Ultimate Adventure – Biking, Kayaking, Trekking and Wildlife

A great mix of wildlife and adventure as you discover some of Madagascar’s Southern rivers, forests & mountains.  With a mixture of camping and lodges – you’ll explore on foot, by canoe, train, bike and car, spotting lemurs and meeting locals.

This holiday was absolutely incredible, but sadly feels like a million years ago already!

– C. Roberts

Madagascar is a one-off; there is no other place like it. Its landscapes, animals and plants are simply fantastic! Near the equator with an astonishing array of habitats, ranging from rainforests to deserts and from mountain tops to mangrove swamps, it is one of the most important countries for biodiversity on the planet. The tropical climate is a perfect host to the process of nature and, like nowhere else, the variety and richness of life has flourished. We will see much of the unique flora and fauna of Eastern Madagascar on this great tour. As part of our commitment to responsible travel and in conjunction with Woodstock.org we finance a tree nursery and orchard in Italavina – which is a long term reforestation project.

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Day 1: 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.

Overnight – Hotel

Day 2: Visiting Ambatolampy and Antsirabe (B,L,D)

After breakfast you will meet your guide and we will set out by car to Antsirabe, a tidy, well maintained town which combines the tranquility of a small European provincial town with the exuberance of traditional Malagasy buildings. The third largest city in Madagascar, Antsirabe is known for its relatively cool climate (as the rest of the central region of the country), its industry and the high concentration of pulled rickshaws.

The journey takes approx. 3+ hours on a good, windy road, and along the way you can choose to stop off and visit Ambatolampy (the biggest town between Tana and Antisirabe) where we may get the chance to see craftsmen building aluminium pots amongst other things. Alternatively, if time allows, you can also visit lake Tritriva (2hr round trip) – a stunning lake of volcanic origin with blue/green waters, surrounded by beautiful scenery – we can walk around the lake in approx. 1 hour and during this time we will likely meet many local Malagasy people. Where we will stop and what you will do today will depend on your preferences. Upon arrival at Antisirabe you could visit the stone cutting workshop where they cut crystals.

Overnight – Hotel


Day 3: Lake Tritriva and Lake Andraikiba & Cycling back to Antsirabe (B,L,D)

Today we will head by car to Anraikiba Lake.  This reservoir provides the drinking water for Antsirabe.  We will visit the lake and see the rice fields, fruit and vegetable plantations.    We then head on, as we reach the village of Belazoo we will be able to see Mount Tritriva and we continue on to reach another, more spectacular lake – Lake Tritriva.

This Crater Lake with its volcanic landscape was formed following the collapse of the now extinct volcano. Nestled at an altitude of about 1880m to the hollow of a small mountain, Tritriva Lake is a very sacred lake with much history.  We will learn about some of this history whilst we visit this area and local market.  After a picnic lunch we will start our cycle – back to Antsirabe through multiple small villages and rice fields as we get to experience authentic Malagasy life.

Overnight – Hotel


Day 4: Sahambavy, Famed for its tea plantations! (B,L,D)

Today we will be setting off to Sahambavy.

This afternoon we can visit the plantations and tonight we will stay at the Lac Hôtel with a breathtaking view of the islands unique tea plantation (520 hectares) which spreads out as far as the eye can see. The beautiful landscape with the charming lake is the perfect destination for a relaxing stop-off.

Sahambavy is a small town on the railway from Mankarana to Fianarantsoa. Its main attraction is the Sahambavy Lake, nested at the foot of a hill.  It is also famed for the only Madagascan tea plantations.

Overnight – Hotel


Day 5: Train to Manakara, Canoe the Faraony River (B,L,D)

Today we head out on the next part of our adventure from Fianarantsoa to Manakara (by train and canoe!). The trip will take us trough dense forests and along a calm river (the few rapids we will encounter of the next few days are gentle and can be avoided if you don’t want the potential of a swim….. that said the first rapid tends to be the one to catch most of us out).

We start by a half day train journey through scenic and interesting landscapes. The train ride takes approximately 5-6 hours.  We will be travelling on reserved 1st class seats (the train can get pretty full!) and will disembark in Manampatrana, where the Faraony river winds gently between boulders, cliffs and cultivated banks.

We will meet our canoe team and set off on a short canoe downstream (grade 1 and 2 rapids) before stopping on one of the beaches to setup camp (afternoon showers are not unusual in this area). Your guides and canoe team are in charge of all the logistics (food, firewood etc.) and you only have to put up your own tent. All meals, mainly from fresh and local products are generously served and prepared with care.

Overnight – Camp


Day 6: Canoeing the Faraony River (B,L,D)

We will dedicate these two days to canoeing down the Faraony River.

The Faraony flows down from the central highlands of Madagascar into the Indian Ocean. Situated on the east of the island, the area is tranquil and fairly still. Like many rivers in this region it seems to bear exploitable amounts of precious minerals so there are ‘gold rushes’ on many of the river bends.

Along the way we will meet many smiling Malagasy people.

Overnight – Camp


Day 7: Farewell Faraony River (B,L,D)

This morning we will lay up our canoes and say goodbye to the Faraony – from here onwards the river starts to flow furiously through rapids and cataracts so we abandon it in its ocean race.   From here we have a 4 – 5 hour trek (12 miles walking), where we will rendezvous with our driver and vehicle before heading to the Indian Ocean Coast and the town of Manakara.

Overnight – Hotel


Day 8: Arrival at magnificent Ranomafana! (B,L,D)

You can have a leisurely morning and a bit of relaxation by the coast before heading off to Ranomafana.

Overnight – Hotel.


Day 9: Discovering the wildlife and beauty of Ranomafana National Park (B,L,D)

We will head out on a forest trail today and have lunch in the park, so we should get a chance to see much of the wildlife first hand throughout the day.

Ranomafana is particularly rich and beautiful, a mountainous subtropical park which contains lowland moist forest, cloud forest and high plateau forest and is the home to a large number of lemur species (13 in total), as well as 118 birds and more than 70 amphibians and reptiles so is really a great place to see some of the unique species living in Madagascar. Lemurs include the brown lemur, golden bamboo lemur and the exceptionally rare greater bamboo lemur which is relatively easy to see in Ranomafana. Wildlife viewing is good all year round but is most productive from mid-Sept to May.

Overnight – Hotel


Day 10: Rafting the Namorana River + journeying towards Ambalavao (B,L,D)

This morning we can spend a couple of hours rafting on the Namorana river inside the National Park before setting off to Ambalavao  (Driving Time – 3h).   If time allows, we should get a chance to visit the attractive town of Ambalavao before heading to our hotel and some time to relax.

Situated in tropical surroundings in the most southern part of the central highlands, near Fianarantsoa, Ambalavao is noted for its houses with wooden balconies with elaborate carvings and tiled roofs.  It is also known for its lively cattle market on Monday and Thursdays on the outskirts of town where you will be able to see a large number of Zebu and herdsmen on the roads. Seen as one of the most beautiful towns in the high plateaus boasting brightly painted buildings on the main street that look a bit like gingerbread houses.

Overnight – Hotel


Day 11: Discovering wildlife at Anja and Tsaranoro Valley (B,L,D)

This morning we visit Anja park (just a few kms from Ambalavao). Anja is actually one of the more touristy places we visit, however the site is community run, remains beautiful and it offers a unique occasion to interact with ‘wild’ animals (ring-tailed lemurs) somewhere between tamed and familiar!

After visiting the reserve we will drive to our next destination – the Tsaranoro Valley (1 ½ hrs away).

Our accommodation here will be a traditional bungalow at Camp Catta situated at the foot of Tsaranoro’s cliff. This afternoon we will be able to go on a short trek to explore the area or simply relax.

Overnight – Bungalows


Day 12: Discovering the Tsaranoro Valley (B,L,D)

We will spend today exploring this stunning area on foot and meeting all the locals – a fantastic opportunity to see Madagascar in all its natural glory. Prepare to be enchanted by the astounding landscapes, stunning red land and the beautiful and awe-inspiring Massif of Andringitra. You will be able to see many kinds of orchids, three sorts of palms including one kind which is endemic to the Andringitra, chameleons, lizards, snakes, batrachians, birds including the famous peregrine falcon as well as the especially friendly Catta Lemurs living in small families around the Camp.       We will also have the chance to visit Tsarasoa, which is the base for our local agents reforestation effort (a passion which is shared (via wood-en-stock) by Pioneer Expeditions) . Here we will have the opportunity to visit and see the reforestation effort for ourselves.  Depending on the time of year we may also get to plant some young saplings.

Overnight – Bungalow


Day 13: Heading to Ambositra (B,L,D)

Today we must start our long journey back to Tana, so we will head to Ambositra (Driving time – 8h).

Overnight – Hotel


Day 14: Back to Tana & flight home (B)

We will head back to Tana today (Driving time – 5h), so suits an afternoon flight.

Alternatively we can arrange for additional accommodation for tonight in Tana

Overnight – Hotel


NB: This itinerary is subject to change – arrangements, routes and facilities are subject to variation depending on local conditions.   We can also tailor itineraries to suit your exact requirements. When driving times are given, this is only an indication.  It aims to reflect the actual driving time (and doesn’t include stops, lunch, traffic). The road journeys, while often long, are one of the great ways to experience Madagascar.  There is so much life on the road and many photographic opportunities along the way from a natural and people perspective.  

Optional Extension


Why not extend this trip with a visit to one of Madagascar’s other amazing National Parks – Isalo, as well as some relaxation on the coastal resort of Ifaty.

DAY 13 : Heading to Isalo National Park (B,L,D)

After visiting the reserve we will drive to our next destination – Isalo National Park.

Overnight – Eco-lodge

DAY 14 : Unearthing the wonders of the remarkable Isalo National Park (B,L,D)

Today we will visit this breathtaking National Park. This extraordinarily unique area of natural beauty is unlike any other place in Madagascar.
Included will be the opportunity to swim in a natural pool with lunch on the trail.

Isalo is the park of the Big South and the most visited parks of Madagascar. It is known for its exceptional landscape. The Isalo National Park protects over 81,000 hectares of widely eroded Jurassic sandstone massif. The grassy plains are surrounded by sandstone ridges. Most of the vegetated areas of the park are covered with dry grassland or sparse, low deciduous woodland, however near streams and in deeper canyons there are also ferns and feathery palm trees. Animal life isn’t the parks most prominent feature, but there a few species to look for including six species of lemur (three nocturnal, three daytime) including the ring tail lemur and the White (dancing lemur) sifaka. It is also home to approx 55 species of bird including the rare Benson’s rock-thrush.

Overnight – Eco-Lodge


DAY 15 : Journeying to Zombiste National Park and the stunning coastal town of Ifaty  (B,L,D)

Today we head to Ifaty and the Indian Ocean. We plan to stop by Zombiste National Park en-route.

This south-western National Park is known for the huge variety of rare bird species as well as its unique diversity. Zombitse is home to 8 species of lemurs including the Verraux Sifaka (aka. the dancing lemur) and the threatened Fork-marked Lemur. The park also shelters 47% of the endemic birds of Madagascar as well as the local endemic Appert’s tetraka bird. Zombitse boasts fantastic flora as well including orchids and ficus making this a stunning national park!
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. Ifaty is a small fishing village with palm-fringed white beaches on the south-western coast of Madagascar, and is an ideal place to relax after visiting the central highlands. The beach is relatively narrow, but the (off shore) snorkeling and diving is good. In July and August, you may see migrating whales pass nearby through the Mozambique Channel. Between May and October, the humpback whales can sometimes be seen with their whale-calves.

Upon arrival in Ifaty, your driver and guide will leave you. Your time at the coast will be at your leisure

Overnight – Hotel

DAYS 16: Discovering the surrounding fascinations of Ifaty (B,D)

Today can be spent at your leisure, experiencing what beautiful Ifaty and its surrounding areas have to offer.

Just north of Ifaty you can find the Reniala Nature Reserve ‘Spiny Forest’ , a remarkable habitat adapted to the heat and drought of the area giving it the resultant thorny &/or bloated drought resistant trees and plants. The spiny forests inland from Ifaty are of great interest to birdwatchers and botanical enthusiasts alike. Here you will be able to see some very large iconic Baobab trees, an abundance of birds (a true paradise for ornithologists) as well as possibly some locally endemic species such as the long-tailed ground roller and sub-desert mesite. This unique habitat is severely threatened by deforestation and by visiting these sites, you will not only enjoy some of the little remaining spiny forest in Madagascar, but also actively contribute to its conservation (the sites are currently not protected). A visit here can be organized by the hotel, and you can even travel there by pirogue – which we highly recommend.

Overnight – Hotel

DAY 17 : Back to Antananarivo (B,D)

You will have a transfer to Tulear Airport, where you will catch the Air Madagascar flight from Tulear to Tana. We will meet you again at Tana airport and depending on your time of arrival, you can visit the handicraft market, before transferring to your hotel.

Overnight – Hotel


DAY 18 :  End of Trip (B)

Transfer to the airport in time for your flight home.  If your flight home is late in the day (or early the following morning) we are happy to organise a day use room for you &/or a driver guide. (Not Included)

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Pioneer Expeditions
Average rating:  
 9 reviews
byJanet White Spunner onPioneer Expeditions
National Parks, Lemurs and Chameleons

Great holiday. Stayed in some lovely places. People were very friendly. Food was good and rum was cheap!!

byJoanne Winterstein onPioneer Expeditions

I wanted a small group, more of an adventure tour to Madagascar, and I believe this is exactly what I got!
Everything was so well taken care of, and everyone was so helpful!
This was one of the most incredible and exciting holidays that I have ever been one. It will be remembered for many years!

byRonald Basciano onPioneer Expeditions

Excellent but be prepared for hotter temperatures than expected, especially for the 17 km walk

byJ. Prior onPioneer Expeditions

The best trip I've ever had!

byAdam Dean and Jessica Stamp onPioneer Expeditions
A great trip

Madagascar exceeds your expectations in every way; when you finally think you have learnt what might be round the next corner, it happens all over again.
Our Guide Toky provided a first class, professional and extremely enjoyable service

byNiki Patrick onPioneer Expeditions

Great trip , very privileged to visit such an amazing place.

byJ Harrison onPioneer Expeditions

Once I arrived in Madagascar, everything went very smoothly. The activities showed various faces of the country, so different and amazing. The most memorable part of the holiday was the beauty of the countryside, the peace and tranquility on the hikes.

Advice to other travellers booking on this holiday - Not sure if I would want to go through Istanbul again - I got caught up in the attempted coup!

byH. Wilson onPioneer Expeditions
Nature Guided South East Trip

We had a great trip, everything was well organised, with all helpful staff along the way. We were very happy there was no rafting after the canoeing, which we enjoyed immensely. We did give up on trying to have a pee in privacy and loved the fact that the villagers came out to view the "cabaret" in the canoes. The trek along the railway line was hard – 12 miles, I think a few less fit people might have struggled there.

Hery was extremely knowledgeable and Zu was a great driver, we wouldn't have seen half the animals if Hery hadn't pointed them out, especially the chameleons. We also liked the fact that mostly they went at our pace without making us feel uncomfortable.The diving wasn't so good there but wasn't a problem as we managed to go to the spiny forest, the tortoise home and the mangroves instead.

Only one negative, we were advised to take Euros but we could very easily change sterling at Tana airport which would have been better.

byC. Roberts onPioneer Expeditions

This holiday was absolutely incredible, but sadly feels like a million years ago already!

In terms of feedback:

• Our guide Hery could not possibly have been better – we absolutely adored him and I would recommend him 100% for anyone visiting Madagascar. His level of English (and French!) was brilliant, and his enthusiasm and cheerfulness made the trip. Our driver Haja was also great, and a special recommendation should also be given to Livé and (the other!) Haja who were our canoe team. We felt completely spoilt by all of them.

• The tour and the country itself was perfect for us – our favourite parts were the canoeing and the various hikes, since we love the active stuff, but the scenery, the wildlife and the people were so special. We would probably do a tour next time which contained even more active parts. We saw one group at Tsarasoa who were doing the same type of route by bike, which would be incredible.

• Accommodation:

o Trano Bongo hotel, first night – this was a gorgeous place to start the trip, although we were only there for a few hours! Loved it.

o Artisan hotel, Ambositra – loved our little carved wood bungalow, and great food. Shower didn’t work, but didn’t bother us since it was only a short stop.

o Lac Hotel – amazing place! Great bar and restaurant, gorgeous huge room. The train journey afterwards was fantastic – but I’m glad we only did the “short” section! Complete bedlam and chaos, but very moving.

o Camping nights – Livé was my hero amongst men. Our favourite part of the trip and better than any 5* hotel experience. Wish we had done more! Not for “high-maintenance” people though – even the bush facilities on the second night were a bit sparse, but didn’t bother us in the slightest.

o Parthanay Club, Manakara – really liked this place, and obviously had the best shower in the world after 3 days on canoes! Fantastic meal, shame about the disused pool which makes it look a bit run down and grubby, because the rest of the place is stunning.

o Domaine Nature, Ranomafana – our least favourite. The room was pretty basic, but the whole place just seemed a bit sad and lonely, and in need of a bit of TLC. Food wasn’t great, and Adam got horribly sick after the first night – normally he has a stomach of steel. Myself and Karin were fine though, so who knows if it was the food.

o Zongo hotel, Ambalavao – one of our favourites. Lovely bungalow, fantastic food, and a semi-wild resident lemur trotting around the place. The Anja wildlife park near here was our favourite – a beautiful peaceful place, with lemurs and their babies everywhere!

o Tsarasoa – unbelievably beautiful place. They seemed a bit surprised by our arrival and were still building our bungalow and outdoor bathroom during our first day! It was amazing once completed though – again very rustic and basic, but completely wild and relaxing. The hiking was incredible and was another highlight of the trip.

o Lemur Forest Camp, Ialatsara – I still don’t really know what to make of this place! Adam loved it, but I was a bit put off by the owner from the start. He seemed a bit annoyed that we were there, and we’re still not 100% sure if he was completely drunk the whole time! The lemurs were amazing and we had a lovely dinner, but the room was VERY basic – I think the term “bathroom” might be a bit of a stretch (i.e. hole in floor for toilet and two barrels of brown water and a shower basin!), but the bungalow and bed itself was very nice – completely open to the outside world, so freezing at night!

o Chambres du Voyageur, Antsirabe – by far one of the best hotels. Lovely room, fabulous staff and amazing dinner.

o Hotel Sakamanga – we loved the room and it was a very relaxing final stop. A bit chaotic checking in and checking out, since they didn’t really seem sure what was already paid for, but it was resolved eventually.

It really was a wonderful trip, superbly organised and completely seamless. We would not hesitate to recommend you to anyone, and indeed have done so to many friends who have seen our pictures and now want to go themselves!

In case of interest, there is an album of our photo highlights which you can access here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153594418809303&type=1&l=d37485a807

Thank you for everything, and we will certainly be in touch when we are planning our next adventure.

  • Duration14 days / 13 nights
  • Price£2,295$2,850
    Full board. Excluding international flights.

  • Upcoming Group Departures

    2021: 3-Apr, 22-May, 3-Jul, 25-Sep

  • Tailormade DeparturesMar - Dec

Extraordinary Sights

The Drive South Mostly gentle canoeing the Faraony river With the odd rapid along the way 3 nights camping by the river Madagascar is home to about 1/2 species of Chameleon Ranomafana National Park A Milne Edwards sifaka in action Bamboo lemur Ranomafana Trekking in Ranomafana Andringitra National Park The ring tailed lemur at Andringitra Trekking in Andringitra Meeting the locals at Andringitra A Malagasy woman at work
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