Intrepid Expeditions | Madagascar Overlander

Itineraries / Indian Ocean Islands / Madagascar Overlander

Madagascar Overlander

From $4,995

This is Madagascar’s most scenic and culturally interesting overland route. Travelling the RN7, this tarred contour road takes one from the capital city, Antananarivo, in the central highlands, to the south-west coast where reefs and beaches make for an ideal finish to this itinerary. En route, you’ll experience some breathtaking scenery, pass through some typical Malagasy towns and villages, visit the tropical rain forests of Ranomafana National Park and the high plateau granitic outcrops and sandstone canyons of the Isalo National Park and finally visit the bizarre Spiny Desert at Ifaty Beach. This itinerary is available all year around.

DAY 1: ANTANANARIVO

On arrival to Antananarivo (Tana), you will be met and assisted to your hotel.

Accommodation: Palissandre Hotel & Spa (B)

DAY 2: ANTANANARIVO - ANTSIRABE

Transfer by private car with your driver-guide to the highland town of Antsirabe. The 170km drive takes a leisurely two hours. En route at Ambatolampy, a quaint little town, have coffee at the Au Rendezvous Des Pecheurs an attractive restaurant with a delightful outside area. This is a busy little town, the rickshaw capital with pousse-pousse (rickshaw) drivers touting for business.

Accommodation: Cocoon Inn (BD)

DAY 3: ANTSIRABE ANT THE LAKES

Today is spent visiting the lakes of Tritriva and Andraikiba. Along the way you will drive past the Star Brewery – the villages are more prosperous here as they have benefitted from the brewery by growing barley. On the outskirts of Antsirabe you will also see some tombs set-off the road. The road passes by Lake Andraikiba where you can go horse riding or better still have lunch at the nearby lake restaurant set on a hillside with magnificent views. It is another thirty minutes from here to Lake Tritriva – an hour’s walk will take you around the emerald green lake. Lake Tritriva is a crater lake some 80 metres deep. In the afternoon you’ll return to Antsirabe.

Accommodation: Cocoon Inn (BD)

DAY 4 : ANTSIRABE - RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK

Transfer by road to the Ranomafana National Park, a journey of about 5 hours. You’ll stop at Ambositra which is famous for its wood carvings and where you will find an abundant choice of carved figurines and marquetry. Ranomafana featuring superb scenery is dominated by the white-water River Namorona, which cascades through rainforest-clad slopes. There is a good system of trails, including several half-day walks. Ranomafana is famed for its twelve species of lemur including the three species of Bamboo Lemur. For avid birders this is the place where you might find Brown Emutail, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, Pitta-like and Rufous-headed ground-rollers, Brown Mesite, Yellow-browed Oxylabes, Crossley’s Babbler, Forest Rock-thrush and Pollen’s Vanga. Returning to the car park you may see chameleons and tree frogs. You’ll need a torch (flashlight) for this excursion and a raincoat or umbrella is always advisable.

Accommodation: Setam Lodge or similar (BD)

DAY 5: RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK

Ranomafana is tropical rainforest. Paths in the forest are well laid out but the steepness of some trails is a challenge to some visitors. This forest is best in the mornings from first light until about 11am.

Accommodation: Setam Lodge or similar (BD)

DAY 6: RANOMAFANA-FIANARANTSOA

You’ll have the morning to explore the rainforest again. Birders can use this day to head for the marsh known as Vohiparara, (or the upper forest) which is quite flat and holds specials like Madagascar Snipe, White-throated Rail, Madagascar Flufftail and Grey Emutail. After lunch you will transfer to the town of Fianarantsoa. This charming and vibrant highland town has much to offer in terms of picturesque scenery. Fianarantsoa is surrounded by tea plantations and wine estates.

Accommodation: Tsara Guesthouse (BD)

DAY 7: FIANARANTSOA-ANJA RESERVE-RANOHIRA(ISALO NATIONAL PARK)

Today you travel by road south-westwards towards the town of Ihosy, the outback capital of the Bara tribe. The road is good and you will pass through dramatic scenery including terraced rice paddies of the Betsileo people. This area is also the wine producing district of Tana. Those interested in local crafts can buy wonderful silk ‘lambas’ at Ambalavao, and visit the paper ‘factory here, too. There is a noticeable change in architecture from characteristic multi-storeyed buildings on the highlands to simpler constructions of the Bara people. Fifteen kilometres out of Ambalavao is the community tourism site of Anja. Set amongst huge granitic boulders you will be led by a local guide to see their Ring-tailed Lemurs, all in very good condition. This is a pleasant break from the journey and sometimes you will be shown one of the smallest chameleons of the Brookesia genus. Madagascar Agamas are everywhere. Your guide will also take you to a tomb of the Bara people -they bury their deceased in caves. Past Ihosy you continue onto the Horombe Plateau (good for Reunion Harrier) before passing through the sapphire frontier town of Ranohira, and also the gateway town to the Isalo National Park. The park covers 81 540 ha of the Isalo Massif, which rises up from the flat surrounding grassy plain. The sandstone has been eroded into strange shapes, cut into impressive gorges and canyons.

Accommodation: Le Relais de la Reine or similar (BD)

DAY 8: ISALO NATIONAL PARK

Isalo National Park is a premier hiking destination. A visit to the natural swimming pool (La Piscine Naturelle) will involve a thirty-minute drive into the park from where one must walk for about one-hour. It is very hot in summer and there is very little shade. The path climbs steeply onto a plateau and then descends sharply to the pool. It is a true oasis with fringed palms, cool welcoming water and a cascading waterfall. There are no lemurs here but you will discover many extraordinary plants and see amazing rock formations. If you are more interested in lemurs then the best accessible area is the Canyon des Singes (or Maki) which is an eighteen km 4×4 drive on rough road into the reserve followed by a forty five minute hike into the canyon (not too strenuous and much of it is forested). There are Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux’s Sifaka in dense vegetation here along the streams. This is a perfect one day excursion. The Isalo Interpretation Centre is worth a visit if you are interested in learning about the people who live around the park and the wildlife in the national park itself. It is just south of the entrance to the hotel Le Relais de la Reine, and close to the national road.

Accommodation: Le Relais de la Reine or similar (BD)

DAY 9: ISALO NATIONAL PARK- ZOMBITSE-IFATY BEACH

Today you continue your travels. It is worthwhile visiting the Zombitse Forest National Park. This is an interesting dry deciduous forest with well laid trails. It is easy walking. If you are birders you need to leave before breakfast (organise a packed breakfast the night before). It is about a 90 minute drive. Specials include the Appert’s Tetraka, found only in this 21 000 ha forest. Continuing south you pass by some impressive baobabs. From here it is about 3 hours drive to Tulear. You pass by the elaborately decorated tombs of the Mahafaly and Antandroy – the tombs depicting colourful scenes from the lives of those interred there. The vegetation changes dramatically. Your final destination today is Ifaty Beach, which lies to the north of Tulear. You pass through degraded spiny forests, a botanical feature of this area.

Accommodation: Paradisier Hotel or similar (BD)

DAY 10: IFATY BEACH- RENIALA PRIVATE RESERVE

You head for Mangily village – about 20 minutes north – and the Reniala Private Reserve. Reniala protects a piece of spiny forest with trails and labelled plants. It is a botanists’ delight, relatively easy terrain, quite sandy but suitable for everybody. The forty five hectares of spiny forest includes two species of baobab. The flora is a chaotic ensemble of drought resistant plants, many of which are bloated, Pachypodiums, Moringas, Hildergardia and Delonix spp. There are many orchids as well as species of Aloe, Commiphora, intermixed with the spiny octopus trees (Didieracea). It is also good for the special birds of the area – Long-tailed Ground-roller, Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Sub-desert Mesite, Running Coua and Archbold’s Newtonia.

Accommodation: Paradisier Hotel or similar (BD)

DAY 11: IFATY BEACH

Relax at Ifaty Beach
Accommodation: Paradisier Hotel or similar (BD)

DAY 12: IFATY BEACH

From Ifaty Beach you are transferred by boat back to Tulear and onward to the airport for your flight to Antananarivo. On arrival you will be will be met and transferred to your hotel where you will have the final night at leisure.

Accommodation: Palissandre Hotel & Spa (B& B)

DAY 13: IFATY BEACH

Transfer to the airport in time to check in for your onward flight.