The Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Madagascar’

New Friendly Planet Travel destination #2: Magical Madagascar

It wasn’t magic that made our newest tour to Madagascar happen — it was you! In a survey from 2009, we asked folks who visited the Friendly Planet Travel website: “Where on Earth do you want to go next?” A whopping 6,780 people voted on 12 proposed exotic locations.

The locale that came out on top was Madagascar, with 941 votes. And after doing some additional research, it hit me why Madagascar won.

There are very few tour operators who offer guided tours of Madagascar. And the ones that do offer them at an exorbitant price. That is, until today.

After two years of planning, we’re unveiling Friendly Planet Travel’s Magical Madagascar tour. You spend 12 days touring the world’s fourth largest island, visiting Antananarivo, Toliara, Fianarantsoa, and Ambohitra. Plus, there’s an optional extension to Nosy Be Island.

Sitting off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar’s baobab forests, virgin coastlines, misty highlands, coral islands, and its famous lemurs offer incredible sightseeing opportunities for travelers who love exploring exotic, unspoiled destinations.

You start your 12-day journey in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. After spending a night at the Relais des Plateaux Hotel you depart for Ifaty, a fishermen’s village located near Toliara. Spend the afternoon exploring the Reniala spiny forest. This unique ecosystem is home to more than 2000 types of plants and 65 bird species.

The following day you continue to Ranohira, northeast of Toliara. Soak in the wonders of this landscape typical to the southern part of this island, which in this area are mostly savanna and bush. Pass by several sapphire mining villages, and along the way, you notice the painted tombs of the island’s southern tribe.

Next you tour Isalo National Park for the day. This park is known for its wide variety of terrain, including massive sandstone formations, deep canyons, palm-lined oases, and grasslands. Walk to the “Piscine Naturelle,” a natural oasis consisting of a stone cave overlooking a beautiful waterfall and crystal-clear pool. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for ring-tailed lemurs, brown lemurs, and sifaka lemurs.

Afterwards, embark on a city tour of the capital of the Haute Matsiatra region, Fianarantsoa, and the cultural and intellectual center for the entire island. Home to the Betsileo tribe, some of the oldest Protestant cathedrals in Madagascar are found here.

On the heels of that tour is a city tour of Antsirabe, which is well known for its rickshaws, gemstones, and hot spring waters. Then jump on a flight to Ambohitra. Enjoy a walk through the Amber Mountain National Park, which features tropical forest, waterfalls, and volcanic lakes.

Spend your remaining day enjoying Madagascar at your own leisure, that is, unless you opt for the three-day Nosy Be Island extension. There your tour continues by boat to the marine reserve of Nosy Tanikely. Enjoy a picnic lunch and some beach time for swimming. Optional snorkeling and diving excursions are available on your own at an additional cost, and much more.

This is only a taste of the full Magical Madagascar itinerary. For the complete itinerary, visit our website. Madagascar is place a travelers told us they wanted to go and now we’re making it possible for you.

We created this tour for very small groups, so space and departure dates are limited. Our 2011 departure dates include: Sept. 14, Oct. 19, Nov. 16, and Dec. 7.

The 12-day tour of Madagascar starts at $5,699. Included in the price are roundtrip flights from New York via South African Airways (flights from other cities available on request for a little more); ground transportation and all transfers; accommodations in tourist and superior class hotels; 10 breakfasts, eight lunches, and nine dinners; professional English-speaking tour guides; comprehensive touring program including entrance fees; an optional 4-day extension to gorgeous Nosy Be Island; and more.

To kick off this new tour, we’re giving you $100 off the cost of the 12-day Magical Madagascar tour if you book before May 3. Use the coupon code 041911-100 when booking online or mention the code to your phone agent. Book the Magical Madagascar today online or call us at 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team before space runs out!

What’s to come at Friendly Planet Travel in 2011

One of my favorite times of the year is the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It’s the perfect time to take a few days off to relax from the hustle and bustle of work and spend quality time with family and friends. It’s also a fitting time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in the past year, and what we’re hoping to achieve in the next year.

2011 will be a momentous year for Friendly Planet Travel. It marks our 30th year in business! Back in 1981, I never thought about where I would end up in 30 years. Now, three decades later, I’m still here. I feel so lucky to have what to me feels like the best job in the world.

Throughout the year I’ll be sharing stories of why I started Friendly Planet Travel, and about our first group tour, which included my first group tour to Israel for the first gathering of Holocaust survivors in Israel. I’ll also be interviewing the travelers who have been booking tours with Friendly Planet Travel since the beginning, and much more.

In addition to celebrating our 30th anniversary throughout the year, we’ll be introducing new products and new ways of giving back to many of the countries that welcome our tours. Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect from Friendly Planet Travel in 2011.

New destinations. We surveyed Friendly Planet Travelers to discover the location they want to travel to most. The winner was Madagascar. And 2011 will be the year you can visit this fascinating destination with Friendly Planet Travel. We’re also introducing tours to Spain and Portugal, Burma (Myanmar), and Botswana.

New tours. As part of our 30th anniversary celebration, I will be leading a select group of tours to the new destinations being introduced in 2011. I’ll get to put my first-hand experience and research of these new locales to use when I extend invitations to these four tours later this year.

New booking engine. We will be unveiling a new air-hotel-car booking engine for travelers who want to create their own vacations without worrying about set departures or prepared itineraries. This consumer- and service-oriented portal is for savvy travelers who know what they want in services, including great pricing, but don’t want to give up service to get it.

New cruises. We will also be adding a robust, new series of cruise selections, featuring such highly regarded cruise brands as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and Asamara. All will be available for individuals who want to travel independently, as well as set departure programs that include lots of additional services.

New nonprofit foundation. When I created Friendly Planet Travel, outreach and support for humanitarian causes was always part of my mission. We contribute directly to projects in many of the countries we visit, as well as right here in America. As part of our 30th anniversary celebration, I’m fulfilling my original mission with the creation of the Friendly Planet Travel Foundation. All the outreach and support that we conduct will move to our foundation, and we’ll be offering you plenty of new opportunities to get involved in helping as you vacation.

Continuous improvements to our digital ecosystem. You might have noticed some changes to the Friendly Planet Travel website in 2010. It’ll continue to evolve as we include more enhancements to the website and booking engine.

There’s plenty more to come in the new year, but I hope that in the meantime, these tidbits of news will tickle your curiosity and bring you back to the blog for more details. Come back and visit the blog soon to see what else we have in the works in 2011.

What’s to come at Friendly Planet in 2010

I always enjoy this time of the year. It’s relaxing to get a few days off from work and spend the holidays with friends and family. As the year comes to a close, you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished, and think about what you want to achieve in the next year. 
I know what I’m looking forward to in 2010. We’re going to be introducing several new and exciting tours and community projects at Friendly Planet Travel. I want to share with you all a sneak peek of what’s going to happen.  
New Web site. One significant change will be our upgraded Web site. By the end of January, expect to see a faster, more responsive site. It’ll be filled with new tools for individual travelers, as well as a new search engine that will make it even easier to search for deeply discounted air and hotel packages to many foreign destinations including London, Rome, Paris, even the Caribbean. 
New booking engine. Along with a new Web site comes a new booking engine. It will let travelers book reservations completely online. It will be even more convenient for travelers to make deposits and final payments online, safely and securely with their own username and password. Travelers can also view their tour information, reservations, documents, invoices, destination guides, and other important details anytime. 
New travelers’ community. Another important feature of the new Web site is the new community, where we will host forums for our visitors, have places to post pictures and travel blogs, and provide various ways to interact with us. The forums will be important in getting feedback from our travelers, and allow people who are traveling solo to find roommates easily through our site.
New micro-lending project in India. As you’ve heard me talk about before, we’re working on projects with Kiva and the Trailblazer Foundation, and now we’re looking into launching a new micro-lending project in India. It will fund the purchase of rickshaws for drivers who are presently forced to rent them by the day, giving up a good part of their daily earnings, rather than keeping them to support their families.
Since these drivers have no access to credit to fund the loans for the rickshaw purchase, they are forced into this rental situation. If we’re able to create a fund that allows the drivers to pay back the loan to us, and end up with the rickshaw in the end, the drivers will soon be able to keep the day’s wages for themselves. 
New ways to give back to needy students. We’re also organizing a collection of school supplies for every Friendly Planet travel destination where they are needed, but not available. This is the case in most of Africa, Asia, and certainly in India. Notebooks and pencils that are given to children directly are usually confiscated by needy families who then turn around and sell it for food. 
Our project will distribute the supplies to trusted teachers, who will store and distribute them as needed to students. The school supplies project is being organized by local guides in each place where the supplies are needed, and will be implemented early in the new year.

Thumbnail image for New Picture (3).jpgNew destinations. Finally, we’ll be adding new destinations to the Friendly Planet globe. Tours are being planned to Madagascar, Burma (Myanmar), Bali, and Indonesia, plus a number of river cruises in Europe and Asia. In addition, several new ocean cruises will be available starting in the spring of 2010, via Louis Cruises and Costa Cruises, two familiar Friendly Planet favorites. 

These are just a few of the new things arriving in 2010. There is plenty more in the works for throughout the year, but this gives you a taste of what’s to come!

Madagascar, here we come!

Where on Earth do you want to go next? That was the question we asked you earlier this year when we gave you the chance to vote for the next Friendly Planet Travel vacation on our Web site.
When the poll closed this month, a whopping 6,780 people had voted on 12 proposed exotic locations. WOW!
And the winner is …
Magnificent Madagascar, with 941 votes.
Antarctica came in a close second, trailing by 31 votes at 910. In third place was the Ireland and Scotland tour, with 836 votes.
Madagascar is a naturalist’s paradise, home to more than 150,000 plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. The Malagasy population is a diverse blend of African, Asian, Arabian, French, Indian, and Creole cultures, to name a few. This sets the country apart as a unique shopping, dining, and festival destination.
Of course, our Madagascar vacation will feature all the comfort and affordability you’ve have come to expect from Friendly Planet Travel, including roundtrip airfare, transfers, superior and deluxe accommodations, some meals, expertly guided tours, and more.
We’re already hard at work planning all the details of the Madagascar tour, and we’ll keep you posted as more details unfold. But you can expect to see Madagascar on the list of the affordable Friendly Planet Travel packages by early next year.