Lemurs, Golden Frogs & New Rainforest Reserve

At the heart of this journey is Mangabe - not the island off the Masoala Peninsula, but a new and precious forest reserve whose hills and deep valleys sing to the tune of Indri lemurs. It is also the most important vestige of the critically endangered Golden Mantella Frog, considered in 2005 to be extinct, but rediscovered on the banks of some simply stunning rivers within the reserve.

In 2014, Aqua-Firma partner charity, the Rainforest Trust, started an appeal to help their Madagascan-based NGO raise the funds needed to establish the 76,000 acre Mangabe Reserve. Aqua-Firma was keen to help and we dipped into our Rainforest4Climate Fund to help the Trust reach the fundraising target needed to gazette the area as a new reserve.

Madagascar Rainforest Drone view - Mangabe Forest Reserve - Dr Paul Salaman

Whilst Mangabe is a haven for endemic lemurs, birds, plants, chameleons and more, lines on a map and research data won't save Mangabe. Mangabe's forest parcels have neighbours who live a centuries old traditional rural lifestyle. Life is hard and whilst they are keen to protect the forests here, our partners have a vision to draw on the location's unique natural resources to provide a positive sustainable future for its communities. That's where this journey fits in.

The vision for Mangabe is a community owned and community run ecolodge. This pioneering journey will make use of early stage foundations to explore the best of what this area has to offer before the first official 'tourist' ever sets foot. Accommodation is a clean mobile safari camp we bring in, glamping with private tents, raised beds, duvets, comfy pillows and hot water safari showers; food and services hygienic. Our journey is a true adventure, trekking through forested hills and paddling by pirogue (dugout canoe) up remote rivers in search of wildlife; and a unique opportunity to make close contact with remote rural communities and their land. You will be touched by the lovely people that populate this area and the inspired team trying to help them.

This journey will also explore the architecture, culture and politics of Madagascar's capital Antananarivo; and get close to lemurs and other wildlife in the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (Perinet) and Mitsinjo Reserve close by.

Diademed Sifaka Lemur Madagascar rainforest

Trip leader will be Aqua-Firma Director, Ralph Pannell, who spent 5 years working in rainforest conservation for Rainforest Concern. He will be joined throughout by Board Members of our local conservation partners and local community guides who are expert at spotting even the smallest chameleon that most would miss.

This journey is not just a wildlife adventure - it is a mission to help poor communities, committed to conservation of the Mangabe forests, to make steps towards a sustainable and better life beside it. A 'paper park' won't save Mangabe - what it needs is for its beauty, its people, and its precious biodiversity to be a long-term resource shared with the outside world.

holiday in Madagascar  -  nature tours and travel  -  wildlife safari  -  photography journey  -  ecotravel  -  ecotour  -  responsible travel  -  Rainforest4Climate  -  Rainforest Trust  -  voakajy  -  hill walk trek hike


8 Day Itinerary (2019 & 2020)


Day 1: Arrive in Antananarivo

Arrive Antananarivo airport where you will be met and then transfer to your comfortable hotel. Trip leader, Ralph Pannell, will be available to help you settle in and meet others in the group.

Day 2: Exploring Antananarivo

Today we will take you to see something of Antananarivo with an easy going walk amongst some of the most historic and culturally interesting parts of the city. We will also provide some talks about Madagascan conservation and the fauna & flora associated with the areas you will be visiting and beyond.

Day 3: Heading to Moramanga

Today we will set out early overland east out of Antananarivo. The scenery will become steep and hilly at times with some lovely rural views. Eventually we will reach the town of Moramanga where we will take lunch and meet the energetic local project team.

From here we will drive off road making full use of our four-wheel drive capability to negotiate rough tracks and makeshift bridges. We can explain a lot to you on this journey about rural life in Madagascar and land management from French colonial times.

We will eventually reach a river, close to our reserve. A wooden bridge built for logging trucks in years gone by has collapsed here, so we will board a pirogue (dugout style canoe) and explore some stunning riverside forest for a while before crossing and making our way to our Expedition Tented Research Camp.

This is where we will be staying for 3 nights. Remember, you are a pioneer, exploring a massive area before a single tourist finds their way here. Conditions will be 'comfortable expedition' standard - a little bit better than camera and research teams might expect on assignment on the BBC's Lost Lands series. You will be within a tent beneath a fixed shelter, your bed will be raised off the ground with clean bedding, Out of Africa style toilet and washing facilities, sanitary Malagasy expedition catering and the Great Outdoors with river beside and stars above.

After dinner, we will go on a 2 - 2.5 hours forest night walk. We can usually see a lot at night, including Night Lemurs, Mouse Lemurs and numerous chameleons. The lemurs are easiest to see due to the reflections of their eyes. We can actually get quite close. Chameleons usually required the tuned eyes of our local guides. It's unlikely that you will find one without their help.

Day 4: Exploring Mangabe Reserve

Today we will make an early start heading along a river and up trails along a high ridge. The scenery is fantastic. We hope to find rare Golden Mantella Frogs close to the river and get close to Indri Lemurs on high ground. We are sure to hear several groups of lemurs and see birds that you will never see in the wild outside of Madagascar.

We will take the opportunity to visit one of the villages our project partners are helping in their quest to achieve a better and more sustainable life. They are lovely people and whilst language will be a barrier to most, you will experience a wonderful sense of goodwill. You will also have the opportunity to really feel what life is like for a rural Madagascan and learn how they are being assisted by experts in the project team.

Late in the afternoon we will resume our search for lemurs, birdlife and Golden Mantella Frogs.

Day 5: Exploring Mangabe Reserve

After breakfast we will either trek or head to a river put in point to explore Mangabe from the water.

Lunch in the field then trek back to camp.

Dinner and then night walk.

Day 6: Exploring Mangabe Reserve & Travel to Andasibe

Further trekking in search of Indri lemurs and Sifakas.

Late afternoon we will take the 4 Wheel Drives back to Moramanga and travel no to Andasibe and a lodge at the edge of forest there.

Day 7: Mantadia National Park & Andasibe Forests

After an early breakfast we will head into the 155 km2 Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in search of birdlife, wildlife and endemic insects such as the Giraffe-necked Weevil.

We will head to Andasibe for a good lunch and then head to a community owned forest reserve where Indri lemurs have become quite habituated to humans. After tracking lemurs and seeking chameleons, will then step out of the forest and drive back to Antananarivo for overnight.

Day 8: Antananarivo

Transfer to the airport for flight home, or stay to explore more of Madagascar such as heading to Nosy Be to join our Madagascar Whale Shark Research - Islands, Marine Life & Lemurs experience led by global whale shark expert & photographer, Dr Simon Pierce and Aqua-Firma Director, Ralph Pannell.


Enquire / Book 07 - 14 Oct 2021 - £ 1,890

Small Group Trip (8 Days)
Pioneering Conservation Adventure
Hosted by directors of Aqua-Firma & partner conservation NGO

Single supplement: £295

Price includes

- All meals
- All accommodation
- All guiding
- All transportation including airport transfers
- National park entry fees
- Contributions to communities and local charity partners

Not included

- International flights
- Drinks
- Items of a personal nature such as laundry & telephones
- Travel insurance

The Frog & Rainforest

Reforestation in Madagascar

Diademed Sifaka

  • Indri Lemur, Andasibe - Ralph Pannell
  • Golden Mantella Frog, Mangabe Reserve - Ralph Pannell
  • Indri Lemur, Andasibe - Ralph Pannell
  • Madagascar Leaf Tail Gecko disguising itself as a lichen-covered twig. Photography by Ralph Pannell AQUA-FIRMA
  • MadagascaN Golden Mantella Frog (Mantella aurantiaca) wildlife photography by Ralph Pannell AQUA-FIRMA
  • Rainbow over our mobile safari camp in Madagascar - photography by Kathleen Varcoe
  • Dugout Canoe, or Pirogue, in Madagascar - a great way to explore rivers

Trip Reviews: Madagascar

  • Village Chief with Researcher, Mangabe Forest - Ralph Pannell
  • Female Fossa, Mantadia National Park - Ralph Pannell
  • Giraffe Necked Weevil, Mantadia National Park - Ralph Pannell
  • Mantella baroni river frog in Madagascar AQUA-FIRMA wildlife photography Ralph Pannell
  • Village Kids, Mangabe Reserve - Ralph Pannell
  • Tree Lizard, Mangabe Reserve - Ralph Pannell
  • Mangabe lady basket weaving - rural Madagascar
  • Tree Nursery and Mobile Safari Camp photo by Kathleen Varcoe
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