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The southern African countries ofZambia and Malawi lie adjacent toone another, yet they could hardly bemore different. Malawi is a country of greatscenic splendour, with its mountains,marshes and lakes - in particular LakeMalawi, the third largest lake in Africa.Zambia, by contrast, is a flat countrywhere extensive floodplains and bushsupport large concentrations of classicAfrican 'big game'. Both, however, are wellknown for their walking opportunities,whether in the hills and mountains ofMalawi or in the bush of Zambia where'walking safaris' were originally pioneeredby the late Norman Carr. Both, too, arehome to some of the friendliest people inAfrica; Malawi, in particular, is known as'the warm heart of Africa'. With suchvariety spanning two countries, it makessense to combine the two to offer, what weconsider to be, the very best of Africa.Indeed, all the more so because Malawi'scapital, Lilongwe, is so much closer toZambia's top game reserve (SouthLuangwa National Park) than Zambia'sown capital, Lusaka. We begin this safari in Malawi's beautifulLiwonde National Park that straddles thepalm-lined Shire River. This river, the onlyoutlet of Lake Malawi, was a major routeinto the interior of Africa for the earlyexplorers, missionaries and traders. Entering the park by boat, it is as thoughnothing has changed since these earlydays. Numerous Hippos wallow at everybend in the river, Elephants and Waterbuckgraze the riverine grasslands and hugecolonies of White-breasted Cormorantsnest in the trees along the banks. Ourthree nights in Liwonde will be spent atMvuu Wilderness Camp, a beautiful tentedcamp set on the banks of the river, andduring our time at Mvuu we will explorethe park on foot, by landrover and byboat. Here we hope to find two of Africa'smost beautiful antelopes, the Sable andGreater Kudu, plus a wealth of birdlifeincluding Giant and Malachite Kingfishers,Palmnut Vulture, Pel's Fishing Owl, Brown-breasted Barbet and the rare and localisedBöhm's Bee-eater. It is also possible toventure out on night drives in search ofsome of Africa's nocturnal inhabitants -perhaps a Hyena, Rusty-spotted Genet,African Civet or Lesser Bushbaby.Next we will drive on to Zomba Mountain,stopping first in Zomba's colourful marketplace before winding our way up to theZomba Plateau at 1,800 metres. Here wewill spend two nights based at ZombaForest Lodge, an excellent spot fromwhich to explore both the plateau and itsbirds. Following mountain streams and themany trails in this attractive region, we willenjoy such species as Green Lourie, Long-tailed Wagtail, White-tailed CrestedFlycatcher and Saw-wing Swallow.The white sandy beaches of Lake Malawi,and its idyllic offshore islands where wewill be staying for two nights, provide anopportunity for rest and relaxation. We canalso enjoy the wildlife here, either bykayaking quietly around the islands, or byexploring on their network of trails.Beneath the surface of the lake's warmand clear blue waters exists another world,which you may choose to explore bydonning a mask and snorkel. Indeed thisnational park was first set asidespecifically to protect its brightly colouredfreshwater fish species (many of which areendemic to the lake) of which morespecies occur than in any other lake in the world. From Lake Malawi we will take a flight to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia's finest game park.Bounded by the Mchinga Escarpment tothe west and the Luangwa River to theeast, the park supports over 60 species ofmammal and almost 500 species of bird,plus a concentration of wildlifeunsurpassed in southern Africa. Thesweeping turns of the beautiful LuangwaRiver, full of Hippos and Nile Crocodiles,and its complex, ever-changing pans andox-bow lagoons, provide the backdrop forLion, Elephant, Greater Kudu, Eland, Pukuand a multitude of other animals. The parkis most famous for its large population ofLeopards, which we will hope to see onnight drives, and a wealth of waterbirdsand other riverside bird species whichinclude colonies of the exquisite CarmineBee-eater. During the dry season, when wevisit, the concentration of game amassedalong the Luangwa River and itsassociated lagoons is as great as any inAfrica, indeed the world. To enjoy it, we willfirst be based at a luxury lodge, Kapani,situated beside a lagoon at the edge ofthe park. We will then move to a remoteand exquisite bush camp in the heart ofthe park for our ultimate wildlife experienceof the tour: a most fitting place in which toconclude this lavish safari - ourmanaging director's favourite!Zambia & Malawi - The Best of AfricaAn irresistible 14-day itinerary combining the wetland wildlife of Malawi's beautiful Liwonde NationalPark, the mountain habitats on the Zomba Plateau, the idyllic islands and enticing waters (teemingwith tropical fish) of Lake Malawi, and magnificent game in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park. Sunday 7th October - Saturday 20th October 2012 Cost: £4,495Sunday 6th October - Saturday 19th October 2013 Cost: £4,595Extensions in Zambia/southern Africa available on request.Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationZAMBIATANZANIAMOZAMBIQUEZIMBABWESOUTH LUANGWANATIONAL PARKMFUWELUSAKALIWONDENATIONALPARKLENGWENATIONAL PARKLILONGWELAKEMALAWIMALAWIZOMBAPLATEAUOutline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2/4Liwonde National Park.Day 5/6Zomba Plateau.Day 7/8Lake Malawi.Day 9/10Fly Mfuwe; transferKapani Lodge, SouthLuangwa National Park.Day 11/12Luxury 'bush camp',South Luangwa NationalPark.Day 13South Luangwa, thenfly/overnight Lusaka.Day 14Fly London.AccommodationA mixture of comfortable hotels andpermanent tented camps in Malawiand luxury bush camps and lodge inSouth Luangwa, Zambia; all withprivate facilities, except at LakeMalawi where they are shared.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA/B. This is a traditional safari-styleholiday that includes wildlife-viewingby vehicle (on regular morning,evening and night-time safari drives)and by boat. It also includes somewalking safaris from our bush campsin South Luangwa and on ZombaPlateau. FocusBirds and mammals. LeadersLocal naturalist guides.Single room supplementAvailable on request (thoughgenerally unavailable on the twonights in South Luangwa's bushcamps).ExtensionsAvailable on request to other areasof Zambia and southern Africa.Web quick search: ZMB04179Luangwa RiverLake MalawiSouthern Giraffes

The island of Madagascar straddlesthe tropic of Capricorn approximately400 kilometres off the east coast ofAfrica, across the Mozambique Channel. Aformer French colony until the 1960s, it isthe fourth largest island in the world andtwo and a half times the size of GreatBritain. The island is thought to haveseparated from the 'Dark Continent' about160 million years ago when the prehistoricsuper-continent, Gondwanaland, began tosplit apart. Today, Madagascar is home toan outstanding range of habitats, from thelush rainforests of the east coast to the drycentral uplands and low-lying SpinyForests of the south-west, and a trulyunique natural history which we willdiscover and enjoy on this holiday. Ourprimary focus, though, will be on theisland's flora; this includes over 12,000species of plant, of which 9,600 areendemic! For example, six of the world'seight species of baobabs ('Upside DownTrees') are endemic to Madagascar, four ofwhich we stand a good chance of finding.There are 40 species of endemic aloesand over 1,000 species of orchid, 85% ofwhich are endemic. Mention must also bemade of the bizarre thorn-coveredDidiereaceae, perhaps the most intriguingplants of all and a totally endemic familythat occurs nowhere else on Earth!This unusual and pioneering holidaybegins with a flight to Antananarivo, theMalagasy capital, known locally as 'Tana'.Here we spend our first night before flyingon to Toliara (Tuléar) on the south-westerncoast of the island. A short drive will bringus to the coastal community of Ifaty for a2-night stay. Our main target here will bethe Spiny Forest, a fascinating and bizarreecosystem dominated by a unique familyof trees, the endemic Didiereaceae.Through the tangle of thorns and brancheswe should be able to pick out the shape ofthe curious multi-branched Octopus Tree(Didierea madagascariensis) whose trunkscurve to grow into the prevailing southerlywind, and the tall thorny trunk of theSongo-be (Alluaudia ascendens) whichcan reach 15 metres in height. Known locally as 'Ala Maiky', the Spiny Forestenjoys a maximum of only 610 millimetresof rain a year, but supports anextraordinary range of plants and otherwildlife, including such birds as thebeautiful Long-tailed Ground Roller andSub-desert Mesite. We next head north-east to Isalo NationalPark, located on Madagascar's high anddry central plateau, breaking the journeywith a visit to the dry western forests of theZombitse Reserve. Isalo National Park isrenowned for its bizarre sandstonelandscape of canyons, rocky pillars andother extraordinary wind-sculpted shapes.These outcrops are of particular spiritualsignificance to the local Bara tribe and thecaves and rock walls house numerousburial sites and tombs. This park is hometo the endemic Tapia trees (Uapaca bojeri),and the bizarre rock-clinging Pachypodiumrosulatum, also known as the Elephant'sFoot. In addition, we hope to find yetanother endemic, the Isalo Aloe (Aloeisaloensis), along with Feather Palm(Chrysalidocarpus isaloensis), DwarfBaobab (Adansonia rubrostipa) and birdssuch as Reunion Harrier and Benson'sRock Thrush.Retracing our steps back to Toliara, wenext fly to Fort Dauphin on the south-eastern coast of the island. From here wetransfer to the privately owned BerentyReserve for a 2-night stay. Established bythe D'Heaulme family, this 260-hectarereserve protects a mix of Spiny Forest andimpressive Tamarind Gallery Forest. Thebotany is certainly fascinating, but here wecan also enjoy another endemic Malagasyfamily, the endearing lemurs. Berenty isworld famous for its confiding troops ofRing-tailed Lemurs and Verreaux's Sifakas;indeed the Ring-tailed Lemurs in particularare sure to be our daytime companions aswe explore the network of trails thatprovide access through the reserve. Night-time forays may also yield one or twonocturnal species such as Grey MouseLemur and White-footed Sportive Lemur.On the return journey to Fort Dauphin wewill stop to see the Three-cornered Palm,insectivorous pitcher plants and a varietyof plants to be found in the lowlandrainforest and transitional forest to thewest of the town. For our final two nights we catch a returnflight to Tana and then transfer east to therainforests of Andasibe. The lush forestshere are extremely rich in endemic orchidand palm species, but are also home tothe beautiful Indri, the largest and mostvocal of the lemurs. Before embarking onour botanical walks we will visit the forestsearly one morning to hear the Indri sing, a mesmerising and haunting sound that is sure to remain with us long after wehave returned to Tana for our overnightflight home. Madagascar's Endemic FloraA pioneering 14-day botany holiday to Madagascar in search of the island's endemic flora and other unique wildlife.Sunday 22nd September - Saturday 5th October Cost: £4,595Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Tana.Day 2/3Ifaty.Day 4/5Isalo National Park.Day 6Toliara (Tuléar).Day 7/8Berenty.Day 9/10Fort Dauphin.Day 11/12Andasibe (Périnet).Day 13Depart Tana at midnight.Day 14Arrive London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotels andeco-lodges. All rooms have privatefacilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A/B. Easy to moderate daywalks only.FocusPlants (primarily), though lemurs,birds and other wildlife will also beenjoyed.LeaderPaul Harmes, plus local guide.Single room supplement£595.Web quick search: MDG02180Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryANTANANARIVOANDASIBE(PÉRINET RESERVE)RANOMAFANANATIONAL PARKTAOLAGNARO (FORT DAUPHIN)BERENTYNOSY VEISLANDTOLIARAIFATYISALONATIONALPARKINDIAN OCEANMADAGASCARIndriRainforest OrchidsBottle Baobab, Ifaty Forest