If you’re visiting Madagascar for the first time, mystical Andasibe will inevitably pop-up on your itinerary. A stone’s throw from both Antananarivo and Tamatave, Andasibe is the gateway to Madagascar’s lush montane-forest and your best opportunity to see (and hear!) the haunting indri-indri. The area hosts tons of activities activities, and with accommodation to suit all budgets, it’s the perfect weekend destination for any traveler.
Below is a sample itinerary that well help you plan your perfect getaway.
Andasibe Itinerary Day 1: Vakona Forest Lodge
The bungalows at Feon’ Ny Ala are so close to the national park that you’ll likely be woken by the Indri-indri each morning
If departing from Tamatave or Antananarivo, plan on an early start and you should be able to reach Andasibe before noon. Check into your hotel (I recommend Feon’ Ny Ala for its proximity to the national park) and enjoy lunch on their open-air deck. Overhanging the national park, it’s the perfect spot to refuel while enjoying your first glimpse of the misty forest and the chorus of life within.
After lunch pop into the national park office to secure tickets and guides for the next two days. While there, take the time to visit their excellent information center where you can learn about Madagascar’s largest lemur and the unique fauna abiding in the forest that surrounds you. Continue on to Vakona Forest Lodge where it’s time to get up-close-and-personal with Madagascar’s much beloved furry friends!
Vakona is Andasibe’s premier lodge, but welcomes day visitors to its lemur island reserve. Tours cost 40 000 Ar and are a lot of fun. I recommend arriving later in the day when things are a little less busy and the guides are willing to take a more leisurely pace. Expect a relaxing paddle by kayak down narrow canals (the late afternoon light makes it absolutely stunning) and some very close encounters with the resident lemurs. Tickets also include a visit to Vakona’s crocodile farm which can easily be added-on after the island. You’ll not only get to meet some impressive crocs, bu also the fossa, Madagascar’s largest predator!
Having gotten your lemur fix wander back to Vakona’s beautiful lodge and splurge on dinner at their lake side restaurant. On cool nights a log-fire crackles making it a delightful spot to sip a cocktail or a homemade rum arrange. Alternatively head back to your hotel for a quick meal before joining one of the night walks at Mitsinjo park, where you’ll be able to sport dozing chameleons and perhaps a nocturnal lemurs or two.
Andasibe Itinerary Day 2: Mantadia National Park (optional)
Wake up early to the eerie cry of the Indri-Indri and start your day with a nice hot breakfast at your hotel. Make sure to order a packed lunch at the same time (most hotels can hook you up), then head to Mantadia National Park for a day of hiking and swimming within the rugged primary forest.
Mantadia is located about 20 km north of Andasibe. It’s a bit of a mission to get to and you’ll need your own vehicle. Expect a long, but interesting, 1.5 hour drive through isolated villages and national park to reach the trail head. The reward, when you finally get there, is a pristine park less disturbed by tourists. The views are more majestic, the wildlife encounters more intimate, and you can reward your efforts with a cooling dip in a jungle pool at the end of the day.
After a rewarding day in the national park make your way back to Andasibe. If you have the time, stop in Andasibe town itself for a chance to experience some real Malagasy life. People here are notoriously friendly and will greet you with smiles wherever you go. Wander through the colorful market, over the picturesque bridge and past the old train station. Then wander through the rice fields to the Andasibe Hotel for a sun-downer or meal before heading back to your hotel.
Buying a few local sweets and fresh baked mofo (delicious fried Malagasy bread) as we wander the streets of Andasibe
Andasibe Itinerary Day 3: Analamazoatra reserve
Today it’s time to meet Andasibe’s star attraction, the indri-indri! Madagascar’s largest lemur, the indri is one of the few lemur species that cannot survive in captivity. It’s extensively varied diet and loss of habitat mean that today its at risk, Analamazaotra reserve being one of the last places where visitors have a good chance of still spotting this magnificent creature in the wild.
You will undoubtedly hear the indri before you see it. From sunrise its call echoes throughout the forest. It’s both haunting and beautiful, described by some as resembling the song of a whale. Be sure to be up early as the reserve can get very busy. If you plan to be there when the gates open, you’ll have a good chance of spotting the indris (nearly everyone sees them) and even a few other species before the crowds descend.
Arrive early to avoid the crowds
As the emphasis here is on wildlife, not scenery, the two hour circuit should be ample. To maximize your experience, be sure to specify to your guide that you are interested in the walk itself (which is actually very pretty) as well as spotting lemurs. It’s not uncommon for guides to abandon their groups for lengthy periods in order to hunt out the indri on their own, and then announce the tour is over as soon as they’ve spotted the star attraction.
Following your early morning tour, you should have ample time to return to your hotel for a hot shower and breakfast before checking out. If you haven’t already, try to squeeze in a quick ramble through Andasibe town itself. It’s extremely picturesque and a great opportunity to experience local life before heading out.
If you’re planning staying longer, there are lots more things to do in Andasible. Why not check out one of the following?
Mitsinjo private reserve – Run by a local NGO that supports community tourism and reforestation it offers easy walks where wildlife can easily be spotted as well as night walks within its reserve.
Gasi Climb – Partake in zip-lining, tree climbing and hang-out in their giant hammock overlooking the forest canopy.
O.I.M.M.A Villagers Park – Another local initiative run by the community itself, this is a great way to give back and encourage forest protection. It’s also your best chance to spot chameleons active in the day time.
For even more tips on eating,drinking and getting around click here.