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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!

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SOUTHERN MADAGASCAR, WILL PLEASE EVERYONE!

Immerse yourself in the vast region of the South of Madagascar, discover the many parks and reserves containing a multitude of endemic animals and plants. Southern Madagascar has some of the island’s most compelling attractions: the gaunt sandstone plateau of Isalo National Park, cut by oasis-like canyons; the spiny forests and glorious beaches, surfing and diving of the dry South. It will please the whole family!

The South is the most arid region of the island and perhaps also the most unique one in terms of scenery and flora. This bushy extension is spattered with strange baobab forest and it is the only place on earth where you can admire the spiny forest, a semi-desert ecosystem formed by huge cactus-like plants which only grow here. The climate of the South is relatively more extreme than that of The Highlands and northern Madagascar. The Tropic of Capricorn carves through the region, and the dry southern or austral winter brings cooler weather from May to August than in the North of the island.

Discover the wide coasts of the Southwest. Have a rest on wonderful beaches with fine sand and crystalline water, and explore lands full of treasures. From Ifaty to Itampolo (crossing through Belo-sur-Mer or Anakao), there are a lot of places to discover and enjoy! Ifaty-Mangily’s region offers a lot of attractions. It is very welcoming and it offers various excursions. Indulge yourself with quad tours through the wonderful beaches of the coast. You can also visit the Doumergue reserve, where a lot of the baobabs, cactus, and thorns grow. The Doumergue reserve is a true safe haven and offers an exceptional biodiversity where birds, turtles, and endemic plants live all year.

The Ifaty lagoon is one of the most beautiful of the world, with its 100km long coral reef (perfect for snorkeling and nautical sports). Diving lovers must make a stop at the Ranobe lagoon: wonderful underwater discoveries await your visit.

Salary and its diving spots - this site is absolutely beautiful where fishermen pirogues sail the crystalline sea of its wide bays. The lagoon is bordered by three coral reefs, making the Salary bay one of the most beautiful diving spots. Fishing lovers can indulge in sport fishing as the water is very fishy.

Anakao, Vezo fishermen’s village with an incredible charm is full of white sand beaches with turquoise and translucent water. A lot of ecotourism circuits will allow you to discover this typical and authentic village. Diving and water sports’ lovers will be delighted as the site allows scuba diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing and snorkeling practice. Anakao is also the starting point for cruises to the neighboring islands (Nosy Ve, Nosy Satrana). The Anakao region is still very well-preserved and is only two hours by boat from Toliara.

Toliara (Tulear), is the capital of the southern region of Madagascar. The town is bathed by the sun all year long, and offers a rich cultural life. You will discover a warm and welcoming population in an incredible setting.

The RN7 is the main trunk road leading to the South from Antananarivo on an epic 1000 km long journey into the southernmost regions of our huge country. The "Tour RN №7" this is the most popular tour among abroad travelers, surely because the road is entirely paved and, therefore, easy to drive.

Best time to visit

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

Key attractions

Isalo National Park. Jurassic Park

Established in 1962, the Isalo National Park protects 820 km² of sandstone massif wildly eroded by wind and rain into bizarre ridges (known as “runiformes”) featuring wild forms, impressive gorges and canyons and tiny stalagmite pinnacles. The far Wild West reminiscent of the landscape, dominated by rugged massive that rises up from the flat surrounding grassy plain, attracts hikers from the whole world that gather here to admire the sweeping colors of this Jurassic scenery. This plateau is a dramatic spectacle, its towering mesas and sculpted pillars creating a desert-like, Monument Valley-style landscape that is especially striking at its southern extremity, where the tarmac highway twists past the cliffs. Cut by streams and springs into countless, sandy-floored, oasis-like canyons, filled with forest, with several alluring natural swimming holes of cool, crystal-clear water, the whole region offers tremendous scope for hikers and anyone aiming to escape the blasted heat of the prairies of the high plateau.

The park is the most visited protected area in Madagascar and a popular highlight when discovering the Great South. It is one of the country's most dramatic and pleasant national parks. The park ranges from just over 500m up to 1268m above sea level and the canyons are in places as much as 200m deep. Isalo offers a fantastic, colorful landscape and incredible panoramas. It is not just about the colors and shapes of the land damaged by the erosion, but also the great scenery and the general silence that surrounds everything. It is also a set that all "Bara" people consider as sacred.

The popularity of the Isalo National Park owes much to its location, midway between Fianarantsoa and Toliara, and its accessibility. This place should really be called 'National Isalo Jurassic Park' since the massive plateau and rocks were from the Jurassic era.

We invite you to experience what is quite possibly the most dramatic and stimulating scenery to be found anywhere, either on or off planet earth. Journey to the top of spectacular mountains, enjoy a mouthwatering meal, sip a cocktail, watch the breathtaking sunset and stargaze at the heavens.

On first sight, there is no life possible between those dry savannahs and weather-beaten sandstones, but nonetheless, nature developed a species-rich fauna and flora here. The park became home to 14 species of lemur, about 80 varieties of birds of which 70% are endemic, 35 species of reptiles, 15 species of amphibians and small mammals, endemics frogs, and more than 500 species of plants. There’s a lot to find in Isalo!

Isalo National Park, often referred as the Jurassic Park, is arguably the best place to see ring-tailed lemurs and white sifakas dancing and jumping.  You’re almost certain to see ring-tailed lemurs in the more open, rocky areas, and in the forest Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) are also likely. You can see lemurs such as the Microcebus murinus, the mirza coquereli, the ruficaudatus sportive lemur, Eulemur fulvus rufus’s, etc, which life in the dense vegetation along the streams. The best place to spot lemurs is Canyon des Makis.

Among Isalo’s eighty-odd birds, keen ornithologists won’t need reminding about the robin-like Benson’s rock thrush (Monticola sharpei bensoni) for which the park, and especially the plateau top above the Namaza trail car park, is a key habitat. Colorful rock thrushes and ibis birds fly between beaked rocks and big stones searching for nesting material.

Look out, in and around the streams and pools, for the regionally endemic large western white-lipped tree frog (Boophis occidentalis) that’s often encountered around the Cascade des Nymphes. If you see one, you’re more likely to notice its red webbed feet than the color of its lips. Also keep your eyes open for the very rare, strikingly green-black-and-red-marbled painted burrowing frog (Scaphiophryne gottlebei) – a species that is strictly endemic to Isalo and critically threatened by collection for foreign frog fanciers. Do not forget the reptiles, such as Dumeril’s boa (Acrantrophis dumerili) or Madagascan iguanas (Oplurus ssp.).

The flora is indeed more interesting than the fauna. Isalo’s plants and trees are some of its most distinctive natural assets: spiky and fan-like Bismarck palms (Bismarckia nobilis; satrana in Malagasy) are scattered across the landscape in this heart of their natural habitat (the Bismarck is now found all over the world, and particularly popular as a garden tree in the suburban canyons of Southern California). More unusual is the extraordinary elephant’s foot (Pachypodium rosulatum, or vontaka in Malagasy). It looks like a stumpy little baobab with pipe cleaners for branches until it bursts into yellow flowers at the end of the dry season. You’ll see it on the canyon walls on the Circuit Piscine Naturelle. The flora is dominated by the "tapia" of the Euphorbiaceae family (Uapaca Boger kind) food of the landibe, a silkworm that produces natural Malagasy silk. 116 medicinal species, species of wood for construction, timber for furniture and craft work, as well as aloe isaloensis and a species of aloe specifically indigenous.

Culturally the region is richly endowed. This is the heartland of the Bara people, believed by some anthropologists to have come from Africa. Their traditions, including the cult of warriorhood and pogo-like ritual dances, are similar in some respects to those of the Maasai cattle herders of Kenya and Tanzania. One of the old Bara clans’ royal family seats is at the village of Ampika, by the mouth of the national park’s Canyon des Makis. Bara burial caves are still scattered in canyon walls throughout the plateau, and in the far north of the massif, sixteenth-century Portuguese explorers are said to have married Bara women and lived in cliff dwellings – a good story for which there’s scant evidence.

Nestled amidst the southwest terrains of sweeping canyons, dramatic bluffs and jutting rock formations, the Isalo National Park offers some rewarding trekking opportunities amongst natural pools and through uniquely Jurassic landscapes. Hiking in Isalo is superb. The park offers different hiking trails, of which the shortest can be done in one and a half hour yet. But you can also do longer excursions with picnic or warm lunch for day trips. In the late afternoon your guide will suggest visiting the natural rock window to watch the sunset.

Isalo National Park has several options for brief and extended one-day walks, as well as multi-day camping circuits. Above the cool canyons, the trails on the plateau can be hot and steep. The Tsingys d’Isalo make gorgeous photo motives, as well as the Nymph waterfalls, Maki canyon and the Portuguese grot. We can highly recommend a hike to “Piscine naturelle”, a natural pool inside the rocks, which is fed by a small waterfall. Piscine noire and Piscine bleu, two additional natural pools, are also worth seeing. If you bring bathing clothes, just step into the water and refresh yourself. Most trails are well to walk, but non-slippery, strong footwear is definitely necessary.

Those who prefer trekking and camping can spend several days or longer wandering around the Isalo Massif, which is undoubtedly the most rewarding but time consuming way to explore this place. A recommendable two-day trip would be visiting the Piscine naturelle and the Nymphes waterfalls with an overnight at the waterfalls campsite and making the Canyon des Makis on the second day. If you add a third day, you can visit the Rats canyon too. A Big challenge, only for very fit trekkers, is the Portuguese cave. The cave is at the northern end of the park and getting there involves 4 days back and forth through the beautiful Sahanafa forest with natural springs and a lot of lemurs.

Isalo is one of the exclusive national parks of Madagascar, which can’t only be discovered by feet, but also by car or on horseback. Horse riding holidays are readily available. While native ponies can be found in a number of villages there are few professional riding stables. Some pony trekking is possible. Riding in the valleys and mountains and through the villages is an experience to be remembered.

Watch more photos about Isalo National Park here.

Tsimanampetsotsa National Park. Animal and plant Kingdom

Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, named after its spectacular lake and its main park highlight, it was already protected in 1927 due to its biological meaning (90% of the flora and fauna is endemic! Which means it’s occurring nowhere else on Earth - an incredible claim that places it high on any holiday itinerary) mainly as habitat for water birds, and became a National Park in 1966. Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, in the south west of Madagascar, is usually included as part of a «Madagascar Holidays» to the ‘Deep south’. A journey to Madagascar is incomplete without a stop at Tsimanampetsotsa National Park. Do you want to experience an absolutely unique animal and plant kingdom? Then this is your place to be.

A huge, impressing saline lake is located in the middle of Tsimanampetsotsa national park and serves as humid shelter for lots of birds. The name of lake, the Tsimanampetsotsa, literally means "the lake without dolphins". The presence of calcium sulphate in these waters makes fish life impossible. The different shades of color that pass from turquoise blue to emerald green are stunning. The site is also surrounded by limestone cliffs sheltering caves with stalagmites and stalactites and underground river of fresh water. Apart from the lake itself, there are three main landscapes inside the park: a calcareous plateau covered with dense xerophilous thickets (a locally endemic spiny forest), huge baobabs and banyan trees, and the sand dunes along the coast covered by a grassy blanket. The park also has numerous caves and sinkholes, which are the result of an underground stream.

Tsimanampetsotsa is a birders paradise. The park is an excellent site to observe birds. Bird lovers will get special interest here down in the South. We would like to repeat that the park is especially popular for its over 110 different bird species, including pink, greater and dwarf flamingos forming big colonies on the lake during the period from April to November. We may not get to see all of them but with much luck and perseverance, we will get to meet some like the gray headed lovebirds, the crested coots with the scientific name «Fulica cristata», grebes, the Madagascan plover, 5 coua species, Archbold´s newtonia, red-shouldered vanga or Lafresnaye´s vanga, five of eight native silky cockoos. Let us also quote the Madagascar Drongo, parrots, Newton hawks, Couas verreauxi or «couinae» the rarest plover or Madagascar «Charadrius thoracicus». During the dry season, we can observe flaming trees «Phoenicopterus ruber» around the lake, as well as other colorful birds.

Apart from birds, there are 12 species of mammals, among them the extremely rare and local endemic Grandidier´s mongoose and 5 lemur species. Among the 40-reptile species, the most significant one is the radiated turtle, which is endemic to this region and extremely endangered to extinction. Еhe large, but rare, radiated tortoise – considered the most beautiful tortoise in the world, which are «fady» (taboo or sacred) for local people. Sadly, invaded non-Malagasy people got those rare tortoises on their diet nowadays.

Although mainly a site for flamingos and other waterfowl, as well as the rare carnivore, Grandidier’s mongoose (Galidictis grandidieri), there is also a good selection of lemurs to be seen. The Mahafaly Plateau, with its dense covering of xeric vegetation, is home to the gray-brown mouse lemur (Microcebus griseorufus), fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius), white-footed sportive lemur (Lepilemur leucopus), ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta), and Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi). The famous ring-tailed lemurs (Catta) and Verreaux’s Sifaka jump everywhere and both make adorable photo motives, whilst at night cat-like fossas creep through trees.

The «blind fish cave» is a collapse in the cliff that allows access to the network of underground rivers. There lives a type of fish which as the evolution has lost its eyes, a curiosity of this part of Madagascar.

Plant lovers won’t be disappointed as well: Nearly 200 species grow inside the park, among them the legendary «mother of the forest» a huge Baobab - the second bearing logically the nickname of... baobab-grandmother. This protected area is composed of a coastal forest, a limestone plateau, with a sandy lake and several caves some of which are accessible. The spiny thickets eco-region in Madagascar is particularly astounding. Discover 2000-year-old baobabs, a ficus tree grove with roots that extend into a sinkhole river system. The forest in which one can admire the often-endemic vegetation of the southern Malagasy is a resource for its use in traditional medicine.  The banyan grotto is house for incredible tree, a gigantic ficus with aerial roots, surrounded by a fauna that comes to seek water and freshness, mainly turtles, parrots and lemurs. As we have said before, the three landscapes that constitute the park have produced three distinct vegetations: *The limestone plateau with raw mineral formed clumps of dense vegetation, some plants have short branches; *The limestone plateau on red sand formed a dense dry forest emerging up to 12m high; *The sand dune has formed 4m tall shrub with prickly species. Finally, to get an idea of the landscape flora of the reserve, let us name some of the following species: Thicket at Alluiaudia montagnacii, adansonia fony, plangiantha euphorbia and acacia sp pachypodium lamerei, Didierea trollii, kalanchoe beharensis, Acanthaceae....

The park offers four easy circuits to choose from, designed to suit all fit conditions and personal interests. One is more focused on bird watching, the other leads through the hills, caves and underground rivers that are home to a native blind fish. The third circuit is based on the plant world and the last one centres around lemurs.

*Tsiamaso circuit: this is the cave circuit, It consists of the discovery of the caves that house blind fish or «Typhleotris Madagascariensis». The interior parts of these caves are adorned with stalactites and stalagmites and also contain a rather frightening legend of the tribe Antambahoaka.

*Andaka circuit: a short walk along the lake shore special for flamingo lovers and other water birds. You will enjoy beautiful views and can to see many birds and plants.

*Emande circuit: Which means «irrigation», in this case, it means a source which supplies the lake. Throughout this tour, we learn the history of its people through the discovery of the ancient tombs. Lemurs, water and land birds, reptiles will be our guests on this beautiful site where we can also admire an overview of the lake.

*Andalamaike circuit: It is a special botanical walk through arid landscapes focused on baobabs, and where we will see various forms of adaptation of plants to drought, and also radiated turtles, land birds and the underground cave.

A vacation stop in Tsimanampetsotsa can also incorporate the Berenty Private Reserve and the Andohahela Special Reserve, all of which lie in a particularly beautiful region dominated by a unique semi-arid habitat of spiny forest and wetlands that give rise to a host of bizarre and highly-adapted plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth.

Watch more photos about Tsimanampetsotsa National Park here.

Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park. The surprise packet

The Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park is a surprise packet; most visitors just drive on by and don't realize what they're missing. Zombitse-Vohibasia is a small jewel in the middle of the sparse gem stone district of the South. But the park is all that remains of the once expansive dry deciduous forests that were dominant in southern Madagascar. The park's relict forest shelters an astounding flora and fauna, including 85 recorded bird species and eight lemur species. The Zombitse - Vohibasia National Park is known to be the showcase of the rich birdlife of Madagascar. In 2001, BirdLifeInternational became aware of the region and entitled it an eminently worth protecting endemic bird area (EBA). Park offers a relatively rare opportunity to all ornithologists and bird enthusiasts to learn about the most beautiful birds of Madagascar. Most of the birds in the park exist nowhere else. Lemurs are also an attraction here. Zombitse-Vohibasia is currently the only area for seeing the newly-described Zombitse sportive lemur (Lepilemur hubbardorum), which can easily be found even during the day as it peers out from daytime sleeping sites. Concerning plants, Zombitse even has plenty to offer: several more than 500 years old baobabs (Adansonia za) can be marveled at here, and lots of orchid flower during the beginning of the rainy season. Typical plants of southern Madagascar like pachypods and Didiraceae are of course part of the park, too.

By visiting this park, you can be sure that you were offered an almost unique opportunity. Although this national park is quite unknown and lesser visited compared to its neighbor, Isalo National Park, it is really worth a visit. It’s not only a place for bird lovers!

Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park covers 363 km² of dry forest, marshes, and savannas. It consists of three areas: Zombitse, Vohibasia and Isoky Vohimena. The compounded name of this national park derives from two of three areas belonging to the park. Zombitse means as much as „dense forest“ and thus names the dry forest of the national park. Vohibasia is the savannah in front of this forest and means „hill of pistols“, which is attributed to conflicts between the people of the South and Merina of the central highlands some centuries ago. Virtually, Zombitse-Vohibasia acts as a transition zone between the dry and the humid forests of Madagascar. Therefore the flora is especially rich within the protected area. The wildlife here is more prolific than in Isalo National Park and all round trails through the national park are easy to walk. Of course there are plenty of opportunities to elongate your visit to a whole day without a problem.

Despite the prevalence of birds in the park, lemurs occupy an important place. The star of the forest is the nimble, noisy, the rare western fork-marked lemur (Phaner pallescens), which you may manage to see if you’re lucky and get to do a night walk, though it’s almost impossible to photograph as it bobs and dashes through the branches. Park is home of several groups of relatively habituated Verreaux’ sifakas, known as the dancer lemur, which are used to human and thus can be watched in only few meters distance. It bears its name well since it moves laterally with its very special jump. Also the most notable lemurs are the lemur Catta, and red-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur rufifrons). The latter is more or less small. As for the ring-tailed lemur, with its larger size, it is easily recognized with its ringed tail. Night hikes offer opportunities to see gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius), and Coquerel’s giant mouse lemur (Mirza coquereli), in addition to the Zombitse sportive lemur. The latter is nocturnal but is commonly seen resting in tree hollows by day. The Hubbard’s or Zombitse sportive lemur (Lepilemur hubbardorum) – only identified in 2006 and endemic to the forest (the sportive lemurs here were formerly considered to be the red-tailed species, L. ruficaudatus). Once you get your eye in, Hubbard’s are easy to see by day, peering – orange-eyed and splay-fingered – from their low-level tree holes.

As we have already noted, the Zombitse park is a sanctuary for birds in Madagascar – almost half of Madagascar’s endemic birds can be seen there. By visiting this park, you can be sure that you were offered an almost unique opportunity to meet with many birds of Madagascar. This park is home to over 85 species of known birds. The particularity of this park lies in the fact that almost 40% of these species are visible only in Madagascar. You will also note that some of these birds are endemic to the park itself like the Phyllastrephus apperti which is only known here. Then, in the park of Zombitse, we can also see the Sakalava Weaver, Couas... the Ankoay that is specific to the western region. Despite the presence of these dozens of species of bird, you should know that it is the Greenbul Appert, a very enchanting songbird, that makes the reputation of the park. It is real prize – if this forest were to disappear, so to would this species as it survives nowhere else on the planet. Besides Appert’s greenbul (Bernieria apperti), which only lives here and nowhere else, you can see Vangas (Xenopirostris ssp.), giant coucals (Coua gigas), Madagascar hawk owl (Ninox superciliaris), Kittlitz’ plovers (Charadrius pecuarius), Madagascar sandgrouse (Pterocles personatus) and Lantz’s brush-warbler (Nesillas lantzii). Commonly sighted birds are the grand and Coquerel's coua, white-browed owl, black parrot and blue vanga. If you want to meet as much as possible of the 85 species which live here, get out of the bed early and be in the park at sunrise.

In addition to birds, the Zombitse park also contains different types of reptiles, endemic or not. Among them, we note boas, stunning chameleons and multicolored geckos. In sum, there are 33 species of reptiles. You can spot a green-and-gold colored endemic lizard of the southwest, the Standing’s day gecko (Phelsuma standingi), usually seen in pairs on larger tree trunks, other reptiles like the Dumeril’s boa (Acranthophis dumerili) or small Madagascar iguanas (Chalarodon madagascariensis) belong to the national park’s inventory, too. The Zombitse - Vohibasia National Park presents eight species of frogs including Mantellas, endemic to Madagascar. In spring, countless colorful butterflies are attracted by mineral soil.

In terms of floral species, the Zombitse forest has a relatively high rate of biodiversity. The forest is composed of unique and varied species of plants, some of which are endemic. The endemism within these forests is very high. Among families that have a strong representation in the park, we note the Euphorbiaceae, the Acanthaceae, the Apocynaceae... As it is located in southern part of Madagascar, the Zombitse - Vohibasia park notes the presence of two species of didiéracées typical of this region. These succulents a few meters, dominating almost the entire forest of, exist only in this region of the island. Visiting this park also promises a meeting with the different species of baobab such as the dwarf baobabs, the Za baobabs, the baobabs Grandidier... Other species in the park include the Acacias, the Aloe, the Ficus, the Pandianus, Dalbergia sp...

The dominant population on the periphery of the Zombitse - Vohibasia National Park includes the Tandroy tribes and especially the Mahafaly. In meeting the latter, you will have the pleasure of contemplating the works of art adorning their tombs. The Mahafaly tombs are characterized by their patterns and colors and the presence of aloalos.

Watch more photos about Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park here.

Tulear, the city of the sun and the Tropic of Capricorn

Tulear is Madagascar’s southern region capital which is also called Toliara from its’ Malagasy name. The city is sunny all year long and will offer you an outstanding cultural asset. You are off to discover a warm and welcoming people which will leave you unforgettable memories. Enjoy the region’s dream beaches where idleness will be your everyday life.

Toliara, city of the West coast of Madagascar, at the level of the Tropic of Capricorn is fast becoming one of the first tourist areas of the Red island. The city, bright light under the hot sun of the Tropic of Capricorn, consists of broad avenues lined with tamarind trees and flamboyants, groomed streets of sand by a population active, warm and colorful. Tulear's colonial style buildings, grand lanes and innumerable multi-coloured rickshaws (pousse pousse) make a lasting impression on its visitors. Here locals prefer rickshaw transport over cars. The result is an unusually unpolluted city for its size and population, which makes the town well worth exploring for at least a couple of days.

Tulear is the final city along RN7 (National Road 7), which is a tarred road in very good condition starting in Antananarivo. A local airport connects Tulear with Antananarivo, Morondava and Fort Dauphin with daily scheduled flights.

The city is a true rainbow of bright colors with its mosaic of ethnic groups living there. Life in Tulear is cadenced by the tsapiky music which fills the streets and gives the city a lively atmosphere. The city also has its own batch of museums for you to learn about the local culture. The marine museum which is on the way towards the commercial port holds a collection of shells and fossils. The Mahafaly arts and traditions museum is one museum not to miss because it traces the Great South’s arts’ and customs’ evolution. Other attraction of Toliara is its market, which is lively and interesting, as well as one of the best places to buy lambas (pareos). Alongside the city’s cultural aspects, Tulear also shines for its many bars and restaurants where you will enjoy dishes full of flavors, influenced by many parts of the World: India, China and Europe for instance.

While Tulear itself is missing a perfect swimming beach, many beautiful beaches can be found either further north of Tulear, at Ifaty-Mangily, Salary Bay and Andavadoaka, or south of Tulear at St. Augustin Bay, Sarodrano, and Anakao. Tulear usually serves as a gateway to these destinations.

Other out-of-town attractions suitable for day-excursions include the botanical park of Antsokay Arboretum (l'Arboretum d'Antsokay) as well as the viewpoint from Table Mountain. Also well-worth a visit is Reniala Nature Reserve.

ENJOY THESE... out-of-town attractions and activities:

*Excursion Tsinjoriake Protected Area and Table Mountain. Tsinjoriake, a beautiful site of Madagascar. The site is classified as “natural monument and protected harmonious landscapes” and understandably justify its name. The place is breathtaking and will take you on a journey between earth and sky. You might climb mounts and enjoy a 360° vantage point as well as roam underground to uncover hidden corridors. Adventures await you!

*Camping trip Nosy Ve. The visit to the nearby island of Nosy Ve with a traditional pirogue is a big favorite and highly recommended. A about 5 km of Anakao, this long island plate lined with sandy beaches, is located inside the coral reef protecting the lagoon.

*Table Mountain walk.

*Sea Trip the Saint Augustin’s bay and the Sarodrano caves.

*Honko community-based mangrove reserve. The Bird's haven. Visit the first fully developed community mangrove reserve in southwest Madagascar and truly support the local community!

*Kitesurfing tour Vezo-coast from Tulear. For independent kitesurfers with good level, we organize kitesurfing trips Vezo-coast from Tulear and to take back up the kite... Quads follow you by the road. A real pleasure!

*Quad-tours from Tulear. Quad tours remain the most accessible way to discover many areas, mainly along south-western coast of Madagascar. Ready for the adventure?

*Excursion Miary’s Sacred Banyan. The tree, which is protected by a wooden fence, is so large that resembles a forest itself! Miary’s banyan is repeatedly cited as the most representative of the island’s essence.

*Adventure trip Assassins Bay and Mikea Forest. "Sea geysers” and the mystical forest. This adventure trip of several days from Tulear is as interesting on quads as on a sailboat or by 4х4 car.

*visit Arboretum d'Antsokay - is a botanical garden specialized in the flora and fauna of Southwest Madagascar that should not be missed by anyone. On a surface of 40 hectares there are almost 900 species of plants, 90% endemic to the region.

*visit a forest of baobab trees Reniala Private Reserve. Located just 800 meters from the sea on 60 ha, Reniala protects baobabs and spiny forest, it is an ornithologic reserve, a research and preservation center for lemurs where visitors can observe rare birds and reptiles.

*Private Baobab party. Private dinner in the Reniala reserve at the foot of the big millennial baobab at sunset. On the menu, grilled fish, traditional Malagasy dishes, creole and European cuisine. For our guests to have an unforgettable moment during journey.

*Nightclubs. Club ZaZa. It is the oldest and most popular club in town. Clients are a mixture of locals, expats and tourists, music is a mixture of local and western hits as well (the dancing competitions are really funny!). There is also a restaurant inside. There might be local girls looking for white men. Please do not practise sexual tourism. Bo Beach. Next to the jetty to Anakao, this beach bar opens every evening until midnight. Beautiful terrace towards the sea to have a drink or a snack, play billiard or dance with the local people. Fun for sure! Tam Tam Café (former L´Hacienda). New club by the sea. Opened everyday except Tuesdays from midday until late at night. There is a big dancing floor, lots of cocktails and snacks, and live music at weekends.

Anakao. A piece of heaven just for you

If a holiday beach should one day be able to be part of your most beautiful memories, if you are looking to experience a cultural journey initiated by your unwavering passion for the discovery of new destinations where authentic values and now forgotten rhythms, Anakao offers you great emotions.

This famous village is located at this corner of the island, where time seems to have stopped a few decades ago. The main attractions of this area, where scrubby dunes meet ocean, are the simple pleasures of sun and sand. The area is getting a world-class name for surfing and wind- and kitesurfing rather as much as snorkeling and diving, marine life can be very worthwhile and the weather conditions are usually good. Whale-watching is also good here during the migration season, from July to September. And if you’re interested in local culture, you’ll find the big painted cement tombs of Vezo ancestors, near the point, fascinating.

This large Vezo village is good accessible only by boats. Before even reaching Anakao by the sea, the crossing gives already a first impression of what awaits you at the village. The beauty of the ocean with a turquoise sea mixed with the green emerald tickling of the coastal landscape of sand embellished by the rare thickets and of coconuts… The traversed coast is swept quasi-constantly by the “tsiokatimo” – southern wind.

Not far from the coast, on the level of the lagoon of Saint-Augustin, you cross the coral barrier and his wall of silver plated scum. You appreciates the place where the Onilahy River meets by the lullaby of its lapping the sea of the Channel of Mozambique. Per moment, a ballet of dolphins escorts the crossing of the sea. As one moves ahead, one sees travelling the coast with its landscape of mangroves, white sand dunes, specific forests which dissimulate in its center some fishermen dwellings; before it let appear only high cliffs dominating the bay of Saint-Augustin. The peaceful sea, beautifully colored by the blazing of the sunlight announces the arrival at Anakao. From certain distance, the village is summarized with a long string of variety of burning colorful dugouts canoes and the brownish spots of the huts. While arriving at the village, one enjoys the fine and incandescent sand from which one can encounter the daily life of Vezo.

By the end of the day, especially during the southern summer (December till March), one can enjoy an amazing spectacle of sunset. At dusk, another traditional rite brings life the village. Typical music of the south of Madagascar like Tsapiky, Banaike, etc… enters in scene for an animation to amaze you by the beautiful star lights, on the beach. The night thus goes on by the rhythm of ancestral instruments such as the kabosy, typical of this area. Their sonority is usually associated the sound of Amponga or Djembe (drum).

We can ensure you that Anakao is the ideal place for relaxing for a few days! The village of Anakao is also one of the rare occasions to join the tropic of Capricorn and to pass, from one side to another, a tropical zone to a moderate zone. This tropic of the southern hemisphere passes exactly on this place. Anakao, with Nosy Ve which is just of short canoe ride distance, offers a bathing place and especially a place intended for snorkeling and diving to enjoy the thousands of species of underwater sea-beds at the level of the coral barrier. The sea in this area of Madagascar is just like a natural size almost unlimited aquarium. It offers a much-diversified choreography of multicolored fish like starfishes, lobsters, shells trained as faithful spectators of the splendid corals. Anakao and its sea are also a place coveted by surfers and windsurfers with the Tsiokatimo strong wind. Like Ifaty-Mangily, this place can be the final nail of the adventure of the tour of the Highlands towards the South of the island to relax.

The southwestern coast of Madagascar is, together with Nosy Be and Sainte Marie islands, Diego Suarez and Ifaty-Mangily, the best place to practice Surfing, kitesurfing, diving and snorkeling, whale watching. Anakao it is the perfect base camp for a few days around.

When did you do something new for the last time? You can of course, and we recommend it, practice scuba diving or whale-watching with us, but also,

ENJOY THESE... experiences:

visit Nosy Ve. The visit to the nearby island of Nosy Ve with a traditional pirogue is a big favorite and highly recommended;

visit Tsimanampetsotsa National Park. The park is an hour and a half an away. It will allow you to discover the Park, the vegetation of the region, the villages around, beautiful beaches of the southwest coast ... In summer it happens to see whales in front of the village of Ambola.;

hiking near Anakao. Turning towards the sea, Anakao is not lack of interest in its hinterland for who wants to discover the region;

take a quad and explore the surroundings. For a more dynamic afternoon, quad bikes are usually an ideal way for discovering the surrounding areas of Anakao with the fishing village, the spiny forest and the old French railway and the sand dunes.

visit Nosy Satrana - is a small island where the fantastic colors of the lagoon are unique, a dozen kilometers further south, next to the famous pass of Mangoro, whose main inhabitants are herons, and, according to the local believes, also the spirits of ancestors than live under the shading branches of a large tamarind tree on the north of the island;

sailing the lagoon or the reef on 'pirogues' or by highly secured boat (two engines) - a whole day excursion or just for the morning, with snorkeling in the morning and picnic with lobster;

traditional fishing or deep sea fishing or trolling rod fishing - with the traditional canoes or with the speed boat, you can practice all types of fishing with local fishermen in the vicinity of Anakao;

kitesurfing (with training, if necessary). Our instructor will be at your disposal with the possibility to rent equipment, take introductory or advanced courses, organize day trips with picnics. A unique opportunity to discover kitesurfing, this spectacular sport and quickly accessible to all!;

water skiing (with training, if necessary) and Kayaking. We offer small kayaks for guests to enjoy in the lagoon or surf the small waves. An enchantment for children!;

take a jet ski and explore the surroundings. Is possible to organize excursions with jet ski;

Humpback whale-watching in Anakao. Each year, from July to September, an impressive daily show, very close to the coast of Anakao, just behind the island of Nosy Ve;

The Anakao Glacier. A few hundred meters of walk along the beach of Anakao discover Nad'Mad, the glacier. In an exceptional landscape you can taste homemade products made from fresh fruit, varying according to the seasons. A moment of extraordinary relaxation in a garden of endemic flora of the south of Madagascar;

romantic trip. This is one of Anakao’s more romantic excursions, ideal for honeymoon couples, but not only for them. You go out by boat in the late afternoon to reach the island of Nosy Satrana where a cocktail with or without alcohol (your choice) or glass of fine South African wine or delicious aperitif will be served. You admire the sunset as the Anakao sky is tinged with a thousand shades from orangey red to violet. Delightful dinner will be served on the beach of Nosy Satrana.

surfing (with training, if necessary). Madagascar is one of the high places of surfing and Anakao internationally recognized for its surf spots;

scuba diving. If you come to Madagascar for scuba diving, you are in the right place.

snorkeling. Here is considerably better than in Ifaty-Mangily. Half-day snorkeling tours are done with a guide out on a boat. Discovery of the lagoon underwater, you will dive into a real aquarium of tropical fish and corals in complete freedom;

have a drink and merely get a massage, a tan or sleep on the beach...;

diving school in Madagascar. Ndao-i-Travel together with our partner The Madagascar-Anakao scuba diving school (the center has a part CMAS Training School and a diving club open to all, PADI, NAUI, CMAS and other divers, as well as novices) prepares you under excellent conditions for CMAS patents.

You can book various excursions. Many other excursions are possible on request. We make every effort to ensure the satisfaction of our customers by providing a quality service.

Welcome to Anakao! Strung out along a series of perfect semicircles of white-sand beaches and looking out over turquoise waters, Anakao is laid-back in the finest tradition of small seaside Malagasy settlements. It's our pick of the options along the Southern Reef coastline. Excellent sleeping and eating options round out a fine all-round destination.

Watch more photos about Anakao here.

Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve – The one of the best sites

Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve – a region of dry forest habitats in southern Madagascar – offers unique flora and fauna, and provides training and research opportunities. In collaboration with several American universities the Reserve is at the same time a research and a training center. It is absolutely striking. Bezà Mahafaly contains the most amazing hidden treasures: playful lemurs, a spiny forest, Nile crocodiles, slithering snakes and much more. It is the only National Protected Area in Madagascar that includes the unique and dramatic gradient from riverine to spiny forest. Wildlife is abundant at Bezà, with many species endemic to the island and some found only in the south.

Bezà Mahafaly is one of the best sites to see lemurs in the wild. They are well acclimated to people and readily approached. Lemurs are a particular attraction and there are five species of lemurs in the reserve. Lemurs that can be seen in Bezà Mahafaly are the same as those in Berenty Private Reserve, three lemur species (Propithecus verreauxi, Lemur catta, Cheirogaleus medius) leap showily through the forest by day, and eyes gleaming in a flashlight’s beam signal the presence of two species active at night (Lepilemur leucopus and Microcebus griseorufus). Although the habitat in Bezà-Mahafaly is similar to that of Berenty, Bezà-Mahafaly is the only known site where one is sure to see the recently-described Petter’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur petteri). What is more, the region as a whole is much more remote and worth the adventure of getting there.

Close to a hundred species of birds are present year-round or seasonally, including the spectacular giant coua (Coua gigas) and six species from the endemic family Vangidae, Madagascar sparrowhawk, Lafresnaye’s vanga or Archbold’s newtonia.

In addition, the forest is home to 4 species of tenrec, 3 species of carnivores, 6 species of bats, 17 species of saurians (geckonids, iguanids, gerrausaurids and cameleons), 2 species of tortoises and 14 species of snakes and, when the river is in flood, the occasional crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). A flourishing population of radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata), radiated tortoises occur at high density in the eastern part of the Reserve and are easy to spot, particularly in the wet season when they are most active.

The rich array of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and ants, wasps and bees (Hymenoptera) have been systematically inventoried, and voucher specimens of many of these invertebrates are archived in the Field Station Museum’s collections.

Carnivores are harder to see, but tracks and occasional sightings mark the travels of the endemic, puma-like fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox). The rare, termite eating, large-eared tenrec Geogale aurita is found in the dry spiny forest of Bezà Mahafaly and is one of four tenrec species at Bezà.

Many of these species are harder to see, but with the assistance of our guides and a combination of persistence and good luck, you may also encounter some of these remarkable animals.

The Bezà Mahafaly Reserve is divided into two non-contiguous habitats – a dry forest and a riverine forest, and there are some clear, good maintained and easy trails in both of them. Each part of the Bezà Mahafaly Reserve has its own endemic plants and animals unique to this area of Madagascar. If you are looking for unique animals and something different then the Bezà Mahafaly is definitely the place to go.

Just west of Sakamena River, which flows along the reserve’s boundary, located is a section encompasses great stands of spiny forest, the hallmark of southern Madagascar which not found nowhere else in the world. The dry forest consists of mixed vegetation dry deciduous and transition forest where xerophyllous plants are abundant. The trail (4 to 5 hours) leads you through a beautiful forest with huge palms and spiny plants, where a lot of birds and reptiles have their home. Plants display a wide range of adaptations to arid conditions: seasonal loss or year-round absence of leaves (Terminalia spp., Commiphora spp.; Euphorbia tirucalli), succulent leaves (Kalanchoe spp.), spines (Alluaudia procera), and tubers (Dioscorea spp.).

Along the banks of the Sakamena River, the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve protects lush forest rooted in soils moistened by its waters. Tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica) are the dominant species here, and with several endemic species (e.g. Albizzia polyphylla, Acacia rovumae) they form a closed canopy – and a plentiful source of food for many animals.

Whichever forest you decide to visit, if not both, you are sure to see the most amazing Madagascar sights with the most interesting array of animal & plant life! Altogether, the Reserve harbors over 450 plant species from 79 families. Voucher specimens for a majority of plant species are housed at the Field Station Herbarium. The Reserve has an impeccable Botanical Garden where you can get familiar to the flora growing inside the Reserve and a small Aloe garden with species from all over southern Madagascar.

Bezà Mahafaly is of interest to visitors not only for its rich fauna and flora, but also for its unique regional culture and handicrafts. The Reserve has its own interesting ethnological Museum, which gives you a glimpse into the life of the Mahafaly communities.

Visit this Madagascar National Park on your holiday for a truly amazing experience. Your visit to the reserve on your Madagascar holidays will help support this project resulting in an exciting and rewarding time! You should count on spending a day getting in and another day getting out. There is a nice camping site (Kily Camp) inside the reserve with shared facilities, showers and a kitchen. This is by far the best option for a complete visit to the Reserve: our do not have to go back to Betioky on the same day and you can enjoy a night walk.

“Miaro ny ala, mitsinjo ny hoavintsika: protecting the forest is thinking of our future”.

Watch more photos about Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve here.

Ifaty-Mangily. A lot of interesting days

Ifaty and Mangily are two separate villages 3km apart that share the same beach, known as Ifaty Beach (the Dunes d’Ifaty, for example, is in Mangily). The bay of Ifaty is for many travelers synonymous with idleness, beautiful beaches lined with coconut palms... but also a seaside resort of a certain magnitude, mostly welcomed after a long trekking tour. Indeed the beaches are beautiful and its closeness to Toliara, where most trips to the South end, make Ifaty a well worth trip to lay down on the beach and do some snorkeling. At the white sandy beaches of Ranobe bay (translated “big water”) at Mozambique Channel, you have the best opportunities to relax. The water is warm and the sun shines on more than 300 days of the year.

The main tourist hub is the village of Mangily (when talking about Ifaty, actually speaks of the village of Mangily!). Consists of a few establishments where are the royal bungalows. The village also has good really charming little hotels where the word "holiday" takes on its full meaning. In addition, a further attraction for those missing Sainte Marie are the whales passing by in July and August, as well as an amazing spiny forest along the road just north of Mangily is well worth a look.

The southwestern coast of Madagascar is, together with Nosy Be and Sainte Marie islands, the best place to practice diving and snorkeling in Madagascar (read about this at the bottom of this article).

Here is nothing but disorder and beauty, luxury and want, uproar and quietness, and everyday delight... - in between lagoon and spiny forest, it is the perfect base camp for a few days around. You can of course, and we recommend it, practice scuba diving or whale watching with us, but also,

ENJOY THESE... experiences:

take a quad and explore the surroundings, especially the Manombo dunes and Ranobe Lake - a rallying point for local wildlife;

visit a forest of baobab trees Reniala Private Reserve. Located just 800 meters from the sea on 60 ha, Reniala protects baobabs and spiny forest, it is an ornithologic reserve, a research and preservation center for lemurs where visitors can observe rare birds and reptiles. There is a possibility of night walks to discover the nightlife of animals;

Private Baobab party. Private dinner in the Reniala reserve at the foot of the big millennial baobab at sunset. On the menu, grilled fish, traditional Malagasy dishes, creole and European cuisine. For our guests to have an unforgettable moment during journey;

sailing the lagoon or over reef on 'pirogues' -  a whole day excursion or just for the morning, with snorkelling in the morning and picnic with lobster at Ambolimailaka or at the Roses massif, where you'll watch the fishermen coming back to shore, dizains of 'pirogues' competing in shouts and joy - Ah, tea mitabataba vezo reo!- to be the first and get the best price for the fish;

visit Arboretum d'Antsokay (a whole day excursion) - is a botanical garden specialized in the flora and fauna of Southwest Madagascar that should not be missed by anyone. On a surface of 40 hectares there are almost 900 species of plants, 90% endemic to the region. A trained guide takes you on a tour of the area, where you see around a hundred of species of Euphornia and 60 species of Kalanchoe, as well as an abundance of reptiles and birds. Excellent meals à la carte is served at the restaurant Dry Forest, situated in the heart of the reserve;

Camping trip Nosy Ve. The visit to the nearby island of Nosy Ve with a traditional pirogue is a big favorite and highly recommended. A about 5 km of Anakao, this long island plate lined with sandy beaches, is located inside the coral reef protecting the lagoon;

visit Honko community-based mangrove reserve. The Bird's haven. Visit the first fully developed community mangrove reserve in southwest Madagascar and truly support the local community! This community-based mangrove reserve offers the unique opportunity to take a guided boardwalk tour of southwest Madagascar's mangroves and explore its unique flora and fauna. This site is particularly noted for its wetland bird diversity (at least 37 species)!;

horse rides and treks along the lagoon and through a beautiful baobab forest;

kitesurfing (with training, if necessary);

water skiing (with training, if necessary);

surfing (with training, if necessary);

various excursions in highly secured boat (two engines);

traditional or deep sea fishing;

a picnic with local fishermen;

have a drink and merely get a massage, a tan or sleep on the beach...

Diving in the Ifaty and Solary. NDAO-i-Travel together with our partner Atimoo plongée (diving school, teaching personalized courses from SCUBA DIVER to DIVE MASTER) offer guided scuba diving along different sites of the coral reef, you can rent all equipment right here. There are a lot of opportunities to discover the sea and its colorful inhabitants, for beginners as well as for experienced divers. In some spots, travelers even have the unique possibility to meet sharks within touching distance under water. You’re not that brave? Then you will find plenty of chances to dive or snorkel inside safe coves.

Our idea - Diving the Vezo coast from Mangily to Morombe - find out here.

We make every effort to ensure the satisfaction of our customers by providing a quality service.

Ifaty-Mangily gives way to controversy. Believe us, Ifaty-Mangily deserves a longer stay. Here would be enough material for a ton of novels, if it wasn't more thrill and interesting to be there. And (let's be honest) if the beaches are very nice, there is still much nicer elsewhere (especially in the north). If fact, we still prefer the more untouched and pristine beaches of the western coast (Salary Bay until Belo-sur-Mer), but Ifaty will also do you quite a few of interesting days and complete relaxation.

Wath more photos about Ifaty-Mangily here.

NOSY VE, THE ISLAND WITH MANY CHARMS

Nosy Ve is an island located on a barrier reef nearby the coastal village of Anakao. Nosy Ve’s reef is approximately 4.5 km long and 1.8 km wide. Its name can be mistaken with Nosy Be, which is its elder in the North of Madagascar.

Nosy Ve’s history. Nowadays, Nosy Ve is uninhabited, which was not always the case. The area was indeed a French camp in the XIXth century where people could trade with the Saint Augustin’s bay while avoiding contact with pirates and hostile tribes. It is a journey through history that awaits you to discover remains of the XIXth century.

This tiny island has a white sandy shoreline, and is home to hundreds of tropic birds. In particular, the island of Nosy Ve is the only place where the straw-in-tailed (red-tailed phaetons) come to nest. Now, it is the main attraction of this island that attract ornithologists from all parts of the world.

The red tail phaeton is an endemic species of the island and truly make the place authentic and peculiar. This species creates a real enthusiasm among tourist who come for all corners of the world to take a picture of this endemic species, whose only known breeding ground is Nosy Ve. Even if you are not a birdwatching enthusiast, seeing this species is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The birds allow a close approach, as they are left unmolested by local people due to a taboo. They breed throughout the year with a peak of reproduction from June to November. You can admire the nests accessible on the ground and the juveniles hidden under bushes growing on the coral sand. In addition to hundreds of red-tailed Phaetons, commonly known as straw-tail, you can see herons, terns...

The visit to the nearby island of Nosy Ve with a traditional pirogue is a big favorite and highly recommended. A about 5 km of Anakao, this long island plate lined with sandy beaches, is located inside the coral reef protecting the lagoon. Reaching Nosy Ve in a traditional pirogue Vezo, driven by the warm morning winds to fish, walk and eat there - is a very rewarding experience.

When you walk along the path you can admire the transparency of the lagoon. The superb white strand invites to idleness.

Apart of the birds’ colony, there is very good snorkeling and scuba diving on the pristine coral reef encircling the island. Nosy Ve is also known for its magnificent coral reef which shelters a colorful and abundant fauna. While snorkeling it is possible to see a myriad of fish, you will be able to spot ballistas, syngnathus, sea eels, clown fishes, scorpion fishes, surgeon fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, groupers, tortoises or even stingrays. Such amount of fish species really is an experience well worth the trip.

All it makes the small islet a lovely day-trip.

Watch more photos about Nosy Ve island here.

PK-32 Ranobe. Hotspot of biodiversity

The forest called «PK-32» is near Ifaty-Mangily. The southern stretch of Mikea forest, known as P(oint ) K(ilometer)-32 Ranobe (the spring/oasis) is a new protected area that has long been recognized as a conservation priority. PK-32 Ranobe has considerably more vertebrate species than either of the Southwest’s National Parks – Mikea National Park and Tsimanampetsotsa – or the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve. This forest region is home to eight lemur species, four of which are vulnerable and threatened by hunting – the highest diversity of lemurs of any forest in the Southwest region of Madagascar, and numerous other endemic, threatened or endangered plants and animals.

Harboring plant endemism at the highest level of any forest on the island - with 48% of the species and 95% of genera unique to a small section of the Southwest – it is one of the last of its kind. «It is a hotspot of biodiversity. WWF is currently applying for include within the decree of definitive protection» Malika Virah-Sawmy, WWF’s Terrestrial Programme Coordinator in Madagascar said.

The first comprehensive bird survey of PK-32 Ranobe revealed the presence of 124 bird species, including 56 Malagasy endemics and 8 species endemic to the southern ecoregion. Literature reviews reveal records of a further six species, giving PK32-Ranobe the most diverse avifauna of any site in the south-west of Madagascar. It is best known to birdwatchers who come to see local endemics such as the subdesert mesite (Monias benschi), the long-tailed ground-roller (Uratelornis chimaera), and the running coua (Coua cursor).

In 2010, Gardner rediscovered a species of Mirza (giant mouse lemur) in Ranobe. It is also one of the best places to see the gray-brown mouse lemur (Microcebus griseorufus).

What lemur species are at risk in this region? According to The lemur diversity of the Fiherenana-Manombo Complex, southwest Madagascar in the journal Madagascar Conservation and Development, the following lemurs have been observed in this region, and are at risk: Dwarf lemur, Grey mouse lemur, Reddish-grey mouse lemur, Coquerel’s giant mouse lemur, Verraux’s sifaka, Red-fronted brown lemur, Ring-tailed lemur, Sportive lemur.

High-end hotels cater to more demanding tourists, while middle-end hotels are suitable for those traveling on a more modest budget. Night walks in the forest can arranged in the Ifaty-Mangily region along the coast.

Watch more photos about PK-32 Ranobe here.

Lavanono. A destination out of time

For Westerners, it is sometimes impossible to think that there are still regions where time has stopped. In Lavanono, you will be immersed in an environment where concrete has no place. Only a few houses are built in hard and the rest is built with all natural materials.

This place with the "left" of Lavanono and attracts "riders" of the entire region. It is also a must for travelers who venture on the mythical track of Great South between Tulear and Fort Dauphin because of its location not far from Cape Sainte Marie. The Cape Sainte Marie Special Reserve where you can admire the hundreds of turtles that live there, the southern tip of Madagascar, is only 20 km from here. Lavanono has acquired international fame because of its gorgeous waves, which attract surfers from the whole world. Lavanono is a top-quality surf- wind- kite destination. An international competition has already taken place. This place as a surfer's paradise. You may forget about crammed Indonesian and Australian beaches. No need to give way to tens of other surfers as none is around - a wave belongs just to you! Between July and November, it is also possible to admire humpback whales.

At the bottom of an immense canyon resembling a half crater overlooking the sea, created by the fall of an asteroid about 4800 years ago, over the course of geological history, formed a plateau which ended in a cliff at the foot of which is the village of Lavanono. This landscape contrasted between heights and sea is particularly mesmerizing, especially at sunset. The coastline of Lavanono offers an astonishing diversity of landscapes. Between the sandy beaches and the stretches of rocks where the waves crash, the atmosphere is simply magical. The structure of the littoral allows the offshore waves to form exceptional rollers and quite exhilarating. Enthusiasts of thrills will find their happiness here. However, since the infrastructure associated with the practice of this sport is not yet developed here, it is essential for surfers to take all the equipment and repair kits they need, a useful precaution to take advantage of this spot. Besides surfing, it is also possible to explore the ecosystem of the region. Enjoy your stay to admire the fauna and flora of the place.

Lavanono is one of the most isolated surf-spots on the planet and an adventure in itself. Lavanono had no access for the tourism for a long time. Just a few years ago the infrastructure was improved and a kind of an eco-tourism started in this southern area of the huge island country in the Indian Ocean. The area around Lavanono is well known for its biodiversity and a lot of plants and animals are endemic species. Some pro riders already visited this remote spot in the past.

SURFER DESTINATION

Rise with the sun, enjoy 3 meals a day - pancakes with honey and tea for breakfast, Captain fish with rice for lunch and a langouste or chicken for dinner; meditate and catch some amazing waves four times a day. They are truly perfect, although such thing as perfect waves hardly exists. Smooth like a highway or a tunnel with light, gleaming in the other end! The left breaks clean and big and the trades blow from July to November, generally cross-off and 15-30 knots strong. The place belongs to surfers until 10am when the wind freshens. Around 3pm it dies off and the surfers head back in for a second session. You can also sail the Lavanono Beach break in the bay beyond the point. The waves here aren’t as big but the wind’s a little more cross-shore.  Sharks on this coast are rare. The reef in Lavanono is fairly flat, covered with seaweed but Androka and Itampolo are live coral.

A wild local party kicks off soon after arrival and a short familiarization with a neighborhood. Musicians play on self-made guitars, resembling bird cages, guests are treated to local home-brew and young girls dance at the fire, shaking and bouncing their hips in a real rutting dance. On the next day the same beauties stand on the beach, where the male guests can see them, striving to catch their attention.

Finally, it is a total chill-out! Days pass by, wandering along the beach and lounging on white-sandy spots among reefs, dreaming of ice-cream... Children on broken self-made surf boards try to slide in the shallow water on some smaller waves.

Men, returning from fishing, mark the main event of the day. About ten boats leave for several kilometers to fishing places every morning around 4 o'clock and return back at sunset. Red-tinted sails in the distance are a sign for the villagers to gather on the shore. Soon the boats are tied up and the party may start! Fish are cut open and the catch is shared, and kids are tossing fish guts like snowballs. Some slimy piece will land on your foot, too...yuck!!!

Let’s hope that this jewel will not be discovered too early by the mass tourism. At the moment around 500 inhabitants are living in the little village of Lavanono. A few resorts for tourists are existing already there. The place is really isolated and remote, but definitely offers, what windsurfers are looking for: wind and clean waves. And it looks like the wind can get quite strong. Bring your 4.0m! Kitesurf equipment would be useful. Take a beat-up board for the local kids.

There is no place on earth like Madagascar – be patient and open minded and remember that all good things take time!

Other worthy places: Although the reefs of Anakao and Ifaty-Mangily have recently been discovered by surfers it’s well worth engaging. A massive turquoise Lagoon opens out before Anakao while clean, hollow left-handers break on the reefs outside at Flame Balls and Jelly Babies. With names like that, there are no surprises for guessing those reefs are sharp! The wind, mostly cross-offshore SE from the left, kicks in around midday and can build up to 30 knots.

Watch more photos about Lavanono here.

Arboretum Antsokay – an exciting wildlife in the sky, in the trees, on the ground

Arboretum Antsokay is a botanical garden specialized in the flora and fauna of Southwest Madagascar that should not be missed by anyone. This is the one must-see attraction. Essentially a 40 hectares distillation of the entire spiny forest in one place, it's a fantastic collection of 900 plant species, 90% endemic to the region.

In 1980, the Swiss man Herman Petignat bought the 0,04 km² sized area which was then almost barren. As a hobby botanist, he began to collect and cultivate plants of the South. Quickly it become much more than just pastime. Together with botany professor Werner Rauh from Heidelberg University, he described several unknown plants of Madagascar and successfully grew his project. It's also a model for how much-larger parks should be run. There's a classy interpretation center, a small museum, shop and some excellent bungalows, Auberge de la Table, with pool. Excellent meals à la carte is served at the stylish restaurant Dry Forest, situated in the heart of the reserve.

As the name already suggests, everything is about plants here. The guided tour through the botanical trail will open your eyes to the ingenuity of a diverse flora that has adapted, sometimes in extraordinary ways, to the heat and drought of this region. You will also discover the relationship that has developed between mankind and the plant kingdom, through the use of medicinal plants. Our trained guide takes you on tour of the area, where you see around a hundred of species of Euphornia and 60 species of Kalanchoe, as well as an abundance of reptiles and birds. You will can even find the plants that Petignat and his team described for the first time, e.g. Euphorbia kamponii, Euphorbia spinicapsula, Ceropegia hermanni or Cynanchum petignatii. Special attention is given to the conservation of endangered plants in southern Madagascar. Thus here have, for example, a considerable number of rare Aloe species such as Aloe suzannae or Aloe ruffingiana, and a large number of Malagasy Pachypodium ssp. A knowledgeable guide will explain to you everything about Madagascar’s plants – and this way you will also discover why Uncarina stellulifera is known as mousetrap on the island. Or what is the secret behind the strange Cyphostemma montagnacii.

But animal friends won’t be disappointed here. When you walk through the arboretum, it is advisable to see more than plants. In the sky, in the trees, on the ground, there is an abundance of a discreet but exciting fauna. Madagascar's spiny dry forest is a great opportunity to see creatures that you cannot see anywhere else in the world.

In Arboretum, you can perfectly watch 34 species of birds, among them the Madagascar kestrel (Falco newtoni), bee eaters (Merops superciliosus) and red-capped Couas (Coua ruficeps). They even sometimes come close to the pool. The reptiles and mammals of the South are presentable here, too: In the night, you can find Paroedura picta without any problems while bats are flying over your head. Some mouse lemurs (Microcebus griseorufus) even visit the restaurant from time to time. During daytime, you may discover the pretty warty chameleon (Furcifer verrucosus) or small Merrem’s Madagascar swifts (Oplurus cyclurus).

Not only chameleons, boas or tenrecs but also other endemic species such as mouse lemurs (Microcebus griseorufus) are the main attraction of the nocturnal visit of the arboretum. Surprisingly, these animals are not that hard to see! You can find mouse lemurs by brightening with a torch in the bushes and detect the reflections of their eyes. Chameleons are quite hard to find during the day, but surprisingly easy to find during the night. If you turn a light into the trees, their skin reflects light.

Ethnological trail makes you will discover the 3 main ethnicities of the south of this country. The visit reflects aspects of their daily lives, funerary art and especially their habitat. The houses in the villages are built to scale. The usual objects from these ethnic groups are highlighted in the small museum. Towards the end of the visit, admire the collection of fossils and minerals, and the egg of Aepyornis, the giant bird that disappeared 700 years ago, scorpions and insects preserved in this museum.

We highly recommend staying here least at one day and at one night, during the trip or at the end. The Arboretum has a very good infrastructure. The Auberge de la Table offers an extraordinary restaurant, six very nice bungalows, designed for one or two persons, with superior equipment, running hot water, electricity made by solar panels and a great pool to refresh yourself.

Watch more photos about Arboretum Antsokay here.

Salary Bay – it is heavenly

Salary is a true gem with probably the nicest totally wild white sand beach of the whole country, a long seven kilometers, with coral reefs with enchanting colors, and turquoise lagoon, and primary forest concealing wealth, still preserved. This is our an one of the best choices outside the main tourist routes of Madagascar, to offer you a real authenticity, a special contact with the beauty of our island and its inhabitants without forgetting the comfort, safety and accessibility.

Salary is a small fishing village on the west coast of Madagascar, located between Andavadoaka and Toliara. It is a full-size postcard. The Vezo fishermen (tribe of nomadic fishermen) leave early in the morning their dugout canoes equipped with makeshift sails. In the hot hours, everyone lives at the rhythm of the "mora-mora", an idle lifestyle for the Malagasy. The Salary bay is a sumptuous landscape. At the edge of the Ambatomilo lagoon, which stretches over 90 km from Ifaty-Mangily to Andavadoaka, its turquoise waters and white sand beaches out of sight make it a beautiful place, all in an immensity and a calm almost unreal. Only the slamming of the lagoon's ripples may disturb the tranquility of this virgin and still preserved nature.

Sunrises, swimming in turquoise waters, sand castles, hiking, canoe, boat, encountering an underwater, whales, and meet the baobab trees, white sand dunes and then meet the fishermen Vezo. It's a popular choice for honeymooners and divers (the local dive center is here). We can also organize whale watching.

You can of course, and we recommend it, practice scuba diving or whalewatching with us, but also,

ENJOY THESE... experiences:

take a quad and explore the surroundings. With its endless deserted beaches, impressive dunes overlooking the turquoise sea and fishing villages, and its sandy and rocky beaches lined with Baobabs, the Salary Bay area is ideally situated for quad biking. A four-wheel drive vehicle that does not require any technical skills, the quad allows short walks in the surrounding villages (including the incredible Andravony dune that dominates the entire coast) and raids in the baobab forests up to the mythical bay of assassins;

traditional or deep sea fishing. Salary Bay guarantees you fishing trips in color and excitement. Carangue, Marlin, Bonite are among the most present specimens on a totally preserved fishing site. The boat will cross passes allowing to reach off the coral reef, where you will find in abundance many species and varied big fishes such as barracudas, bonitos, tuna hammers, groupers, swordfishes, tazars... The boat: it is an open hull, 8 meters with a canopy, equipped with 2 engines (2x140 hp), flight’ sits, sounders, GPS, VHF, 5 sticks and reels Penn Inter from 9 to 25 m;

kitesurfing. Salary is certainly one of the best spots in Madagascar for Kitesurfing practice of its characteristics: regular wind conditions, its exotic setting, easy access to the lagoon, its naturally protected bay and secure space at sea on the beach, the absence of obstacles and sand bars that break the waves, not to mention the clarity of water. For initiations or if you do not have your equipment, we have partnerships with establishments in the region to rent equipment or to undertake introductory or advanced training courses with a qualified instructor who can assist beginners to discover what the Kitesurf. For more experienced people, no problem, you can bring your sail, steer and navigate;

sailing the lagoon or over reef on 'pirogues' - a whole day excursion or just for the morning, with snorkeling in the morning and picnic with lobster and a fish. The Salary Bay turquoise lagoon is preserved and has a unique coral reef consisting of three successive coral reefs;

a picnic with local fishermen. Fishermen of Vezo catch fish by a canoe, which they have borrowed from Indonesia, close to their village, consisting of simple huts, around which rowdy children always joyful. You can visit the typical Vezo village of Salary North, its school;

have a drink and merely get a massage, a tan or sleep on the beach... Massages in Salary Bay are a true art of living. Relaxing, toning or slimming. An absolute must after stiffness of the road, quad bike raids or just for some relax. Try it desserts with exotic flavors of mango, papaya, lychees ... And then at sunset, facing the sea, indulge in one of our "rum arrangee";

scuba diving in Salary. Whether you are a novice diver or a qualified diver, you will experience some of your finest dive experiences in Salary Bay thanks to the beauty, accessibility and diversity of explorable sites! Including the famous 3 wrecks of the Salary Bay reef. Diving package: All packages include the provision of your diving gear. In Salary Bay, you benefit from exceptional coaching conditions with your fully dedicated instructor.

It’s a long trip here unless you come in by private plane (here has its own airfield), but once you have arrived it is heavenly.

Watch more photos about Salary Bay here.

Reniala Private Reserve – an outstanding forest

Reniala Private Reserve, which is also called the Domergue reserve, is a small protected area of only 60 ha. The reserve is located less than 1km from the Mozambique Channel near the village of Ifaty-Mangily. Of extraordinary richness, the biodiversity of the fauna of the Reniala reflects the biological magic of Madagascar. It shelters an amazing, bizarre and unique ecosystem which only occurs in the southern part of Madagascar: the spiny forest. The towering spiny bushes are home to more than 2000 plants species (many of them local endemic), some spectacular and very old baobabs (there is a giant baobab of 13 m diameter, local people fondly call it “tea pot” due to its appearance. It is told to be 1500 years old) and a complete endemic plants family, the Didieraceae. In Reniala reserve, you can admire many endemic plants of the spiny forests, among the famous baobabs (Adansonia rubrostipa), Pachypodium, Euphorbia and other outstanding growths. Reniala includes a botanical trail and a bird sanctuary.

Meanwhile the spiny forest belongs to the last pieces of primary forests of the South. Nothing was changed here besides some carefully created paths inside area. For several years, there have been efforts to settle several groups of ring-tailed lemurs inside the reserve, financially supported by European organizations. The animals come from the Lemur Rescue Center of Reniala reserve, which was founded in 2011. It hosts confiscated animals, prepares them for reintroduction into the wild and thus is the first of its kind all over Madagascar, working close with scientists. Reniala works together with some universities of Madagascar and offers scholarships to students and scientists.

Reniala Reserve is a paradise for birders. As ornithological park, the reserve offers plenty opportunities to discover and watch animals especially for bird lovers. With a little patience you can for example see the Madagascar harrier-hawk (Polyboroides radiatus) or find the sickle-billed vanga (Falculea palliata), the white-headed vanga (Artamella viridisa) and Madagascar buttonquail (Turnix nigricollis), and very rare endemic species, such as the long-tailed ground roller, the subdesert mesite, the red-capped coua in their natural habitat. There are 65 bird species in total within the reserve.

You can also spot mammals including the grey-mouse lemur, one the smallest primates, and some carnivorous. Furthermore, Reniala is home to many reptiles only occurring in Madagascar’s south. A big population of the rare radiated tortoise and the smaller spider tortoise (Astrochelys radiata and Pyxis arachnoides) lives on the sandy ground and shares its territory with many Madagascar iguanas (Chalarodon madagascariensis). In spring, you can find colorful chameleons (Furcifer antimena and verrucosus, less often Furcifer major) in bushes and shrubs and one or another snake (Acantrophis dumerili, Leioheterodon geayi) will perhaps cross the visitors’ path.

Guided nocturnal walks can be organized to meet the smallest mammals of the park: The mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus and griseorufus), Lepilemur hubbardi.

Guided walks through the botanical trail in the Baobabs forest are organized to make known to a wide public the remarkable forms of trees: Delonix, Pachypodium, Baobabs ("dwarf", "corsage", "hexagon", "rhinoceros", "twins", "giant": more than 13 m of circumference), Givotia, etc., of the biodiversity of the flora Madagascar, the need for its conservation and the interest of research conducted in this direction. During the visit, you stop at the endemic tortoises park of the Malagasy south. We will tell you information about plants and trees, about their Malagasy name and scientific name, the main botanical characteristics and their relations with humans (use in medicine traditional or everyday life). Our guide will also answer your questions about all visible plants on the trail.

The duration of the visit to depends on the interest that you evince to plants and the time you have.

You can rent a simple room at Reniala reserve to stay some nights inside the spiny forest. Located in the forest of Baobabs and Didieracées, the inn “Auberge de trois makis”, accommodates you for moments of calm shared. The calm and relaxing environment of reserve is the guarantee of successful holidays, family atmosphere and a convivial mood...

Private Baobab party for our guests it is an unforgettable moment during journey. Private dinner in the Reniala reserve at the foot of the big millennial baobab at sunset offer you fish-grill, traditional Malagasy dishes, creole and European cuisine.

For those nature lovers who want a more in-depth acquaintance with the spiny forest of the South, we offer a new program: NATURALIST STUDIES SNSpé code - SNC code RENIALA - 2 days.

Watch more photos about Reniala Private Reserve here.

Cap Sainte Marie Special Reserve and its cliffs

Madagascar's southernmost tip, Cape Sainte Marie (known in Malagasy as Tanjon'ny Vohimena), is a stark and windswept place where you'll feel you've travelled to the end of the earth. To protect 14 species of bird and two rare species of tortoise, its fragile ecosystem and its unique fauna and flora, the surrounding area has been set aside as a special reserve in 1962. It is here that the two oceans meet: the Indian Ocean and the Mozambique Channel. A functional lighthouse predominates this sea swept by a permanent strong wind and which will have no other shore than the Antarctica and South Pole.

Located on the southern boundary of the Mahafaly Karimbola plateau, it is a pretty arid zone with no watercourses and very little rain covered by dry spiny forest. The impressive huge moving dunes and the coast landscapes create a bizarre, beautiful and unique ecosystem. The highlight of Cape Sainte Marie Special Reserve are the turtles, both terrestrial and marines. The two endemic species of terrestrial turtles are specially significant: the radiated and the spider turtle are already very rare and have along this coast its last wild habitat. The Reserve contains in fact the largest populations of these two threatened turtles, and one of the highest densities of turtles in the world. There are no less than 1000 at square km! Unfortunately, it becomes an increasingly rare element of the ecosystem because of poaching.

The spectacle of the migration of humpback whales from June to October is magical. The humpback whales, which pass near the coast with their calves during its migration between August and November, are the other main attraction of Cape Sainte Marie.

There are also some mammals living in this region: a two species of nocturnal lemurs, like the grey mouse lemur or the reddish-grey mouse lemur, and some tenrecs and bats manage to survive in this arid ecosystem. There are a pair of endemic species birds, such as the Verreaux’s Coua and the littoral rock-trush. Reptiles are more abundant. Apart from the turtles, visitors can observe the local endemic three-eyed-lizard, some boas, geckos and chameleons. The Reserve has also a good number of spider and insects. 4 different termite species have been identified so far.

The vegetation consists mainly of dwarf plants which form a unique spiny bush (pay attention to their thorns while walking). Some of this tiny plants only occur around Cape Sainte Marie. Even baobabs are tiny in this area! A significant species is the Madagascar periwinkle. This beautiful plant with pink flowers is used as a natural medicine against leukemia.

There's the chance to walk on beaches with strewn Aepyornis eggshell fragments and its bones. The legendary elephant bird which was 3 meters tall have lived in the South of Madagascar 700 years ago and have been exterminated by man. The female was laying an egg that could hold up to 8 liters of volume. Whole or reconstituted eggs can still be found decorating the salons of wealthy residents throughout the island.

There are two easy trails within the Reserve. You can make both of them in one day without problems. The Cape circuit is a short walk through the dwarf spiny forest where you can spot reptiles and birds amongst this extraordinary scenery.  The Cave circuit allows you to discover the eggs of the elephant bird and to observe the big population of turtles. Besides, you will pass through a sacred cave and some moving dunes.

East of Cape Sainte Marie Special Reserve along the coast is Faux Cap (Betanty), which offers good views, but little other. For a long time, and according to the calculations of Portuguese navigators, Betanty was considered as the most southern village of Madagascar. Calculation proved false later, this distinction was attributed to Cape Sainte Marie. In compensation, Betanty was nicknamed "False Cape". It is nonetheless a very beautiful fishing village and a lagoon protected by a rocky barrier.

Watch more photos about Cape Sainte Marie Special Reserve here.

Ilakaka. Glitter and poverty of a Cursed Land

ILAKAKA, is a land awash in superstition - of witches and reincarnation. In contrast to the verdant rolling hills of northern and central Madagascar, large swaths of the southern plains are arid and prone to food shortages. Ilakaka is a small town along Route National 7, the main road linking the capital city Antananarivo to the port of Toliara. Twenty years ago, Ilakaka practically didn’t exist with barely 40 residents. Ilakaka was little more than a truck stop with a small collection of huts.

Every so often, however, the gods do smile on this forbidding land. Until 1998 Ilakaka was home to a handful of houses, then came the gemstone boom and this sleepy hamlet became the sapphire capital of the world supplying nearly 50% of all the sapphires in the world.

Despite the economic boom, Ilakaka never developed further than a shanty town where poor families dwell in tiny wooden houses. Most of the workers here had come with the intention of striking it rich and heading back to their home villages but ended up getting trapped in the system where Malagasy workers are exploited by the Thais and Sri Lankan merchants. There are large number of illegal miners operating in Ilakaka who smuggle large amounts of gems out of the country. There is little law and order despite the presence of a police force.

The surrounding terrain is like a Swiss cheese moonscape. The holes - 10 or 15 meters deep, where prospectors once burrowed—easily outnumber trees. The work is dangerous. Holes often collapse without warning. All the mining in Ilakaka is done manually. Even the big commercial mines - known as the Swiss Bank, World Bank, and African Bank - rely on little more than shovel labor.

The story of today’s Ilakaka begins in the early 1990s. The first significant discoveries of gemstones came in northern Madagascar, fueling waves of migration to the fringes of its vast forests. Meanwhile, in the south, a smaller number of prospectors were collecting garnets to sell to foreign dealers. One batch from Ilakaka, a sharp-eyed buyer noticed, were not garnets at all, but something exponentially more lucrative: pink sapphire.

Word spread quickly. Within a year thousands of ramshackle tenements sprawled on either side of National Route 7. Tom Cushman, a sailor-mouthed American gem dealer who’d first come to Madagascar in 1991, was one of the first to set up shop in Ilakaka. «I was down there in September [1998] and there were only about five of us buying. Buying out of our cars. There was no town» Cushman recalls. The vibe, he says, was 1849 Sacramento Valley. By early 1999, according to Cushman, there were tens of thousands of people seeking their fortunes. By late 1999 there were 100,000.

Cushman tried to spend at least $1,000 a day. The selection was endless - the deep blue sapphires international buyers lusted over were everywhere, alongside pinks, yellows, and rubies. Once the Thais and Sri Lankans, masters of the sapphire trade, arrived, as much as $2 million a week was changing hands. Virtually overnight this sleepy hamlet became the sapphire capital of the world. Anywhere from a third to half of the world’s sapphire production poured out of its once fallow soils. The myth of Ilakaka grew as fast as its population, drawn by the romance of a frontier town. Fantastic fortunes could be made with one lucky plant of a shovel. In a country where more than 90 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, single stones were being sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The town leaves an underwhelming first impression: One drab gem dealership after the next lines a mile-long stretch of Route 7 - Azmi Gems, Tonga Soa Siya Gems, La Terrasse Gems, New Sahara Alex Saphir. Inside, foreign dealers sit bored at their desks, waiting for the next miner or middleman to present the morning’s haul for inspection.

It’s immediately apparent that Ilakaka has fallen on hard times. Big stones are few and far between. The low-hanging fruit in the town proper has all been snatched up; miners must walk miles in search of untapped reserves. For three months, the dealers say, almost nothing worth touching has passed through their doors. The problem, says Jean Florent Ramonja, a security guard, is too a lot of vazaha - foreigners. «There will always be business here» he says, gesturing at the dozens of shops that now comprise something of a trading hub for sapphires from across the region.

Boomtowns don’t last forever. Yet some boom bigger and longer and with greater rewards. Ilakaka has enjoyed a run the likes of which most Malagasy towns can only envy. Some Ilakaka residents have clearly done well, others less so. Satellite dishes dot the main residential areas, and construction crews seem busy replacing wood shacks with brick-and-mortar outfits in the town center. But biting poverty remains the norm.

Augustin Andriamanajary, who lives with his wife and two sons in a one-room, one-mattress hut resembling a prison cell. Andriamanajary, who is 34 with a face weathered by years in the sapphire quarries, first came to Ilakaka in 2001. Back then, he says, he sometimes earned more than $10 a day. «Before, it was better, but now there’s nothing». Six days a week, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., he and eight of his neighbors toil in a quarry several miles west of town. They haven’t found any stones in at least two or three months, he says. «We suffer, so we have to stay to find more sapphire» he adds that there may be gold to be found in the not-too-distant future.

Ilakaka thinks it’s going to get better. And it will.

Watch more photos about Ilakaka here.

Honko community-based mangrove reserve. The Bird’s haven

Visit the first fully developed community mangrove reserve in southwest Madagascar and truly support the local community! Located between Tulear and Ifaty-Mangily, this community-based mangrove reserve offers the unique opportunity to take a guided boardwalk tour of southwest Madagascar's mangroves and explore its unique flora and fauna. This site is particularly noted for its wetland bird diversity (at least 37 species)!

We invite all those who come to Madagascar to visit the Reef Doctor Honko Project to get an insider’s look at the mangroves and mangrove-related projects. One of our local, trained tour guides will lead you through this unique ecosystem along 1 km boardwalk with informational signs along the way to learn about the mangroves’ adaptations, threats, and conservation. 4 m tall viewpoint overlooking the channel and mangrove forest is also an ideal spot for birdwatching, in addition to abandoned saltpans that host a great diversity of wading birds.

If you require something more adventurous, you can also opt to kayak or take an off-boardwalk extension tour into the heart of the mangroves, enjoying the mud and bugs that come with it!

The project is not only set up to help protect the mangroves but also has helped local women set up small weaving businesses of their own where they sell their hand woven products from bags to hats. This is a fantastic project that is doing invaluable work and most deserved of its success. All proceeds go directly to the local guides and mangrove conservation projects. Not to be missed!

Watch more photos about Honko community-based mangrove reserve here.

The Amoron’i Onilahy newly protected area. An area with multiple landscapes

The Amoron’i Onilahy protected area has recently become a fully protected area, right after the Tsinjoriake one. It is classified as a 5 category according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s rankings.

The Amoron’i Onilahy was recently classified as a protected area and is considered as a natural wonder among Madagascar’s most beautiful ones. The area has a surface of several thousands of hectares, the protection of which is constantly extending. The area has the vocation to become a role model in terms of ecotourism and biodiversity preservation.

The area is well-known for its rich biodiversity. Indeed, it shelters a large amount of fauna species: 79 bird species, 27 mammal species mostly endemic, 55 reptile species among which 19 are endemic to the southwest of Madagascar.

A vast of the Amoron’i Onilahy will allow you to discover many ecosystems. You will thus travel through wetlands, between lakes and swamps or even in forests with a flourishing vegetation.

Everything is created and organized by the Amoron'i Onilahy Protected Area's villagers in the Mahafaly Landscape, south of Toliara under WWF’s aegis: eco-lodges, motorcycle and quad tours along the Onilahy river, lemurs and endemic birds watching, and exploring the river in motor canoes.

They also train local guides as well as rangers who monitor the forests, and locally produced vegetables will serve their community restaurants or tourist camps in their Protected Area.

Tsinjoriake Protected Area. Table Mountain, Sarodrano peninsula and Saint Augustin Bay. A nature sanctuary

The site is classified as “natural monument and protected harmonious landscapes” and understandably justify its name. The place is breathtaking and will take you on a journey between earth and sky. You might climb mounts and enjoy a 360° vantage point as well as roam underground to uncover hidden corridors. Adventures awaits you!

DID YOU KNOW? Hundreds of pink flamingos live in the area all year long. They are found near the mangrove swamp that boards the mouth of the Onilahy River, and it is quite an unique picture to see in Madagascar.

Visiting the area will ensure an ecoresponsible trip and will teach you the good habits to have in order to travel while respecting the surrounding nature that will also contribute to the area’s sustainable management.

Tsinjoriake, a beautiful site of Madagascar, is located at the entrance of Toliara. It is covers a vast territory ranging from Table Mountain to the edge of the Onilahy River. Countless circuits have open to hikers. Routes leading to Table Mountain, the circuits of the caves, the landscape are breathtaking. Beaches and coves remain wild. We invite enthusiasts to join the peninsula Sarodrano, surrounded by primary forest.

7 of the 10 bird species endemic to the south of Madagascar can be found here. 4 main circuits will show the flora and fauna specific to the area. In the program, visiting caves and a panoramic 360 ° view of the coast, meeting with local people, snorkeling and walking through the mangroves, swimming and lazing on the sand dunes, trekking through the lush vegetation.

This visiting you can make on foot (camping trip), by quad, by a 4x4 car. Or take the sea trip Sarodrano peninsula and Saint Augustin Bay.

Firstly, the Table Mountain circuit. This circuits invites you to a sportive hike. You will have the opportunity to admire the magnificent scenery of the hinterland and the coastline in an overview 360. This circuit also introduces you to a variety of medicinal plants in the heart of a thorny vegetation. Our guide will have tell you the medicinal uses of many plants, most are aphrodisiacs. In a scrubby forest you can meet Red-shouldered, Vanga Verreaux’s Coua, Lafresnaye's Vanga, Green-capped Coua, Sub-desert Messite and other endemics. You can thus admire the region’s typical dry forest as well as the steep cliff that boards the southwest coast. You will have the opportunity to climb Table mountain which has an exceptional vantage point on the area and its surroundings 5900 hectares. Table Mountain is a very flat mountain that consists mainly of sandstone so the wind shears off flat layers, hence the name. It is the best vantage point to watchand photograph the surroundings of the sun over the Mozambique Channel, which is absolutely stunning.

The caves circuit, between earth and sky. This circuit will give you the opportunity to discover the area’s underground network. The circuit is divided in 3 courses during which you will learn more about the Sarodrano and Binabe’s caves as well as the animistic rites typical of the region. The Sarodrano cave is one basin filled with clear, blue fresh water, under a rocky overhang. The path there leads up through spiny forest where wild ring-tailed lemurs and southern endemic birds can be seen. The various routes will conduct you through forests, beaches and underground caves, surely an interesting experience!

The Tsinjoriake – Sarodrano peninsula circuit. This circuit is probably the most interesting, during which you will discover the luxuriant vegetation where an endemic fauna took shelter. Ornithology enthusiasts will be delighted due to certain bird species being endemic of this region. Then, your trip will lead you to Sarodrano where the peninsula, with a shape of an arrowhead, offers an endless white sand beach. It is a relaxing moment alongside the local Vezo-fishermen. The scenery is guaranteed, you be enjoy visiting, the swim and picnic.

The Saint Augustin – Barn Hill circuit. Saint-Augustin it is the small village of located in a bay inlaid between two huge rocky walls that plunge vertically into the waves. Here, in the perfect circle formed by the surrounding cliffs, the Onilahy River, one of the most majestic of Madagascar, flow into the sea. The circuit is made of 2 routes. The first one will lead you to Saint Augustin’s village and its surrounding typical mangrove while the second one will lead you to Saint Augustin bay’s high grounds. This circuit invites you to learn more about the local people’s everyday life as well as the fauna and flora. Ultimately, the best moment will be standing on the bay’s high grounds admiring breathtaking landscapes, in particular you have the chance to witness a setting sun.

Watch more photos about Tsinjoriake Protected Area. Table Mountain, Sarodrano peninsula and Saint Augustin Bay here.

7 Lakes New Protected Area. An oasis of greenery in the heart of the Southern bush

The Seven Lakes Forest is located in the east of the Mahafaly limestone plateau, one of the last large shares of primary forest on the whole of the island and stretches almost 12500km² in the southwestern part of Madagascar, a place where the water flows in cascades from lake to lake above the river. It is located in a forest heritage “xerophylic thickets” on the Belomotse Plateau. 7 lakes have been identified as an ecotourism site in the region of Tulear. This is a series of seven small lakes with transparent waters, the last of which flows into the Onilahy river. They are located in almost intact dry dense forests, rich in endemic flora and fauna, while almost all current massifs are destroyed or threatened. These are unusual places in the middle of nowhere.

Indeed, a series of cascading lakes is a site that is still preserved where crystal clear water awaits us. Lemurs are not mistaken, because they made their choice to live here. The primary forest is full of surprises, which will delight connoisseurs: banian, ficus, orchids, wild vanilla and pachypodiums...

The road to this remote destination is rather bumpy with stony patches and dusty sandy stretches. Lemurs, turtles, chameleons, eagles, hawks and many other species will meet on a way to the lakes.

Seven Lakes Forest is an oasis of greenery in the middle of the Southern bush, adorned with the spiny vegetation which distinguishes the area. Sit back or enjoy walks in the woods; the observation of the local wildlife which includes lemurs, caves and other cultural sites are equally part of the discovery of the area. The highlight of the show is the cascade of the seven lakes that are unfortunately no longer seven in number, for having suffered from the horrors of deforestation and environmental degradation. Landslides from the hills have stuffed some of these lakes! Environmental organizations such as WWF are currently committing to the preservation of the forest, and the management of the area is completed with the communities’ involvement.

Watch more photos about 7 Lakes New Protected Area here.

Look at these tours through South

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.

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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.

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