Madagascar small group vacation

“Explore the highlights of central Madagascar, trekking through wild, lemur-filled rainforests and bizarre Tsingy pinnacles - then retire each night to a comfortable hotel.”

Highlights

Antananarivo | Andasibe | Lemurs | Perinet | Guided night walk | Morondava | Kirindy Reserve | Alley of the Baobabs | Bekopaka | Trekking in the Grand Tsingy | Antsirabe | Ranomafana National Park | Anya National Park | Trekking in Isalo National Park | Ifaty Beach | Mahafaly and Antandroy Tombs

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Date
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22 Jun 2019
US $ 4185
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06 Jul 2019
US $ 4185
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17 Aug 2019
US $ 4025
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31 Aug 2019
US $ 4025
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14 Sep 2019
US $ 4185
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28 Sep 2019
US $ 4185
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05 Oct 2019
US $ 4185
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12 Oct 2019
US $ 4185
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19 Oct 2019
US $ 4185
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Our top tip:
Breakfasts are simple - usually a baguette with jam plus tea or coffee. Bring spreads or peanut butter if you need a little extra to keep you going.
Trip type:
Small group, min. age 18. Av. size 4-16.
Activity level:
Moderate.
Accomm:
14 nights simple, comfortable hotels with en suite facilites.
Solos:
Solo travelers welcome. Single rooms available with surcharge.
Included:
Accomm., transport (flights, private bus, 4WD), tour leader, guides, listed activities. Intl. flights if booked.
Meals:
Breakfasts only. Allow around £220 for meals, extra for drinks. Vegetarian choices limited.
Vouchers
Accepted
Vacation type

Small group vacation

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Madagascar small group vacation

Environment

Accommodation and Meals:
We will be spending the duration of the trip in tourist class hotels. The vast majority of the staff is from nearby villages and they even offer accommodation for staff staying in villages further away. This industry is a great source of employment for local people, so by staying in these hotels we are providing a steady source of income for local communities. You will also find that some of the hotels have solar panels -meaning a smaller carbon footprint- whereas many work on their own electricity generators but switch them off from around 22:00 to 07:00. In terms of meals, hotels will source local produce as much as possible and clients are encouraged to explore local restaurants and markets if convenient. The cuisine has been strongly influenced by the French and the seafood is particularly fresh.

Activity:
Our tours are designed to entertain as well as inform about wildlife issues and promote animal welfare. When we visit National Parks such as Ranomafana , Anja and Isalo N.P, we pay park fees which contribute to the upkeep of these parks and the myriad of unique (and sometimes endangered) species which can be found there e.g. ring-tailed lemurs and baoab trees. Local guides are also employed when we enter these reserves which creates employment and gives clients an altogether more informative, genuine experience.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Local Craft and Culture:
Although this is a largely nature based trip, we incorporate as much benefit to local people as possible. One of the ways to support local people and boost the economy is to buy crafts along the roads in the smaller villages which we pass. There is some very creative craftsmanship in Madagascar which uses recycled materials to create toys, decorate items and jewellery. For example, in Antsirabe, people sell souvenirs made from aluminium cans and in Ambostria, they use recuperated wood. Guides are careful to explain that anything made from animal parts and shells should not be purchased as this trade is detrimental to many of the wonderful species we find here.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

2 Reviews of Madagascar small group vacation

5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 14 Oct 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The wildlife was what I booked the trip for and it did not disappoint. I had no idea we would see so many species of lemurs, reptiles, birds, plants and trees
insects and frogs and at such close range, we really were so very lucky. I cannot underestimate just how special it felt to witness these incredible endemic
species in their (rapidly disappearing) habitat. The call of the indri is a sound that I will never, ever forget. I feel inspired to learn more and find out if there
is any way in which I can help contribute to the future of this country, as the people and the native plants and animals are facing some very severe
challenges, such as a hugely increasing population, rapid loss of habitat moved over to farming, shaky political leadership, the introduction of non-native
species of animals, trees and plants that cannot support native wildlife, and the slash and burn agricultural practice.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Go with an open mind, and be prepared to see the mass destruction of the environment which you will definitely witness. Bear in mind, this is a very poor
country and life here is hard. Saying that, the people were all very warm and welcoming to the small number of tourists that we saw. We never ever felt
threatened or anything other than welcome. This is what makes the environment/humanity inbalance so very difficult to bear witness to, as the people are just as amazing as the flora and fauna that most visitors come to see. We found the physical rating of 1 to be misleading, I would say there are some
moderate to strenuous hikes on this tour. Bring camera, binoculars, insect repellent and some detergent to wash clothes. Accommodation and food were
excellent, much better than we expected.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Local people - yes, but only in that tourism is going to be a lifeline for this country, if they are able to protect the natural environment that visitors come to
witness. We also visited aluminum, recycling, horn and embroidery workshops that employed local people to create crafts for tourists and to make visitors
aware of the traditional industries and methods. We also used local guides. We were discouraged for visiting and shopping in the local towns, villages etc.
without a guide present.

Environmental impact - There was an internal flight and long bus journeys, so our impact was quite high. We did all use 5 litre bottles of water which the
group used to fill their water bottles for hikes and overnight to reduce the amount of plastic bottles used.

Conservation - I would have liked to learn a lot more about this and had the opportunity to help in some way, whether with tree planting or just to learn
more about the efforts the country is making in this area. We visited some community parks, which helps support protect the local forest, which was great
(and sorely needed). We visited a 'zoo' which had captive lizards, insects, chameleons, bats etc. which was not listed on the itinerary - if it had been, I may
have opted out, as I don't like to support captive-held animals, unless it is part of a properly managed programme for conservation and this was not at all
evident.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Superb. It has so much to offer from gorgeous deserted beaches, lovely people, wildlife, birds and trees you won't find anywhere else in the world - not even in
zoos! It's got rainforest, culture, spiny forest, desert, incredible rock formations and valleys, natural swimming areas, mountains - everything you could ever
want to see, all in one very unique country.

Reviewed on 07 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The wildlife - lemurs, Perinet, Alley of Boababs, Kirindy Forest, Grand Tsingy, Ranomafana National Park, Anja National Park, Isalo National Park

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


I visited in August and September the end of winter.
1. It is cool at night in Antananarivo at night 14 deg C, so sweater required
2. You need long trousers and walking boots for the Rain Forest and Mountain climbs elsewhere trainers are fine
3. Not many mosquitos, most hotels/camps had mosquito nets
4. Some hotels work on solar power only, so no electricity at night. So carry spare batteries for camera
5. Wifi is virtually non-existent and where you do find it you are competing with others for bandwidth so it's very sporadic
6. Hotels and Meals surprisingly good
7. If traveling from Europe consider the Air France flight to Antanarivo from Paris. Via Nairobi on Kenya Airways is longer and long connections which are not always reliable
8. It's a really big country, roads in general are very poor and only passable by 4x4 and therefore travel can be slow and uncomfortable.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It benefited the locals who were employed in hotels and restaurants. Otherwise there was no negative impact

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I travelled with this operator on the Madagascan Discoverer. It was a brilliant trip. Full on not in bed after 06.30 any day for 15/17 days. Saw virtually everything on the "to do" list. A place you must visit.

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