Africa's Disappearing Wonderland

88 million years ago, the last remnants of the ancient continent of Gonwandaland finally ripped apart. A shelf of red clay and volcanic rock split off from the massive plateau that would become India and began drifting toward the shores of Africa, creeping two or three inches southward every year. During the course of its excruciatingly slow journey, this lost shard of the subcontinent became a sort of Darwinian spaceship, transforming and evolving in total isolation for eons. Only in the last several centuries has the rest of the world reconnected with the ecological time capsule that we call Madagascar.

Madagascar is far and away the largest island in the Indian Ocean. Of the animal and plant species that populate it, more than 11,000 are found nowhere else. As scientists explore the depths of Madagascars forests and hinterlands, they continue to encounter new species: well over 600 such discoveries have been documented in the last 15 years alone. It’s a troubling reminder of the state of the world, however, that these living treasures are disappearing far more quickly than they are being discovered.

Madagascar is the home of many critically endangered species. Rampant deforestation and poaching have brought numerous species of lemur — the islands emblematic arboreal primates — to the brink of extinction. The silky sifaka, a white-coated lemur whose name translates to angel of the forest,is now one of the rarest mammals on the planet. SoulBuffalo is committed to reversing this trend.

Our guests will trek across this unique and imperiled land to connect with the soul of Madagascar, its wildlife, and its people. They will visit the country’s national parks to meet lemurs one-on-one and learn more about what they can do to help these creatures survive the pressures of globalization. They will explore alien worlds like volcanic rock formations and the unusual didiera spiny forest, and take in cultural artifacts like the colorfully painted tomb structures of the Mahafaly tribe. These experiences can help to forge the bonds and light the proverbial fires required to effectively address the threats to Madagascar’s fascinating biodiversity.
Madagascar is more than an island — it is a phenomenon. Come experience all that we stand to lose if we do not protect this singular and mesmerizing place.

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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Antananarivo

Accommodation: Family-style hotel

Today is dedicated to arrivals from various destinations, as each member of our group will have transportation waiting at the airport. The entire day is free for exploration of Antananarivo before we meet at 7 p.m. for a welcome dinner and orientation.

Day 2: Antananarivo/Andasibe Reserve

Accommodation: Wildlife Lodge

Early risers can head out for additional exploration of Antananarivo; otherwise we’ll check out after breakfast and hit the road towards the Andasibe Reserve. This park is the most accessible of all of Madagascar’s eastern rainforest parks, and it’s home to the largest species of lemur: the Indri. We have a long ride before we get there, so we’ll break it up with a stop at the Marozevo Reptile Farm, home to chameleons, snakes, lizards and geckos. We’ll have a late lunch and finish our drive to the reserve, arriving mid-afternoon. Once we’ve checked into our lodge, we’ll set out for a visit to the “Island of Lemurs” at Vakona Lodge, home to four different species of lemur. We’ll return to the lodge by sunset where we’ll enjoy an authentic dinner.

Day 3: Andasibe Reserve

Accommodation: Wildlife Lodge

Our best chance to see the Indira lemur, the largest of all lemurs, is during the early dawn hours, so we’ll get up bright and early to enter the park as quickly as possible. As we walk the trails of this mid-altitude mountainous rainforest, we’ll keep our ears opened to hear their moaning calls. We’ll continue our hike until noon, and then we’ll head back to the lodge for lunch and a break. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the lodge’s captive breeding area before another visit to the “Isle of Lemurs.”

Day 4: Andasibe Reserve/Antsirabe

Accommodation: Colonial-style city hotel

We have another early morning so we can begin our scenic drive through the southern part of the island. We’ll stop for lunch back in Antananarivo before continuing on through rice terraces, forests and volcanic rock formations on the way to Antsirabe. Once we arrive and check in to our hotel at one of the largest local thermal baths, we’ll set out on a walking tour of the city center to see the cathedral and street life. When the sun sets, we’ll visit one of the city’s famous gemstone factories before returning to the hotel for an early dinner. 

Day 5: Antsirabe/Ambositra/Ranomafana

Accommodation: Wildlife Lodge

With another busy day ahead of us, we’ll get another early start. Our first stop for the day is the volcanic formations of Andraikiba Crater Lake before moving on to Ambositra. We’ll explore the Zafimaniry woodcarvings of this town, and then take a break for lunch. Moving on, we’ll continue our drive to Ranomafana National Park, which should have us arriving in time for a shower, dinner and an early evening of rest.

Day 6: Ranomafana National Park

Accommodation: Wildlife Lodge

As usual, we’ll head out into the park early to catch the transition between nocturnal and diurnal animals. The park is on the edge of Madagascar’s High Plateau, so it’s extremely mountainous. The range of altitudes allows for many different forest types, from lowland rainforest to bamboo and cloud forest and high plateau forest. We’ll explore as much of this great richness as we can, and keep our eyes peeled for two rare species of lemur that live here: Golden Bamboo and Greater Bamboo. After recharging with lunch and a midday siesta, we’ll get back out on the trails in search of more wildlife like nocturnal birds, reptiles and more lemurs. Dinner will await us at the lodge upon our return from the forest.

Day 7: Ranomafana/Isalo

Accommodation: Unique nature lodge

Today’s schedule involves a lot of travel, so we’ll hit the road right after breakfast. Our first stop of the day is the Antaimoro paper-producing town of Ambalavao. We’ll visit a factory to see how this delicate, flower-decorated paper is made before having lunch at the facility. From there, we’ll drive non-stop directly to Isalo to arrive in time for dinner and a drink.

Day 8: Isalo National Park

Accommodation: Unique nature lodge

Hopefully everyone got plenty of rest last night, because the only way to explore this national park is on foot. As we walk through the otherworldly sandstone formations of this national park, we’ll be sure to take notice of the unique flora that inhabits the area. Our hike will take us through a deep, forested river gorge to a wonderful waterfall, or even further up to some tiny lakes, before we eat lunch at a campsite, and hopefully catch a glimpse of brown lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs. From here, those who are tired can return to the lodge, and the rest of us will continue on to visit Piscine Naturelle, a tiny blue lake that’s fed by a small creek. We’ll all meet up for a swim at the lake before finishing our hike back to the lodge for dinner and some well-earned rest.

Day 9: Isalo/Tulear/Ifaty

Accommodation: Beach resort

We have another long drive ahead of us today, so we’ll move on after breakfast and head towards the coastal town of Tulear. Along the way, we’ll stop to see the colorfully-painted tomb structures of the Mahafaly tribe before passing through Tulear on the way to Ifaty. Once we arrive at our hotel, we’ll gather for a late lunch followed by a leisurely afternoon of free time.

As we drive further south, the environment is getting drier and drier and our expectation for the absolutely world-unique Madagascar Spiny Forest ecosystem (with many didiera and euphorbia plant species) keeps growing. Once reaching Tulear, we drive through and stop for a few pictures, but then continue a bit further north on the coast, on a bumpy road to a small place called Ifaty. Upon arrival, we check in our hotel, take a refreshing shower and gather for a late lunch. After lunch, we finally enjoy an entire afternoon off! Chill out at the gorgeous beach or poolside, stroll along the beach to nearby villages, or venture into the amazing didiera spiny forests on the property. After sunset the sun sets, we’ll take a short walk on the property, and then gather for dinner while enjoying the sea breeze.

Day 10: Ifaty

Accommodation: Beach resort

Today is dedicated to the exploration of the didiera spiny forest, one of the most unusual habitats on the island. Each of the trees in the area has taken on a unique adaptation to deal with the local climate, and it makes for some fascinating scenery. Aside from plant life, we should see some endemic birds and local reptiles like the spider tortoise. We’ll spend the morning walking through the forest before returning to the hotel for lunch and a siesta to escape the midday heat. Once again, we’ll have the afternoon free for whatever strikes our fancy: another walk through the forest, a stroll on the beach or to a nearby village, or even a snorkeling trip out to the fascinating coral reef.

Day 11: Ifaty/Tulear/Morondava

Accommodation: Berenty Lodge

Today is our last day in Madagascar, so we’ll start it with an optional birding walk in the area near our lodge, and head to the airport after breakfast. From here, we’ll board a flight back to the capital city before heading our separate ways via international flights.