One thing you need to know about Madagascar: 5 per cent of the world's known animal and plant species are found here, and only here.
Lemurs steal the limelight, but beneath the forest canopy you’ll also find fossa, fanaloka and thousands more unique animals of all shapes and sizes.
It's not just the interior. Madagascar's magnificent coastline is dotted with pristine reefs and remote islands that are a haven for marine species like humpback and sea turtles.
Few people know more about the island and its wildlife than Derek Schuurman. He’s contributed to several guidebooks on the region, including Bradt's Madagascar Wildlife. He works with our partners, Rainbow Tours, ensuring you get a tour created the way you want it. What follows is a very popular current tour, our suggestion for the best in island exploration.
Madagascar: Reef and Rainforests
This two-week tailor-made holiday combines stunning wildlife-rich rainforests and a lovely eco-sensitive hotel at a reef-protected tropical beach.
The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park protects 11 species of lemur as well as many reptiles including the enormous Parson's chameleon, and most of the country's rainforest-dependent endemic birds, such as the Blue coua and Nuthatch vanga. You can see the Diademed sifaka and other rarities.
Night walks may reveal the localised Goodman's Mouse lemur and a host of other nocturnal species. This area holds a world record for number of frog species among rainforests of comparable size. End the holiday on the balmy, tropical Ile Ste Marie where Princesse Bora Lodge is also home to a research project for the protection of marine mammals and a great place to whale-watch from July to mid September.
Day 1: London - Paris - Antananarivo
Fly with Air France from London (or selected regional airports) via Paris. On arrival into Antananarivo, the vibrant Malagasy capital, you will be met and transferred to the Relais de Plateaux for one night, breakfast included.
Day 2: Antananarivo & Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
After breakfast, meet your professional wildlife expert guide and head to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in the central-eastern rainforest band. Begin your exploration of the reserve in search of the iconic, ape-like Indri along with many other rainforest-dependent wildlife. Later, take an evening walk in the Station Forestier de Analamazaotra. A choice of accommodation is available for the next three nights.
Day 3: Mantadia National Park
Explore the primary rainforest of Mantadia National Park to seek Diademed sifaka, Black-and-white ruffed lemurs, the insectivorous tenrecs and the rainforest-dependent ground rollers. You may wish to take a picnic lunch and eat it beside a waterfall. You can also visit the very popular ‘Lemur island’, where visitors can enjoy getting to know some lemurs rescued from trappers.
Day 4: Andasibe (aka Amalamazaotra)
Your guides will take you to explore the rainforest of Andasibe, where groups of Indri and other iconic rainforest species are readily seen along paths mostly graded as 'easy'.
Day 5: Antananarivo
You have most of the morning for the rainforest before you are driven to the capital. Overnight in Relais des Plateaux, breakfast included.
Day 6: Ile Sainte Marie
You will be driven to the airport for the flight to Ile Sainte Marie for a seven-night stay in a double charme villa at Princesse Bora Lodge, with breakfast and dinner included.
Complimentary lodge activities include snorkelling, kayaking, use of bicycles, sauna, Jacuzzi and the swimming pool.
Activities with a surcharge include spa treatments, day excursions by jeep, rental of quad bikes and scuba diving.
Day 7: Ile Sainte Marie
Enjoy palm-lined coves, discover the offshore islands such as lovely Ile Aux Nattes, see the legacy of pirate and French settlement, explore the coastal bush and the mangrove system, dive the wrecks, snorkel, watch village life and in season, arrange unforgettable whale watching excursions through the hotel.
Rates for whale watching (payable at the hotel): 45 Euros per adult (and 23 Euros per child) for the first whale-watching excursion; 30 Euros per adult and 15 Euros per child for subsequent excursions.
Day 8: Ile Sainte Marie
Aside from rest and relaxation time, you could explore some of the island of Ste Marie, where attractions include the world's only pirate cemetery.
Day 9: Ile Sainte Marie
Relax on Ile Sainte Marie or partake in various activities which can be arranged at the lodge.
Days 10-12: Ile Sainte Marie
Days at leisure. Enjoy Ste Marie, or perhaps visit nearby Ile Aux Nattes. Snorkelling around the latter is rewarding. There is plenty of small wildlife to be seen in the coastal bush on Ste Marie, notably reptiles and frogs.
Day 13: Antananarivo
Transfer to the airport for the flight to Antananarivo and on to Relais De Plateaux where you will have a day room.
Day 14: Paris - London
You will be transferred to the airport for your flight at 01.40 back to London Heathrow via Paris, arriving in London about 13.30.
Price per person (sharing) from £3,495.
Includes: return Air France international flights (economy class seating), departure taxes; Air Madagascar domestic flights, accommodation and meals as specified, park entry permits, the exclusive services of a qualified driver and a professional English-speaking wildlife expert guide for Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and Antananarivo, transfers and private transportation.
Any meals not listed; drinks, tips and items of a personal nature, travel insurance, visa (25 Euros, issued on arrival).