Hiking through Northern Madagascar's fabulous forests and landscapes, searching for lemurs, photographing the intriguing Red Tsingy, enjoying Nosy Be's pristine beaches
- 9 days 29 December 2011 - 6 January 2012
Get off the beaten path exploring Madagascar, one of Africa's best-kept secrets. From orchids and lush forests to beautiful beaches and pristine waters, this compact adventure showcases Madagascar's northern shores. A quick flight from Antananarivo will bring you to Montagne d'Ambre National Park and Ankarana Special Reserve and their beautiful flowers and ferns, lemurs and wild rock formations. Sail to Nosy Be Island to soak up the sun on incredible beaches or snorkel crystal waters.
Arrive Antananarivo (Tana)
Arrive in "Tana" any time and make your way to the joining point hotel. A brief departure meeting will be held in the hotel reception area in evening on Day 1 of your tour. Upon arrival look for information from your tour leader on the hotel bulletin board from regarding meeting time. Take today to wander the streets of central Antananarivo, taking in old colonial architecture and the brightly colored crowds to get a feel for this unique country. As the capital, Tana is the commerical, administrative, and cultural centre of the country. The city was founded in the 17th century by King Andrianjaka, and was the capital of the Hova chiefs. It is located within, and surrounded by twelve sacred hills of the plateau of Imerina. Within the city centre, flights of steps lead up to a rocky ridge at 1,431 m, on which stands the palaces built by the Imerina kings who captured the capital in 1794 and rules there until the end of the 19th century. At present day, Antananarivo is a large city, with population exceeding one million, whose historic past is not easily missed.
You may wish to spot in to the tourism centre, called "Office national du Tourisme" ex " la maison du tourisme", close to the American Ambassy , for information on the local sites and attractions. Be sure to visit Ambohimanga Palace, the residence of the famous king Andrianampoinimerina, the first king who conquered his neighbouring kingdoms. Antananarivo was famous for its Zoma (market), once the largest market of the world, displayed along the main avenue. Now a days the ex Zoma is splited up in many different little markets around the city. The independence avenue becomes a wonderful place for strolling
Today we transfer to the airport as we leave Antananarivo to the largest centre of the north, Diego Suarez. Also known locally as Antsiranana, this traditional and lively fishing village is located on a beautiful bay surrounded by coconut trees, traditional huts, pirogues (dug-out canoes), and of course white sand beaches. Depending on the flight time, today is a day for you to relax in and around Diego, stroll through the old town, visit the botanical park or the Montagne des Francais, a small wilderness area outside the town, or even hit the beach up the bay, where you may rent a pirogue and go dragnet fishing; you'll have a good chance of catching something.
The town, situated in the extreme north of Madagascar, was named after Portuguese explorers who first visited Madagascar. Their names were Diego Diaz, who was reportedly the first European to visit Madagascar in 1500 and a sailor, Fernando Suarez stopped in the bay six years later. Since then, the area has been a strategic location for both to the local Antakaranas and to the French. The area became an autonomous territory in 1886 and was thereafter united with the rest of Madagascar when it became a French protectorate. Diego Suarez, considered one of world's most beautiful and widest bays, is a country town, but also the third largest port of the continent island. The importance of the port and relations with France explain the presence of one of the most developed shipyards in the Indian Ocean. Fishing is the most important activity in the area, an industry that is important to the entire economy of Madagascar. The city, built around the bay, has a modern and well-kept appearance, but the population is spread out so it does not seem like a large centre, but rather a relaxed coastal town. The main beach is almost on the outskirts of the bay. B
Montagne d'Ambre National Park
En route to Montagne d'Ambre, a wide expanse of lush tropical montane fores, we stop to explore the truly fascinating geologic oddity known as Red Tsingy. In the afternoon, enjoy a guided walk in this ecologically rich region, notable for its tree ferns, lianas, and orchids (which flower in September and October). Montagne d'Ambre National Park is a green oasis in the north - Diego Suarez receives only about 900 mm of rain per year while the park is drenched with an average of 3,858 mm. It is an isolated patch of montane rainforest covering an area of 18,200 ha and lying at altitudes between 850 m and 1,475 m. It derives its name from the resin that oozes from some of its trees, a few of which reach 40m. Two waterfalls form the focal points, and there are crater lakes and view points over the forest and surrounding area.
This is perhaps Madagascar's most rewarding reserve - it is very accessible, has a good trail system with up to 30km of trails, labelled trees and points of interest, and is has a very beautiful, lush environment, with many resident species of lemurs. Because of the high rainfall and diverse vegetation, the park is home to an incredible array of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Look for the sanford's brown lemur, crowned lemur, northern sportive lemur, Amber mountain fork-marked lemur, brown mouse lemur, and even the northern ring tailed mongoose and fosa. If lucky, you may see the rare, nocturnal fanalouc. In the trees, you may hear the Madagascar crested ibis, Malagasy kingfisher, Madagascar blue pigeon, forest rock-thrush, Madagascar magpie robin, broad-billed roller, among so many other bird species. The park has a particularly rich and impressive herpetofauna which includes many species of chameleon, snake, skink and frog. Three of the leaf-tailed geckos, Uroplatus, occur here, as well as two day geckos. BLD
Ankarana Special Reserve
The Ankarana massif rises 100 km south of Diego Suarez, in a 18.200 ha wild region with bizarre limestone pinnacles known as "Tsingy", deep narrow canyons covered by forests and an underground net of rivers and caves. The Ankarana Massif is a limestone plateau roughly 100 sq km in area and rises abruptly from the surrounding grassy plain. This wild region is dominated by impressive and bizarre formations "Tsingy", unique limestone pinnacles. The area have deep narrow canyons covered by forests, and an extensive system of caves and underground rivers. Some of the largest caves have collapsed, permitting isolated pockets of river-fed forest. Dry deciduous forest grows around the periphery of the massif and penetrates up into the larger canyons.
Fig and baobab trees inside the canyons, pachypodium and euphorbia on the high tsingy consist the reserve's vegetation. Inside the park live six species of lemurs, various kind of mammals (the tail stripped mangoose is one of them), 83 species of birds, geckos, chameleons and crocodiles in underground lakes. In fact, Ankarana is thought to contain the highest density of primates of any forest in the world. You will spend some time searching for the Crowned lemur, Sanford's brown lemur, northern sportive lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, Amber Mountain fork-marked lemur and western woolly lemur. Other animals present include the northern ring–tailed mongoose, fanaloka, fosa and several species of bat. Very rare but present are Perrier' black sifaka, western grey bamboo lemur and aye-aye. BLD
Enjoy a drive through cocoa, coffee and pepper plantations as we make our way to the western coastal town of Ankify. Wonderful options for your free time in the afternoon include a little visit of the surrounding villages, enjoying the sunset view from your hotel, or relaxing on the beautiful beach, where with luck, you may spot the gigantic sea turtle. The setting of this small coastal town, with the beach set below the rocky cliffs, is simply fantastic! B
Take a ferry ride over to Nosy Be, the most well known of the Malagasy Islands. Relax, snorkel or take an optional boat tour through some of the best waters and beaches of Madagascar. With its markets full of life to the popular beaches that attract travelers from around the world, you will love to sit in a local cafe and people watch in the beautiful weather that this island offers. Take some time to do an optional boat tour to some of the islet, or do some snorkeling. What ever you decide to do Nosy Be is the place to sit back and enjoy a bit of the local culture and fantastic tropical waters before continuing back to Tana and beyond.
Nosy Be, which means "big island" in the Malagache, the local language, is a volcanic island has an area of about 300 sq km and it is characterized by a great many hills that are overlooked by Mount Lokone at 450 m, and Mount Passot, at 350 m. It is located only about eight kilometres off the coast of Madagascar, and has a coast is very jagged and punctuated by a great many bays and gorgeous coves and also deserted beaches lined by palm trees. The island it spotted with numerous spice plantations, with coffee, cocoa, vanilla, and cinnamon intensively cultivated all over the island. Nosy Be is the largest Malagasy Island and with the main town known as "Hell-Ville", or Andoany. The warm waters of the Mozambique Channel and the unique microclimate of the island makes Nosy Be unique, and a wonderful tropical paradise. 2B
Today we say good bye to the coast and travel back to the main land. B
Arrive in Antananarivo. B