Small group holidays to Madagascar

“Our top selling Madagascar tour criss-crosses the island, from surreal Tsingy pinnacles to lush, lumur-filled forests and laid back fishing villages, with comfy hotels each night.”


Antananarivo | Andasibe National Park | Night walks in the forest | Lemur sanctuary | Morondava | Avenue of the Baobabs | Kirindy Reserve | Walking in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park | Petit Tsingy | Antsirabe | Ranomafana National Park | Anja Park | Isalo National Park | Ifaty Beach | Optional: snorkelling, diving, village visits

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700


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11 May 2017
£ 2595
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22 Jun 2017
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27 Jul 2017
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07 Sep 2017
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12 Oct 2017
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18 May 2018
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21 Jun 2018
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02 Aug 2018
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06 Sep 2018
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11 Oct 2018
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Our top tip:
Electricity can be intermittent - bring wind-up torches and donate them to local communities at the end of your trip.
Trip type:
Small group, max. 12 people.
Activity level:
Comfortable hotels and lodges.
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available with surcharge.
Accomm., local flights, transfers, transport, English-speaking local guides, listed activities.
Breakfasts included. Allow 15-25 EUR/day for lunch and dinner.
Holiday type
Small group holidays
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, travelling 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 holiday, 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 travellers’ 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.

Make the most of your holiday 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?
Travellers 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 holiday.

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

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“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 travellers 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 travellers!”
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?”
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Small group holidays to Madagascar


This tour focuses largely on the wonderful national parks of Madagascar, which are home to many species found nowhere else on earth. By visiting these parks we contribute to crucial conservation and research projects designed to ensure the long term well being of the wildlife that lives here. We work with local guides in the parks who know the areas well – these are from the communities that surround the parks and this therefore ensures that these vital areas are seen not just as the preserve of wealthy western tourists but as a valuable source of employment and income for local people, thus further contributing to conservation and acting as a discouragement to unsustainable use of the parks’ resources. We issue guidelines to our travellers about the importance of leaving these parks as they were, and taking all litter out when we leave.

We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues, an important effort in a country where the environment is often taken for granted and green thinking is largely absent.


On this tour we visit Anja Reserve, a community run reserve with good and easily visible populations of ring tailed lemurs. The proceeds from the reserve are channelled back to the local community, thus providing them with a valuable source of local income as well as an incentive to preserve Madagascar’s precious wildlife.

We visit a number of areas that are considered sacred to local people on this tour. We use local guides from these regions, who are able to explain to us the cultures and customs and ensure that we do not unwittingly offend the local people, many of whom have very complex social beliefs. The Malagasy believe in fady – taboos – which can often seem bewildering to outsiders and may differ from village to village, and we believe that it detrimental to both visitors and hosts to transgress these.

Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.

We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures – usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come.

We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services.

We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Furthermore, in order to allow our clients to make an informed decision on where a greater proportion of their money should be spent, we avoid including pre-paid full board meals where possible. Local restaurants and cafes then benefit.

Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasise our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.

Reviews of Small group holidays to Madagascar

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 27 Jul 2015 by

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

Wonderful tho' it was to see wildlife in natural habitate, the standout thing for me was the wonderful people I met and catching a glimpse into their customs and cultures.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Buy local. I am so pleased that I brought back Malagassy bags, a carved boabab amoureux, a piece of semi-precious jasper, a zebu horn necklace, a wild silk scarf - not to mention selections of fruit - most from roadside stalls.

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

Our accommodation was good - and not owned by chains.

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

I had wanted to visit Madagascar since my retirement, two years ago – and it didn’t disappoint. I would certainly have no hesitation in recommending the holiday company, the island tour operator or guide Olivier to anyone intending to visit this enchanted island.

Reviewed on 06 Nov 2015 by

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

The 4x4 trip down the river.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

You don't need as much money as they say you do, unless you are buying gifts for the entire family or eating for England. But do make sure you cash your Euros at the airport as it is really difficult to get more. Plus the airport arrivals is a farce - expect a 2 hour wait to get through.

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

Not really, apart from the touristy gifts we bought. The hotels are owned by foreigners. Keep your empty water bottles to throw out the window for the local kids who earn money taking them for recycling. Plus, take all the hotel room soaps and shampoos as the women need them and ask for them at water stops.

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

I wouldn't go back on this tour. The distances we travelled in a rackety old bus that broke down twice could have been traversed much quicker in 4x4s Better to book a private tour in a 4x4 all the way. We spent more time on the road than we did seeing stuff. I'd have liked to spend more time with the people who live there but we were herded and protected all the way. The guide was brilliant though, as were all the local guides we met on the way.

Read the operator's response here:

Thanks for your comments about your tour experience in Madagascar.

Our country notes specify a guideline for the amount of money to take on the tour. This is always difficult to specify accurately as everybody will spend different amounts. We give a guideline for meals which is the one thing we can be certain of.

I am sorry you had a long wait to get through immigration. Again this is something really which is out of control. Antananarivo airport is quite small meaning that when one of the few larger planes arrives from Paris or Nairobi the queues can be long if the flight is busy.

I cannot agree that the holiday does not have benefits for local people. Whilst some of the properties may be managed by non Malagasy, it is virtually exclusively Malagasy people that work in the hotels. We do not use large resort style hotels. We use small hotels in towns and lodges in the parks that are in keeping with the natural environment. Your guides are Malagasy and so are the drivers. I strongly believe that tourism services absolutely benefits local people. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, where would these people work without tourism infrastructure. All of the people we work with locally in Madagascar live to a higher standard of living than the national average because they are working in the tourism industry.

I must also add that by sending clients to Madagascar you are directly contributing to the protection of flora and fauna within the country. Madagascar has been decimated by deforestation over a number of decades. The protection of the forests and the species that live therein is to a significant degree because of the demand from people associated with the tourist industry such as tour operators as well of course as well as the excellent work done by conservation bodies.

Your review is slightly misleading in that on this tour you actually do travel by 4WD for the parts of the tour where you travel on unsealed dirt roads which is down the more off the beaten track western side of the country from Morondava. Once you reach the central highlands and also to Andasibe you travel by bus as the roads are sealed. I will be investigating the issue with the bus and thank you for highlighting, but even in the best circumstances sometimes vehicles experience technical/mechanical problems.

Madagascar is a huge country and some long distances are inevitable. Also at this stage due to the problems with Air Madagascar it is not possible to rely wholly on internal flight schedules and most of our feedback suggests that people actually like to see the back country from a vehicle and not from an aeroplane. We do still use 2 internal flights, one at the beginning and one at the end to ensure that clients get to see a good amount of the country in the 17 day duration. We also ensure that regular comfort stops are offered on long journeys.

I am pleased you enjoyed the services of our guides who I agree are absolutely excellent and that you had some memorable aspects to your trip.

We thank you for your feedback.

Reviewed on 26 Nov 2013 by

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

George Bannister:
All of this holiday is memorable in fact it is without doubt the best holiday my wife and I have ever been on. This is not a luxury retreat however anyone researching the destination will be aware of this before booking. The Malagasy people made us feel so welcome despite the fact they were so poor and effectively abandoned by the corrupt Goverment.

They mostly live hand to mouth on a daily basis but do not beg or pester you for handouts. The Tsingy was the most memorable event on the tour but every day we saw something different and the trip was never boring. The tour guide provided was exceptional and this made the holiday what it was and without his input and enthusiasm we would not have enjoyed it so much.

My wife and I and our two friends were invited to one of the local tour guide's home for his daughter's birthday. We were the first white people to go to his home and we were greeted by his wonderful family and village residents. Despite his family being poor he put out a spread of drinks for us. This is what you can expect from the Malagasy people.

Peter & Jan Gosling:
The itinerary: the travel; the scenery; the plants; the animals; the sights; the sounds; the smells; the guides; the almost universally smiling, helpful people. EVERYTHING.

(We visited, Morondava, Avenue of the Baobabs, Tsingy de Bemeraha, Kirindy Reserve, Peyrieras Park, Andasibe National Park, Lake Andraikiba, Antsirabe, Ambositra, Ranomafana National Park, Ambalavao, Ihosy, Anja Park, Isalo National Park, Tulear, Madiorano, Tana)

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

George Bannister:
Be prepared for poverty, humble experiences, lack of electricity but don't let this put anyone off going to this wonderful country. The Tsingy was far more adventurous that we anticipated and those with a fear of heights and enclosed places should take the easier trip on this day.

Be prepared for long drives in 4 x4 vehicles which are punctuated by stop offs all designed to give you the full experience of Madagascar. Take simple items to give away, torches ( villagers live in total darkness when night falls ) candles, playing cards and small balls for the children.

It would be advisable to be prepared to buy items from local supermarkets to give away ( sachets of powder to mix with water are an absolute treat for children and adults alike ). Take a good torch as most hotels have limited electricity. And the wattage is poor. We finished off with 3 nights at La Mira for a bit of luxury at the end of the tour and this helped us recover before the journey home.

Peter & Jan Gosling:
My wife and I have previously taken some “off the beaten track” holidays e.g. Borneo jungle trekking, African Safaris etc. But Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on the planet, and probably the poorest one that my wife and I have ever visited. Nevertheless, the Malagasy people we met were polite and friendly and their smiling faces a joy to behold. Be prepared to have your heart-strings plucked – many times (see “3” below).

At several of the hotels, electricity *may* be available from 6pm – 10pm, but do expect interruptions or complete black-outs and take a torch or two. (Also consider donating the torches to deserving locals before your return, preferably plus spare batteries.)

Do not expect a great variety of meals, it is mostly – zebu (beef) or fish, with a vegetarian option of omelette. But (almost) always well cooked and well presented, though you may have to ask for it to be cooked all the way through.

Touring the Tsingy de Bemeraha may be hotter and take longer than you expect (Sept 2013).

It may be colder/wetter than you expect at Andasibe and Ranomafana (Sept 2013).

The hotels maybe a little less salubrious than you anticipate, but most of the staff will try to do everything they can to improve your stay. For example, one evening at the Domaine Nature Hotel, Ranomafana we were due to meet a couple for dinner at 7.30pm to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Despite the fact that there was no electricity anywhere in town from 6 pm that evening, the meal that we were served was excellent – and the subdued lighting provided by the candles added to the occasion – especially as the delicious, flickering, pudding was served – bananas, flambéed in local rum !

The itinerary is likely to be very busy and the travel lengthy and tiring. At the end, a few nights relaxation on a beach north of Ifaty is perfect bliss.

We regretted not taking more gifts – see “3” below.

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

George Bannister:
As above, we were able to help local people at grass roots level and we gave away a high proportion of our clothes as many have nothing but the rags they stand up in. Our help was gratefully received and we wished we could do more but there are limitations as to what you could do.

Peter & Jan Gosling:
It is difficult for “westerners” (“vazahas”!) to appreciate local conditions. On our first afternoon of air-conditioned, 4x4 travel, we drank and emptied several 1.5l plastic bottles of water and asked our guide how we should re-cycle them (- yes, we were that green). He smiled, and although we were in the middle of nowhere, asked the driver to stop. We pulled-over alongside a man, women and child who were walking along and wound the window down. After a brief conversation he handed them two of the empty plastic bottles. They beamed enormous smiles and said something in Malagasy. As we drove on we asked how they would use them and what they had said ? “I can’t begin to explain how many different uses they might have for those empty bottles,” he said, “but over the next few days you will see.” “Oh, and the family said “Thank-you. And welcome to Madagascar". POW – the first of many humbling experiences as we travelled through the emotional roller-coaster that is Madagascar.

It is also worth mentioning that in some countries we have visited begging is overt and any offer of a “useful” gift is met with an intimidating demand for more gifts or money. In our experience, begging was a rarity in Madagascar and our spontaneous gifts to locals we happened to meet at our many stops were received with a gratitude that was humbling. So much so, that despite some reservations about hand-outs, we regretted not having taken more gifts.

You might consider taking the following: balls of string / nylon cord; nightlights / candles (- but check for airline restrictions); playing cards; lipsticks / nail-varnish; coloured hairbands; bendy-straws; tennis balls; old pairs of spectacles; toy cars; pants, knickers, shorts, t-shirts; carrier bags; deflated plastic footballs (we bought some locally and 50% burst overnight!). Locally we bought sachets of fruit-flavoured powder to make drinks – we frequently emptied them into newly opened 1.5l water bottles and gifted them to unsuspecting families.

One afternoon we stopped to view the sabotaged, Fatihita bridge and a passing mother had a crying baby on her hip together with two older children. Our ever-resourceful guide (Ghislain) poured a little of the flavoured water into the lid and trickled it into the youngsters mouth. Cue instant crying remedy, beaming smiles and another bottle of gifted, flavoured water benefiting both a local family and the humbled tourists.

We gifted a significant proportion of our travel items to thoroughly deserving locals - and travelled home with much lighter suitcases, and therefore saved aviation fuel!

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

George Bannister:
The most fantastic holiday we have experienced and totally different from any location we have been to. The tour company was first class in every respect and this is the reason we enjoyed it so much. Nothing was a trouble to them and the fact we had a tour guide from landing to leaving the country made all the difference.

The company even kept in contact with our tour guide whilst we were in the country to see if everything was working out. Outstanding customer service and I cannot recommend them enough. I honestly believe nobody else could provide any better service.

Peter & Jan Gosling:
Absolutely FANTASTIC.

Reviewed on 15 Oct 2013 by

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

Travelling through the remoter parts of the country seeing how the people live in the rural areas

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for things to be unpredictable and not to expect standards in hotels and lodges to be as in the UK

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

Yes local people were seen to be employed in the tourist trade. Promoting eco-tourism is preserving some of the endangered forests as people see tourism bringing in money and employment

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

As I expected not 'comfortable' but an amazing experience

Reviewed on 20 Sep 2012 by

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

Seeing five out of six possible types of lemur in the first National Park we visited.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for anything! We had a ferry crossing that grounded us on a sandbank, put us on a tiny passenger boat and involved a long hot dusty walk through a rubbish dump before arriving at a restaurant serving Haut Cuisine at local prices.

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

Yes - in villages we visited, the headman was given money by the guide to benefit the whole villages.

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


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