Madagascar,

Quest for the Aye Aye and Undiscovered Masoala

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Tailor-Made Tour
10 Days
From £2945
GEOIP Not Available
Primate Watching
Birding
Whale Watching
Off The Beaten Track
Rainforest

Tour Introduction

10 Days from £2945
GEOIP Not Available
per adult. All trip details below can be tailored just for you

Travel to the beautiful Masoala Peninsula in northeast Madagascar on this exciting tailor-made itinerary to discover the island’s largest tract of primary rainforest. In addition to a plethora of other fascinating fauna, one focus of the tour is to spot that most mysterious, charismatic and extraordinary of all Madagascar’s lemurs – the bizarre aye aye.

In the entertaining “The Aye Aye and I” written by Gerald Durrell following his last ever wildlife trip, the odd prosimian was described as resembling a Walt Disney witch’s black cat with a touch of ET thrown in for good measure. These days the aye aye is sadly very rare and, although protected, is often persecuted by certain tribes who believe it to be an ill omen.

The Farankaraina Reserve near Maroantsetra is visited first for an excellent chance to see that most elusive of nocturnal lemurs. At least eight aye aye live within the forest here and – during August, September and October particularly – they can reliably be seen feeding on fruit-bearing Canarium trees. We have had a 90% success rate with aye aye sightings over a two night stay in the last three years and the revenue from our visits help the local rangers to provide much needed protection.

After probable aye aye sightings, you begin exploration of the vast virgin rainforests of the pristine Masoala National Park. Masoala supports Madagascar’s greatest biodiversity with species new to science still being discovered there most years. Much of the fauna and flora is highly localised and found nowhere else in Madagascar. Lemurs often seen include the attractive red-ruffed, white-fronted brown and northern bamboo, while bird highlights include the rare and striking helmet vanga. The mossy lowland rainforest also supports numerous leaf-tailed geckos, tenrecs (Madagascar’s answer to the hedgehog), multi-coloured chameleons and improbable insects such as the flatid bug and giraffe necked weevil. During August and September breeding humpback whales add to the overall wildlife spectacle by breaching offshore.

For those wishing to immerse themselves in one of the planet’s most intriguing rainforests, this tour will be perfect. Other habitats such as the dry deciduous forest and the spiny forest can be added to make a longer, even more captivating journey.

 

Full Itinerary

Price from £2945
GEOIP Not Available
per adult. Based on sharing double / twin rooms
Day 1
Antananarivo

Arrive into Antananarivo (Tana). Met on arrival at the airport and transfer 10 minutes to your nearby hotel.

Staying at Relais des Plateaux. Includes No Meals.

Day 2
Farankaraina Forestry Reserve

This morning pick up from the hotel and transfer (15 minutes) back to the airport to take Tsaradia flight TZ 416 at 1245 to Maroantsetra arriving 1400.

On arrival transfer by road (20 minutes) and motorised canoe (45 minutes) and finally on foot (1-hour easy walk) to the Farankaraina Forestry Reserve. Porters will be on hand to carry your main luggage to the bungalows, but a day rucksack is recommended.

Spend the rest of the day exploring the forest of Farankaraina in search of wildlife. In the evening take a roughly 40-minute night walk into the forest to look for aye aye.

Staying at Farankaraina Bungalow. Includes All Meals.

Day 3
Farankaraina Forestry Reserve

A full day to explore the Farankaraina Forestry Reserve for wildlife or perhaps visit a local village.

The Northern bamboo lemur can often be found in the stands of giant bamboo next to the reserve bungalows along with white-fronted brown lemurs. Also look out for the ring-tailed vontsira, tenrecs and even crabs on the forest floor, plus a variety of frogs along the streams.

In the evening take a second night walk to hopefully enjoy some more aye aye watching.

Although sightings can never be guaranteed of this rare species, this area of forest supports a particularly high density of this fascinating nocturnal lemur (at least eight individuals). Sightings of aye ayes here during August, September and October are usually particularly reliable due to the abundance of endemic Canarium trees that will have fruit that aye ayes love.

During the day your guide will scout favoured feeding trees for recent signs of feeding activity and check which trees are bearing fruit and are most likely to be attracting them. On some occasions up to four aye ayes have even been seen feeding in the same tree.

Staying at Farankaraina Bungalow. Includes All Meals.

Day 4
Nosy Mangabe and Masoala

This morning after an early breakfast, walk back to the river (approx. 1 walk) and then transfer by boat, back to the Maroantsetra dock where you will switch to a larger boat for the crossing into the Bay of Antongil and to the Masoala Peninsula.

Stop at the beautiful offshore island of Nosy Mangabe to see giant leaf-tailed geckos, (Uroplatus fimbriatus), green-backed (climbing) mantella frogs, white-fronted brown and black-and-white ruffed lemurs.

Continue approx 2 hours depending on the sea state to the Masoala Peninsula. On arrival, settle in to your simple lodge next to both the forest and beach.

Staying at EcoLodge Chez Arol. Includes All Meals.

Day 5
Masoala National Park

Today enjoy a full day of guided exploration in the Masoala National Park. Search for the incredible wildlife found in this pristine rainforest covering 210,000 hectares.

Highlights include the beautiful red-ruffed lemur, found only in this Park, the Parson's and panther chameleons and the impressive helmet vanga.

The forest is rich in plant diversity too with numerous species of orchids, many locally endemic palms, epiphytes and ferns to discover.

Staying at EcoLodge Chez Arol. Includes All Meals.

Day 6
Masoala National Park

Enjoy another full day of guided excursions from the lodge. You can choose whether to return to the Masoala National Park or explore more of the coastal rainforest on flatter trails.

This is an excellent area for birds with the scaly and short-legged ground rollers, tylas and Bernier's vangas, red-breasted, red-fronted and blue coua and velvet asity among key species. This forest also supports an extraordinary diversity of frogs, many locally endemic and also several tiny Brookesia leaf chameleons.

Other options include visiting the local villages to learn about the cultivation of vanilla and other products or snorkelling in the nearby marine reserve (weather dependent).

Staying at EcoLodge Chez Arol. Includes All Meals.

Day 7
Masoala National Park

Enjoy another full day of guided activities from the lodge. Each day's activities are flexible and can be customised around your interests and discussed with your private guide at your disposal.

Perhaps take a night walk in the grounds of the lodge this evening where nocturnal Masoala sportive and mouse lemurs, frogs and tenrecs may be spotted.

Staying at EcoLodge Chez Arol. Includes All Meals.

Day 8
Masoala National Park

Enjoy another full day of guided activities from the lodge. Each day's activities are flexible and can be customised around your interests and discussed with your guide.

Staying at EcoLodge Chez Arol. Includes All Meals.

Day 9
Antananarivo

Today depart the lodge early for the boat transfer (1-3 hours) back to Maroantsetra.

Look out for the Madagascar pratincole, flocks of crested terns and occasionally even bottle-nosed dolphins or humpback whales (July - Sep) on the journey. On arrival back in Maroantsetra look for the locally endemic tomato frog in the ditches around the town on arrival.

Transfer to Maroantsetra airport and take Tsaradia flight TZ 417 at 1435 to Tana arriving 1550. Met on arrival at the airport and transfer 10 minutes to the hotel.

Staying at Relais des Plateaux. Includes Breakfast.

Day 10
Antananarivo

Morning transfer to the airport. Check in for international flight or domestic flight to another region of Madagascar.

Includes Breakfast.

Tour Accommodation

Madagascar Northern Madagascar

EcoLodge Chez Arol

Overview

This very simple but friendly and rustic lodge is located adjacent to a golden-sand beach with secondary rainforest behind. It is within walking distance of the Masoala National Park and the primary rainforest with many walking trails to explore.

Accommodation is in wooden huts under thatched roofs made from local ravinala palm. The beds are simple but have mosquito nets and there is a small veranda to enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest from. There is a private toilet and with limited hot water showers (sometimes power cuts affect the supply) are available. Please note that there is no air-conditioning or fans in the room, but there is a regular sea breeze here to keep cool. The lodge is also very close to a small local village and there can sometimes be a little noise at the weekends.

As it is such a remote location electricity is solar powered and lighting is provided in the rooms only at certain times. There is a communal dining room with small library and bar with a good selection of locally sourced food provided for meals.

The Masoala peninsula protects the last remaining extensive coastal lowland rainforest in Madagascar. Given World Heritage Site status in June 2007 and accessible only by boat, the reserve boasts staggering biodiversity and a wide variety of habitats: lowland primary rainforest, littoral forest, marsh, flooded forest, mangrove and coral reefs.

Rainforest wildlife here can naturally be less conspicuous than in open habitats and the trails tend be a little steeper. However, this is one of the most rewarding areas of Madagascar for an immersive wildlife and nature experience. Highlights of Masoala include watching the beautiful red-ruffed lemur leaping through the canopy, inquisitive Northern bamboo lemurs feeding at eye level, tenrecs snuffling through the leaf litter, spotting superbly camouflaged leaf-tailed geckos and the spectacular helmet vanga, Madagascar’s most sought after bird.

Swimming Pool
No
Air Conditioning
No
Rooms
7
Facilities

Simple en suite rooms with mosquito nets and solar heated hot water showers. There is a cosy communal dining room and electricity supplied by generator between 6pm and 9 pm each evening only. There is no phone reception, Wi-Fi or modern amenities here.

Local Wildlife

Masoala's star species is the locally endemic red-ruffed lemur which can fairly easily seen. Other lemur species include the Northern bamboo, white-fronted brown, Masoala woolly, sportive and mouse lemurs and the greater dwarf lemur. Both greater hedgehog and lowland streaked tenrecs and the ring-tailed vontsira are all common. Reptile and frog diversity is the highest in all of Madagascar with the Uroplatus fimbriatus, leaf-tailed gecko very numerous, this species is perhaps the world’s most camouflaged lizard. Colourful day geckos, panther, Parson's and several Brookesia chameleons, boas and frogs such as the Madagascar reed frogs (Heterixalus) and white-lipped tree frog can all be seen. The birdlife is also special with the headline species being the stunning helmet vanga and other species include the Bernier's vanga, Madagascar pratincole, scaly and short-legged ground rollers, red-breasted coua and elusive Madagascar serpent eagle. From July to early September, humpback whales can be seen offshore in the Bay of Atongil and bottle-nosed dolphins, green turtles and many reef fish all year round.

Optional Activities

Hikes and wildlife spotting in the Masoala National Park. Visits to the local village, snorkelling and boat trips and multi day camping expeditions can also be arranged.

Madagascar Northern Madagascar

Farankaraina Reserve Bungalows

Overview

The basic wooden bungalows situated on the edge of the Farankaraina Forestry Reserve are the only available accommodation besides camping and are ideal for night walks in search of the elusive aye aye. Each bungalow is located in a small forest clearing with plenty of privacy and just steps from the beach. The bungalows are very basic with just one double bed with mosquito net and a small sofa, desk and chair. Each has a private bathroom with a western flush toilet, basin and shower although there is no true hot water and water can be a little brown at first. The bungalows are constructed with local timber, raised off the ground and feature a thatched palm roof.

There is a communal building in the main forest clearing where meals are taken on long dining tables and sofas are available for relaxing in between excursions. All ingredients, bottled water, a cook, waiter and porters are brought in from Maroantsetra and although food is tasty it can be limited in choice and repetitive due to the remote conditions. To reach the bungalows, one must first travel by motorised canoe from Maroantsetra for up to an hour through rice fields and marshes to the edge of the reserve. From here it is a relatively easy walk of up to 1 hour along a wide and mostly level path to the bungalows. Towards the end of the track the path becomes more uneven and slightly uphill. This is also one of the wettest parts of Madagascar so long and heavy showers are frequent and waterproof clothing is essential.

The quiet location, abundant wildlife and beautiful rainforest surroundings make up for the basic accommodation here and the chance to observe wild aye ayes in their natural habitat is a highlight of any trip to Madagascar.

Swimming Pool
No
Air Conditioning
No
Rooms
5
Facilities

Private bathrooms with showers and western flush toilets. There is no hot water and the water can be a little brown at first. Mosquito nets are provided above the beds along with extra blankets and there are power sockets plus a desk and chair.

Local Wildlife

The reserve is home to a healthy population of aye ayes which can be frequently seen on night walks in the reserve. Other lemurs include the white-fronted brown lemur, northern grey bamboo lemur, greater dwarf lemur, Masoala sportive lemur, Masoala woolly lemur and rufous mouse lemur. Other wildlife often seen here includes ring-tailed mongoose, lowland streaked tenrec, panther chameleon, tree boa, leaf-tailed geckos and many endemic frogs. Birdlife includes the blue and red-breasted coua, Madagascar sparrowhawk and rufous vanga.

Optional Activities

Guided wildlife spotting including night walks in search of aye aye and nocturnal lemurs. Hiking (both long and short walks) and excursions to local villages and markets can also be arranged.

Madagascar Eastern Madagascar

Relais des Plateaux

Overview

Situated about 10 minutes’ drive from the airport, this comfortable three-star hotel set in exotic gardens offers well equipped, en suite rooms including air conditioning, satellite TV, mini-bar, tea and coffee facilities and hair dryer. Each room is decorated in a Malagasy design using local materials and the rooms are arranged in a village layout with good access.

Other facilities in the hotel include a local handicraft shop, restaurant serving delicious French cuisine and local delicacies, bar and swimming pool (heated in the cooler months).

Swimming Pool
Yes
Air Conditioning
Yes
Rooms
42
Facilities

Restaurant, air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, mini bar, safety deposit box, satellite TV, direct-dial telephone,

Optional Activities

City tour of Antananarivo, excursion to Ambohimanga Hill, visit to Tsarasaotra Lake (aka. Lac Alarobia) in a district of Tana for some unusual Hauts Plateaux birdwatching.

Route Map

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Relais des Plateaux: -18.834180, 47.463010
Farankaraina Bungalows: -15.435637, 49.839778
EcoLodge Chez Arol: -15.712062, 49.964028

Departure Dates

This tour has no set departure date and can be tailored to suit your travel requirements. Contact us for more details.

Travel Information

Are International Flights Included?

No. Please contact us for a quote if required.

Flight Info:

If flying from the UK, Air France has flights from London and Manchester via Paris. Other flight options include Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.

Best Visited:

June to December

Are you ATOL Registered?

Yes. This means we are legally able to book your international flights in conjunction with your ground arrangements so you can book with us with complete confidence. Read more about our ATOL license here.

Ian Loyd

Area Specialist

If you have any questions regarding this Tour, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965

It was lovely to meet Helen face-to-face and to devise the ideal trip with her – her enthusiasm for Madagascar certainly confirmed us in our choice of destination. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides, seemed genuinely interested in their work and in interacting with tourists. Invaluable in spotting wildlife and discussing uses of local medicinal plants. [Our escort guide] was a delightful companion on our journey in Madagascar and very solicitous of our welfare. We were thrilled by the wildlife. Without the keen insight and knowledge of our guides we would certainly have failed to spot the giraffe-necked weevil and stick insects. The night walks were very productive – several mouse lemurs. The first sight of indris was an especial thrill as was the sight of a sleeping mouse lemur in broad daylight. Perhaps the most rewarding experience occurred when the lemurs came to us – six ring-tailed lemurs in Isalo, sifakas on the balcony in Anjajavy, flocks of grey-headed lovebirds on the lawn at breakfast. An excellent tour which gave us a good insight into the wildlife and potential conservation issues in Madagascar. We had opportunities to visit local communities. We were most impressed by the efficiency in ensuring a trouble-free and very enjoyable time in Madagascar. Our tour leader and driver were delightful and very hard working. We shall certainly look forward to booking a further tour with you.

Mr & Mrs V - Ashprington, Devon