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This trip will take you to the north-western corner of Madagascar between Nosy Be and Diego Suarez. Especially designed for ocean-lovers we focus on colourful tropical coral reefs, seagrass beds, vast sandy beaches as well as rocky islets, lagoons, mangroves and the open sea to look for marine megafauna and to enjoy the beauty and diversity of the underwater world. Since it would be a shame to miss out on the unique and endemic Malagasy wildlife and flora on land, we also include visits to several national parks and community reserves along the way to look for lemurs, chameleons, frogs, birds in a lush vegetation. This adventurous trip truly allows for a great exploration of the unique Malagasy biodiversity. Along our journey, we will get insight into different conservation approaches and how ecotourism supports conservation, be it in traditionally government-managed national parks, through conservation tourism as well as in community-run reserves that contribute not just to safeguarding the amazing natural heritage but also to providing additional income for communities. Come and join us on this marine and terrestrial biodiversity journey to experience it first-hand!
Antananarivo; Nosy Be; whale sharks; Lokobe National Park; Sakalava dhow for a traditional sailing trip; MAROMANDIA – ANKARANANA; limestone massif of Ankaranana; Ankaranana National Park; Montagne d’Ambre; Amber Mountain National Park; Nosy Hara islands; Ambohivahibe Marine Protected Area;
Good rain gear; Hiking boots; Head torch; Swim gear; Water bottle (75 cl or 1 l); Day backpack (also for camping); Long trousers and shirts that dry easily; Sunscreen; Repellent; Hat or cap; Compact towel; Small waterproof bag (for valuables); Binoculars (optional); Snorkelling gear (optional);
Minimum age 12 years. Younger children are allowed upon request
Single supplement available on request from app. €295
Transfers upon arrival and departure are included
Antananarivo – Antananarivo
Departure from Antananarivo in the morning on day 2
Landing at Ivato airport in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Welcome or ‘tonga soa’! Our driver will bring you to your hotel near the airport to relax and have dinner. Along the road and near the hotel, you can enjoy the vast views of the characteristic rice paddies of the high plateau right away! Your journey already begins!
– Visa and money exchange upon arrival at the airport – Shuttle from airport to hotel – Overnight at Chez Jeanne or similar.
Today we fly to Nosy Be, also known as the Perfume Island. Immediately after arrival we will proceed by ferry to the pristine quiet little island of Nosy Sakatia. The team at the Sakatia Lodge has just received the governmental Green Turtle Reserve endorsement, intending to protect the nearby seagrass beds that are important feeding grounds for the sea turtles. Also, the island is home to nesting beaches of sea turtles, where they come on land to lay their eggs. In front of the lodge is a colorful and beautiful house reef for everyone to enjoy all hours of the day. Sakatia Lodge is also the base for one of the region’s best diving centers, so for guests who have scuba experience or want to get some, there are plenty of diving sites to explore the marine biodiversity.
– Overnight at Sakatia Lodge or similar
We will be staying for a full 4,5 days on this little paradise. During your stay, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery, lush vegetation and wildlife of the island, to snorkel or dive around and to its reefs, to look for green sea turtles in the seagrass beds during the day or on the sandy beaches at night, to go on hikes along the island looking for orchids, and to learn more about the marine conservation that the lodge is engaged in, including sea horse protection and coral reef restoration. There is of course also plenty of time to relax, read a good book, take pictures, stroll around and enjoy a refreshing swim.
On one of these days, depending on the weather and condition of the sea, researcher and conservationist Stella Diamant from the Madagascar Whale Shark Project will guide us on a boat trip with Rand’eau, to look for whale sharks in the big blue and join them in the water for a swim. These harmless and beautiful giants come close to the surface to feed on plankton in Nosy Be waters, an area that is recently discovered as an important feeding hotspot for the species. If we get lucky we may see some dolphins or other marine wildlife along the boat trip.
Our last day at Sakatia is reserved for a visit to Lokobe National Park, protecting most of Nosy Be’s remaining endemic vegetation. To get to the reserve we will peddle in a local dugout canoe through the mangrove area before we arrive at the Park. Lokobe is home to the black lemur and the locally endemic Hawks’ sportive lemur. Chameleons and boa constrictors are a common sight and for plant lovers the lush vegetation and palm Dypsis ampasindavae is a real treat. We will do a 2,5-hour hiking trail in this beautiful forest and enjoy a local traditional lunch together before we head back to Nosy Sakatia.
– Whale shark excursion with Rand’eau
– Lokobe National Park day excursion
– Overnight at Sakatia Lodge or similar
After breakfast we will embark on a traditional Sakalava dhow for a traditional sailing trip that will take us southwards along the coast and estuaries for 4 days, visiting remote places and traditional fishing villages only accessible by sea. It is the true and unknown Madagascar, and experience what the daily life of coastal communities is like. We will be sailing, swimming and snorkelling on reefs of different quality, enjoying the marine life, passing by many fishing boats along an amazing scenery of long and desolate beaches, inlets, azure water, lush vegetation, mangroves, coconut plantations and charming fisher’s villages. Our day stretches from sunrise to sunset and we will enjoy fresh seafood and local fruits along the way, while sleeping under the stars. For those who want to, there is the opportunity to go on walks to look for endemic birds and lemurs in the forest or to climb up the hills to enjoy the spectacular views even more.
– Return 4 day sailing trip (to Ambatofotsy, Ambariomena, Marotony)
– 3 nights of sleeping under the stars in tents
– Last night at Heure Bleu or similar
After the adventures at sea, we will now be focusing more on the inland areas, with dry forests and biodiversity in this region. We will head southwards to Maromandia, a community-managed ecotourism and conservation project. We will go on an afternoon hike to the waterfall and visit the beekeeping farm.
On the next morning we will wake up early to go look for the critically endangered blue-eyed black lemur in the dry forest on a 2/3-hour hike and enjoy this special and not touristic community based parc. After lunch we drive northwards to Ankaranana National Park.
– Transport Nosy-Be – Maromandia (bus & 4WD) (2.30 hours)
– Overnight at La Cascade or similar
– Transport Maromandia – Ankarana (3 hours)
– Overnight Chez Aurelien
Today we visit the limestone massif of Ankaranana, home to a unique Malagasy geological phenomenon, fields of spiky Tsingy, limestone karst pinnacle formations sitting next to dry deciduous forests. The massif is further penetrated by canyons and caves. We will do a 5-hour hike to get to the most spectacular sites while looking for Perrier’s sifaka, crowned and sanford’s brown lemurs as well as numerous birds, reptiles and even bats and insects along the way. The vegetation has adapted to survive the dry conditions of the tsingy and is an attraction by itself; next to the baobabs there is a wide diversity of weird looking Euphorbia species and the even more peculiar Pachypodium or elephant foot plant. We will stop for a picnic lunch and in the afternoon continue our journey northwards to the national park Montagne d’Ambre.
– Transport Ankaranana – Montagne d’Ambre (3,5 hours)
– Overnight at Mountagne d’Ambre Nature Lodge
Another day, another natural park, today we head into the Amber Mountain National Park, a splendid example of montane rainforest, a massive with its own microclimate, cooler and wetter than the surrounding areas. It rains here every day so take your raincoat along and put on an extra layer of clothes! The local conditions have led to luxurious forests with amazing waterfalls and lakes. We will do a half-day easy hike in the forest. The park is as exciting for its plants as for its animals. The large tree ferns, epiphytic bird’s nest ferns, pandanus and endemic cycad palms are, even for the amateur plant-lover, a beautiful sight. As always, we continue to look out for the local wildlife as well, in particular the avifauna which will even fascinate non-bird lovers.
After lunch we drive to the port city Diego Suarez, Madagascar northernmost large city, rich in history and culture. You have the afternoon off for exploring this colonial city, its cultural past and the panoramic views of the second largest bay in the world, once a natural shelter for generations of pirates, slaves and traders. You will still feel a strong Arab influence today because of mosques and locals shewing khat.
After visiting this city, we will drive to Ramena beach and spend the night in La Case en Falafa hotel.
– Transport Montagne d’Ambre – Diego – Ramena (1h30 hours)
– Overnight at La Case en Falafa in Ramena
After four days of dry feet, time to go back to sea for a daytrip visit to the magnificent Nosy Hara. This recently created marine national park consists of one large island and several small islets, islands of ‘tsingy’, indeed spiky limestone, just like in Ankaranana but this time surrounded by the sea, a truly amazing sight. Marine wildlife is in abundance here and we will try our luck to find some whales, dolphins or sea turtles. Take your snorkel gear with you because Nosy Hara is home to a beautiful underwater landscape of corals and a vibrant array of marine life. We will go on land for picnic lunch while also looking for the tiniest chameleon of the planet, Brookesia micra, an endemic species on these islands.
– Transport Diego – Ampasindava (1.30 hours) by 4WD and Ampasindava – Nosy Hara (1 hour) by boat
– Transport Diego – Ramena (40 min)
– Overnight at Casa Falafa in Ramena
All good things come to an end and our final two days we will spend in the Ramena area, a beautiful long beach, fisher’s village and a heaven for water sports, where you have the choice of the following visits:
Option 1: Circuit Three Bays – half a day walk along 3 gorgeous sandy bays with a guide. You will be dropped off at Baie de Sakalava and make your way back on foot to Ramena via the vast, deserted palm-lined bays of Baie des Pigeons and Baie des Dunes. It is a wild, harsh, windy but starkly beautiful enviroment (Possible on both days)
Option 2: Participatory tourism in Community Forest of Oronija. Do something different and work a day together with a local community in the plant nursery and forest on their forest restoration project. A true personal touch and insight into how community-based management works, which can be combined with a walk in the forest and look for habituated crowned lemurs with the local researcher (only possible on day 16).
Option 3: Half day visit to Ambohivahibe Marine Protected Area run by a local fishermen community to get insight into how this community takes conservation into their own hands to the benefit not just of marine biodiversity but also to secure sustainable artisanal fisheries for the next generations. We get a guided visit through the village and visit the marine protected area after which we eat a local traditional lunch. (Only possible on day 17)
Of course, there is also the option to take a break from excursions and relax in and around our hotel where you can lounge by the pool, go for a swim, read a book, take a snooze, enhance your photography skills or even go diving or kitesurfing!
– Overnight at Casa Falafa in Ramena
Today, depending on your inland flight schedule, you will be transferred back to the airport of Diego. There, you will take your return flight to Antananarivo. Upon arrival in the capital, you will be transferred to a hotel near the airport for day-use. Afterwards, you will be taken to the international Ivato airport and will leave Madagascar with – hopefully – unforgettable memories.
– Shuttle from hotel to Diego Airport
– National flight Diego-Tana
– Day use at Chez Jeanne or similar