Anthony’s field notes from Madagascar

A breathtaking adventure into the heart of lemur country

We’ve always believed that ‘being there’ – feet on the ground – is the best way for us to refine the trips we design for you, our travellers.

That’s why we sent Anthony – from our London team – on a research trip to the baobab and lemur-filled forests of Madagascar. After trekking through deep canyons dotted with natural pools and snorkelling alongside hawksbill turtles and leopard sharks, he’s returned with some tales.

Over to you, Anthony.

isalo national park in madagascar
Lemurs in Madagascar

Isalo National Park – ringtails and orange canyons

Isalo is breathtaking – a series of canyons and natural pools that blend into grasslands and dense forests. Famed for its sandstone formations – whose rugged rock walls are stained red and yellow from iron and mineral deposits – it’s custom to trek through this Jurassic-like terrain in search of ring-tailed lemurs. So, that’d what we did. Pausing, we took a dip in a natural swimming pool – a smear of blue-green tucked between sculpted rock and pandanus trees bearing heavy, pineapple-shaped fruit. It was incredibly idyllic (and very refreshing).

From here, we headed to Maki Canyon – the best place to spot the ringtails. This species (famous for their long, zebra-like striped tails) is only found in the south of Madagascar and, unlike most other lemurs, they spend approximately 40% of their time on the ground. We caught a blur of black and white. We’d found them. There, below us, slender cat-sized creatures made their way along the canyon floor, scurrying and foraging for food.

forest in madagascar
indri in madagascar

Analamazaotra Reserve – into the land of Indri

Our search for wildlife continued in Analamazaotra Reserve, a national park situated in the eastern part of Madagascar’s central highlands. Here, we’d hike trails that wound their way through forested hills, the air filled with the calls of the rare Indri; echoing through the mist.

We arrived early. Passing the neighbouring Analamazaotra Forest Station – a local reforestation effort – we began to seek out Madagascar’s largest (and rarest) lemur. As I walked past orchids and short palm trees called Ravenea Louvelii (a species found nowhere else on the island), I learned about the legend behind these elusive creatures. Named ‘Babakoto’, meaning ancestor of man, an indri once saved the life of a local boy who had climbed a tree in search of honey. The reason for this act of kindness? The indri are the spirits of ancestors sent to protect us. Or so the story goes.

A somewhat eery wail pierced the air. It’s distant, faint. We headed closer, towards the sound. Encircled by forest, we were immersed in a chorus of calls and cries, each one louder and longer than the last. I was reminded of the sounds whales make to communicate underwater – echoing whistles and cooing-like noises that can travel over 10,000 miles in the ocean. It’s lyrical, and strangely calming.

I was distracted from my thoughts when a family of indri begin to descend, nibbling on the fruit of weeping fig trees and eating clumps of soil (it helps detoxify food ingested). They swung somewhat precariously between branches and played together on the forest floor as we watch, fascinated. One lifted its head and stares at us with unblinking, yellow-green eyes.

boat in nosy be madagascar
turtle caribbean

Nosy Be – island bliss and a dash of rum

Off the northwest coast of Madagascar lies an island flooded with the fresh, exotic scent of ylang ylang. This is Nosy Be. Snorkelling at just one its many beaches – vast expanses of white sand bathed in shallow clear waters that extend for miles out to sea – I explored the coral reefs and mangrove forests that stretch along the coastline. I floated beside endangered hawksbill turtles, passing aptly-named leopard sharks while trying to spot the cleverly camouflaged reef stonefish (which look more like rocks covered with algae than they do fish).

Now, for lunch. Fresh, sweet mangrove crab, rice, and laoka (an accompaniment made from coconut milk, ginger, and garlic). We washed it down with a glass of rhum arrange (white rum infused with ginger, fruit, and spices). Delicious. As we ate our beachside feast, I looked inland – to the mango and banana trees that line the banks – before turning my gaze out to sea once more. Sat on just one of the many beaches of ‘Big Island’, we were alone. Bar a handful of wooden dhows. It was beautiful.

tsarabanjina hotel in madagascar
vakona-forest-lodge in madagascar

Our hotels in Madagascar

On this, the fourth largest island in the world, we rested up at some of the best luxury hotels in Madagascar – each one perfectly blended with the landscape in which it is situated. An essential part of our research, this is all about checking in with the staff from the hotels we love.

This included the beautiful Tsara Komba and the enchanting Miavana Time + Tide. The former, a series of luxury eco-lodges built into the hillside overlooking the ocean, embraces nature and sustainability with vegetable gardens and a Baobab & Pachypodium Nursery where young shrubs are nurtured and grown. Similarly, Miavana Time + Tide also has sustainability at the heart of its operations with 14 villas made from natural and recycled materials dotted along the beach. Only accessible by helicopter, to reach this remote private island you’ll soar over mountains, bulbous baobabs, and sprawling coral reefs.

isalo natural pool in madagascar

Final thoughts

My journey across this isolated island was thrilling and fascinating – full of those hushed, up-close wildlife encounters that really make a trip to Madagascar sing. I spent much of my time relaxing on the beaches of Madagascar and seeking out the wildlife that call this island home – from ring-tailed lemurs and Indri indri to hawksbill turtles and leopard sharks. And you can too. Just say the word and our luxury Travel Experts will make it happen.


Madagascar is a place of spectacular natural beauty and incredible biodiversity, and our Travel Experts can’t wait to show you around, from Nosy Be to Isalo National Park.

Take me to Madagascar