Isolated from mainland Africa and India during the Mesozoic Era, Madagascar has been called the “land that time forgot” for its incredible biodiversity. Journey to this wonderland of weird and wild creatures—80 percent of which are found nowhere else on Earth—and delve into its curious geology and intriguing multiethnic culture. Seek out leaping lemurs and a kaleidoscope of chameleons and orchids in the lush forests of Ankarana Special Reserve and Amber Mountain National Park, watch for humpbacks and whale sharks in the stunning Nosy Be archipelago, and step back in time amid towns graced with elegant French colonial architecture.
Arrive in Madagascar’s lively capital and transfer to your hotel, perched on a lush hillside overlooking the heart of the city. Settle in, and enjoy an evening at leisure to discover Antananarivo’s rich blend of Indonesian, Malaysian, African, and Arab cultural influences.
Fly to Antsiranana, also known as Diégo Suarez, a laid-back coastal town near the northern tip of the country. Set out on a private tour of Antsiranana’s colonial center, including a walk through the old French military district, a local open-air market, and the scenic waterfront. Continue inland to Joffreville, a former French military resort town, and your base for exploring Amber Mountain National Park. Settle into your heritage guesthouse, originally built for Joseph Joffre, the one-time town marshal.
Delve into Madagascar’s mind-blowing biodiversity on an excursion into the lush forests of Amber Mountain National Park—the country’s first national park, known for its lemur populations, kaleidoscopic chameleons, and Madagascar paradise flycatcher birds. Choose among three hiking trails of varying difficulty and landscapes, and set out with a private guide in search of hidden waterfalls, crater lakes, and fascinating creatures of the forest. Picnic in a serene spot before returning to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure.
Travel overland to Ankarana Special Reserve, where karst formations have eroded into endless forests of limestone needles and blades called tsingy. This stone landscape alternates with dense jungles and a vast network of caves and canyons, creating a unique ecosystem that harbors more than 300 species of plants and one of the highest densities of primates in the world. Explore the park’s natural wonders and seek out lemurs, including the crowned, Sanford’s brown, northern sportive, and dwarf varieties. Enjoy a picnic in the park before driving to your lodge, located just beyond Ankarana’s borders.
Join a private guide for a walk around the lake bordering your lodge, and meet Malagasy farmers to learn about their traditional cultivation techniques. After lunch, choose between two guided hikes. Descend into recesses of Mandresy Cave, a sacred ancestral site. Or opt for a challenging trek among the tsingy that will have you scaling ladders and slipping through narrow rock passages in search of stunning panoramas, colorful birds, and butterflies.
Journey to the west coast along Madagascar’s cocoa and spice route, stopping along the way at Millot plantation, which cultivates and produces a variety of agricultural products—from spices and organic cocoa to plant-based essential oils. Stroll the spice plots, and learn how cocoa is grown, picked, and processed. Then venture into the Ylang fields to see how delicate flowers are collected, visit the distillery and discover how essential oils are extracted from raw plants. Continue to the fishing village of Ankify on Madagascar’s northwest coast and settle into your waterfront bungalow.
Enjoy a morning at leisure in Ankify, and then transfer by boat to the Nosy Be archipelago. Arrive at Tsara Komba, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World tucked into the lush volcanic slopes of secluded Nosy Komba, or Lemur Island. Settle into your thatched oceanfront bungalow, and join a private guide for an introduction to the isle’s endemic flora and fauna during a short hike through the surrounding rain forest reserve. Seek out leaping lemurs, colorful chameleons and sunbirds, and black parrots, and then enjoy the rest of your day at leisure in this tropical paradise.
Cruise the Mozambique Channel to the Tanikely marine reserve for a snorkeling excursion. Plunge into turquoise waters and swim past brightly colored corals, reef fish, and with luck, sea turtles. This afternoon, enjoy an experience exclusively reserved for National Geographic travelers. Join the lodge’s management staff for a visit to a nearby village, where you’ll meet the chief and learn about ongoing projects and everyday life in the community. Return to the lodge for a local rum tasting before a delicious Malagasy-French fusion dinner on the lodge terrace.
Set out with a private guide for a full-day tour of the Nosy Be archipelago. Visit a fishing village on lush Nosy Mamoko, and canoe up a river lined with mangrove trees. Stroll along Nosy Kisimasy’s white-sand beaches and pick a peaceful spot for a picnic lunch. Afterwards go snorkeling in a secluded cove and seek out sea turtles and dolphins. Then return to the lodge for a free evening to relax on the beach or your private terrace.
Enjoy the day to explore the lodge and its stunning surroundings at your leisure. Stroll the Eden Garden, an indigenous nature reserve that backs up to the property and blooms with more than 200 endemic plant species; and discover the on-site Baobab Nursery, where unusual baobab species and spiny succulents are incubated. Or borrow equipment from the lodge for a self-guided snorkeling or fishing excursion in the shallows.
Spend a final morning at leisure on Nosy Komba before transferring back to the mainland. Fly to Antananarivo, where you’ll take a private tour of the city (time permitting). Explore the city’s leafy boulevards, admire stunning examples of French colonial architecture, and see the stately Rova of Antananarivo—a royal complex dating back to the 16th century.
After breakfast, join a private guide for an excursion to the 15th-century Royal Hill of Ambohimanga—an important pilgrimage spot for the Malagasy people, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Learn about the African and Polynesian roots of Malagasy culture while exploring this ancient royal city, and take in panoramic views over Antananarivo. Later, stroll the stalls at La Digue, a traditional craft market. Then transfer to your day room to relax before your international flight home.
This trip has an activity rating of light/moderate and suits a range of interests and abilities. Travelers should be physically fit and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods and navigating uneven or slippery terrain, sometimes in wet or humid conditions. Excursions include a variety of nature walks, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking. Some hikes in the Ankarana Special Reserve include ladders with guardrails, narrow passages, or steep inclines. While tourism is growing steadily, Madagascar’s infrastructure is still developing. Road conditions are often rugged and dusty, and internal flight schedules can be unpredictable. Patience, flexibility, and enthusiasm are essential to the enjoyment of this expedition.
Throughout the expedition, you’ll stay in accommodations selected for their quality, location, and character, including Tsara Komba Luxury Beach & Forest Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
Top private guides will accompany you throughout the trip, and local experts will meet with you along the way as described in the itinerary.
Tsara Komba Luxury Beach & Forest Lodge – Nosy Komba Island, Madagascar
On Madagascar’s secluded Lemur Island, the stylish retreat of Tsara Komba Luxury Beach & Forest Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, blends into its tropical beachfront setting—but stands out when it comes to community and conservation initiatives.
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. These trips are designed to fit into your schedule. You choose your desired departure date, and we’ll make all the arrangements.
Prices are per person based on double occupancy and do not include international airfare to/from your destination or internal flights during the expedition. Single traveler prices are available upon request. Internal flights are $665 per person. Surcharges may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.
All prices and fares are quoted in U.S. dollars and subject to change. See the terms and conditions for this trip for more information.
This expedition is available from April to mid-December.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.