An action packed trip through Madagascar’s wild North West. Starting from the red highlands, whilst on our unique expedition, we move through the dry forest of Montagne Des Français and the tropical forest of Amber Mountain to the white sands of Madagascar’s northern tip. A region often overshadowed by its famous beach resorts such as the North’s pièce de résistance, Nosy Be. This adventure will allow you to go truly off the beaten track; being guided through the remotest of villages and national parks, witnessing striking landscapes as well as spotting the enchantingly unique Madagascan wildlife. On this expedition you will be, cycling around Ambanja and the Cacao plantation, hiking the Tsingy, sleeping in tree huts, exploring Ankarana, hiking to the north’s white sandy beaches and so much more, you’re guaranteed to experience plenty of excitement in this 2 week Madagascan adventure.
DAY 1: Tongasoa eto Antananarivo!
After arriving in Antananarivo (or Tana, as it is known by the locals), you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.
Antananarivo is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. It is buzzing with activity and full of people flooding the streets, selling everything you could imagine! Tana (as the locals call it) resembles a Mediterranean hill town and exploring its rich cultural and architectural sites on foot is relatively easy (as long as you are willing to climb hundreds of ancient stone steps) It is a hectic city though and we would recommend a driver / guide if you want to explore this city.
DAY 2: Flight to Diego before visiting the dry forest of Montagne Des Français
This morning you will transfer to the airport for your fight to Antsiranana (Diego Suarez). Upon arrival in Diego you will be met by your driver and guide who will be with you for the next 7 days and will head to Montagne des Français, just a short 1 ½ hour by road, but a very different environment.
The Montagne des Français reserve protects deciduous dry forest characteristic of the north of Madagascar. Much of the forest is on a calcareous massif that has been eroded into Tsingy. This is one of the best places to see one of the most beautiful baobabs, Adansonia suarezensis. Montagne de Francais is part of the larger Ramena protected area complex and is home to fish eagles and crowned lemurs.
This afternoon we will have a trek in this area to discover some of the inhabitants. Tonight we will have a unique experience here as we will overnight in the tree bungalows – literally huts built in trees!
DAY 3: Montagne Des Français
Today is at leisure. There are plenty of activities you can choose to partake from climbing, mountain boarding, adventure course etc, or another trek. These are not included in the trip cost but can be booked directly with the hotel. Other activities such as slack lining etc are free of charge.
DAY 4: Visiting charming Joffreville and the renowned tropical forest of Amber Mountain
This morning we will go mountain biking in Montagne Des Francais. After lunch we will head to Jofreville (and the Montagne d’Ambre – the Amber Mountain. Our accommodation whilst here will be a charming boutique hotel The Litchi Tree.
This afternoon we will get our first change to explore this forest on foot.
This stunning National Park is comprised of a huge tropical forest with waterfalls and volcanic lakes. This islet of verdant forest is a haven of freshness that escaped the stuffy heatwave of this region. There are numerous animals that inhabit this national park including the ring-tailed mongoose, the fossa and 8 lemurs (which are not always easy to see). It is also home to 75 bird species – 35 of them are endemic, 60 reptiles (from leaf tailed gecko’s to a number of chameleon species, 35 frogs and 40 butterflies. Due to its relative proximity to Diego, this park can get quite busy (by Madagascan standards) in the high season, however it is really worth visiting.
DAY 5: Amber Mountain & Ankarana
This morning we can spend some more time trekking in this national park before having lunch and transferring to Ankarana Reserve
We will stay at a lovely lodge just outside the park.
DAY 6: Exploring and unearthing the striking landscapes of Ankarana Reserve
Today will be spent exploring this amazing park. The trails are not easy but are feasible for anyone with a moderate level of fitness and we recommend visiting this park in the dry season (May-Nov).
Ankarana Special Reserve covers 18,220ha and is known for its limestone karst pinnacles called Tsingy along with its extensive cave system and network of underground rivers. Ankarana possibly has the highest density of primates of any forest (with 11 species of lemurs being found here) and here you may see the crowned lemur, Sanford’s brown lemur, Perrieri’s (black sifaka) lemur, the northern sportive lemur and dwarf lemurs as well as a variety of chameleons and leaf-tailed Uroplatus gecko and great flora.
You will hopefully get a chance to cool off in the lodge swimming pool at the end of a hard days trekking.
DAY 7: Hit the road towards the Ankify
This morning we head to Ambanja and then onwards to Ankify. After lunch in Ambanja, we will take to our mountain bikes again as we explore this area and the Cacao plantation on 2 wheels. At the end of the cycle we will head to the coast of Ankify (a short hop – approx. 20 minutes). Tonight we will stay at lovely beach bungalows.
DAY 8: ANKIFY – NOSY BE
Your driver and guide will leave you this morning as a private boat will take you to Nosy Be. Upon arrival you will be met by a taxi and transferred to your hotel. This afternoon you can relax at your stunning hotel on the beach. At a pre-determined time you will pop along the beach, where you will meet your team who will be accompanying you on your dhow / pirogue safari tomorrow. A debrief will be given before you return to your hotel for dinner.
DAY 9: Nosy-be / Anjiabe
First thing this morning you will meet the Alefa Office for breakfast before boarding your Dhow/ Pirogue (depending on number in the group) to explore an area where the sea is the only path. Swimming, snorkelling and a discovery of an incredibly rich and diverse underwater world awaits us.
Please note the actual itinerary for the next 3 days will be decided by the team following your meeting, but will be something like the following:
After a dhow journey we will land at Anjiabé, a 3km long beach bordered by a semi-abandoned coconut plantation, a site with extraordinary low tide. This is where we will camp for tonight. After a drink and a stunning meal of seafood prepared for us by our chef, we will have the chance to nap, swim and for those who wish, walk trails to observe the many species of birds, mostly endemic to Madagascar. Sunset, cocktails, meals … And good night!
DAY 10: Snorkelling & Nature Walks
Depending on the tide we will depart relatively early towards the Island’s northernmost archipelago Radama. (approx. a 2 1/2hr crossing). Along the way we will get a chance to swim. Nosy Ambariopôtaka rises to 166 meters and includes a different landscape to last night and we camp facing the majestic Mozambique Channel. In the next bay we tend to find a Sakalava carpenter at work – with one or more shells of dhows resting on a bed of pink and white periwinkles. The whole island is surrounded by a lagoon. Nature walks in the jungle and lazing are the order of today.
DAY 11: Island Hopping- Nosy-Be
You will spend morning exploring by boat, snorkeling. After lunch you will head back to Nosy Be where you will stay once again at the lovely beach hotel
DAY 12: Back to Antananarivo or optional extension (e.g. Nosy Be or Island Hopping)
You will transfer to the airport where you will catch the Air Madagascar flight from Nosy Be to Tana. Depending on your time of arrival in Tana you can visit the handicraft market, before transferring to your hotel.
DAY 13: End of Trip
Transfer to airport in time for flight home. If you are on the Air France or Air Kenya trip which leaves early morning of day 14, you can opt to have a day use room &/or driver/guide for the day (not included).
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It was an excellent holiday, well-planned, varied, very enjoyable beach holiday at the end at Nosy- Be and Nosy Sakatia. We liked the last two hotels, L'heure Bleue and Sakatia lodge. Plenty to do at Sakatia lodge. Swimming, snorkelling, canoeing. We would recommend Pioneer Expeditions to other people.
Thanks for all your help and that of the Madamax crew!
I had a fantastic time in Madagascar and thoroughly enjoyed my trip!
I have wanted to visit Madagascar for some time and this trip looked like a wonderful way to do so - I was especially attracted by the range of activities and the small group size.
Highlights of the trip - Lemurs. Chameleons. The beauty of Madagascar. The friendliness of the Madagascan people. A very unexpected highlight was the food, which was excellent!
I loved this trip! Our driver Ju (hope I've spelled that right) deserves special mention, as he was a real star, as does our additional river guide and superb chef.
Our Madagascan trip was excellent. I think your local partners and their knowledgeable freelance guide really made the trip for us . The local company could not do enough for us and I would recommend them . Everything was extremely well organized .
'We had a great holiday thank you! We really enjoyed the trip and the company of our guides. The team were fantastic and were completely dedicated to delivery the best service to us. The Alefa boat trip was a sensational experience - luxury with food that was out of this world!'
We really enjoyed our trip. Madagascar is fascinating, we loved the parks and the wildlife, and our guides were excellent. The food provided (both by the guides and at the hotels) was of a very high standard, and we liked the mix of hotels - especially the tree house, which was our favourite!
We wanted to let you know we had a fantastic Madagascar trip!! It was well organised and the local guides / driver were terrific!!
This has been an amazing trip. We have really really loved it. The organisation was superb. The guides completely trustworthy. Food was superb and our safety was paramount when out and about. It is truly away from everything. Thank-you