and semi-arid. March-April is the best time for flowers and reptiles. November (spring) is generally the best time for wildlife and birds, but lemurs can be viewed all year round. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
2 Pin Round
Bring light and comfortable clothing that can be layered according to the temperature, the weather varies in different areas. Temperatures in Andringitra are low in the southern winter and will be down to below freezing at night so bring warmer layers it can also be drizzly and wet. Isalo is drier, it will be hot in the day and cool at night and Ranomafana will be humid and can get wet. Tops made from wicking materials which keep you drier and warmer are recommended as a base layer, and walking trousers are preferable to trousers of heavier material such as jeans. A waterproof jacket is essential at all times in case of rain and wind. -Breathable wind and waterproof jacket (you may also wish to bring waterproof trousers) -T-shirts -Long sleeved tops -Sunhat -Long trousers -Warm sleepwear -Shorts (if you prefer to walk in them, culturally acceptable) -Swimwear and towel -Midlayer Fleece/pullover -Socks (liner and thicker pair) - Leech socks (for wetter weather) -Insulated jacket -Scarf When it has rained there may be leeches in the jungle and we recommend bringing your own leech socks which can be bought through outdoor equipment providers or online through retailers such as Amazon.
We recommend you bring lightweight walking boots with ankle support, make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Also trainers or sandals for relaxing and general wear. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
We recommend for you to travel with up to 3 pieces of luggage: A main piece of luggage that can go in the hold of your international flight, an empty trek bag/holdall that can be used while trekking, and a Day Bagmall Backpack for carrying your items during the trekking days. Please see below for full descriptions of each bag. -Main luggage (hold luggage on flight): You will not trek with your main bag, only carrying it from the hotel room to the bus, porters are provided for the trekking sections. This bag is for all your items and will also needs to be used as storage during day and multiple day treks, your non trekking items will be kept in this bag, clean clothes, sandles etc. This bag should preferably have a lock, there will be no access to this bag during trekking days and nights. -Trek bag: This will be used to carry the items that you need for the multiple trekking days. This will be your main luggage bag during trekking nights and needs to hold a maximum of three nights walking and sleeping essentials. Use a strong, soft walled, robust, waterproof trek bag or rucksack that can easily be carried by the porters. The weight limit for the bag and its contents is 18kg but you will probably find that you do not need this much. There will be time the night before leaving for the treks to re-sort your luggage into what you need on the trek. If you pack your gear in plastic bags inside your trek bag they will stay dry in case of rain. It will also be easier for you to sort through. Remember, the less you have to unpack in the evening, the less you have to repack each morning! It is advisable to pack your gear in drytrong plastic bags inside your trek bag so it will stay dry in case of rain -Small Rucksack/Day bag (hand luggage on flight): During the course of a trekking day, you do not have access to the luggage, which is being carried for you by the porters. In any mountain region the weather can change rapidly and you must be equipped for this eventuality. Your daypack should be large enough to carry your day things including: waterproofs, fleece, long trousers (if walking in shorts), warm hat and gloves, sun hat, suncream, water bottle, tissues and your packed lunch. Camera equipment can be heavy so think carefully when deciding what to take. A rucksack with 20 or 25 litres capacity is usually sufficient. Please note that a shoulder bag is not practical.
-Sleeping Bag: As you do not carry it yourself, this may be down or synthetic, but it must be 3/4 season comfort rating (temperature 0°C to 10°C). A silk or fleece liner helps to keep your bag clean and adds an extra season. -Sleeping Mat: Basic roll mats are provided but we would advise you bring a thermorest type matt too as the ground can be cold. -Water Bottle or Platypus/Camelbak hydration system: Water along the trail must never be considered as drinkable until purified. Take at least two 2 litre personal water bottles or a system that allows for this much water, preferably insulated. A personal supply of water purification tablets/drops is essential. Powdered fruit juice can be used to disguise the taste. Energy snacks, including chocolate and sweets, are also recommended whilst on trek. -Sunglasses -Sun cream -Small Torch (with spare batteries and bulb) -Camera -Walking poles (if you usually use them) -Personal toiletries -Personal first aid kit - On each walk a first aid kit is carried but you should have your own blister kit, supply of plasters, aspirin and other essentials. -Insect repellent -Small waterproof dry bag (for items such as your mobile phone) -Reusable water bottle (minimum 1 litre) - Get 15% discount on a Water-to-Go bottle www.explore.co.uk/about-us/responsible-travel/water-to-go-discount-with-explore -Binoculars Equipment Hire and Trek Training Days: Trek Hire UK hire out a wide range of kit including quality sleeping bags, down jackets, therm-a-rest sleeping mats and walking poles http://www.trekhireuk.com. They also run regular trek training and preparation days from their base in the Surrey Hills, ideal for getting an indication of your overall fitness level and also covering advice on kit and altitude.
The accommodation on this tour varies between comfortable hotels and basic camping. We have therefore classified the accommodation on this tour as in the middle of these two categories - simple. The accommodation at the family ran Manja hotel is in simple en-suite bungalows with mosquito nets and electricity and an on-site restaurant offering a variety of dishes. It is fantastically located close to the National Park entrance. The Isalo Ranch is and eco-lodge located close to the National Park. Accommodation is in en-suite bungalows which are plainly decorated with minimal furnishings, they are built in a traditional style from clay and wood with thatched roofs. The electricity and hot water is solar generated, there is an on-site restaurant, bar and outdoor swimming pool. The camp sites are all basic wild camping with varying facilities available: Ranomafana camp - tents pitched under fixed shelter, long drop toilet, one washroom, cold shower Imaitso camp - no facilities, we set up wild camping toilet and bucket washing with water taken from nearby stream Andriampotsy camp - long drop toilet and rustic shower and bucket washing with water taken from nearby stream Belambo camp - no facilities, long drop toilet, and bucket washing with water taken from nearby stream. If you would like to book a single tent for the camping nights of the tour please let us know. We can provide this at a cost of £30 which should be paid in cash to your Tour Leader when you arrive in Madagascar. If you have booked a single room option for the whole trip, this includes a tent during the camping section.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
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Madagascar: If you are visiting for less than 16 days, there is no visa requirement. However, travellers must pay a 10 Euro administrative fee on arrival. For stays of 16 days or more an entry visa is required by UK, New Zealand, Australian, US & Canadian citizens and can be obtained at the airport on arrival. The visa cost is €35 or $37 USD. Only cash is accepted so please ensure you have this with you. Please note GBP sterling is not accepted. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. For a single entry tourist visa you can now apply via the e-visa website: https://evisamada-mg.com/en/home If you needed to obtain a visa you will need to print a copy of your disembarkation authorisation and present this with your passport at the eVisa counters upon arrival in Madagascar. You will be permitted to stay within Madagascar for a maximum of up to 30 days. There is an alternative more expensive tourist visa available for stays of up to 60 days. We strongly recommend for you to read the FAQ section on the e-visa website before applying. Your passport must have at least 6 months validity remaining from the date of your entry into Madagascar and at least 2 blank pages.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A plus Polio and diptheria. Please note that all travellers aged over 9 months old that have travelled from or have transit via a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission, will need to present a Yellow Fever certificate at immigration/borders in Madagascar for inspection. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Following the advice given by the Government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we strongly recommend the wearing long sleeved shirts and the liberal application of insect repellent as a precautionary measure to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. These precautions should be taken at all times as the mosquitoes are also active during daylight hours. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.