Wander around 800-year-old trees along the Avenue of the Baobabs.. Cross the Big Tsingy via suspended bridge.. Float down the meandering Manambolo River on a morning canoe trip.. Stay in a cottage deep within the Ranomafana National Park, surrounded by lush rainforest and countless species of flora and fauna.
Take an in-depth journey into Madagascar and learn what makes this island nation so incredible. Madagascar’s wildlife has developed in isolation for millions of years, and the vast majority is endemic to the island as a result. There are 33 species of lemur and you’ll have an opportunity to meet them as you travel the country visiting remote national parks, pristine beaches, winding rivers and towns and cities with a culture all their own.
Breakfast Included: 21 Lunches Included: 5 Dinner Included: 4
Tonga soa! Bienvenue! Welcome to Antananarivo, Madagascar's crowded but charming capital. Your adventure officially begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you decide to arrive early, take some time to get acquainted with the city. With cobbled streets, wooden houses and impressive churches, ‘Tana’ has a distinctly romantic air. Perhaps wander the streets of Haute-Ville or visit the permanent Analakely street market. After your welcome meeting this evening, you might like to head out with your new friends for dinner in one of Antananarivo high-quality restaurants.
Be prepared for a long drive as you begin the journey west this morning. Maybe kick back with a book or get to know your fellow travellers during the 7-hour drive to Miandrivazo, a small city that will act as the starting point for your adventure down the Tsiribihina River. On arrival, check in to the hotel and listen to a briefing on essential information for your two-day cruise. Head out to pick any extra supplies you may need or desire for the next few days, then get some rest in preparation for tomorrow.
Tsirbihina River Excursion
Rise and shine for the 35-kilometre drive to Masiakampy, where you will find a traditional barge waiting to escort you along the Tsiribihina River. These flat bottom boats were once used to transport tobacco, but without that precious cargo they make a comfortable way to cruise along the water and access the remote reaches of western Madagascar. For the next few days, you’ll have the chance to spot wildlife on the banks and in the water, enjoy easy walks to hidden waterfalls and stop off in rural villages. Climb aboard and meet the crew, then settle in and enjoy some lunch as you travel through flat farming plains and enter the dramatic gorges of the Tsiribihina, stopping in the afternoon to trek to a waterfall before returning to a large sandbank to set up camp.
Tsiribihina River Excursion
Enjoy a full day gliding along the water today, travelling into the heart of the river and waving to the locals on the banks and barges as you pass. In the absence of roads, nature flourishes along the river in this part of Madagascar – watch out for herds of zebus crossing the river, and flashes of colour as you look for bee-eaters, herons, and egrets in this bird lovers’ paradise. Stop occasionally for a village walk or a short trek for some lemur spotting before setting up camp at a village along the shore. This evening, light a campfire and enjoy some traditional Malagasy music and dancing with the locals.
Enjoy one last morning along the Tsiribihina river before disembarking the boat and bidding farewell to the crew. Make a quick stop at Belo-sur-Tsiribihina, a small village nestled in the marshes and mangroves of the Delta, to check out the market and grab some lunch before beginning the 2.5-hour drive to Bekopaka. Arrive, check in to your hotel and settle in for the afternoon. Perhaps enjoy a swim or a refreshing shower and rest your weary limbs. Tomorrow you’ll be taking on the Small Tsingy.
Bekopaka / The Small Tsingy
Rise early, pick a comfortable outfit and pack some snacks, as today you’ll spend up to five hours trekking through the Small Tsingy, located in Bemaraha National Park. Scramble and navigate through a labyrinth of limestone formations that resemble a forest made of rock. Stop at two lookout points along the way for photo opportunities and a chance to take in the impressive surrounds. In the afternoon, unwind with a float down the Manambolo River on a pirogue (wooden dugout canoe) under the shadow of these towering rock cliffs. Enjoy an easy afternoon cave stroll, taking the sight of stalactites, stalagmites and the eerie tombs of the Vazimba – said to be the earliest inhabitants of Madagascar.
Bekopaka / The Great Tsingy
Embrace another early start this morning and prepare for another action-packed trip to the Great Tsingy. Getting up early again might be a struggle, but it’s the best way to beat the heat and more intense crowds. Largely unexplored until the 1990s (the name Tsingy is very roughly translated as ‘place where one cannot walk barefoot’ in Malagasy), the area is now easier to navigate due to a series of bridges, semi-permanent climbing plugs and other equipment. Feel your heart stop as you pass over a sheer drop via a suspended bridge, a truly breathtaking experience that those with vertigo may wish to skip. Animals lovers should keep an eye out for 11 species of lemurs, 100 species of birds and 45 endemic reptiles and amphibians, including the Madagascar iguana and Antsingy leaf chameleon.
There is a long day of travel ahead, so grab that book or download a podcast and prepare to keep yourself occupied as you cross the Manambolo River and the Tsiribihina River by ferry, arriving in the laid-back seaside town of Morondava in time for a spectacular sunset in the Avenue of the Baobabs. These cartoonish, towering trees are native to Madagascar, and the variety you’ll see lit from behind this evening are adansonia grandidieri, the tallest of them all. Watch the sky turn pink and yellow and finally cast these trees – many of which are up to 800 years old – in shadow. Spend the night in Morondava and take a well-deserved rest.
Depart this morning for Antsirabe, the capital of the Vakinankaratra region. It’s another drive that will last around 8 hours, and after an orientation stroll around the city and included dinner at the hotel, it’s up to you whether you’d like to relax or explore further. The town is fairly quiet after dark, but there are a few places to grab a nightcap if you so desire. If you’re so inclined, perhaps head to travellers favourite Le Pousse Pousse, where the booths are made from rickshaws, or ask your leader for recommendations.
Enjoy breakfast and then hit the surrounding region on a soft trek, a good way to limber up after a few long days of driving. Discover the beauty of the local lakes, including the emerald-green waters of Tritiva, an extinct crater surrounded by verdant forest. Hike through the lakes district, sitting down for a picnic-style lunch along the way. Later, continue to Antananarivo. There’s plenty of international cuisine on offer in ‘Tana’, but why not toast to your Malagasy adventure with a Three Horses Beer and a bowl of Madagascar’s national dish, romazava (a one pot rice and meat sensation).
Enjoy a free day in Antananarivo. As this is a combination trip, there may be members of your group departing today and new travellers joining. You're already a seasoned traveller in Madagascar, so why not take them out for some local food and a drink and get excited about the next leg of the journey.
Andasibe National Park
Leave Antananarivo in your dust after breakfast, heading for Andasibe National Park (approximately 4 hours). Stop en route at Pereyras Nature Farm – a private reserve that's home to chameleons, frogs, snakes and so much more wildlife. This evening, you'll have an opportunity to take night walk through the forest at Mitsinjo – a privately-owned reserve, where you'll encounter nocturnal species including endemic butterflies and lemurs.