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Madagascar Discovery (May 7-20, 2015)

Madagascar Discovery (May 7-20, 2015)

Madagascar, an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, has been evolving in isolation for millions of years.  The world’s fourth largest island is home to five percent of the world’s plant and animal species, 80% of which are Madagascar endemics.   Fertile forests and geographical isolation has served to preserve and propagate a mix of species found nowhere else in the world.

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Dr. Sarada Krishnan, Director of Horticulture and Center for Global Initiatives at Denver Botanic Gardens, conducted her doctoral research in Madagascar working on the conservation genetics of wild coffee (Coffea spp.). Her fascination with Madagascar’s biological diversity and interest in coffee species led her to conduct research in the eastern rainforest of Ranomafana and the southeastern littoral forest habitats of Mandena and Pertiky. During 2007 and 2008 field work, she developed a love for the place, its culture and people. Following her research on wild coffee in the littoral forests, she was invited back by Qit Madagascar Mineral to conduct research on a critically endangered tree species in 2013. Through this trip, she hopes to share her passion and enthusiasm for Madagascar with trip participants.

field of Baobab trees in Madagascar

Itinerary

Day 1 (Thurs, May 7) – Arrival/ Tana

On arrival in Antananarivo, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in Antananarivo (“Tana”), the picturesque capital of Madagascar.   With its bustling markets, friendly people and ancient town on a hill with freestone churches and ancient royal places, it is unique among the world’s other capitals.  Overnight at Palissandre Hotel & Spa. (http://www.hotel-restaurant-palissandre.com) (D)

Day 2 (Fri, May 8) – Tana/ Morondava

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Morondava.  Morondava is situated in the heart of Sakalava territory and is known for the royal sculpted tombs of the Menabe ancestors. These tombs are frequently decorated with well-executed, often erotic, funerary carvings representing life and fertility.  In the afternoon, you will be driven to the Avenue of Baobabs where you can take romantic photos of the baobabs at sunset. Overnight at Palissandre Cote Ouest. (http://www.hotel-restaurant-palissandrecoteouest.com/en/) (B,L,D)

Day 3 (Sat, May 9) – Morondava/ Kirindy Reserve

Today we set out for a day excursion to the Kirindy Reserve – a dry forest that covers more than 24,000 acres. You will have the chance to see six species of lemurs, including the fat-tailed lemur and the tiny Microcebus myoxinus, believed to be the world’s smallest primate. There are also 45 bird species and 32 reptile species, including the rare Madagascan flat-tailed tortoise, the side-necked turtle, Madagascar’s only freshwater turtle, and numerous chameleons. On your way back to Morondava, there is the option to enjoy another stop at Avenue of Baobabs. Overnight at Palissandre Cote Ouest. (B,L,D)

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Day 4 (Sun, May 10) – Morondava/ Tana

After a relaxing morning at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Antananarivo.  This afternoon, enjoy a guided city tour as well as a visit to Ambohimanga Royal Palace before checking into your hotel for the night. Overnight at Palissandre Hotel & Spa. (B,L,D)

Day 5 (Mon, May 11) – Tana/ Maroantsetra/ Masaola Lodge

Morning flight to Maroantsetra, a charming town situated at the bottom of the Antongil Bay in a beautiful riverine location where the scent of vanilla and cloves fills the air. The surrounding area is lush and green, and is dotted with rice paddies and stands of coconut palms.  Upon arrival, you’ll be met and transferred to the port where you’ll continue your transfer to Masaola Lodge by motorboat.  On the wild northeast coast of Madagascar lays a hidden, unspoiled place where nature still reigns in undiminished glory.  Nestled between pristine rainforest and coral rich sea and accessible only by boat, Masaola Forest Lodge provides a truly authentic rainforest experience.  Overnight at Masaola Forest Lodge. (http://www.masoalaforestlodge.com) (B,L,D)

Day 6 (Tues, May 12) – Masaola National Park

Today you visit of Masoala National Park.  Masaola spans more than half a million acres and is home to one of the best rainforests in the country and the largest protected terrestrial and marine area in Madagascar. You will go on a full day walk in the primary forest to see reptiles, birds, lemurs and orchids as well as rare and unique species such as the green lizard, the red owl, the tomato frog or the serpent eagle. You will even have the opportunity to relax and swim in the refreshing cool water of a river. Overnight at Masaola Forest Lodge. (B,L,D)

Day 7 (Wed, May 13) – Masaola Lodge/ Tana

After an early breakfast, transfer back to Maraoantsetra in time for your flight back to Tana.  Enjoy a stop at Tana’s artisan market for shopping before continuing on to the hotel.  Overnight at Palissandre Hotel & Spa. (B,L,D)

Day 8 (Thurs, May 14) – Tana/ Fort Dauphin/ Mandrare River Camp                                                

Morning flight to Fort Dauphin and then transfer to Mandrare River Camp, your base for the next three days.  You will have some time to settle into your tent and enjoy the majestic views over the river. After a barbeque lunch of succulent grilled meats and salads, leave for a walk to the Sacred Ifotaka community forests. The forests are filled with the ancestral tombs of the local Antandroy Tribe, as well as a bewildering array of flora and fauna, unique to the spiny forest.  Enjoy an evening aperitif on the river terrace before a sumptuous 3-course dinner.  Overnight at Mandrare River Camp. (http://manafiafy.com/mandrare/home.htm) (B,L,D)

ring-tailed lemur

Day 9 (Fri, May 15) – Mandrare River Camp

After breakfast, drive to the Sacred Gallery Forests to the south of the camp.  These deciduous forests with tamarind as a dominant species are full of wildlife, especially charismatic ring-tailed lemurs.  In the afternoon, head up to enjoy sundowners watching the sun set and moon rise with a view across baobabs to the mountains beyond.  In the evening, the people of the local village may come to perform traditional dances accompanied by singing and music.  Overnight at Mandrare River Camp. (B,L,D)

Day 10 (Sat, May 16) – Mandrare River Camp

Today brings a visit to one of the nearby markets to see the full rich tapestry of valley life as people who have travelled for hours or even days, buy and sell their local wares. With the expert guides to interpret all that you see, this is a rich and fulfilling experience.  After lunch, continue northwards to the Forest of Zenavo.  This forest is owned by an elderly gentleman, and is an excellent location for a guided night walk.  Late this afternoon, search for sifakas and other species.  Once the sun has set, keep an eye out for two mouse lemur species, sleeping birds, chameleons, owls and sportive lemurs. Overnight at Mandrare River Camp. (B,L,D)

Day 11 (Sun, May 17) – Mandrare River Camp/ Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge

After breakfast, transfer by road to Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge with a stop to relax and have lunch in Ft Dauphin en route.  Manafiafy, also known as Sainte Luce, is a beautiful white sandy bay, fringed with forest covered mountains and wildlife rich mangroves.  You have the afternoon to relax and enjoy the amenities on offer at the lodge.  Overnight at Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge. (http://manafiafy.com/manafiafy/home.htm) (B,L,D)

Day 12 (Mon, May 18) – Manafiafy

After breakfast you will embark on your choice of a wide range of wildlife and sporting activities, which are included in your stay.  Some of the options include: canoeing in the mangroves, early morning boat trips for wetland birding, day and night walks in the rainforest to see five species of lemur, and snorkeling in the bay and nearby cove.  Boat trips to the nearby islands for a secluded picnic lunch, walks along long empty beaches, visits to the local village and school.

Forest walks are the main reason for visiting this part of the island and those accessible from Manafiafy are “Littoral” rain forests – shady dense vegetation with a high degree of humidity and home to several Lemurs (collared brown, woolly, brown mouse, dwarf and sportive) as well as reptiles, spiders, birds, insects and orchids. Walks can be done at any time of the day and early evening, and are always accompanied by a Manafiafy guide.

The rocks, islands and bays surrounding Manafiafy provide endless opportunities for exploring and within a short boat ride it is possible to find deserted beaches, scout for whales, or snorkel in the crystal clear water viewing corals and tropical ‘aquarium’ fish. There is always something to do at Manafiafy and each excursion provides its own reward of new experiences – most of them unique to the island of Madagascar.

Day 13 (Tues, May 19) – Manafiafy/ Fort Dauphin/ Tana

This morning after breakfast transfer to Fort Dauphin for your flight back to Tana where you spend a final night before heading home.  Overnight at Palissandre Hotel & Spa or similar. (B,L,D)

Day 14 (Wed, May 20) – Departure

Transfer back to the airport in time for your flight home. (B)

MEALS: B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner

Price: $7955 per person (double occupancy).

Single supplement: Available on request and subject to room availability.

Package includes accommodations, activities and excursions per itinerary, park fees, all meals, airport transfers, private transportation with professional Malagasy driver/guide, domestic flights within Madagascar, and travel insurance (basic policy with $0 trip cost).

Exclusions: international airfare, passport/visa fees, upgraded travel insurance, beverages not included with meals, optional activities, gratuities, and items of personal nature.

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