Small group tour to Madagascar
Adventure on the 8th Continent
July 31-August 14, 2024
Congratulations on beginning your exploration of ‘The Eighth Continent”–the fact that you are here means your journey has already begun! The call of Madagascar’s unique wildlife, geology, and culture beckons only the most seasoned, savvy travelers.
This journey is unlike any other you’ve ever experienced, quite literally: almost every plant and animal you’ll encounter on this island nation are found here and here alone. Our itinerary was expertly handcrafted to show you the best that Madagascar has to offer in a safe, comfortable, and astounding voyage.
Create unforgettable memories as your encounter endangered lemurs. Walk the rich red earth among the spiny forest. Relax into the rhythm of the rainforest as we spot rare birds and quirky chameleons. Madagascar is a wildlife lover’s paradise and an adventure seeker’s dream come true. Let’s begin our journey together!
- July 31–August 14, 2024
- This journey is triple carbon offset
- Escorted by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours
- Led by one of the nation’s premiere guides
- Encounter lemurs face-to-face
- Engage with more endemic flora & fauna than anywhere on the planet
- Enjoy walking safaris through lush rainforest
- Awaken your sense and rejuvenate your spirit off the beaten path
- Maximum of 14 guests
- $7999 per person based on double occupancy. Please see the “Price and Inclusions” boxes below for inclusions and private room supplements.
Click to Jump to…
- Itinerary at a Glance
- Detailed Daily Itinerary
- Price & What is Included
- Payment Information
- Cancellation Policy
- Passport and Visa Requirements
- Vaccines & Staying Healthy
- Expected Temperatures & Packing List
- About our Hotels
- About Food in Madagascar
- Internet & Electricity
- Suggested Fitness Requirements
- Travel Times & Conditions
- Travel Insurance
- How to Fly to Madagascar
- Our Carbon Negative commitment
- About our guide, Alain Rakotonoely
- About RetreaTours
How to Register When You Are Ready
- Click the button below to complete the Registration Questions
- Lauren will email you with options to pay the deposit
Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Fort Dauphin, Madagascar
Daily Itinerary at a Glance
July 31 Welcome to the capital city of Antananarivo, also called “Tana” for short. Rest up today for the start of our amazing adventure! (Overnight in Antananarivo)
August 1 Today we’ll explore Tana, including a lemur reserve southwest of the city. This is a spectacular chance to get up close and personal with the lemurs in a natural setting before we head out to find them in the wild! (Overnight in Antananarivo)
August 2 Today we’ll fly south to Fort Dauphin and continue on to Berenty Reserve, a private reserve that was created in 1936 and was the home base for primatologist Alison Jolly (Overnight in Berenty Reserve)
August 3-4 We’ll enjoy the unique flora and fauna of Madagascar’s far south, including the ring-tailed lemur, along with 5 other species of lemurs that make their home there). We’ll take nature walks through the woodlands, baobabs, and the spiny forest of Berenty. (Overnight in Berenty Reserve)
August 5 We’ll drive back to Fort Dauphin today; our hotel is in the heart of the historic district and close to the beach. (Overnight in Fort Dauphin)
August 6 We’ll fly from Fort Dauphin to Tana today and catch a flight to the east coast of Madagascar to begin the next chapter of our adventure. (Overnight in Toamasina)
August 7 This morning we’ll hop on a boat to navigate the Pangalanes Canal before arriving at our private reserve set on a lake. (Overnight in Palmarium Reserve)
August 8 & 9 Staying at the Palmarium reserve is such a treat—you’ll feel like you’re in your own remote spot of the Madagascar rainforest. We’ll enjoy nature walks to encounter lemurs, including the largest lemur of all, the Indri. We’ll also have access to a private reserve (Aye-Aye Island) that is home to Aye-Ayes, an elusive and endangered species of nocturnal lemur (Overnight in Palmarium Reserve)
August 10 We’ll head south along the Pangalanes Canal to Manambato and take a vehicle onwards towards Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, set in the rainforest of eastern Madagascar. (Overnight in Andasibe)
August 11-13 You’ll take in everything there is to see on daytime and nighttime nature walks through this primary-growth forest. Andasibe is home to 11 species of lemurs, including the Indri! Our hotel is just a short walk from Lemur Island, a sanctuary for lemurs, including habituated ones rescued from the pet trade. (Overnight in Andasibe)
August 14 We’ll drive back to Antananarivo today and reflect on everything we’ve seen so far! Your hotel night is included tonight, whether you are headed home tonight or tomorrow (or if you are continuing your adventure!) (Overnight in Antananarivo)
Who is this Madagascar journey for?
A trip to “The 8th Continent” is for inspired travelers who are willing to go to the ends of the earth to soak in breathtaking beauty, discover rare species, and lay eyes on vistas experienced by only the most curious and adventurous world citizens.
This voyage combines authentic wildlife and cultural experiences with comfortable lodging and decadent French-inspired cuisine.
What are our 2022 Madagascar Guests Saying?
The beautiful scenery, endemic wildlife, and interactions with friendly local culture make it all worthwhile. At the end of the trip, I felt I’d accomplished something grand and beyond that of the average eco-tourist type of trip. ~C.G.
It is the opportunity of a lifetime: the wildlife, the trees, the food, the people, all the things one will see there and nowhere else. It is not like any other place. ~J.M.
Madagascar is a snapshot of a unique culture and environment. It’s on a par with the Galapagos. It’s where you should go after the Galapagos (with RetreaTours, of course) ~C.R.
Madagascar is sometimes referred to as the “eighth continent” because of its unique biodiversity and geographical isolation. The island has been isolated from other land masses for millions of years, allowing evolution to unfold in a distinctly unique style. It was once part of the Gondwana supercontinent, nestled between what we now know as Mozambique and India.
Culturally, Madagascar is a veritable melting pot. The first people arrived here between 350 BCE and 550 CE from Borneo. Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel followed a few centuries later. Add to this group various Arab, Indian, and Chinese settlements, and you will understand the Malagasy culture. United under the British monarch in the 19th century, only to become a French colony in 1896, Madagascar eventually gained its independence in 1960.
The Unique Flora & Fauna of Madagascar
An astonishing number of the species in Madagascar are endemic to the island. Endemic plants and animals are native species that only grow in one location in the world.
- 89% of the 11,000 identified flora species are endemic (unless exported or cultivated abroad)
- 92% of its 219 terrestrial mammals are endemic (like lemurs, tenrecs, and fossa)
- 95% of Madagascar’s 406 reptile species are endemic
- 90% of the 238 amphibian species are endemic
- 117 of the 280 bird species are endemic (giving Madagascar the highest percentage of endemic birds in the world)
- 97% of the freshwater fish species are endemic
- Possibly up to 99% of the nearly 200,000 arthropod species are found nowhere else on the planet
July 31–August 1
Welcome to Tana–or if we’re being formal, Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Nestled in the central highlands of the islands, the city has a rich cultural heritage, with a mix of African, Asian, and European influences.
On August 1st we’ll visit Lemurs’ Park, a small botanical garden and lemur reserve that will give you your first introduction to a broad swath of lemur species. We’ll encounter many lemurs during our time together in Madagascar, but this is a wonderful opportunity to encounter them more closely and take photographs in a natural setting.
- Ring-tailed lemur
- Verreaux’s sifaka
- Red-fronted brown lemur
- Hybridized brown lemur
- White-footed sportive lemur
- Mouse lemurs
- Radiated tortoise
- Three-eyed lizard
- Madagasacar flying fox
- Spiny Forest
- Baobab (Adansonia za)
Fort Dauphin, Madagascar
Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
On August 2nd, we’ll fly 2 hours to Fort Dauphin on the far southeast coast. From there we will head inland and drive 3-4 hours to our home base at the Berenty Private Reserve Lodge with its basic but comfortable accommodations.
The reserve is home to six species of Lemur, including the iconic ring-tailed lemur and Verreaux’s “dancing” sifaka, as well as 103 bird species. It has the largest population of fruit bats in Madagascar. The reserve contains a portion of Madagascar’s spiny forest, as well as a gallery forest dominated by tamarind and acacia. Six species of Baobob are endemic to Madagascar, and Berenty is home to the Adansonia za species.
Berenty was developed as a private reserve in 1936 and has been some to important scientific research in the decades. Renowned primatologist Alison Jolly started studying lemur behavior at Berenty in 1963, with a special eye on the ring-tailed lemur population.
We’ll enjoy daily nature walks and even some night walks to discover the wealth of flora and fauna in southern Madagascar. On the 5th we’ll return to Fort Dauphin (La Croix du Sud hotel) and spend the night there, taking a flight back to Antananarivo the next morning.
- Indri (the largest lemur)
- Black-and-white ruffed lemurs
- Crowned lemur
- Red-bellied lemur
- Black lemur
- Common brown lemur
- Brown mouse lemur
- Eastern woolly lemur
- Greater dwarf lemur
- Pitcher plants
On August 6th, we’ll fly back to Antananarivo and then take a 50-minute flight from Tana to Toamasina (also called Tamatave). We’ll spend the night in Toamasina in preparation for the next chapter of our journey!
On the morning of the 6th, we’ll board a small motorboat that will take us through the Pangalanes Canal. The Pangalanes Canal is a series of natural rivers, waterways, and human-made lakes that extend for 400 miles down the east coast of Madagascar. It’s a beautiful journey and it will make our 3-hour boat ride go by in a flash! (Please note that the boat ride is smooth since we’re in small, protected waterways, on a motor boat.)
Palmarium Reserve will be our home for the next three nights, accessible only by boat–it’s “off the beaten path” by any measure! Our lodge is set in a littoral forest on a private reserve on the shore of Lake Ampitabe. It is home to 7 species of diurnal lemurs and 4 nocturnal, as well as chameleons, frogs, geckos, tenrecs, and more.
Most of the lemurs at Palmarium are not native to this area, but due to Madagascar’s rampant deforestation, they are being protected on this reserve’s land. Some of the lemurs are habituated to human presence and very inquisitive, making Palmarium ideal for photographers. Expert guides will lead us around the reserve, in hopes to see (and hear!) the largest lemur of all, the Indri. You’ll not soon forget the haunting, forest-piercing call of an Indri!
Evening time holds even more excitement, as we will take a short boat ride in the canal (~20 minutes) to Aye-Aye Island, a private reserve dedicated to protecting the largest nocturnal primates of the same name. Aye-Ayes play an unfortunate role in some Malagasy superstitions and have been killed in astonishing numbers, so it is truly a rare opportunity to lay eyes on an Aye-Aye in person. The diet of the Aye-Ayes on this island is supplemented; because they are fed coconuts at night, a sighting is a sure thing (although not any less magical).
Our lodge is simple but restful and comfortable, and you’re sure to have some lemurs frolicking on your bungalow’s porch (or roof!) The black-and-white ruffed lemurs will almost certainly try to visit you during meal times, as well–we’ve found them to be the funniest and “naughtiest” of all the lemurs!
On August 10th, we’ll board another boat and head south in Pangalanes Canal for ~75 minutes to meet our ride to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.
Analamazaotra Special Reserve
Hotel: Manjanaro Lodge & Spa
- UNESCO World Heritage rainforest
- Indri (the largest lemur)
- Diademed sifaka
- Grey bamboo lemur
- Red-bellied lemur
- Mouse lemurs
- Sportive lemurs
- Lowland streaked tenrec
- Leaf-tailed gecko
- Parson’s chameleon
Manjarano Lodge, Andasibe
Once we land on the shores of Lake Rasoabe, we’ll take a 3-4 hour drive to Andasibe and our next home base, Manjanaro Lodge & Spa.
Andasibe-Mantadia is actually two distinct parks, Analamazaotra National Park and Mantadia, and its lush rainforests are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Eleven species of lemurs make their home here, including the Indri and the Diademed Sifaka, both critically endangered. This area is truly one of the best primate-watching sites in the world, and it is the single best spot in the country for seeing the Indri.
More than 100 bird species have been identified in the park and over 20 species of amphibian. The park is also home to the endemic palm tree Ravenea louvelii, found nowhere else in Madagascar. We’ll enjoy both day hikes and night walks in this gorgeous, biodiverse park and see what we can discover!
Our hotel is also a short walk from Lemur Island which is always a load of fun. This series of small, man-made islands are a sanctuary for lemurs, including habituated ones rescued from the pet trade. This will be the chance to see a few more species that have been elusive or aren’t located in this part of the country, including the beautiful red-ruffed lemur.
On August 14th, we’ll drive back to Tana (4 hours), enjoying a stop at a fun chameleon and reptile farm; you could spend hours examining all of the colors on the chameleons! You have a night reserved at Relais des Plateaux in Tana, whether you are leaving later tonight (we recommend after 8 PM) or tomorrow. If you wish to continue your adventure in Madagascar, we can make suggestions!
Price & What is Included
There is a minimum of 8 guests required for this journey and a maximum of 14. When we have reached our minimum, we will let you know, at which time you can buy airfare and your travel insurance.
- Trip cost is $7999
- The non-refundable deposit is $1500 and holds your space
- The 2nd installment of $4000 is due on February 1, 2024
- The balance is due April 1, 2024
- The single room supplement is $799 (Please note: We will do our best to match you with anyone else looking for a roommate, but if one cannot be found, you are responsible for the private room supplement)
- Hotel accommodation starting from July 31 through August 14
- All ground transportation starting with airport pickup
- 3 domestic flights (Tana to Fort Dauphin; Fort Dauphin to Tana; Tana to Toamasina)
- All meals starting with dinner on Day July 31
- All entrance fees
- All tips to guides
- All tips at hotels and restaurants
- Online photo album after the trip
- Triple carbon offsetting for the entire journey
Price does not include:
- International airfare (although we will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
- Madagascar visa fee (~$37 USD)
- Travel insurance (required)
- Laundry services
- Any meals before dinner before or after the official trip
Please refer to the Price tabs for specific information about price & what is included in your journey.
The non-refundable $1500 deposit guarantees your space and internal airfare. The 2nd installment of $4000 is due on February 1, 2024 and the balance on April 1, 2023. The private room supplement of $799 will be added to the final balance.
For our American guests, we accept payments via check, credit, or debit card (via PayPal), Zelle, or Venmo. Lauren will send you these details after receiving your registration form.
For our guests outside the U.S., Lauren will connect with you about the best ways to transfer money.
Cancellation Policy & Contract
We do everything in our power to do right by our guests. We are proud to say that in the wake of our COVID-related trip cancellations through 2020 and 2021, we were able to offer each of our guests the choice of a 100% credit, if not a full refund.
We’ve re-examined each trip and done our best to reduce the deposit amounts as much as possible. Upon your registration, your deposit immediately goes toward reserving your space for flights, hotels, and excursions that must be booked months in advance and are often non-refundable.
Cancellation by our guests
The cancellation charges are as follows unless otherwise indicated on the detailed itinerary for each trip. All cancellations must be received via e-mail or US mail.
- Cancellations prior to 120 days to departure, money will be refunded minus the non-refundable deposit. Please note that deposits for any pre-trip or post-trip extensions are not transferable to another portion of the trip should you decide to cancel that module of the journey.
- Cancellations received 61 to 119 days prior to departure are subject to a penalty of 50% of the total cost of the trip.
- Cancellations received 60 days or less prior to trip departure will forfeit the entire cost of the trip.
If a trip is cancelled by RetreaTours
When a tour is cancelled in the case of force majeure, the Tour Participant will receive a refund minus any funds that we are unable to recover from any supplier.
Passport and Visa Requirements
Your passport must have at least 3 blank pages and be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of the trip (that is Feb 11, 2025).
You can get a Madagascar visa upon arrival at the airport in Antananarivo for $37 USD, valid for 30 days.
Vaccines and Staying Healthy
RetreaTours requires proof of a COVID-19 vaccine and booster for this journey.
No vaccines are required to enter Madagascar, but we highly encourage you to work with your local travel clinic or the travel department of your local health department (often a much cheaper option).
- Please see the CDC’s general advice for Madagascar here.
- Please see the NHS’s general advice for Madagascar here.
Malaria is present in Madagascar; you can see the NHS malaria map of Madagascar here. If you choose to take malaria preventatives, please work with your travel physician for the right medication for you.
Staying Healthy on Tour
Please visit our comprehensive article, “How to Stay Healthy While Traveling…Naturally,” which addresses all of the most common travel ailments.
Expected Temperatures & Suggested Packing List
We’ll provide a suggested packing list several months before this journey.
Temperature by location
These conditions are based on historical averages, thanks to WeatherSpark.com. The range as a whole is 55-85°F (13-29°C)
- Berenty: 65-85°F, 15% chance of light rain
- Antananarivo: 55-75°F, 15% chance of light rain
- Palmarium (Toamasina): 65-80°F, 14% chance of light rain
- Andasibe: 55-75°F, 25% chance of rain (not bad for a rainforest!)
About our Hotels
Each of these hotels was carefully chosen for its comfort, location, and character. They each have their own private bathroom and shower. The rooms at Palmarium do not have air conditioning.
It is important to note that Palmarium is quite remote so that they can provide the most authentic, engaged experience. For that reason, there may hours throughout the day or night when there is no electricity. We will always let you know when these planned hours are so you can properly charge your phone and cameras.
Each hotel has been carefully chosen based on their locations and access to wildlife.
Here is a list of all of our reserved hotels:
About Food in Madagascar
One of the more surprising things about traveling in Madagascar is the food–the superb quality, the stunning presentation, and the sheer quantity! The vast majority of our meals will be French-influenced and have three courses. Everything is, of course, optional!
Most any dietary requirements can be met on this journey with enough notice. Please indicate any special requests/allergies on the registration form and we’ll reach out to you with any advice or information necessary before taking your deposit.
If you are a “snack-y” person, you may wish to bring some snacks from home as it won’t always be easy to get snacks (especially ones you are familiar with) on the road. This might mean nuts, protein bars, or other sealed, portable goodies.
Can I drink the tap water?
Please stick to bottled or filtered water on this journey.
Internet & Electricity
The internet outside the capital city can be very, very slow. We recommend staying connected with your loved ones via WhatsApp (which we will also use on the tour to communicate the schedule and updates). WhatsApp seems to work with the slightest wisp of wifi.
Electrical Outlets and Adaptors
You’ll need a 2-pin European prong Type C adaptor for Madagascar. We highly recommend a Universal Adaptor such as this, which also has USB and USB-C outlets so you can charge multiple devices at once.
Suggested Fitness Requirements
There are no strict fitness requirements required for this trip because all activities are optional. However, in order to get the most out of your experience, here are our suggested fitness requirements.
We recommend being comfortable driving for up to 3 hours at a time, often on a bumpy road (some drives are 4 hours, but we’ll always stop to stretch or use restroom facilities during that time).
We recommend being comfortable walking 2 miles at a moderate pace. Many of our walks will be on flat dirt paths (Berenty and Palmarium) and some of the Andasibe rainforest walks have some elevation changes (including stairs) where you may find a hiking pole/walking stick useful. Some hikes in Andasibe will be several miles, but with frequent stops to look for and at wildlife.
Our accommodation at Palmarium requires a walk up 2-3 flights of stairs to and from the lake level (upon arrival, departure, excursions, and any time you feel like visiting the lake).
If you have any questions about your fitness for this trip, please reach out to us and we’ll answer any questions you have!
Travel Times & Conditions
If you’ve researched travel in Madagascar, you might not be surprised to hear that road conditions can be challenging. For that reason, we have designed this journey to maximize your experience while minimizing drive times. When we are driving, our expert drivers go slow and know how to minimize jostling as much as possible.
Here are descriptions of our travel times:
- Tana to Fort Dauphin flight (and return): 2 hours
- Fort Dauphin to Berenty Reserve (and return): This 51 miles drive will take between 3-4 hours on dirt roads.
- Tana to Toamasina flight: 50 minutes
- Toamsina to Palmarium: ~3-hour boat ride in a calm Intracoastal canal system in a covered boat
- Palmarium to Andasibe: ~90-minute boat ride in the same canal but this time headed south. Then we’ll take a ~30-45 minute drive (only 4.5 miles) on a bouncy road to meet the main road. From the main road, it is ~3 hours (80 miles) to Andasibe on a main national highway that is improving but still will be slow going.
- Andasibe to Tana: We’ll travel to 88 miles back to the capital on a road that has received the most improvement, but we should still bank on it taking 3.5 to 4 hours.
RetreaTours requires that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. Please send Lauren your policy information as soon as you have it.
We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.
Please familiarize yourself with RetreaTours’ guest cancellation policy in your journey’s contract. Please read this article to understand a bit more about trip cancellation insurance and what it may or may not cover. “Cancel For Any Reason” policies do exist, as well, although do check to see what percentage of the trip cost they actually reimburse.
When to purchase your policy
Please purchase this insurance as soon as we tell you the trip has reached its minimum. Please do not wait until the last minute, should you need to use your (optional) cancellation coverage before then.
Where to search for policies
Below you will find some options to start your search for trip insurance. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.
Squaremouth.com and InsureMyTrip.com are two sites where you can see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like. Squaremouth’s interface is very easy and intuitive to use, and you can easily opt out of trip cancellation coverage.
World Nomads provides policies for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation options. Use the link above and pop in your info to get an immediate quote.
It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.
About your International Flights - How to Fly to Madagascar
We are more than happy to recommend international flights, but ultimately you will make the purchase yourself. We recommend purchasing them directly through the airline when you can, as this makes any potential changes a bit easier than going through sites like Expedia or Kayak.
Depending on which portions of the journey you are registering for, we’ll make personalized recommendations for your arrival and departure dates.
The airports with connections to Madagascar currently include:
- Paris (CDG)
- Istanbul (IST)
- Addis Ababa (ADD)
- Nairobi (NBO)
- Johannesburg (JNB)
- Reunion (often as a stop, sometimes without getting off the plane)
- Mauritius (often as a stop, sometimes without getting off the plane)
Our Carbon Negative commitment
RetreaTours is Climate Positive!
We purchase triple carbon offsets for your travels with us—that’s from your home, through the entire tour, and back to your home again, times three!
You may have heard the term “carbon neutral,” which means that a company offsets as much carbon as it produces. With this 300% offset, RetreaTours is actually offsetting more carbon than we produce each year, making us “carbon negative” (or “climate positive,” which has a nicer ring to it!)
Since 2012 we’ve focused on making travel safe and easy for our guests; with our triple carbon offset tours, we’re pleased to make our trips as sustainable as they are memorable.
Please see more at RetreaTours.com/CarbonNegative
About our Guide, Alain Rakotonoely
It is with great honor that we say we have the BEST guide in all of Madagascar–so much so that he is the one teaching other guides!
Native Malagasy guide Alain Rakotonoely has been leading tours for over two decades, specializing in birdwatching, primatology, and plant identification and classification.
Alain Rakotonoely is a mentor for Malagasy naturalist students and guides. Since 2016 he has taught Biodiversity Courses at the National Institute of Tourism of Madagascar. He is also a founding member of the English-speaking Guides Association in Madagascar.
Alain is delighted to share his culture with our guests and truly believes that guiding is a combination of art and inspiration.
About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours
You’ll be joined on this journey by Lauren & BJ, owners of RetreaTours–and we are so excited to show you the wonders of Madagascar!
(That’s us at Palmarium in 2022 with a very curious Indri, the largest living lemur and critically endangered. He hopped over to us and we are so lucky that our guide was able to grab this photo!)
Husband-and-wife team BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon have traveled the globe year-round since January 2013, researching, designing, and leading impactful journeys. We are deeply grateful for the trust that our guests place in us to save them time and resources while they enjoy a memorable journey.
We are committed not only to our guests but to our host destinations and the planet at large. We engage with local businesses and guides to keep money within the community, and we triple-carbon offset each of our tours.