Small Group Safari

Madagascar Small Group Safari 2019

A fantastic small group safari to Madagascar that gives you the opportunity to explore a number of destinations, in the company of just seven others. You will visit the national parks of Isalo, Andasibe, Mantadia and Ranomafana; the Palmarium Reserve; the Kianjavato Lemur Project; and the coastal city of Tulear.

Duration 15 days
Price From $4,858
When Aug - Nov 2019
Destination Madagascar

Safari Overview

This exhilarating adventure through some of Madagascar's most biodiverse regions showcases the best of its wildlife and natural splendour. As part of a small group of just eight guests, you will first visit the Palmarium Reserve for a glimpse of the peculiar aye-aye, before traversing the wildlife-rich rainforest reserves of Andasibe and Mantadia to listen out for the early-morning calls of the indri lemurs. From there, pass through the country's scenic highlands and try to spot three separate species of bamboo lemur within the forests of Ranomafana National Park. The final section of your journey will see the landscape shifting to vineyards, savannah and the rocky outcrops of Isalo National Park – where encounters with the distinctive ring-tailed lemurs beckon – before your safari ends on the west coast of the "Red Island".

What makes this madagascar small group safari extraordinary

  • Group size is limited to a maximum of eight guests (this truly does make a significant difference to your experience, your comfort while in vehicles and your engagement with our naturalist guide).
  • Slow travel Madagascar. This journey travels East-West at a comfortable pace allowing you to fully experience each unique part of the island. There are still long road journeys involved to traverse this island continent, often on rough roads, but we invite you to relax, enjoy the stops en route and watch the scenery slip by.
  • Only your first and last night are spent in the hubbub of the capital city, Antananarivo (you will thank us for not having to return to the capital multiple times).
  • NWS started as World Primate Safaris more than a decade ago. There is no better team to take you to discover the unique primates of Madagascar.
  • Our dedicated naturalist guide has hosted research groups, film crews and dignitaries; his knowledge is encyclopaedic.

We have used the best available accommodation throughout, chosen for their proximity to wildlife and to give you the best experience we can in Madagascar.

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Reviews from Past Safaris

  • We had a wonderful trip! Everything went very smoothly and professionally. We were fortunate to have great travelling companions in our small group with everyone getting on really well throughout our travels. Our guide, Marc, was excellent, very professional and organised but also great fun and joining in with the spirit of our fun and games. We knew at all times what was happening and what to expect and he told us so much interesting stuff, not only about the places we visited and the animals and reptiles we saw, but also about the country, the culture, etc. It was an eye-opening experience. The hotels and meals were excellent and much better than we had expected. All in all, this trip was everything we had hoped for and more and we would definitely recommend NWS to friends. Another thing that was great was the Vamoos app on the iPad. I used it all the time and it worked like a charm, even though we didn't always have great internet. Well done on that!

    Madagascar Small Group Safari 2018

    5 out of 5
  • It was great! I was pleasantly surprised at how close we got to the lemurs in the wild. The facilities were all very good -- some were luxurious, even. The food was excellent, and I ate way too much. The transport was good -- all the drivers were very skillful. Marc, our guide, was really wonderful -- very knowledgeable, and professional. He was very good with our group dynamics, and encouraged/supported our bonding. He was extremely helpful and supportive to me after I injured my knee, for which I will be forever grateful. All of the local guides were super -- I was delighted to meet Loret Rasabo, whom I had read about in Patricia Wright's book, ‘For the Love of Lemurs’. Overall, it exceeded my expectations, and I was very pleased with every aspect of the trip. Everyone did a great job, and I liked the small group format.

    Madagascar Small Group Safari 2018

    5 out of 5
  • This was an excellent trip. The itinerary was varied. The tour director/guide (Mya) was very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. Transportation was comfortable and accommodations and food were of high quality overall. I was very pleased with the way your staff dealt with our missed plane connection and the need to get us to our first safari destination.

    Madagascar Small Group Safari 2017

    5 out of 5
  • Excellent. Very well organised. Food and accommodation first rate. Maximised time in the country. We were most fortunate to have a superb guide in Mia who took second place to the local guides used in the parks. I was so pleased nearly all guides were able to tell us about the birds in addition to lemurs.

    Madagascar Small Group Safari 2017

    5 out of 5
  • Excellent trip in almost every respect. It exceeded our expectations. Marc was an excellent guide. We liked the size of the group and also the quality of the guiding, accommodation and food.

    Madagascar Small Group Safari 2018

    5 out of 5
  • The trip went like clockwork from start to finish, very well organised and a great tour. Very good guides and a great place to visit.

    Madagascar Small Group Safari 2018

    5 out of 5
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Day by day

Day 1

Arrive Antananarivo (Tana)

On arrival in Antananarivo (often abbreviated to Tana) you will be met by our driver and driven to your hotel located just 15 minutes from the airport. Enjoy dinner at the hotel (of your own account) and make use of the hotel facilities. The remainder of your group may arrive on any of the following flight access routes: South Africa Airways via Johannesburg, Kenya Airways via Nairobi, Ethiopian Airways via Addis Ababa, Turkish Airways via Istanbul, Air Mauritius via Mauritius, Air Seychelles via Seychelles or just before midnight on Air France via Paris. You will meet your fellow travel companions at breakfast the next day.

Overnight: Relais des Plateaux

Day 2

Antananarivo – Palmarium Reserve

Meet your Malagasy naturalist guide and fellow travel companions at breakfast. Depart in an air-conditioned mini-coach on the 6-hour road journey to the village of Manambato and departure point at Lake Rasoabe, one of the great lakes of Madagascar. These great lakes were linked by manmade channels to form an inland waterway called the Canal of Pangalanes. Board a speedboat following part of this 600-kilometre long channel for about an hour to head to the Palmarium Lodge, passing by local fishing villages en route. After an hour or so you will arrive at the private reserve of Palmarium, staying either at the Palmarium Lodge or the lakeside Palmarium Beach. The rest of the afternoon is yours at leisure to relax and explore your surroundings.

Overnight: Palmarium Lodge B, L, D

Day 3

Palmarium Reserve

Enjoy a walk through the forest with one of the lodge guides. Here it is possible to see Coquerel’s sifakas, black lemurs, red lemurs, crowned lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs, and a family of indri, This reserve provides excellent photographic opportunities as you can get very close to the lemurs. The afternoon is yours at leisure. By the end of the afternoon, you will embark your pirogue canoe for a quiet ride on the Pangalanes Canal to an island occupied by the famous aye-aye. About 15 minutes away from the hotel, some six aye-aye individuals live in freedom. You will have about an hour to explore the area and then ride back to the hotel afterwards.

Overnight: Palmarium Lodge B, L, D

Day 4

Palmarium Reserve – Andasibe National Park

Today you head south to the renowned reserve of Andasibe, first by boat through the Pangalanes Canal and then around 3.5 hours by road. This is a stunning rainforest with some truly wonderful wildlife. In the afternoon you'll enjoy your first exploration of the park. At nightfall, set off with flashlights to seek out nocturnal species alongside your naturalist guide.

Day 5

Andasibe National Park

A full day exploring Andasibe National Park with your expert wildlife guides. Andasibe is a montane forest park offering the chance to spot a variety of lemurs, reptiles and birds. One of its most famous inhabitants is the indri, the largest of all lemurs, which resembles a black-and-white teddy bear. You hear the indri before you see them and will wake up to their songs of communication in the early hours of the morning, with the mist still hugging the rainforest canopy. Other lemurs which can be seen here are the brown lemur, red-bellied lemur and lesser bamboo lemur, as well as nocturnal species like the brown mouse lemur, greater dwarf lemur (Sep/Oct – May), eastern woolly lemur and sportive lemurs. In addition to lemurs, the rainforests are home to a wide range of reptiles including the boa manditra snake, 84 species of amphibian and some rare and magnificent orchids. This is also a place to find the unique satanic leaf-tailed gecko, as well as bizarre insects like the famous giraffe-necked weevil. Hiking in the forests requires a good level of fitness as there are some steep slopes and dense vegetation. As late afternoon rolls around, spend time on the property of Vakona Forest Lodge. There is a small island surrounded by fresh water here, which is home to various species of lemur (common brown lemurs, bamboo lemurs, ruffed lemurs and diademed sifakas), providing an opportunity to get some close-up photographs.

Day 6

Mantadia National Park

Today you will spend the day exploring Mantadia National Park. This is 20km (1 hour) north of Andasibe and offers a much more rugged experience with steeper, slippery trails, but can offer up rewarding sightings. In contrast to Andasibe it is comprised of virtually untouched primary forest with just a few constructed trails. Here you’ll have good chances of spotting the golden-coloured diademed sifaka and the local indri (who, for some reason, are darker than their Andasibe relatives) as well as black-and-white ruffed lemurs. Some endemic species like the common brown lemur, eastern lesser bamboo lemur, sportive lemurs and mouse lemurs (the smallest of all lemurs) can also be found. The park has some excellent birdwatching including chances of seeing the scaly ground-roller, pitta-like ground roller and red-breasted coua. Mantadia is also a kingdom of the orchids. Cymbidiellas falcigera and Bulbophyllum ameleni are the most enigmatic species, because in addition to being rare and magnificent plants, they also maintain the balance of the forest’s ecosystem. You'll be spending the majority of the day in the park with a packed picnic lunch.

Day 7

Andasibe National Park – Antsirabe

Today you depart Andasibe and drive back towards Tana, then southwards to Antsirabe (approx. 6-hour drive including stops). Throughout the day you'll pass through a variety of highland scenery, with an optional stop at Ambatolampy to see aluminium pot casting. Antsirabe is the third-largest city in Madagascar. Best known for its thermal springs, the city emerged as a spa town in the late 1800s when Norwegian missionaries built a health retreat here. The compact city centre with its interesting mix of architecture invites visitors for a walk along the tree-lined avenues. In the afternoon there may be time to visit two or three of the many brilliant artisan workshops found here, including silk, gems, scrap metal, weaving, models, zebu horn crafts, raffia, sweets, beer and cheese.

Day 8

Antsirabe - Ranomafana National Park

You will then continue your drive south through the highlands and make your way eastwards to the rainforest reserve of Ranomafana National Park. The scenic drive takes about 7 hours, however you will enjoy a stop off at Ambositra for lunch. This town is known for its woodcarving industry; look out for the houses' uniquely carved balconies and shutters. Should you wish, you can stop off at one of the local woodcarving shops to see the handicrafts – including Christian wood carvings – that the town produces. You will arrive in Ranomafana in the late afternoon and check in to your hotel.

Day 9

Kianjavato Lemur Project

Today you will have the privilege of visiting our exclusive conservation project about 1.5 hours from Ranomafana. This busy project researches bamboo lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs and aye-ayes, as well as conducting reforestation and working with local communities and schools. Your day will include tracking these highly endangered lemurs, as well as having the chance to visit a nearby school (depending on school holidays), and spending time with the researchers to understand more about conservation issues in Madagascar.

Day 10

Ranomafana National Park

Today is spent exploring Ranomafana National Park. Ranomafana (which is Malagasy for ‘hot water’) is a diverse habitat which spans 415 square kilometres and is comprised of waterfalls, dense rainforest and mountainous areas. There are many different species of animals to spot here. There are 12 species of lemur, including the golden bamboo lemur, which was discovered here in 1986. It is thought that the reason behind their golden fur lies in their diet of bamboo tips, which contain cyanide. The park is excellent for spotting birds; there are over 118 species here! You may even be lucky enough to spot the rare greater bamboo lemur. Sadly, there are fewer than 150 individuals left in the wild. You can look out for the endearing red-bellied lemurs who live in couples with their offspring, red-fronted brown lemurs that reside in groups, and Milne-Edwards' sifakas. A variety of trails and footpaths lead you through this dense jungle, but it's the sheer majesty of the forest itself that makes the park so beautiful. Sturdy footwear is essential to tackle the rugged and sometimes slippery trails.

Day 11

Ranomafana National Park – Isalo National Park

Today you make an early start for the drive south (approximately 8 hours including stops). After a brief stop at Fianarantsoa, the last major town of the highlands, you will descend into the west coast region where the scenery drastically changes to open savannah grasslands with zebu herds tended by Malagasy herdsmen. There is time before lunch to visit the vineyards found at the town of Ambalavao and to see handmade paper being produced. Just after Ambalavao is the community-managed reserve of Anja. Here you should be able to spot troupes of ring-tailed lemurs in the forest between huge granite outcrops, a wonderful photo opportunity. In the late afternoon you will be driving through the fantastic scenery of Isalo National Park before arriving at the oasis setting of your lodge for the night.

Overnight: Jardin du Roy B, L, D

Day 12

Isalo National Park

Today you have the exciting opportunity to trek through Isalo’s striking canyons and along its dramatic headland, which has been manipulated by the wind and rainfall over the years into a variety of bizarre shapes. A classic walk is along the massif affording dramatic views from the cliff-hugging paths. Arrive late in the afternoon at "La Piscine Naturelle", a natural swimming pool formed in the rocks fringed by palm trees and forever topped up by a flowing waterfall. After a long day in the sun, a dip here is hard to resist! Return to the hotel for an evening at leisure.

Overnight: Jardin du Roy B, L, D

Day 13

Isalo National Park – Tulear

A leisurely morning. For those interested, horse riding is available at additional cost. Depart late morning as your journey continues westwards towards the coastal area of Tulear. This drive presents you with new scenery once again, with the dry and spiny forests of the south. You will stop off at Zombitse-Vahibasia National Park, one of the most important remnants of dry deciduous forest in Madagascar and hugely important in terms of biodiversity, as it is the only remaining transition forest between the western and southern regions. As well as being a birder's paradise, home to the Appert's greenbul, it is also home to a variety of lemurs, including the Verreaux's sifaka and Hubbard's sportive lemur, as well as baobabs and orchids. You will then continue your drive south to Tulear, aiming to arrive in the afternoon to enjoy the rest of the day in this seaside town.

Day 14

Depart Antananarivo

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before you are transferred to the airport for your flight back to Tana, then transferred to the airport hotel for your final night. If your flight is in the afternoon, time may permit a visit to the Ambondrolava mangrove complex. Here, communities have depended on the mangroves for wood, fish and other animals for centuries. Guides from the Honko NGO initiative lead you along the 1km of boardwalks through this unique ecosystem. The elevated viewpoint is an ideal spot to look out for the great diversity of wading birds in the abandoned salt pans; up to 37 wetland birds have been recorded here, the highest diversity in the region.

Overnight: Relais des Plateaux B

Day 15

Depart Antananarivo

Breakfast and check out at 10:00am before transferring to the airport to meet your flight home.

Trip Details

Trip information

This is a small group safari departing on set dates, limited to just 8 passengers. Early booking is recommended. Accommodation and areas have been chosen for their proximity to the wildlife and to give you the best experience we can in Madagascar. It is possible to extend this safari with activities or beach time at the beginning or end; just speak to us for more details.

 2019 Departures   Prices   Availability 
Aug 22 - Sep 5 From £3,775 per person Spaces available
Sep 12 - 26 From £3,775 per person Spaces available
Oct 3 - 17 From £3,775 per person Spaces available
Oct 24 - Nov 7 From £3,775 per person

Spaces available


Please note that there is a £795 single room supplement.

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