The Wild South of Madagascar gives the opportunity to experience the true culture of the country by visiting local markets, villages and towns.This tour also offers excellent opportunities to go lemur spotting and birdwatching
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You will be met at the airport and transferred you to your chosen hotel. From the Airport to Antananarivo city center (12km), it can take sometimes over an hour! Antananarivo is a crowded city full of life! On your way you will see rice paddies, houses that are all different from each other, and the daily life in this city of about 2 million inhabitants. Tananarivians mostly live from day to day jobs, we call it “Ady Gasy”: repairing tyres, selling Chinese-made products in the streets, selling scrap... Antananarivo is full of life and color! Once you get to your hotel, the rest of the day will be free.
Early departure for Antsirabe. You will quickly see how difficult it is to drive on Malagasy national roads and appreciate the expertise of your highly-experienced driver. We can make a stop in Ambatolampy where recycled aluminum cooking pots are made. The countryside is full of plantations and fields. You can buy fresh fruit from the farmers on the road. Antsirabe is a beautiful city in the Highlands of Madagascar. It is surrounded by rice fields and extinct volcanos. Most of the fruit & vegetables feeding Antananarivo’s population are grown here. The city is also famous for handicrafts: zebu horn cutlery or straw hats. While there, you can organize a city tour in a rickshaw
Drive to Sahambavy, with a stop in Ambositra to visit handicrafts markets. Ambositra is a small town famous for Zafimaniry woodcarvings. The Zafimaniry people build entire houses using their own wooden architecture. Their art is listed as UNESCO World Heritage. You can buy handicrafts from them. Arrival in Sahambavy in the evening.
Today we will jump on the train from Sahambavy to Manakara (each Tuesday and Saturday). A very picturesque journey across the lush green forests of Eastern Madagascar, red highlands and tea plantations. The train chugs its way along the railway built in the 30's! The spectacle is also inside the train: Malagasy people bringing cargos of bananas and coffee for sale (and sometimes export), hawkers haggling through the windows in each old fashioned colonial station. Arrival in tthe evening in Manakara.
In the morning, you can walk in Manakara. This city has beautiful colonial style houses bordering the Indian Ocean. There are beautiful beaches lined by coconut trees. Unfortunately, it is not possible to swim because of the strong currents which strike the Eastern Madagascar coasts. Manakara is also on the Pangalanes Channel which is a chain of fresh water lakes (400km long) linked by canals and following the Indian Ocean coast. These two waters are only separated by a narrow stretch of land. Historically, these lakes were linked by French Colonists to allow the transportation of species from the south to the North. The cargo trip ended in Tamatave, the main exporting port of Madagascar. Indeed, the Indian Ocean is too rough to sail along the eastern coast of Madagascar. You will boat on the Pangalanes channel in a pirogue. In Manakara, you can easily have the feeling of being at the end of the world. Here, life has not changed in centuries! In the beginning of the afternoon, you will drive to Ranomafana, meaning “where there are warm waters” because of the hot springs
The half day will be dedicated to exploring Ranomafana National Park. We recommend waking up early for a morning walk inside the Park, as it is the best time for lemur observation. You will be fascinated by botany, ornithology, herpetology in this tropical rainforest. Flora and fauna variety is huge here, and most species are unique. After your visit, you will leave for Fianarantsoa, the capital of the Betsileo tribe. Fianarantsoa means “the place where you receive a good education”. When you arrive, you will have a stroll in the historical part of town: paved roads, traditional houses and a beautiful cathedral. The place has a quite a romantic atmosphere. Its oldest area, the Upper town is classified as a historical and architectural protected area.
Drive to Tsaranoro valley, with stop in Ambalavao to visit Anja private reserve. In this reserve you can meet with the most famous lemur: the ring tailed lemur. You will also see Betsileo traditional tombs. The Betsileo have strong traditions with lots of rites you will learn about from the guide. After the visit, back on the road to Tsaranoro valley. Upon your arrival, lodging at Tsara Camp. Tsara Camp lies in the middle of Tsaranoro Valley. In the morning you will be able to fully enjoy the spectacular view all around the camp. The valley is surrounded by the Tsaranoro Mount (Granite cliff, 800m high) on one side and the giant mountain chain of Andringitra National Park on the other. Memories of Ranomafana tropical forest a couple of days ago will seem far away when looking at this mountainous landscape.
Morning walk inside Tsaranoro valley (guidance fees at your own expense). Tsara Camp organizes several guided walks in the beautiful red mountains. The easy walks will lead you to the sacred forest, home of Catta lemurs. Inside the forest, you will also see a waterfall and a natural swimming pool. On your way, you will go through the Barabory village, the local ethnic group living in the Valley. It will help you to understand the daily life of this isolated people. Indeed, the only access to this valley is the hilly dirt road you used yesterday to come. Here, people live according to the seasons, the weather, and the rice harvest. More challenging walks will bring you up to Mount Chameleon or even to the top of Mount Tsaranoro. After lunch, you will leave this granite landscape to a sandstone one: The Isalo National Park.
A full day is the minimum to have an overview of the huge Isalo NP, the “Malagasy Colorado”. It is the 3rd most visited National Park in Madagascar. The hills are made of eroded sandstone rock and are cut through by deep canyons. It is so big (81,540 hectares) that you can tour inside from half a day up to 5 days! You will enjoy it with 2 half-day hikes: Inside the “Canyon of Lemurs” for the morning and to a swimming pool in the afternoon, passing by an outstanding viewpoint. During your tours, you will see Bara tombs, made by the local ethnic group. The tombs are impressively squeezed dozens of meters high in holes in the cliffs! As for lemurs, you will have a chance to see sifaka, brown lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs.
After your breakfast, drive to Tulear (243 Km / 4h), capital of Southern Madagascar. Known as “the city of the Sun", Tulear is a melting pot of ethnic groups and cultures. If time allows, you will visit the “Aboretum d’Antsokay”. This private reserve 40 hectares large is located 12 km southeast from Toliara. The founder bought this land to grow endangered dry plant species in order to preserve them from deforestation & bush fires. Most of the species are unique to Madagascar. Transfer to Tulear airport for your flight back to Antananarivo. Meet & greet at the airport and transfer to your hotel. Dinner and overnight. An add-on stay is available in one of the beach destinations around Tulear: Anakao or Ifaty.
Depending on your flight schedule, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight back. If time allows, you can do some last minute shopping for Malagasy handicrafts