Known for its rugged terrain and undiscovered species of flora and fauna, the African island is enjoying new-found popularity among more adventurous travellers for its lush jungle and breath-taking national parks. Friday tasked travel agent Ifedayo Andrew-Ogunbayo, managing director of Fidol Tours, and DIY traveller Khaled Al Zaabi with finding the best two-week deal on a budget of Dh10,000.
The travel agent
Total price: Dh8,998
Includes: Hotels in every town, in standard single rooms plus tours, private transport (inclusive of fuel and insurance) and return international flights from Dubai International Airport via Kenya with Kenya Airways.
Pro tips: Avoid flights operated by Air Madagascar as they are expensive and unreliable.
The trip: Arriving into Antananarivo (Tana) Airport, this itinerary is a 12-day circuit of the island which takes in Ambatolampy, ‘the city built on the flat rock’; former Arab settlement Ambositra; and the Grand Canyon-like Isalo National Park and surrounding area, including the famous Three Hillocks and the huge dome-like Archbishop’s Cape. The trip also covers Ilakaka, where sapphire was discovered 15 years ago; Tuléar and Ifaty; Plateaux de Horombe and the Massif of Andringitra; The Gate of The South; Antsirabe, the ‘place of salt’; and Andasibe National Park via Peyreras Reptiles Park.
With a focus on the great outdoors and Madagascar’s unrivalled wildlife, this trip also includes hikes at Anja, the sandstone mountain that is home to Isalo National Park; and the tropical rainforest of Ranomafana National Park, home to more than 12 species of lemur.
The DIY traveller
Total Price: Dh9,244
Includes: Flights from Dubai International Airport booked through Go to Gate, in collaboration with Hotels.com. Journey via Kenya with short layovers for $833, including all taxes.
Accommodation: Arranged via Booking.com for eight nights at Iarimbato Hotel, just outside Tana, after arrival at Antananarivo Airport. Prices based on average rate for a double room totalling $184 . Week two tour of the island includes camping.
The trip: The accommodation booking leaves a week to relax, take in Madagascar’s capital and explore the surrounding area through day trips. For week two, Khaled has chosen to book on a seven-night trek with English speaking guides, taking in Zafimaniry and Tanala and averaging six hours walking time per day. Booked through madagascaradventures.com, the trip costs from $1,000 to $1,500 per person depending on the time of year and size of the group. The trip covers six hiking routes, popular for their vantage points and access to wildlife, while pitching camp each night to sleep under the stars. Each hike takes in multiple villages and attractions and the tour operator has received dozens of positive reviews on multiple review sites. Some of the highlights from this itinerary include: the vantage point and waterfall at Faliarivo; Maromanana Tanala country, a river-side village known for its abundant harvests; the bamboo forest of Sandratsy; Tsaratanana, which means ‘beautiful village’; and Ranomafana National Park.