Madagascar–jewel of the dark continent, a massive island of biodiversity unlike anything else on earth.
Home to lemurs, giant baobab trees, volcanoes, and some of the most amazing, raw, natural beauty you’ve ever seen.
My explorer/journey architect friend Kym Pham and I have wanted to visit Madagascar for quite some time now, and we thought, what better way of doing that than to have an amazing group of like-minded adventurers with us as we do so!
Join us for an 11 day expedition through some of the most scenic areas of the island, as we climb through Tsingy National Park’s limestone spires, camp beside the waters of the Tsiribihina river, cruise the famous “Baobab Alley” at sunset, soak up the sun on the beaches of Morondava, bathe in photo-perfect waterfalls, and search for a few of the 33 species of lemurs in the jungles throughout the country.
This trip is scheduled for: April 29-May 9, 2017 and there will be 6 spots open for grabs–first come, first served!
Table of Contents
You’re looking at 11 days/10 nights of all-inclusive adventure. Meals, tips, accommodation, transportation–all of that is set. All you need to do is show up by April 29th, then we hit the road.
The plan is to fly into the capital city of Antananarivo, then take a van from there to the Tsiribihina river. We’ll head on canoes down the river, camping for a night or two, before arriving in the world famous Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, where we will do a bit of hiking over the next two days. Roads get a bit rough for the next patch, so we’ll grab a couple of 4WD vehicles to make our way south towards Morondava, with an obligatory stop at Avenue of the Baobabs on the way to grab some sunset pictures with the massive trees there. Once we arrive in Morondava we’ll have a bit of time to relax on the beach before catching a flight back to Antananarivo, and from there to home, or your next destination (more info on the schedule can be found below in the Itinerary section).
It will be a packed 11 days with not a ton of downtime. When heading all the way to Madagascar, it pays to see as much as possible while you’re there, because who knows when you might be back again!
You love the outdoors, nature, and wildlife. You don’t mind a bit of camping, rough roads, or let the occasional spat of inclement weather get you down. You’re looking for a great adventure to an unforgettable place with an amazing group of people.
Does this sound like you? Because that’s the type of person we are looking for!
This will not be a luxury trip, and because of the nature of the country, its roads, and the weather, things may not go as planned 100% of the time. Because of that fact, we need a good group of people that can roll with whatever comes along, making the best out of every situation.
There will be a maximum of 6 spots available for this journey (not including Kym and I).
Kym and I met at a travel blogger’s meetup in New York City in early 2012 and connected right away, through a shared passion for travel and adventure. I had already been on quite a few adventures myself at that point, and Kym was just gearing up to start her full-time adventuring.
Since then we have explored Burning Man together, traversed the length of India on a rickshaw, enjoyed the many delicacies of Japan, celebrated with friends in Barcelona, and generally met up here-and-there around the world on a pretty consistent basis.
Since our initial meeting Kym went on to specialize in creating amazing experiences around the world for small groups of travelers (becoming an Instagram powerhouse in the process), while I went on to do a similar thing with my annual trips to Japan (as well as one-off’s, such as the Turkey & Greece Cruise of 2015).
In 2016 we got to thinking that it would be fun to combine our powers and do a group trip together. The only tough part would be to pick an awesome spot to do it in!
Solid twin-bed, two or three-star accommodations daily. This means there won’t be much in the way of luxury, but such is Madagascar! Rest assured, you will have a comfortable place to lay your head every night. Lucky for us, we are going before the peak of the dry (hot) season, so evening temperatures will be perfect for sleeping (even without using air conditioning).
Three of the days involve canoeing down the Tsiribihina river, and for each of those nights we will be camping at the riverside (all camping supplies such as tents and sleeping bags will be provided). This will be as close to “roughing it” as we get–you can take dips in the natural springs during the day to rinse off, but there will be no warm-water showers while on the river. Bring baby wipes as needed. 😉
Needless to say, there won’t be a ton of time spent in your hotel rooms on this particular adventure!
Dates are set for April 29-May 9.
Day 00: Leave the U.S. (April 28)
If coming from the U.S. you’ll be taking a flight the day before, as it’s a bit of a long flight with at least one, but most likely two layovers.
Day 01: Arrival to Antananarivo (April 29)
We will meet you at the Ivato International Airport and transfer you to your hotel in the heart of the city. Depending on the amount of time we will have, we may organize a quick tour of the city before having dinner together near the hotel.
Day 02: Antananarivo to Antsirabe (April 30)
After breakfast,we will take a minibus on Route National 7 to Antsirabe. This road is in relatively good condition and passes through the highlands and beautiful green rice terraces. Upon reaching our destination we can visit some workshops and markets, or just relax at the hotel in town. In the evening there will be time to walk through the town center before dinner.
Day 03: Antsirabe to Miandrivazo (May 1)
After breakfast at our hotel we will make a slight detour to the famous volcanic lake of Madagasikara, Lake Tritriva. After that we’ll head west, towards the fertile lands of Vakinankaratra–Miandrivazo will be our port of entry into the Tsiribihina causeway. This region is famous having the highest temperatures of Madagascar, so we’ll be sure to take it easy during the hottest parts of the day. We’ll make sure to explore the town a bit before dinner, after the sun has gone down a bit.
Day 04: Tsiribihina River (May 2)
We’ll board at around 8:00am, just after breakfast at our hotel. The entire day from that point forward will be spent on the river, with a brief stop around noon for a freshly prepared lunch at riverside. We’ll be stopping whenever there is something to see, or whenever anyone wants to get out and stretch their legs. Around evening time we’ll beach the boats and prepare our campsite for the night. Dinner will be cooked on a fire at the campsite, while we share stories and look up at the stars, no doubt.
Day 05: Tsiribihina River (May 3)
Today is another full day on the river, similar to the day before. However, the scenery will be changing a bit, as we pass through the beautiful Tsiribihina Gorges area of the river. Discover fantastic landscapes while keeping an eye out for the ever present lemur colonies that dot the shoreline, not to mention the wide variety of parrots living in the area. We’ll also get the chance to bathe in a natural swimming hole fed by a pristine waterfall halfway through the day’s journey. Once more, we will camp by the side of the river for the night, next to the campfire.
Day 06: Tsiribihina River to Antseraraka (May 4)
On our last day of cruising down the Tsiribihina river we will be drifting through the tobacco fields, which were originally cultivated by Greek migrants back in the 19th century. We will spend the day looking for wildlife while lazily drifting with the current towards our disembarkation point.
Day 07: Antseraka to Bekopaka (May 5)
Today we will take 4WD vehicles to the gates of Tsingy National Park, one of the most recognized areas of Madagascar. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage, the limestone spires throughout the park have been created through thousands of years of erosion of what was once seabed. Our camp site tonight will be in the shade of the mango trees, at the edge of the Manambolo River.
Day 08: Explore Tsingy de Bemaraha (May 6)
Spend the day exploring the mazes of limestone spires that makeup Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Keep an eye out for any of the thirteen (!) species of lemurs that call the park home. There are a few different routes we can take throughout the day, so it’ll depend on the group as to exactly where we go and what we do during the day.
Day 09: Tsingy de Bemaraha to Morondava & “Baobab Alley” (May 7)
Today we’ll be taking a couple 4WD vehicles from Belo on Tsiribihina to Morondava. The road is notoriously bad, but with our experts drivers we’ll be sure to make it through with a minimum of hassle. Just before reaching Morondava we’ll come across the “Alley of the Baobabs”, an amazing sight made even more spectacular by the light from the setting sun. After sunset we’ll arrive in Morondava, just in time for dinner.
Day 10: Morondava to Antananarivo (May 8)
We’ll hang out at the beach or the hotel until our flight to Antananarivo is scheduled to depart. Upon arrival we will have some time to explore the capital, culminating in a farewell dinner that evening.
Day 11: Antananarivo Departure (May 9)
Hang out at the hotel until your departure flight home (or wherever you are heading next).
There will be a maximum of 8 spots open for this trip. In order to secure your spot there will be a non-refundable $1,000 deposit required. First come, first served. (The deposit will be applied to the trip balance.)
The balance for the entire trip–one more payment of $2,400–will be due 60 days before the start date of the trip. If your payment is not received by that day you may lose your initial deposit/place on the trip.
What the $3,400 payment includes:
- 11 days/10 nights of accommodation in lodges and camps (see Accommodation above)
- Double Occupancy in twin bed rooms. If you are not traveling with a companion you will be matched up according to gender. If you want your own room this can be arranged for an extra $50/night, $500 total.
- Guide services the entire time (Kym and I + main guide + driver(s) + local guide)
- Airport pick-up/drop-off
- 3 meals per full day
- Unlimited bottled water
- Guide & staff gratuity
- All taxes and surcharges
- All park and vehicle fees
- All transport and tolls
- Domestic flight from Morondava to Antananarivo
What the $3,400 payment does NOT include:
- Flights to/from Madagascar (Airport code: TNR)
- Alcohol & beverages other than water
Weather & Packing
After heavy rains and cyclones in January to March, April provides somewhat of a relief for Madagascar. Although there may still be heavy downpours at times, they are interspersed with bright sunshine, enticing out all sorts of wildlife from hiding. This is the unofficial start of the tourism season, as parks open and ready themselves for the first visitors of the year.
This is the best time of year to spot lemurs (and a wide variety of other wildlife) as a matter of fact, as they too are anxious to get out of their shelters and enjoy the sun.
Daytime is generally in the mid 70’s Fahrenheit (24C), and the evenings are cool enough that you may want a hoodie or windbreaker with you just in case you get cold. Rain may fall, so it’s a good idea to bring a lightweight raincoat or poncho just in case.
What to wear? Anything you find comfortable! There won’t be any formal occasions on the trip, so feel free to bring whatever you’d like. I would recommend synthetic fabrics, cotton blends, or wool, just in case we get wet (as cotton takes forever to dry). Definitely bring a couple pairs of shorts, a pair of jeans, a pair of hiking pants, T-shirts, a lightweight waterproof jacket, a hoodie/fleece, and about a trip’s worth of socks and underwear (laundry services will be available to the hotels, but since we are only staying a night at most places it’s best to bring enough for the entire trip).
Madagascar is one of the more stable, crime-free countries in Africa. In the rare event crime does happen, it is almost solely crimes of opportunity by the poor to make some extra money–e.g. grabbing your bag or camera when you’re not looking. Violent crime is exceedingly rare, especially against tourists (making the country much safer than the U.S., for instance).
The only spot I would caution vigilance (although I’ve never had anything happen personally) would be the first and last days in Antananarivo, as certain parts of the city are known to be a bit rough (as is the case in almost every city throughout the world). We will be in a group the entire time though, so as long as you keep your wits about you we’ll be fine.
Regardless, I do recommend you purchase travel health and trip protection insurance, just to be on the safe side (see Disclaimer, below).
The airport you will be flying into is Ivato International Airport (TNR).
No matter where you are coming from, getting to Madagascar is a bit of a slog. If coming from Europe you can manage it with just one stopover (usually in Nairobi, Kenya; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; or UAE), but if you’re coming from the U.S. be prepared for a long flight with two or three stopovers (although sometime you can find a single stopover journey, especially if you pay a bit more).
If paying for the flight (as opposed to using air miles), you can expect to pay around $1,000-$1,500, depending on the date, departure city, and number of stopovers. A great tool to check all of the options available is Google Flights.
If leaving the U.S. it will take you the better part of an entire day to arrive in Antananarivo, so I would look for flights leaving on April 28th. (Just make sure to get in at the very latest the evening of April 29th.)
Visas for all visitors that are staying for less than a period of one month in Madagascar costs €25.00 (approx. USD$27) and can be purchased upon landing at Ivato International Airport (be aware that change is not issued, so bring as close to exact cost as possible). Travelers who purchase visas at the airport must present a return ticket (or proof of a return ticket, such as a copy of your itinerary), and a passport with 6 months validity and at least three blank pages.
Madagascar doesn’t really have any more communicable diseases than many of the other developing nations you might travel to.
There is a slight risk of malaria, so please talk to your travel medical specialist if you would like to bring anti-malarial medication with you (there are a few different types, but they all have their side effects–I usually choose to go without and just use longer clothing at night along with some bug spray on exposed skin).
As far as immunizations go, just make sure you are up-to-date on your usual foreign travel stuff–tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria, meningitis, etc. (Most of us should have already gotten the Hepatitis A+B vaccine in childhood.) More information on recommended vaccines is available on the CDC website.
This is adventure travel, and unexpected things may happen. Although I will do everything in my power to assist if something goes wrong, you get sick, etc, I am in no way legally responsible for your well-being during the duration of the trip. By signing up for this trip you are acknowledging this fact. Medical facilities for routine visits, prescriptions, etc. are few and far between in Madagascar, so you may want to buy travel medical insurance (and think about the emergency evacuation option possibly) just in case something more serious befalls you.
This also goes for the itinerary as listed above. Although we are pretty set as far as the schedule because hotels are pre-booked, there may be things we may not get to see because of weather, migration patterns, bad luck–who knows.
This is a first-come, first served opportunity. We only have a maximum of 6 2 spots, and once those are gone we are not planning on adding any additional seats.
Secure your spot by clicking the button below and then filling out the form, after which you need to send the initial payment of USD$1,000/person to me (payment details to be provided upon submitting the form).
Once we reach a maximum of 6 people, the trip will be closed to new sign-ups, and I will refund any money sent my way (and you’ll be added to a waiting list if you’d like).
If you have any questions please send me an email through my Contact Page.