Exceptional natural history expeditions,
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Photos courtesy of Hal Gordon


Flora • Wildlife • Parks & Reserves • Cultural Heritage


An outstanding introduction to the nature reserves and unique wildlife of Madagascar, this 17-day expedition offers travel enthusiasts an exceptional opportunity to become acquainted with the cultural heritage, flora, and fauna of Madagascar.

Here, on the fourth largest island in the world, isolated from the African continent for 30 million years, is a spectacular flora and fauna, unlike that found anywhere else in the world. Ninety-five percent of the lemurs and reptiles, 81 percent of the flowering plants, 98 percent of the palms, and many birds are simply found nowhere else.

The itinerary includes:

  • Antananarivo, the charming capital city of Madagascar. Visit the renowned Parc de Tsimbazaza and Natural History Museum, explore the European District, and sample a pastry at the Hotel Colbert in this captivating city of hills.
  • Berenty Reserve, on the sandy red banks of the Mandrare River, an internationally acclaimed wildlife reserve in the semi-arid south. Enjoy a profusion of ring-tailed lemurs, sifakas, lepilemurs, and flying foxes, as well as the unique spiny desert, couas, cuckoo-rollers, vasa parrots, and other birds found only in Madagascar.
  • Nosy Be, Madagascar’s favorite resort on the Indian Ocean. Enjoy coral and tropical fish, snorkeling and swimming, and a special boat excursion to Nosy Komba to see the sacred black lemurs.
  • Isole National Park, an extraordinary landscape in the southwest with dramatic sandstone ridges sculpted by wind and water into intriguing formations.
  • Perinet Reserve, just a short distance from Antananarivo. Look for the largest of the lemurs, the indri, noted for its ear-shattering cries and agility in traveling through the rainforest.

Also of interest will be the intriguing cultural heritage of Madagascar, with antecedents from Indonesia, Arabia, Africa, and Europe.

I hope you will join us, and discover the magnificence and adventure of Madagascar in 2007!


Days 1/2 New York to Paris
International flight from New York’s JFK International Airport to Paris, with direct connecting flight to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. A short drive will bring us into “Tana,” a captivating city of hills with the architectural ambiance of the French countryside and rich color and beauty of the Malagasy people. Tana Plaza Hotel (2 nights).

Day 3 Antananarivo
Our introduction to the natural and cultural heritage of Madagascar will begin with tours of this fascinating city, including the Queen’s Palace, the European district, and the Parc de Tsimbazaza. The botanical and zoological gardens and fine natural history museum will offer a first look at the unique lemurs and flora of Madagascar—the fourth largest island in the world. B,L,D

Day 4 To Perinet & Mantadia National Park
Morning drive towards the eastern coast of the country and port city of Tamatave. We will descend from Antananarivo at an elevation of 4,500 feet on the central plateau down the steep eastern escarpment to the humid rainforest and farms near Perinet. Accommodations at Vakona Lodge (2 nights), between Perinet and Mantadia National Park. B,L,D

Days 5/6 Perinet & Mantadia
For the next two days, we will explore the outstanding reserve known as Perinet during the French colonial period, now known locally as Analamazoatra, and nearby Mantadia National Park, home of the diademed sifaka and black-and-white ruffed lemur. At Perinet, we may see chameleons and will look for the largest of the lemurs, the indri, noted for their ear-shattering cries and agility in traveling through the forest.

As we explore the wooded ridges, shady creek bottoms, and fern-edged lakes of Perinet, we’ll also look for the brown lemur. This is another fine area to look for some of the exciting birdlife of Madagascar: vangas, couas, cuckoo-rollers, nightjars, and sunbirds. We will return to Antananarivo in the afternoon of Day 6.

As we leave the lush beauty of Perinet, the rainforest immediately gives way to heavily logged hills, camps for charcoal production, and ragged red gullies swirling with muddy torrents. We will also see eucalyptus or pine forests planted to generate wood for future charcoal production. Tana Plaza Hotel. B,L,D

Days 7/10 Nosy Be
For the next three days, we’ll enjoy this tropical island paradise. We will fly to Nosy be on the morning of Day 7 and have an island tour. We will enjoy comfortable accommodations at the Vanilla Hotel (3 nights). Low key and relaxing, Nosy Be has curving white sand beaches, prosperous sugarcane fields, gnarled ylang ylang trees (a source of perfume), and spread before us, the Indian Ocean.

From historic Hell Ville, named for Admiral de Hell, we’ll cruise to Nosy Tanihely, a tiny island crowned with a lighthouse from which we can see flying foxes, white-tailed tropic birds, terns, frigates, and more. Snorkelers will enjoy brilliantly colored fish, coral, giant clams, and long-spined urchins in the national marine reserve.

Nearby, we’ll visit Nosy Komba and the village of Ampangarina. Here, the sacred black lemurs will welcome us—photographers get ready! We’ll also keep an eye out for kestrels, coucals, bee-eaters, sunbirds, malachite kingfishers, drongos, paradise flycatchers, and bulbuls.
We will also visit Lokobe Reserve, which includes the remaining rainforest in northwest Madagascar.
We will return to Antananarivo on Day 10. Tara Plaza Hotel. B,L,D

Day 11 Antananarivo to Tulear & Isalo
Morning flight from Tana to Tulear, on the southwest coast of Madagascar. We will then drive 200 kilometers inland to Parc National de L’Isalo, situated on a sandstone massif, and heavily eroded by wind and water into fascinating formations. The southwest also has Madagascar’s most interesting flora, including spiny forests of plants only found in Madagascar, aloes, and Euphorbia. Hotel Relais de la Reine (2 nights). B,L,D

Day 12 Isalo National Park
Today, we will explore this delightful park on foot, including a walk to the Piscine Naturelle, where a cave overlooks a waterfall and natural pool for swimming. Several lemurs are found in the park, including Verreaux’s sifaka, grey mouse, ring-tailed, and brown lemurs, and about 50 bird species. B,L,D

Day 13 Isalo-Tulear
Morning at Isalo. Afternoon drive from Isalo to Tulear and overnight at Motel Capricorne. B,L,D

Days 14/16 Fort Dauphin-Berenty
This morning, we’ll fly to picturesque Fort Dauphin in southeast Madagascar. We then drive west, climbing a pass separating the humid east coast of Madagascar from the drier west, home of the Antandroy people.

For three days, we will explore southern Madagascar and Berenty Reserve, a superb wildlife reserve which has attracted considerable international attention. Here, the de Heaulme family established a reserve on the bank of the Mandrare River to protect the woods and their captivating inhabitants, the lemurs. Great long rows of sisal line the red sands of the former plantation, ending abruptly at the edge of one of the most enjoyable and unique wildlife reserves in the country. Rustic accommodations at Berenty Lodge (2 nights).

We’ll wake at dawn to begin to enjoy the lemurs’ antics and early chorus of birdlife. Just ahead may be a half dozen ring-tailed lemurs, lined up with military precision. Nearby, four sifakas may cavort in a tree, dangling and stretching from one branch to another. As we stroll down the trails, a troop of ring-tails may lead the way, long tails waving this way and that, before suddenly disintegrating into a frenzy of chase and scamper!

Nearby, soft gray lepilemurs may peer down at us from their daytime roosts, and hundreds of flying foxes cling just under the forest canopy. Crested and giant couas, cuckoo-rollers, vasa parrots, vangas, and harrier hawks will also be of interest as will the butterflies and chameleons.

On Day 16, we will return to Fort Dauphin, traveling through a reserve which protects the world’s only three-cornered palm. The bizarre woody and thorny plants of the spiny desert are reminiscent of the Sonoran Desert in the American Southwest, but composed primarily of species unique to Madagascar. Now threatened by charcoal makers, the spiny forest supports crested couas, hoopoes, bushlarks, cisticolas, doves, and other bird species. We will then fly to Antananarivo for our farewell dinner. Late our evening flight to Paris. B,L,D

Day 17 Paris to Home
Arrive in Paris and take connecting flight to New York for end of the expedition.

What to Expect:
An exceptional exploration of superb nature reserves of Madagascar and its cultural heritage, led by an excellent naturalist. Travel by VW combis, coach, and boat, with daily outings of one to two miles on foot at a leisurely pace suitable for natural history study; also swimming and snorkeling. Binoculars are essential. Typically, temperatures are in the 70’s to 80’s in Madagascar with moderate humidity. Most of our time is near sea level in Madagascar, though Antananarivo is at 4,500 feet and it can be in the 50’s. If any questions, please consult your physician. This expedition will be an extraordinary experience for adventurous travelers in good health who can enjoy some modest accommodations and bumpy dirt roads for the chance to explore superior environments in remote areas of the country. In Madagascar, flight schedule and itinerary changes may occur over which there is no control; be delighted if this is not the case. (No smoking in vehicles, during lectures, or meals.)

Are in first class hotels in Antananarivo and Nosy Be with private facilities. At Berenty, Isalo, and Perinet, we will stay in country-style lodges with private facilities. These “best available” accommodations are simple, fun, and certainly part of the adventure of travel in Madagascar. All singles may have to be paired with a roommate in remote areas.


Please call Bob Nansen at Betchart Expeditions Inc.

Telephone (800) 252-4910 or (408) 252-4910
Fax (408) 252-1444



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