This expedition aims to achieve a rafting descent of the Benahy and the Onilahy rivers offering a fantastic opportunity to explore a remote area of Madagascar. We will follow the isolated Benahy river and wind down the Isalo canyons into the Onilahy river and continue all the way down through the delta to the coast. We start deep in the Isaolo canyons, south of the Isaolo National Park. The southern part of these canyons are remote and untouched by tourism. The only people we are likely to encounter whilst crossing this range are locals – cattle rustlers and sapphire diggers.
Words cannot describe how amazing this trip….I absolutely loved the flexibility of the trip and how we were an integral part.
As this is a full-on camping expedition we plan to spend our last few days relaxing by the beach at Ifaty resort on the warm waters of the Mozambique channel before flying back to Antananarivo where the tour ends.
Benahy River Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo (B,L,D)
After your arrival in Antananarivo (nb. It may be best arriving the day before, we can arrange a hotel in Tana) and introductory briefing from the expedition leader, we will take an internal flight to Tulear. We will drive up to the Isalo region for the start of our Madagascan adventure. We will leave our car and spend the next 1 ½ – 2 hrs hiking down to a shallow part of the river where we will find our camp set up on the river bank.
Days 2 – 4: Descent of the Benahy (B,L,D)
The Benahy, though adjacent to Isalo National Park, has not seen many visitors. It cuts its way through breath-taking canyons, crawling with lizards, and lined with palm trees, aloe, baobabs, cacti, and a great variety of indigenous plants you may never have come across before.
It runs atop a section of land teeming with sapphires, and as a result, we may pass local miners, sifting sand through metal sieves.
Benahy navigation is smooth and easy, and we will raft in light canoes. A typical days rafting is a combination of paddle and drag areas (the later in the season we go, the more drag areas there are). The white water starts after the junction with Imaloto river and all the way down to the coastal plain just after junction with Onilahy river. Our typical daily routine will consist of setting off between 8 and 9 am and stopping to camp around 4-5 pm. We stop for lunch and en-route we have time to wander through side canyons and observe occasional lemurs.
During our time on the Benahy, we hope to see lizards, birds, and possibly even lemurs, turtles and bats as well as some exotic and unique vegetation, including baobabs, pachypodiums and succulents.
Days 5 -8 Descent of the Onilahy (B,L,D)
The Onilahy river is the largest river in the southwest. The river banks are sparsely populated – with settlements springing up to mine gemstones – but the floodplain does have lots of towns and rice paddies in areas that are not prone to flooding.
For our Onilahy descent we will transfer to larger more stable rafts and we will experience class III-IV rapids. After 3 rowdy days on the white water, our final day on the Onilahy should be more relaxing, with sections of flat meandering water. We can observe the changing landscapes along the route and enjoy the wildlife (including crocodiles), birds and riverside settlements. Camping with all meals.
Day 9: Benenitra & Bezaha Mahafaly Reserve (B,L)
When we reach Benenitra, we will transfer by road to the beautiful coastal resort of Ifaty, just North of Tulear. En-route we stop at the Bezaha-Mahafaly reserve.
Day 10 – 11: Discovering Ifaty (B)
Facing the Mozambique Channel and the superb coral reef of Ifaty, less than 20 kms from Tuléar, you will discover the beauty of beaches not tainted by mass tourism. Between May and October, the humpback whales can sometimes be seen with their whale-calves. Snorkelling and diving are highly recommended (the coral reef is totally captivating) & visibility is great. Local fishermen will also be happy to offer you a trip in their traditional fishing boats (pirogues). Or if you prefer you can simply relax on the stunning white sandy beaches or swim in the turquoise waters.
Day 12: Transfer to Tana (B)
We will catch the morning Air Madagascar flight from Tulear to Tana. Depending on your time of arrival in Tana you can visit the handicraft market before transferring to your hotel for your last night in Tana.
Day 13: Transfer to Tana and Flight Home (B)
Transfer to the airport in time for your flight home.
Check out a rafting diary from our first recce descent of the Benahy/Onilahy. This trip has changed significantly since this but it makes for a great read!