This site uses cookies. More info

Thank you for your interest in our holidays. To help us provide the best service for you, please tell us a bit more about what you are looking for, including details of activities or particular holidays you are interested in. Our expert will then begin planning your perfect visit to Madagascar.

We really excel at tailor-making your trip to your needs. You may want to see certain species or visit particular parks, reserves or lodges. You may want a private plane or helicopter and high class car, or need to travel at a certain time of year. Tailor-making works whether you are an experienced traveler or trying out a wildlife holiday for the first time, wanting to enjoy a wildlife experiences as part of an occasion like a birthday, honeymoon or anniversary, or a busy executive in search of a short wildlife fix.

Have you always wanted to design your own tour but let someone else handle all the nitty gritty of organizing it? Do you run specialized tours where you'd like us to put them together for you? Keen birders, scuba divers, conservationists, volunteers, photographers, surfers, medical adventurers, hikers, bikers, historians and geologists – no matter what your specialty is, we can tailormake accordingly! We also offer unique tours which you're more than welcome to join us on!

Do you have a large family or group of friends that you would like to travel? Does your company want to run its own set of branded series tours? The NDAO-i-Travel tailormade services and charter team can do organize all of this for you, and more! Whether it be in an air-conditioned bus, a minivan or a 4 x 4 vehicle, we will tailor a tour for you to ensure that your dream holiday takes in everything you're expecting from it.

Our team of well-travelled and dedicated individuals will provide you with a detailed itinerary, suggested accommodation, professional, friendly service and all the support you need to make travelling in Madagascar an absolute pleasure.

Whether your party is made up of two or two hundred travelers, we'll pull something special out of the bag, just for you!

You can enjoy complete flexibility in planning and booking on all our tours for a truly customized Madagascar holiday that is in your budget and personal style. Traveling around a theme or exploring something in particular? Our tailor-made holiday experts are eager to assist in planning an experience that fits your requirements putting you in complete control of your next Madagascar holiday.

This page is under development.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST DURING A TRIP?

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION DO YOU PREFER?

WHEN YOU WANT TO TRAVEL?

HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL TRAVEL TOGETHER?

WILL THE CHILDREN TRAVEL WITH YOU?

PREFERRED PAYMENT CURRENCY

REQUEST TOUR

TOUR NAME

YOUR MESSAGE

How did you hear about "NDAO-i-Travel"?
The Highlands (Central Madagascar)
Antananarivo and around

Let one of our tailor-made holiday
experts help you plan a personalized
Madagascar experience as per
your budget and requirements

CONTACT US TODAY

ndao-i-travel

Make a call order, and we
will call you back

The Highlands of Madagascar

The Highlands (Hautes Terres) stretch from North to South along more than 1000 km of the central part of the island. The altitude varies from 800 to 2700 m at the highest peaks. The region includes dramatic granite mountain ranges, lava ridges and outcrops. While there’s very little indigenous natural forest left, the human landscape is captivatingly beautiful, with deep valleys filled for hundreds of years by terraced rice fields and characteristic rows of traditionally built houses, and the interest never wanes as you travel through the region.

The landscape is made up of a plateau splattered with a succession of large rounded boulders, hills and several higher mountains, valleys and rivers, the biggest lakes of Madagascar, shimmering rice fields and hollow-like depressions. The center of Madagascar, with the entanglement and diversity of its landscapes is like a dungeon of the island. Lands of traditions, rich with historical places, they exhibit a continental trait.

Central Highlands abound with spots of tourist attractions. Historical monuments and sites offer a glimpse of the history of the region. The exclusive flora and fauna also forms a part of the uniqueness of this region.

Best time to visit

jan feb mar apr may june july aug sept oct nov dec

Key attractions

Ranomafana National Park. The rainforest’s gem

Meaning ‘hot water’ in Malagasy, due to the hot springs found in the area, Ranomafana National Park is one of the most picturesque national parks in Madagascar. Covering a mountainous area of 435km2, the park is set at altitudes that range between 500 and 1200m in a vast tract, comprised mainly of dense rainforest. The rare golden bamboo lemur was discovered here in 1986 by Dr. Patricia Wright, which led to the area gaining National Park status. It now provides a protected environment for these endangered animals and is one of the island’s most accessible and appealing stops on any itinerary.

Sprawled across the ridges and valleys of the upper Namorona River basin its thick tangle of trees and plants is bathed by a constant flow of moist air drifting up from the Indian Ocean, helping to make this park one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. More than 1025 species of trees and other plants have been recorded here to date, spread across several distinct domains from lowland rainforest, through mid-altitude to highland rainforest. The forests are interspersed with tree ferns and lichens and offer – mostly in November – blooming orchids. These fantastic rainforests gives you a maximum of endemism, and every year new plant and animal species are discovered.

In addition to its densely forested hills, the protected area is characterised by numerous small streams, which plummet down to the beautiful Namorona River, which bisects the park and produces electricity for the surrounding areas at the hydroelectric power station of Ranomafana. In this first ecological live museum of Madagascar, one learns how to overcome the fear of the snakes for example by taking the Placida in his arms, the typical boa of our island. It is also possible to carry out excursions on an easy mountainous track to admire many cascades and waterfalls. The various trails make it possible to reach steep slopes hills.

Ranomafana National Park quick facts:

*Wildlife spotting: no fewer than 12 species of lemurs can be found here as well as 118 species of birds (roughly half the island’s total) and the immense wildlife is completed by 62 species of reptiles (chameleons, snakes and fringed and satanic leaf-tailed geckos are pretty common), 98 species of frogs, 90 species of butterflies, 350 species of spiders and several species of fishes and crayfishes. Other mammals include 7 species of tenrecs, 8 species of bats and 6 species of carnivorous, like the Malagasy striped civet and some mongooses.

*Bamboo lemurs: the park was created in 1991 due it the discovery of the golden bamboo lemur 5 years earlier. The golden and the greater bamboo lemurs are threatened with extinction - they are classified as an endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

*The park is grouped with other eastern rainforest parks and was declared World Heritage Site UNESCO in 2007.

*Stony Brook University New York’s extraordinary Centre ValBio, the park’s showpiece research base which opened in 2011, has a radical but sensitive design, bringing visitors into close proximity with the forest, without having destroyed any of the environment in the course of its building. Founded by the renowned primatologist Patricia Wright, it promotes research into the rainforest ecosystem and works with the community on sustainable development. You can visit and get a tour of the facilities.

There are four main districts at Ranomafana, with trails of varying lengths cut through them: on the north side the districts of Vohiparara and the much larger Soarano; and on the south side the popular Varibolo area and further south the much bigger Varijatsy. There are many kilometers of trails here, ranging from slightly arduous to quite hard-core – but such is the richness and diversity of the wildlife around you that as long as you’re reasonably fit and have suitable footwear, you’re not likely to notice how strenuous the experience is until the next day. There are 7 different circuits in order to explore this marvelous Park. Please be aware that the shortest treks are also the most popular ones and trails can get quite crowded especially during the high season. The longer treks are much quieter and more rewarding from a wildlife watching point of view. We also offer special circuits: Botany, ornithology, herpetology, culture, etc…

WHAT OF WILDLIFE YOU WILL SEE? Lemur lovers will not be disappointed here with a total of 12 lemur species calling it home. In addition to the golden bamboo lemur, you may spot the rare Aye-Aye, Milne-Edward’s sifaka, black-and-white ruffed lemur, eastern woolly lemur, eastern grey bamboo lemur, red-bellied lemur, greater bamboo lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, Small-toothed sportive lemur, greater dwarf lemur and brown mouse lemur. Mammal life isn’t confined to lemurs: the long-legged and rather beguiling eastern red forest rat (Nesomys rufus) often makes an appearance on the trails, keeping two wary eyes open for a local predator, the handsomely marked fanaloka (Fossa fossana), which despite its scientific name is more like a genet or civet – and very partial to rat.

Birds are also wide spread in Ranomafana. Within excess of 118 bird species recorded, ornithologists would be wise to bring their binoculars to the park. There are some 30 endemic species of bird that are isolated to the region around Ranomafana including, but not limited to, a tiny terrestrial rail, the local and elusive slender-billed flufftail (Sarothrura watersi); the brilliantly plumaged pitta-like ground roller (Atelornis pittoides); the exceedingly secretive and rare brown mesite (Mesitornis unicolor); the shrike-like Pollen’s vanga (Xenopirostris polleni); and the short-legged ground roller (Brachypteracias leptosomus), which you may spot – or more likely your guide may spot – perched on a low branch in the understorey, obligingly motionless for low-light photography. Also look out for the velvet asity (Philepitta castanea): the male of the species turns out smartly for the breeding season in shiny navy-blue-green, with fleshy turquoise trimmings, like a little turkey wattle, on his head.

Herpetology enthusiasts will be enraptured by Ranomafana. Ranomafana is a hotspot especially for reptile lovers: Numerous amazing and rare chameleon species can be found here, among them Furcifer balteatus, Calumma glawi, Calumma parsonii parsonii, Calumma crypticum with its blue legs or the small pygmy chameleon Palleon nasus. Roadside night walks reveal sleeping adult chameleons on every other branch and vulnerable hatchlings no bigger than a safety pin, clinging to the tips of leaves, eyes shut tight, instinctively poised to detect an approaching snake. Ranomafana’s standout chameleons are the handsome double-nosed O’Shaughnessy’s chameleon (Calumma oshaughnessyi) and the diminutive short-nosed chameleon (Calumma nasutum), with its comical, blue-tinted, Pinocchio-like proboscis.

If you have an eye for geckos, do not miss the bizarre leaf-tailed gecko Uroplatus phantasticus, which is well camouflaged in the foliage and its cousins the mossy leaf-tailed (U. sikorae) and giant leaf-tailed (U. fimbriatus). Frog friends will also find their personal paradise here: Only few locations offer opportunities for so many frog sightings in the foliage, in old bamboo trunks or on trees. Tree frogs perch, gulping, on branches above streams (the larger, creamy blue-throated specimens are called white-lipped bright-eyed frogs, Boophis albilabris). The number of insect species is enormously huge, especially butterflies can be seen and admired, as well as the unique giraffe necked weevil (Trachelophorus giraffae). The nocturnal comet moth (Argema mittrei), one of the biggest butterflies of the Earth, can be commonly met in Ranomafana and sometimes even flies near the hotels.

As regards vegetation, giant tree ferns are common at Ranomafana (their trunks traditionally used for building) as are many species of orchids. The other key plant in the park is bamboo, or rather eleven species of bamboo, all endemic to Madagascar, including the giant bamboo (Cathariostachis madagascariensis), one of the biggest species in the world. Among the plants which grow in these rain forests, many are used by the Tanala and the Betsileo for medical purposes. There are precious wood and palm trees, many carnivorous plants. One attractive but invasive exotic tree, the strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) is everywhere and if you’re here during the May/June fruiting season you’re likely to see lemurs right away: the fragrant guava fruit are a popular seasonal staple for lively red-bellied and red-fronted brown lemurs and for the handsome southern black-and-white ruffed lemurs which have been studied extensively and are quite easy to see.

The best times to visit are April to May and August to December, though if you want to kayak or raft on the river (which we can be organized), you should visit roughly from December to April. Although on average it rains here two hundred days every year, the heaviest rainfall comes in the hot season (Dec–March); temperatures cool down in the drier austral winter, and many nocturnal species hibernate in June and July. August, when it begins to get warmer again, sees the start of the spring breeding season, which runs until November. Note that on rainy days, which occur even in the so-called dry season, lemurs and many other animals can be quite elusive while they take shelter.

Ranomafana National Park perfectly rhymes with Manakara through a veritable garden of exoticism Mananjary, you can take a fascinating and very useful trip, "Cruise on the Pangalanes Canal Ranomafana NP – Manakara and railway Côte Est - Fianar, the "little train of the cliffs", to discover the Manombo Special Reserve and experience the super railway Côte Est - Fianar. Well... or vice versa, "Cruise on the Pangalanes Canal Manakara - Ranomafana NP via Mananjary ". But you can do it just in quicker, but less interesting way to drive a 4x4 car on a dirt road.

A trip to Ranomafana can also be well connected with the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. You can get access to all the sights that the East of Madagascar offers or return to the capital Antananarivo by taking "Cruise on the Pangalanes Canal Ranomafana NP-Andasibe-Mantadia NP via Mananjary, Nosy Varika and Mahanoro".

Watch more photos about Ranomafana National Park here.

Andringitra National Park. A wild mountain range

With sumptuous landscapes punctuated with massifs of granite, Andringitra National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the most beautiful parks in Madagascar, the Andringitra massif offers an incredible natural wealth. It is open to all, and large spaces’ and moutain walks’ lovers won’t be disappointed as a panoramic view awaits them! The park offers an exceptional wet rainforest and the opportunity to climb the Peak Boby which culminates at 2 658 m (2nd highest on the island). Pic Boby d’Imarivolanitra is the island's highest accessible peak and provides a dramatic backdrop to the barren plain; it is a mecca for rock climbers, who consider it to be one of the world’s most challenging climbs. The Pic Boby hiking is a must-do when you go to Andringitra. The next peak is called Peak Bory culminating at 2630m.

The tourist interest of its national park comes from following activities: hiking, trekking, excursion, climbing, discovery, panoramic sight since the top, and it all thanks to 100km of tracks for walk fitted out in a picturesque decoration of mountains. The 311 km2 of Andringitra offers many landscapes: meadows, forests, thickets and large expanses, high mountains, deep valleys, and ridges. A breathtaking show punctuated by an exceptional surprise: the Riambavy, 300 m high waterfall.

The Andringitra mountains are a granite outcrop in south-highlands Madagascar. Explorers in the early twentieth century recognized the ecological importance of the massif and, in 1927, the central part of the mountain range was declared a Strict Nature Reserve and is one of the most biologically diverse areas in Madagascar. Andringitra is extraordinarily rich in wildlife, with 13 species of lemurs, more than 50 other mammals, 106 species of birds, 35 reptiles, no fewer than 57 species of frog and at least 1000 species of plants and trees.  It is also an important central link in the longest unbroken chain of rainforest remaining in Madagascar, which stretches 180km from Ranomafana National Park in the north connecting to Pic Boby in the south. Andringitra contains three separate ecosystems: low altitude rainforest, montane forest and high-altitude vegetation. Together these constitute an essential link in the longest remaining unbroken section of rainforest.

ENJOY THESE... Walks the slopes of Andringitra. A miraculous refuge for plants and animals, Andringitra is best known for its hiking trails, climbing walls, and rocky landscapes. You can choose between several routes, each with specific characteristics and different levels of difficulty. The park offers some of the most scenic trekking in Madagascar. For the most adventurous, the site offers climbing. A sporty trip, rich in adventure and discovery. Note that you also have the possibility to bivouac under tents. The trails are mostly in good condition, but they’re long and quite arduous. But on difficult patches of the paths one has created solutions, so everyone who is fit can make the hike. Go on trek for 2-3 days in an exceptional setting. The massif offers various activities to do including trekking, in an exuberant and incredible nature. Camping, birdwatching, and trekking are the main activities to do in the park. The Pic Boby climb is also a must-do when you go to Andringitra. The majority of visitors do the 3-day/2-night Peak Boby trek.

Most of the park circuits start at the Namoly Gate in the east. Walks in the west mostly take place outside the park proper but give you great views and ring-tailed lemur encounters. Walking west to east (from the Morarano Gate in the west to Namoly) or vice versa takes a minimum of two days in each direction. Usually, the six hiking trails hereafter are offered (but not only): Hiking in Andringitra for one day: Circuit Asaramanitra - is the easiest; Circuit Imaintso (or greenery), the trail leads to the east; Circuit Isahavato (or Stone fields): Isahavato is the name of a high altitude western plateau where some rare palm tree species grow up. Circuit Diavolana (or full moon) takes you through wild meadows of flowers, and orchids to a lunar landscape which deserves its name well! Circuit Imarivolanitra (or close to the skies): a 28km 3-days journey, it is the climbing of the peak Boby and the meeting with its high altitude inhabitants after crossing the grassy savannas. The Pic Boby hiking is a must-do when you go to Andringitra. Circuit ZOMANDAO. This region of the Andringitra Massif is awe-inspiring, with challenging and thrilling hiking terrain. However, just a handful of visitors ever venture into this isolated region.

After a few hours of walking you can reach the neighbouring valley of Tsaranoro, which is world famous for climbers and adventurous souls. There, you will come across authentic landscapes and villages with deep-red earthen houses whose inhabitants will welcome you warmly.

WHAT OF WILDLIFE YOU WILL SEE? You’ll discover an unsuspected wealth in this region of the Andringitra. Lemurs, many non-venomous snakes, chameleons and many birds with flamboyant colors. Although the park is extremely biodiverse, its wildlife isn’t always easy to see and the greatest number of species is found in the eastern rainforest. Andringitra’s most emblematic species is the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta). Other lemurs – all found in the eastern forests – include rufous mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus), greater dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus major), small-toothed sportive lemur (Lepilemur microdon), southern bamboo lemur (Hapalemur meridionalis), golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus), greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus), brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus), red-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur rufifrons), red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer), Peyriéras’ woolly lemur (Avahi peyrierasi), Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (Propithecus edwardsi), and aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). The Critically Endangered southern black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata editorum) formerly occurred here as well, but has not been reported in recent years.

Outstanding birdlife includes the handsome and relatively common Madagascar blue pigeon (Alectroenas madagascariensis), with its distinctive red tail, and the much less easily seen, hook-billed and stump-tailed yellow-bellied sunbird-asity (Neodrepanis hypoxantha), which is like a diminutive flying lemon, flashing through the high forest, the Salomon’s souimanga with its long hooked bill, the small fody whose plumage turns into bright red during mating and breeding season from November to March or the Atelonis ground roller.

Andringitra’s most notable chameleon, found in bushes in the high-altitude grasslands, is the unmistakeably jewel-like Campan’s chameleon (Furcifer campani), with its three lateral stripes and multicoloured scales. Above the tree line, look out for two Andringitra endemics – the mottled mountain climbing frog (Anodonthyla montana), which breeds in rainwater puddles in the granite and can often be found tucked under stones, and the prettily green-patterned Andringitra bright-eyed tree frog (Boophis laurenti), which makes do with heather bushes for trees and breeds in fast-flowing streams above 2000m. FLORA: very rich in endemic species. It is the case for orchids of which about thirty species were inventoried.

In addition to the natural attractions, Andringitra has many sacred places and fascinating customs, making it a mystical and picturesque area to visit. The surroundings of Andringitra Park also offer a rich cultural itinerary that will make you discover endearing people anchored in ancestral traditions. Christianity seems little to have penetrated in the area, which explains the survival of various traditions sometimes considered to be pagan by the missionaries and pastors of the Lutheran faith. However, the natural resources and the biodiversity are precisely protected by spiritual beliefs like by various taboos. (Mystical Lakes and waterfalls that it is forbidden to pollute or profane, sacred forest whose plants should not be gathered…)

Climates range from humid tropical in the eastern lowland rainforests to extreme temperatures at higher elevations, which can descend to -8°C. Three various climates reign on Andringitra. Material conditions: good walking shoes are required on rocky ground, rain gear, hat. No need to take tents or sleeping bags which are available on the spot. You should wear warm clothes because it can be very cold when the night comes out.

Watch more photos about Andringitra National Park here.

Anja Community Reserve, the reserve is also known as “Rocky Park”

Welcome to Anja Community Reserve, a unique environmental and cultural preservation site in the south of Madagascar. It is an ideal ecotourist destination. Here you can easily see and photograph the ring-tailed lemur (Lemurian Catta), there are around 400 individuals in the reserve and they have grown accustomed to visitors so you'll get the chance to get relatively close. Anja's lemurs are famous for sunning themselves on the boulders (generally early in the morning).

This ecological reserve is a dry forest nestled at the base of three, large granite mountains. The reserve is impressive with staggering granitic boulders and green valleys. Its nickname is “Anja Park”. Due to its rocky character, the reserve is also known as “Rocky Park”. The rocky landscape mainly consists of granite, and is located at the feet of the “three sisters” (telo mirahavavy), a nearly 500m high rock formation, ringed at the base by a narrow forest full of ring-tailed lemurs. For centuries, the Betsileo tribe used many of the canyons and caves as shelter, and until 1930 years for graves of important personalities, too.

Although the area is relatively small, it today offers animals worthy of protection, which makes the reserve an attraction to travelers from all countries. The famous ring-tailed lemurs, several species of chameleons (among them Furcifer campani, the carpet chameleon Furcifer lateralis and the only here occuring Brookesia brunoi). There are 3 species of lizards in Anja: androngo or the Madagascar Girdled Lizard (Zonosaurus madagascariensis), Katasataka (Phelsuma barbouri), and Dangalia (Chalarodon madagascariensis). Lizards are often seen scaling the sides of the many rock faces in the forest. A few species of snakes live in the reserve, but the most spectacular is the Do or Madagascar Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis), an endemic snake to Madagascar. It is a mild animal, but can be dangerous if provoked. Don't worry, there are NO poisonous snakes found in Madagascar. Anja Park has other species of animals, often difficult to see. The “Ampaha” greatly resembles a domestic cat; most Malagasy call it Piso dia or Saka dia (wild cat) because it inhabits similar spaces, but is removed from the village. The Lowland Streaked Tenrec or Sora (Hemicentetes semispinosus), in Madagascar's only marsupial family, is nocturnal. There are also many species of birds in the reserve. 11 species of birds are officially protected by AMI.

Reserve has many types of plants from around the island, including many plants of the spiny deserts in the south, the central highland mountains, and the western dry forests. The plantlife in Anja Reserve is extremely diverse, including several families of saxicol plants and orchids. There is a species of orchids that has previously only been found at the top of one of the granite summits in Anja. Almost all plants in the reserve have medicinal properties. Despite western medicine and clinics quickly replacing traditional practices, the guides at the park retain a wealth of information based on traditional practices. If you are keen on seeing endemic plant species, make sure to indicate to our guide that you would like to go on a circuit that highlights the beautiful plant species of the reserve.

If you want to explore this area we recommend our longest guided hike, which lasts several hours - Large Circuit Loop is a six-hour hike to the top of the mountain. The large loop will allow a rest at the top of the mountain at 1400m, with a 360-degree view that includes Ambalavao 13km away. Only very few people do this long hike. It's amazing, like being directly in a Discovery Channel documentary! Past travelers enjoyed checking out Anja Community Reserve on foot. But no worries, there’s no need to bring climbing equipment, just remember to wear good shoes.

But there is and Small Circuit Loop, it will take two hours maximum. You will easily see families of ring-tailed lemurs, a variety of flora, two traditional Betsileo tombs and perhaps a natural cave or two. The Anja Reserve is actually the most visited ecotourism site in Madagascar. The never-ending train of tour buses easily makes that believable. Anja sees around 25 000 tourists a year, so you are unlikely to be alone at this Circuit, will be crowded, particularly from April to November.

Anja is also a rich cultural site, preserving ancient tombs from the previous two centuries. Family tombs located on the rock faces are in active use to this day, most are extremely difficult to access. Reserve also preserves anthropological evidence of humans in the forest during the time of the Betsileo monarchy. Before 1815, the forest served as a safe haven where around 200 people could support themselves on the food and water and be protected from invaders. In 1817, The Merina conquered the Betsileo kingdom of Anja. After the French invaded and conquered Madagascar, the people has establish villages, farms, and begin to pay taxes. Many of the same clans live in Anja today and are a part of the village association that protects the land of their ancestors.

Watch more photos about  Anja Community Reserve here.

Mount Ibity – The aloe Mecca of Madagascar and of all kinds of activities

Give yourself the opportunity to discover the beauty of nature as well as the cultural richness of the Vakinankaratra by visiting Mount Ibity. Lose yourself in a fascinating landscape alternating rice terraces and emerging rocks. Mount Ibity which culminates at 2292 meters of altitude - just outside the second largest city, Antsirabe - is one of the most geologically and botanically interesting locations in Madagascar. The beauty of the flora is the first attraction of this great massive of quartzite. Well known among gemologists and botanist alike, the mountain hosts some plants found nowhere else in the world.

Indeed 70% of the vegetation of this site is endemic. This mountain is very rich in succulent; the most typical are undoubtedly its Pachypodium and Kalanchoe. Pachypodium brevicaule is a common sight on Mount Ibity and is unique that it is a dwarf species. There are also several species of orchids there.

The Ibity massif has a high level of diversity when it comes to Aloes. 12 aloe species are in the area, with four endemic to the massif itself. You have a chance to see one of the nicest aloes of Madagascar. Aloe laeta’s finely toothed margins and beautiful color range have made it highly sought after by collectors. It can only be found in habitat on this mountain. Orchids are abundant at the higher elevations on Mount Ibity. But when not in flower, they are hard to identify.

Mount Ibity is a must-stop location during your trip through Antsirabe. Experience your passion for hiking or trekking and explore the attractions of the Ibity. Our tours will take you to the famous precious stone mines where tourmaline, quartz and beryl are extracted. Of course, your journey will inevitably lead to the imposing mass of Ibity. The caves and rocks will delight lovers of all kinds of challenges. A seasoned sportsman, go beyond your own performances during a climb or a trek discovered in the valley.

The surroundings of Ibity are suitable for all kinds of activities. Discover Betafo with its waterfalls, lake and thermal baths. It is also possible to visit the famous volcanic lakes of Tritriva and Andraikiba.

Ampefy. Lake Itasy & Lily waterfall, the little paradise on the land of volcanoes

Ampefy is a small borough on the banks of Itasy Lake. For those who prefer relax, resting, fresh air, far from the crowded beaches, discover this small haven of peace nested in the area of Itasy and which offers many treasures of curious forms. The splendid volcanic landscapes of this region offer some good hikes and fantastic views of the area, very undulating and different from the usual image of the Red Island. Ampefy is an ideal starting point for hiking. The trails lead through plantations, rice fields and farm land. Pirogue tours on the lakes can easily be arranged. You can also take out bicycles. Ampefy with its rolling hills adorned in green, untainted by the peril of mass tourism and overflowing with an extensive range of fauna and flora is exceptionally appealing to nature lovers.

The lush area of Ampefy is with a little more than 100 kilometers in the west of Tananarive. It only takes two hours to reach it. The area of Ampefy is situated on a volcanic substratum whose characteristics are the domes, lakes and rivers that have rapids. Apart from the extent of the lake Itasy, it is also possible to see other volcanic lakes such as the lake Antohomadinika, or Andranoratsy, or ponds and many marshes, most of which are lakes of crater. These lakes are ideal places for fishing lovers and water sports like pirogue ride.

The Lake Itasy is the third lake of the Red Island, its surface which is 3500 ha. This lake has a very evocative name which literally means “basin”. It is with 1221 meters of altitude in the middle of a volcanic area. It is not very deep because its depth seldom exceeds the 6,5 m. This lake owes its existence to a large lava flow that obstructed the valley 8 000 years ago. In the middle of the lake there is a small island where the tomb of Andriambahoaka, who reigned in the region in the seventeenth century, is located. A large colony of bats called "fanihy" lives on this small island. "Fanihy" are pure vegetarian and, therefore, harmless.

The lake gets its water from the Lily River with the beauty of its extraordinary waterfalls which achieved unanimity of all the tourists who already had the occasion to have a glance at it. The edge of this lake is a place of predilection of many water birds of the Malagasy central highlands. It thus shelters an important quantity of water birds.

To view all the wonders Ampefy offers, need a little stroll to join the Lily waterfall. To reach the legendary waterfall, requires passage over picturesque volcanic hills dotted with quaint little villages made up of red mud houses with thatched roofs typical to the central highland. While going forward, one meets very discrete peasants who are posting a broad smile and full with generosity. After few minutes’ walk, one starts to hear the buzz and the crumpling which becomes increasingly strong: it is the Lily waterfall.

The precious beauty of Ampefy is highlighted by the Lily waterfall (Chute de la Lily), that thunders down a staircase of rocky clefts, sparkling in the radiant sunlight and finishing in a tremendous spray that fashions a nebulous mystical aura around her. It pours its water from its 26m elevation which generates a large scum on water. Each iridescent "cataract" travels an invigorating journey over desert volcanic landscape, rice plantations and verdant fields before it plunges down with a glittering reverberating roar from the rocky massifs into a refreshingly clear pool of fresh mountain water that beckons out to anyone who would dive in and bathe in her coolness. Once you arrive, the most classical panoramic view awaits to take your breath away with the best rapid waters perfect for a white-water rafting excursion. This waterfall full of legend is well anchored in a splendid site bordered of green grasses very developed by the water evaporation of the waterfall. One can even take few minutes of small bath.

With Ampefy’s "Chute de la Lily", one will not only make the most of their time immersing themselves in the blessing of nature, but good exercise, knowledge about the island and a collection of treasured memories awaits. There is no good enough reason not to visit the islands spectacular Lily waterfalls, after all, they truly are 100% pure bliss!

After the waterfall and the Lake Itasy, the stay with Ampefy also makes it possible to enjoy the gushing spectacle offered by the Analavory Geyser. By a hike or mountain bike ride it possible to reach the geyser. The geyser site counts four geyser springs. It is certainly the most pleasant place of Ampefy. You will find: A natural pool of not very hot water, which is especially for children; The possibility of massages with clay; Two places where water comes out with good pressure, which allows to take a shower, very pleasant if the sun is patting, or after a massage with clay; And a very special tenant...

The list of products which comes from this area is very long, namely tomatoes, tobaccos, apples, avocados, manioc… and garden products. In addition to these products, this zone essentially lives, in addition to tourism, of fishing; the Lake Itasy is full of fish. Ampefy is a large fish producer raised in the lakes or the marshes, like the tilapia, carps, eel… These large fish, which can easily reach 4 kilos, are frequently seen in the restaurant dishes of Ampefy. Ampefy also have craftsmen who work volcanic stone to give all the forms which you wish, you can have one with your footprints.

Watch more photos about Ampefy. Lake Itasy & Lily waterfall here.

Tsinjoarivo and Onive River. The breathtaking beauty of the Nature

Tsinjoarivo bordering southeast of the Imerina, near the eastern forest, is located 46 km from Ambatolampy. Here has both a natural site of great beauty and a historic place of the nineteenth century (site built by Queen Ranavalona I in 1834 where she placed a Rova and also a village). The Rova is surrounded on three sides by the powerful Onive river, which cascades over spectacular waterfalls including Andriamamovoka (“the mighty sand-maker”) and Ambavaloza (“the mouth of danger”). These waterfalls were the initial attraction of the site, and one of Ranavalona I’s favorite pastimes was to watch as a cow was thrown in the water and fell helpless over the massive waterfall. The famous falls are visible from far away and plunge from an altitude of 30 m. A little further away the river flow calms and it is possible to swim or even fishing (as Queen Ranavalona III used to do). The access to the falls is quite steep. The Onive River flows down from the Ankaratra massif, and is the largest tributary of the Mangoro River.

Perched on a 1675m high peak, the Tsinjoarivo site dominates the vast horizon of the great East Forest, which stretches more than 100 km to the sea and overlooks the bubbling waterfalls of the river Onive in a great din of water and in an atmosphere of rainbow irregular fog. Although the region surrounding the town is largely deforested (due to a longer history of human settlement), the eastern third of the commune contains the most intact and continuous natural rainforest remaining in Madagascar’s high plateau ecoregion (continuous with lower-lying rainforest in the adjacent Anosibe an'Ala commune).  The forest’s western half is topographically continuous with the island’s central plateau, and lies between 1300 and 1675 m altitude. In contrast, the eastern half lies at slightly lower altitude (1200-1600 m), but because the eastern boundary of the forest corridor is coincident with the steep escarpment, it is perched almost 1 km above the coastal lowlands below. As a result, the eastern part of the forest is less accessible to humans and remains minimally disturbed.

Tsinjoarivo played a unique role in the 19th century (the last century of Malagasy history before French colonization). It is the site of a royal palace ("Rova") built in the 1830s by Jean Laborde, which was used as a vacation residence by three queens and various prime ministers. The site was chosen by Queen Ranavalona I in 1832, and a complex of five houses was built in 1834-1836. The Rova was used as the monarch’s summer residence until 1896, and was visited by three monarchs: Ranavalona I (1840, 1842, 1856), Ranavalona II (1880, 1882), and Ranavalona III (1890). Raised on a raised terrace five meters high, the Rova measures 50 m by 30 m and houses five rustic wooden and clay buildings: the Prime Minister's Pavilion which always accompanied the Queen on her trips, the residence of the aides-de-camp, the Queen's pavilion and her damsels the house where the dining room is housed, and the officers of the court, all of which preserve furniture and period objects, and the Ministry of Culture has made it a museum. The Rova buildings and the museum they contain are currently being rehabilitated by the Region d’Auverge as part of their efforts to promote tourism at Tsinjoarivo.

Due to its outstanding universal cultural value, the city, along with its associated Rova, was added onto the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage Sites in Madagascar on November 14, 1997, in the cultural category.

Wildlife of Tsinjoarivo

Ecotourism centred around the village of Mahatsinjo, where you will easy access to nine lemur species, dozens of endemic birds, as well as chameleons, orchids, and in general a rare high-altitude rainforest landscape. Two major river barriers separate Tsinjoarivo forest from adjoining rainforests: the Mangoro river to the east and the Onive river to the south. Tsinjoarivo is a high-altitude "island" - though the forest is continuous to the south and northeast, altitude drops sharply in both directions. In fact, Tsinjoarivo is among the highest of any remaining Malagasy forests - and because it is topographically continuous with Madagascar's central plateau, it has the potential to house remnant populations of species unique to the plateau.

Biological surveys at Tsinjoarivo, though brief, have revealed a high level of biodiversity, with at least 9 primate species, 17 insectivores (including 16 endemic tenrecs), 7 rodents (including 5 endemic nesomyines), 5 carnivores (4 of which are endemic), 92 birds, 24 reptiles and 30 amphibians. In particular, this region is now recognized as having the highest species diversity of endemic insectivores (Tenrecidae) in Madagascar. Ongoing botanical surveys have so far indicated the presence of at least 247 plant species.

Walking through the forest, is a good chance of encountering the Sadabe (Propithecus diadema - the largest and most conspicuous of the lemurs). The Sadabe lives at relatively high densities (up to four groups per square kilometer) and research teams have habituated several groups so they are not afraid of people. This 5-kg animal lives in small family groups, usually including just mother, father and up to four children of various ages. Its diet includes more than a hundred plant species, from which it eats fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves and galls. Its most favored foods are the large, juicy fruits of the tall rainforest trees.

Other lemur species are difficult to see, being smaller, more cryptic and often nocturnal. However, it is fairly common to surprise a sleeping woolly lemur (Avahi laniger) during its daytime slumber. Other highlights of this high-biodiversity forest include several chameleon species, leaf-tailed geckos, bright blue Malachite Kingfishers, and beautiful orchids and epiphytes.

The road to Tsinjorivo is in a bad condition and it only takes 4x4 by car to get here. It is therefore advisable to stay at least two nights there to avoid rushing back in the same day. Your interactions with locals always will positive, and despite the language barrier, you will felt the strong mutual respect of people who dedicate their lives to the river. You will easy to see the generous positivity of the Malagasy people. That's when you will fell in love with Madagascar.

For travelers wishing to explore Madagascar's high plateau, Le Gite du Rova is a guesthouse ideally located just outside the historic Rova (Queen's Palace) at Tsinjoarivo offers a perfect backdrop and comfortable rooms, authentic local cuisine.

If there’s a better way to discovery authentic and adventurous Madagascar, we have found.

Watch more photos about Tsinjoarivo and Onive River here.

The Zafimaniry region – “the people of the forest”

Discover the Zafimaniry people and their art. Walk along paths used by the local Zafimaniry people through rice paddies and villages. Known for their distinctive woodcraft, the Zafimaniry’s exquisitely decorated houses, granaries and tombs are constructed using perfect joinery, without the use of nails. These have been recognized by UNESCO as Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and each carved pattern tells its own story. The Zafimaniry community is the sole remaining repository of a unique woodcraft culture previously widespread on the island.

In the Betsileo area around Ambositra, another landscape more different from the whole of the country will hypnotize you still more: it is the traditional Zafimaniry village. These very old villages of small dwellings still exist. Houses, utensils, and everyday objects are hand-crafted in geometric shapes of Austronesian motifs, reminiscing the Arabic influence (which is very present in Malagasy culture), called “Sikotra”. Practically all wooden surfaces – walls, window frames, posts, beams, stools, chests, tools – display elaborate ornamentation. The Zafimaniry use twenty different endemic species of tree, each adapted to a specific type of construction or decorative function. Houses and tombs are assembled entirely with traditional mortise and tenon joints, without the use of nails, hinges or other metal hardware. The traditional granaries, perched on round piles, are a distinctive feature of the mountain landscape.

A walking tour will make you discover beautiful and undulating landscapes. The few distances to be covered only on feet, are worth doing to meet the Zafimaniry people. By visiting these villages, you will have the impression to go up time with an authentic and ancestral decoration. One can even say that in these villages, time seems to have stopped. The typical example of these villages is the village of Antoetra, 40 kilometers from Ambositra, where you’ll discover a warm and welcoming people. The houses there are built out of carved “palissandre” wood and thatches.

In the rolling hills of the south of Ambositra there lives a group of people known as the Zafimaniry, or the "the people of the forest”. In the eighteenth century, the Zafimaniry settled in the remote wooded region. Originally, the Zafimaniry are descend from people who fled into the forests from the cruel queen Ranavalona I. This way they could not be obliged to toil at court as slaves or serfs. Today, approximately 25 000 Zafimaniry live in some one hundred villages and hamlets scattered in the highlands of this region.

Typically a trekking starts from Antoetra, the capital of Zafimaniry.

On the way, you pass some Betsileo graves topped with carved wooden posts called teza (heart wood), some of which can measure several meters high. This Betsileo funerary art is now on the verge of extinction. The trek usually heads to Ifasina, which nestles in a hollow between two mountain ranges, along the way several tombs of Tsangambato overcome Zafimaniry, or Tatao (stele) are shown. The town is known for its intricately carved homes. Other trails lead to Andikio and Faliaivo (5 hour walk from Antoetra), where the presence of tourists is remarkably less and the children smiles brighter (you can easily combine the visit of these too villages with two overnights). From Faliarivo you can continue trek to Vohitandriana (45 min) and Andraitokanana (2 h). On the following day you can visit the falls of Fanandrano (2h30) and then continue to Sakaivo (3 h), where a further night will be spent. In the third day you get back to Antoetra in about 3 hours.

The train ride from Fianarantsoa to Manakara, The “little train of the cliffs”

The train ride from Fianarantsoa to Manakara, the Fianar–Côte Est, is an experience not to be missed. The 163km route takes you through dense rainforest past waterfalls and the photographic opportunities will be excellent.

The train between Fianarantsoa and Manakara takes theoretically about 8 - 12 hours, but practically, it could take much longer. One could argue that taking 12 to 24 hours to cover the 163km between Madagascar’s highlands and its Indian Ocean coast is a rather slow and inefficient way to travel. It is, but that is the point. Travelling on the Fianar-Côte Est railway isn’t really about getting from A to B – it’s about the journey.

The "little train of the cliffs" nonchalantly skirts the steep slopes of the highlands to join the Indian Ocean, mixing history, culture and folklore, the long stops in each station allowing to imbibe the life of the surrounding villages for whom the train Is the key factor in its economy. The Fianar–Côte Est, first opened in 1936, now twice weekly, in each direction.

This spectacular route with 18 stations, which is one of the steepest of the world, with so many mountains to link and rivers to cross, there are no less than 48 tunnels, 67 bridges and four viaducts, including the spectacular one at Ankeba, which towers 40m above a sea of rice paddies. It offers magnificent views as it descends the escarpment to the east: the train snakes through steep mountainsides dotted with forest, waterfalls, terraced fields and fruit plantations. Travelling through such majestic landscapes is rail travel at its best: the speed is slow (20km/h on average), the windows are usually left open so that the air fills with the scent of the branches the train brushes past. It feels as if for just a few hours, you’ve taken a break from the 21st century’s frenetic pace.

The train crosses areas not accessible by road, so it is a lifeline for local communities who use it to trade and travel. It is this amazing spectacle – the road-less landscapes and the loading/unloading theatrics at every station, 18 in total – that make the journey so special. At each stop in station, myriads of small sellers rush to the windows of the wagons to sell fruits, fritters, kebabs, sweets and snacks, cakes, crafts or drinks. Local spices, black and pink pepper especially, make lovely souvenirs or gifts. For dozens of small traders, this is an opportunity to complement their living by selling. So, the stations are always buzzing.

Scenery aside, one of the highlights of the trip is the station stops. Forget the two minutes you get in Europe to get on or off the train, here a stop means at least 30 minutes, sometimes a couple of hours, to allow to load and unload an impossible quantity of bananas, lychees, sacks of rice, plastic furniture and other precious bits of freight. Passengers therefore have plenty of time to stretch their legs and take in the spectacle.

The combination of all these things – the authenticity, the landscapes, the good company, the one-off experience – that people usually relish. And in a country where you can spend a huge amount of time in the confines of a vehicle on dreadful roads, the opportunity to travel in relative comfort whilst reading a book and taking in Madagascar’s scenery and folklore, is just too good to miss.

A little history. The Fianar–Côte Est railway was built by the French colonial administration between 1926 and 1936 to open up the east coast and facilitate the export of agricultural products from this fertile region. The railway line linking Fianarantsoa to Manakara at the East Coast was inaugurated in 1936. It took 10 years to build this structure. Construction was an exercise in style for its designers, and a gulag for all forced laborers who left their lives behind. The rails even go through the airstrip of the aerodrome for a smooth rail-to-air cohabitation due to the scarcity of smooth surface on one side as well as the other. The rails were imported from Germany, the carriages from Switzerland. In its heyday the railway had two locomotives, with five services a week carrying 150 000 passengers and 20 000 tons of freight a year.

In theory trains depart from Fianar at 7am on Tuesday and Saturday and from Manakara at 6.45am on Wednesday and Sunday. In practice, the only sure way of knowing when the train is departing is to be on it when it leaves. In theory, the train should arrive on the evening of the same day. In practice, it rarely reaches the other end until late at night or early the next morning (the scheduled departures from Manakara are optimistic given the usual arrival time from Fianar).

It is therefore risky to organize a tour around it, unless you are ready to skip the train ride at the worst case, in order to keep the schedule for the rest of the tour. This kind of slow (and unpredictable) travel isn’t for everyone. It’s either your idea of an authentic experience, or your worst nightmare in your carefully planned two-week holiday. We won’t judge; all we’ll say is that being prepared for inevitable delays and factoring them in in your itinerary is probably the best way to approach this trip. If you are keen on train riding, certainly the trip to Manakara is well worth if you bring sufficient time and patience!

The train ride from Fianarantsoa to Manakara perfectly rhymes with the Ranomafana National Park to experience the rainforest's gem through a veritable garden of exoticism Mananjary, you can take a fascinating and very useful trip, "Cruise on the Pangalanes Canal Manakara - Ranomafana NP via Mananjary". Well ... or vice versa, "Cruise on the Pangalanes Canal Ranomafana NP – Manakara and railway Côte Est - Fianar, the "little train of the cliffs". Cruise will get you from Ranomafana to Manakara to discover the Manombo Special Reserve and experience the super railway Côte Est - Fianar. But you can do it just in quicker, but less interesting way to drive a 4x4 car on a dirt road.

You can see more information about rides by train by looking in our section "Trans Lemurie Express".

A tips on board the Fianar–Côte Est:

*To Manakara, left seats offer a better view. From Manakara choose better the right aisle;

*It gets chilly in the highlands and at night, so make sure you have a jumper or jacket with you;

*There are toilets on board but they usually fill up before the end of the journey so you may need to answer the call of nature, well, in nature.

Watch more photos about The train ride from Fianarantsoa to Manakara, the Fianar–Côte Est here.

Fianarantsoa. The place where one learns the good

Welcome to Fianarantsoa (fi-a-nar-ant-soo), or Fianar for short, the gate to the Isalo National Park and the Ranomafana National Park, or to take the train to Manakara - the Fianar–Côte Est, a railway down to Indian Ocean. The county town of Fianarantsoa was founded in 1830 by order of the Queen Ranavalona 1 at the site of an ancient village Betsileo. Its name means "the place where one learns the good" and the city brings it well by the reputation of its university.

Fianarantsoa is like a mild version of Tana. You can enjoy a historic old town, a great local market, some interesting places to stay and a more laid-back ambience than that of the capital. Fhilippe Oberlé, who wrote several books on Madagascar, introduced Fianarantsoa as follows: "As in Antananarivo, the old quarters climb on a steep hill at the foot of which a cathedral-dominated square extends, Anosy lake shines on the foot of the cliff. The capital of the Betsileo spreads like its elder sister on several hills and on a vast plain where the city develops".

Surrounded by hills, it is both a regional commercial, administrative and religious center as well as a major transit point. If you’re heading south, this is where the dry country begins; if you’re going north, it’s where the central highlands atmosphere is fully established. Even if you’re only pausing in Fianar for a break and a bite to eat, the alleys and houses of the Haute-Ville – also known as the old town, or Tanana Ambony – make for a captivating, and surprisingly panoramic, walk. Fianar´s old town has been included in 2008 on the World Monument Watch List of the 100 most endangered sites worldwide.

The town is divided into three parts. Basse-Ville (Lower Town), to the north, is a busy, chaotic area with the main post office and the train and taxi-brousse stations. The Train Station inaugurated in 1936 represents an architectural masterpiece. Basse-Ville is full of hustle and trade.

Nouvelle-Ville (New Town), the business area, with banks and hotels. Here most shops, restaurants and hotels are located, and you can admire some fine examples of colonial architecture.

Haute-Ville (Upper Town), the architecturally fascinating old town has cobbled streets, a more peaceful atmosphere, numerous church spires and wide views.

Visiting of the Old Town, with the labyrinth of its narrow paths, and the clutter of its houses with brick columns and tile roofs patinated by time begins at front of the Ambozontany Cathedral built in 1871, at the foot of the main staircase-lane that runs up the old town hill, where located multiple beautiful old houses. Many of the houses have brick columns supporting their first-floor ornamental balconies (or lavarangana). Adjacent to the place, the Protestant temple of Antranobiriky built in 1859 is the oldest permanent structure of Fianarantsoa. A thirty-minute promenade along the cobbled pathway takes you right around the hilltop. Look west and you’ll see Lac Anosy (copied from the lake of the same name in Tana by Queen Ranavalona I, who moved her court to Fianar in 1830), a popular late afternoon strolling area. Past the Antranobiriky church at the summit you’ll reach a dusty school playground, where a plaque commemorates this as the site of the nineteenth-century Merina rova. A low fence of brightly painted stakes still symbolically protects the site along its western boundary.

At the foot of the paved alley through the old quarter is the market square. From there a road descends towards Lake Anosy while another leads to the summit of Kianjasoa from where the view embraces all the city and the surrounding countryside. Your eyes will be caught by the view of Kianjasoa hill (1374m) with a big statue of the Virgin Mary and her son. The hill was used long time as a fortification to contain the military incursions of the Merina and Tanala tribes.

What else to see and do? Cultural events - between May and September traditional Betsileo folk festivals are annually held. The Tolon'omby is a traditional Betsileo bull fight more similar to a Western rodeo than to a Spanish-style bull fights. Instead of riding the zebu (“omby”) the goal is to run into the center of the arena, catch it by the hump and try to pull it to the ground.

Visit Sahambavy. This small town lies about 23 km along the railway Fianar–Côte Est. Its main attraction is the Sahambavy Lake, nested at the foot of a hill, Lac Hôtel with a breathtaking view on the island unique tea plantation (520 hectares) which spread out as far as the eye can see. The plantation of tea was initiated here in the late 70s and it offers today a guided tour which explains you the manufacturing procedure of tea. The beautiful landscape with the charming lake is the perfect destination for a relaxing weekend.

Hiking. In the immediate surroundings of Fianar there are a couple of interesting destinations which invite you to a pleasant hike far away of the beaten track. Here we will present you some of them: Ampamaherana Forest station - located some 30 km this reforestation center invites you to a pleasant hiking; Rock of Alakamisy-Ambohimaha (26 Km) - huge rock on which inscriptions in Arabic that carved around the fourth century; Fanjakana (60 Km) - from a 1392m altitude, this point offers a magnificent view over a radius of 50 km.

Vineyards. Fianarantsoa is also known as the capital of wine. Excellent red and white wines are produced in the terraced vineyards surrounding the town. The most famous is the one produced by a large association of vine-farmers called Lazan'i Betsileo. Maromby is a small, peaceful village in the vicinity of vineyards, where wine can be bought at the monastery.

Watch more photos about Fianarantsoa  here.

Ambositra. The town of roses

Ambositra (amboostr) is located in the center of a picturesque valley lined with rice paddies and ringed by verdant peaks. If you're looking to explore the Zafimaniry villages however, Ambositra is the best place to organize a trip. This will be a trip to Zafimaniry lands that you won’t forget. On the road of the high plateaus towards/from the South, a halt is essential to appreciate the richness of this small locality. The visitor deciding to prolong his stay will be rewarded with a captivating, rustic highlands town.

Ambositra is the town of art, culture, and crafts. You’ll discover that there are warm and welcoming people. Capital of the Zafimaniry territory, this people from the heights of Betsileo work the wood in a very refined way. Formerly known as the town of roses, this town used its forest resources to stand out to become master in Malagasy marquetry. It’s also famous for being the source of an ancestral handmade craftsmanship: Zafimaniry art. The small town holds a dominating place in terms of craft industry in Madagascar. It is even regarded as the capital of artisanal and Malagasy furnishing; a title which it acquired because of the majestic character and the beauty of works realized by the Zafimaniry. The cultural influence of the Zafimaniry tribe can be found in the traditional motifs of the local houses with their intricately carved balconies, panels and shutters.

Ambositra is then the ideal place to bring back part of the Great Island back to your home, and also very cheap. The characteristic of these objects which are especially of decoration are that the majority are made with the invaluable Malagasy woods namely the palisander, rose wood and the ebony wood. Among the objects which you could get there are figures, statues and wooden boxes, chairs, parlor games, masks, kitchen utensils, bowls, pots, a whole range of table decoration... are only a small extract of the many proposals. Among travelers, the carefully put together tableaus and boxes made of uncountable tiny wooden pieces, showing “Tintin et Milou” in the end, are most admired.

If you are not interested in invaluable wood, you can also choose objects made of zebu horn, very dazzling and perfectly polished, like the crockery carved in this material, the jewels, authentic objects of interior decoration… The “Zafimaniry” ability and the knowledge in sculpture and puzzle using these rose woods and zebu horn are very remarkable.

You can visit many workshops and some even offer demonstrations how to manufacture inlay art, wooden frames or masks. Directly in the workshops, you can also commission own ideas – just need time for this, because usually it takes some weeks for your personal artwork to be finished. We will send you your finished personal artwork through the postal service as soon as they are finished.

What else can you see and do in Ambositra? The Ambositra surroundings are not to be missed. During a short stroll, you’ll find an incredible waterfall named Andriamamovoka, place of purification. You’ll also find the Andohariana tapas forest, the Royal Palace of the last King Mpanalina or Mount Antety. All of these are exceptional places to visit.

*Visit the colorful Anjoma-Akona Market, held every Friday. There, you’ll be able to buy numerous souvenirs: basketry, mats, pottery, and sculpted objects;

*Besides crafts, you’ll discover the “famadihana” which is a ceremony of the dead. Ambositra and the Betsileo country is the high worship place of the ceremony of the returning of dead or “famadihana” which always takes place during the cold season. It causes a great festival which brings all the families together and animated by traditional music band of “hira gasy”. It can even give place to the “Savika”;

*For several days, you would attend dances, local culinary specialties and various activities, including the famous “Skiva” show, a traditional sport in which people try to tame raging bulls;

*The “Savika” or zebufighting, which takes place in a very rudimentary arena in which kinds of bullfighter try to make lay down or overcome over-excited bulls. This traditional sport attracts much more crowds than any other sport in this area;

*Silk Madagascar. The Soatanana village is also a must-see, where you can visit workshops of natural silk fabric, but above all, you’ll be able to discover the community of “disciples of the lord,” for whom the village constitutes the historic home. This is a village specialized in spinning and weaving of wild silk, using traditional methods. This region is home to the greatest surface area of tapia forest in Madagascar. Tapia (Uapaca bojeri) is an endemic plant and constitutes the only original forest in the Highlands. Tapia is the staple diet of the wild silkworm (Borocera Madagascariensis), endemic to Madagascar.  A tour of this area provides the opportunity to see all the stages in silk production, from the cocoon to weaving, including dyeing of the threads which is done with exclusively natural dyes. A circuit lasting one day is proposed to visit the villages of Antapia and Soatanana;

*Hiking. We offer numerous types of excursions from Ambositra in the surrounding region: The Andrimamovoka Falls - according to tradition, this waterfall which can be reached after our hour hike, is a place of worship and purification. The hike passes through some typical Betsileo villages and crosses rice terraces. It is possible to camp and fishing here; Mount Antety (1845m) - this mountain preserves the remains of two forts built in 1873 for Queen Ranavalona II; Andohariana Forest - this tapia-tree forest located 30 km south-west of Ambositra is a really delight for botanists and plants’ lovers. The tapia-trees, along with the plentiful orchids and aloes make it a worthwhile trip. And do not miss the mysterious tombstones (including that of King Romonja); The royal palace - this place located 6 km from the city on the top of a hill preserves some vestiges of the residence of the last Betsileo king;

*In the Betsileo area around Ambositra, another landscape more different from the whole of the country will hypnotize you still more: it is the traditional Zafimaniry village. The Ambositra region must not be visited without having been in a real Zafimaniry village. Take a view Walking tour the Zafimaniry region.

Ambalavao, the “Door to the South”

Ambalavao is a very attractive small town, the "Door to the South”, is situated south of Fianarantsoa. Set amid beautiful mountainous countryside with numerous boulder-like peaks, Ambalavao is like a charming French village. Here the temperature is considerably warmer as the place is located far away the mountainous regions where Fianarantsoa is set. Its cosy brightly painted buildings with their steeply tiled roofs and wooden balconies with elaborate carvings invite for a slow-paced stroll. The peaks of the Massif d’Iandrambaky poking up dramatically on the horizon.

Historically, Ambalavao was scene of act of wars between the tribes of Bara, Betsileo and later Merina, too. From those older times Ambalavao grew as a mixed Merina and Betsileo center of trading and crafts, powering the Merina empire’s economy with zebu, silk and of course rice – and then under French colonial rule with tea and wine.

Town’s crafts workshops is worthwhile to visit. The town is known for its paper making and is the home of the Malagasy paper "Antaimoro" which is papyrus based paper with wild flowers in. The zebu is an emblem of the town, which points at the biggest cattle market of the country.

The Antaimoro Paper Factory is well worth a visit. Similar to papyrus, this paper is impregnated with flowers and leaves and then used for albums, lamp shades or simply for mural display. You can see how women produce paper by hand from bark of the Avoha tree displaying a centenary tradition that goes back to the times of the first immigrants who reached Madagascar’s eastern coast. Nowadays sisal paste is also used sometimes. The bark is first boiled, sorted and then crushed to form a pulp. The paste resulting from this process is then left in the sun to dry in a cotton strainer. Before the sheets of paper completely dry each sheet is decorated by hand with fresh flowers and leaves to beautiful designs, each different according to the manufacturers taste. Dried flowers are then brushed over with a thin solution of the liquid bark to fix them in place.

Wednesdays the laidback atmosphere suddenly transforms, as the town fills with cattle holders from the whole country, some people especially from the South of the country walk hundreds of kilometers to attend the biggest zebu market in Madagascar and to get better prices for their cattle.

Thousands of zebu and people gather for this big event. Everyone brings the zebu, let a man register them and then puts all his zebu in a line. From time to time, an animal escapes and will be catched again cheered by the surrounding people. The chosen bulls will be brought into a big gate. A narrow aisle made of tree trunks leads to the next truck which should be loaded. Young men try to catch the bulls with a thin rope which makes a great show for the market’s visitors. The used lassos easily rupture. And of course it is part of the show to let the bulls – there are hardly cows among the sold animals – run a little before they will be finally loaded on the trucks. Sometimes, the young man of the town prove their courage in zebu rodeos right between trade and barter business. Those who stay longest at the bull’s back, earns most honour by the others.

On Wednesday, can also visit the biggest spice market of Madagascar. Here you can find nearly everything Madagascar offers, from bizarre medicinal herbs to aromatic spices. If you are looking for something against a special disease, you will be urged to visit a shaman first. He has to choose the right procedure with the appropriate medicine for the sick person or one who lucks for more luck in love. For sure, you will find what the shaman is telling you on Ambalavao’s markets: May it be buttons, nuts, bark, some cut branches or pieces of shells.

Watch more photos about Ambalavao here.

TRITRIVA LAKE, THE LAKE WITH LEGENDS

The beautiful lake of volcanic origin, perched at 1881m high, seems asleep and forgotten. Because the depth of this lake is more than 160m, its color is of an opaque green and will make you feel a strange impression. According to the Malagasy legend, a couple of lovers threw themselves from the top of the cliff into the water to punish their parents who didn’t want them to love each other. They are reported to be reincarnated as the two trees in an embrace on the lake's bank... Today it is a real touristic place.

This Crater Lake with its volcanic landscape is formed by following deep and impressive collapse. Nested at an altitude of 1881m to the hollow of a small mountain, Tritriva has very abrupt walls. The rocks facing its border make it possible to have a splendid and vertiginous sight on the entire lake. This lake full of legend and myth releases a strange impression. The lake’s shape evokes the map of Africa. A trail surrounding the lake enables to make lap around of approximately one hour.

In addition to this lake, one can also make an excursion up to Ivohitra, a hill dominating the city at 1651 m of altitude. It promises a vast panorama on the volcanic landscapes of the Highlands, the city and all the area of Antsirabe.

Watch more photos about Tritriva Lake here.

Ampefy. The Analavory Geyser and its the very special tenant

After the Lily waterfall and the Lake Itasy, the stay with Ampefy also makes it possible to enjoy the spectacle offered by the Analavory Geyser. By a hike or mountain bike ride it possible to reach the geyser. This one is situated from a few kilometers of Ampefy. It offers a gushing spectacle of many sources of a few high meters. With time, the effervescent water rich in minerals (suffers and silica) gave birth to reds and copper colors round form concretions.

The Geyser is a spouting spring in a hot water and vapor spray. This phenomenon of gushing is caused by the contact of water with the volcanic rocks which remain always hot. When water arrives at boiling stage, it dilates and goes up on the surface. There is also a water vaporization which is dilated when it spouts out. The force of expulsion and the spectacle offered depend on the depth of the reaction.

We must admit that the geysers are surely the most beautiful in Ampefy. It is a somewhat clayey zone, dotted with holes in the ground, and from which flow jets of water more or less powerful.

It is certainly the most pleasant place of Ampefy. You will find:

*A natural pool of hot water, which is especially for children;

*The possibility of massages with clay;

*Two places where water comes out with good pressure, which allows to take a shower, very pleasant if the sun is patting, or after a massage with clay;

*And the very special tenant....

Watch more photos about Ampefy. The Analavory Geyser here.

ANTSIRABE, THE TOWN OF WATER

Founded in 1869 by Norwegian missionaries attracted by the curative powers of its thermal springs, Antsirabe (whose name means “Where there is much salt”, in reference to its mineral-rich waters) this is one of a very pretty and very clean town and one of its most prosperous. Its broad large avenues are shaded and bordered by jacaranda trees. During the flowering season, these colorful plants make the town even more charming with all the jacaranda trees purple flowers layers associated with rickshaws, dominated especially by the sharp orange color, gives a very particular stereotype and an exceptional key. Here, the air is almost pure contrary to Antananarivo where the exhaust fumes belong to the daily life.

You can’t visit the Central Highlands without going to Antsirabe, located at 1500m of an altitude.  The RN7 passes right through the middle of town, where traffic slows to a crawl, checked by more than three-thousand pousse-pousse operators (colorful rickshaws), trotting through the crowds. In practical terms, Antsirabe, 170km south of Tana and 250km north of Fianarantsoa, makes a natural and pleasant stopover, there’s no shortage of good hotels and restaurants and a number of interesting crafts and jewelry shops. It’s also a key junction town for trips into the remoter reaches of western Madagascar. It is surrounded by three lakes, the Tritriva, Andranomafana, and Andraikiba, rich vegetation, and you’ll have the opportunity to do many activities with your family and friends. The town is rich in history and you will feel strong colonial influence through the architecture of the town buildings.

The two wheels are the most practical and ideal way to pay a visit of the town, with a maximum of assured pleasure. It is said that name “rickshaw” comes from the expression formerly used during the French colonial community who were accustomed to borrowing it. Previously, the rickshaws of Antananarivo with its up and down hills were drawn by two people, one pushing and the other one pulling, and during the climbing the quite fatty passengers were accustomed to not only speak but to shout to the person who pushes by using the expression “Push! Push!”.

The town is famous for its textiles, tobacco, and agricultural production, but also famous for its water, renowned throughout the world for its therapeutic properties.

What can you do in Antsirabe? The mountainous region of Antsirabe offers many hiking and trekking routes. You will enjoy incredible views and panoramas. There are large landscapes as far as the eye can see in a setting rich in lush vegetation and endemic wildlife. Last but not least, you’ll also have the opportunity to go canyoning or rafting, golfing, horse riding, or mountain biking in the Antsirabe highlands. It is rich in adventures and promise to leave you with magical memories.

The lakes should not be missed. The volcanic lakes of the region are also a major tourist attraction, containing many ancestral legends and mysteries, two most known lakes which make the wonders of Antsirabe are Andraikiba and the extraordinary and mysterious Tritriva lake. Lake Andraikiba is ideal for walking. You’ll find yourself in a peaceful and harmonious environment, where it’s good to come and relax.

Lastly, one cannot be bored in Antsirabe, there is much to see because many things are done and manufactured there. The local population is not unemployed and a small tour of the different craftsmen workshop is possible to admire their knowledge such as the “candy gasy”, traditional candy workshop. One can also visit various workshops producing miniature rickshaws and bicycle, a natural fiber weaving workshop using wild silk, raffia, and sisal, embroidery workshop and small transformation industry of various objects with zebu horn, and without forgetting the fine gem stone cutting workshop.

Watch more photos about Antsirabe here.

Look at these tours through The Highlands (Central Madagascar)

15 days from 1710 € per pax (114€/day) View tour
from 1710 € per pax (114€/day)

If you are going to pick the Classical Madagascar tour, then you will be getting the memorable Madagascar Holidays. Ranomafana NP is a truly beautiful place, with steep sided forested hills and a boulder strewn raging river flowing through the middle of it. Isalo NP is dominated by narrow ravines and rocks sculpted by wind and water and many hot springs. Anja, an isolated patch of rocky forest contains a troop of habituated Ring-tailed Lemurs - nicknamed King Julian. South offers relaxation aplenty, where you can take a boat trip to the reef, snorkel or dive, surfing, quad-rides.

View tour
25 days from 2900 € per pax (116€/day) View tour
from 2900 € per pax (116€/day)

On our Baobab Quest we go beyond the Baobabs Avenue - it is a very impressive place and celebrated in photos and film (including an IMAX documentary on Madagascar). Visit these places and feel their magic. You will get to experience the hidden highlights as well as the classic points of interest from Morondava to the lemur-packed perimeters of Andasibe and more, allowing for an all-encompassing and varied tour with one final foray into the world of Madagascar’s indigenous lemurs providing yet another reason to be cheerful before finally heading for home with a head full of ever-lasting memories.

View tour

Thinking about doing the Madagascar?

Let one of our tailor-made holiday experts help you plan a personalized Madagascar experience as per your budget and requirements.

CONTACT US TODAY

Make a call order, and we will call you back

Contact Us