DAY 1: ANTANANARIVO – ANTSIRABE
169 Km / Paved road / 3h30 to 4h journey, depending on the frequency/duration of the stops
After breakfast, we will take the road to the South. Discover the rural world of the Highlands of Madagascar, the architecture of its traditional houses, its rice fields and its own cultivating techniques … Stop at Ambatolampy. This village located at the foot of the Ankaratra massif is famous for its workshops manufacturing utensils exclusively made of aluminum. Then drive to Antsirabe.
DAY 2: HIKING IN THE VAKINANKARATRA COUNTRY
Whether on foot or by mountain bike, you will have the opportunity to discover the fascinating landscapes that characterize the Highlands: the hills, the villages set on their sides, the fields, the rice fields that extend as far as the eye can see … This tour will lead to beautiful encounters with peasants and artisans.
- Mountain bike option: depending on your physical condition, 15km to 30 km. 4km of maximum climb on both routes. 11 km of descent on a 30km trail. Rolling laterite trail. 2h to 4h, medium level, on a paved road and a laterite trail.
- Walking option: 3h to 4h walking. Approximately 400m of uneven terrain, medium level, hiking trail
Necessary equipment: walking shoes or good sneakers, sun protection items, bottle of water.
Picnic lunch prepared by us.
In the afternoon, tour of the city of Antsirabe. Antsirabe is an industrial city famous for its thermal baths and rickshaws, with its large colonial buildings and wide avenues, inherited from the missionaries and settlers. Tour of the city. Meeting and sharing with ingenious artists and craftsmen, working zebu horn or wood, manufacturer of miniatures, embroiderers…
DAY 3: ANTSIRABE – AMBOSITRA – FIANARANTSOA
273 Km / Paved road / 6h to 7h journey, depending on the frequency/duration of stops
After breakfast, drive to Ambositra. A multiethnic commercial crossroads where the geniuses of precious woodworking meet. We will stop for a while to discover sculptors and markers in their neighborhoods; skilled and friendly craftsmen who will be happy to welcome us in their home.
Continue to Fianarantsoa.
DAY 4: FIANARANTSOA – ISALO
240 Km / Paved road / 6h journey, depending on the frequency/duration of stops
Walking in the old town of Fianarantsoa, discovering its history. Then, continue through the vineyards of the Betsileo country: head towards Ambalavao, a beautiful farming agglomeration that we will cross on foot. Our next stop will be the nature reserve managed by the village community of Anja. 2h30 walk to see the lemur catta. Then, continue towards a point of view for a magnificent panorama of the valley. Take the road to Isalo National Park.
DAY 5: RANOHIRA – ISALO NATIONAL PARK
Visit of Isalo National Park. Transfer to the entrance of the park for a hike that will take you through the most beautiful sites of the massif. We will first go to the natural pool … through a path that passes through magnificent rocky walls that shelter some Bara tombs. We will stop at some points that offer breathtaking views on the massif. After swimming, we will continue the hike along a ridge line on the eastern part of the massif to end up at Namaza creek and forest. With a little luck, we will see some groups of lemurs. For the bravest ones, the walk will go on to the black and blue swimming pool, then to the Nymphs’ Waterfalls.
5h walk, 350m to 500m slopes and drops, medium difficulty level, hiking trail. Necessary equipment: walking shoes or good sneakers, items to protect from the sun, mosquito repellent, bottle of water
Picnic lunch prepared by us.
About the Isalo National Park: The oldest geological formation of Madagascar will open its doors to you. This massif of continental and ruiniform sandstone dates back to the Jurassic era. Its very typical geomorphology, sculpted by erosions, offers a stunning show of colors and shapes … Second largest national park in Madagascar, it contains unmatched richnesses in biodiversity (endemic rock plants, such as Aloes, Euphorbes, Pachypodes, Kalanchoe …) and a specific fauna.
DAY 6: RANOHIRA – SAHAMBAVY
260 km / Paved road / 7 hours, depending on the frequency/duration of stops
After a quick stop in Fianarantsoa, we continue straight to Sahambavy. Settle into a hotel, by the lake, in a beautiful tea plantation landscape. The only one of that kind in Madagascar.
DAY 7: TRAIN JOURNEY TO MANAKARA
Get to the train station at 8am. It is directly opposite the hotel. Great day with a train journey to the East Coast. With 67 bridges and 47 tunnels, the trail is one of the steepest in the world. It will allow you to meet, to discover, to exchange with the population and to admire one of the most beautiful landscapes of Madagascar: the descent of the Highlands to the sea.
Picnic lunch prepared by us
Notes on the train journey:
The train is on only on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
It is an old train (more than 40 years old), during the journey, we are not safe from a breakdown.
Stops in stations are not specified, they are done according to the loadings to be carried out in each station. Attention, traveling first class does not mean “comfort”, it simply means that there will be fewer people with you.
If for technical reasons (breakdown, landslide, etc.) this train trip is not possible, we will join Manakara by road.
DAY 8: MANAKARA – MANANJARY
163 km / Paved road / Approximately 4 hours with stops
After breakfast, visit the city of Manakara before reaching Mananjary by car. Arrival in Mananjary after about 4-hour drive. Afternoon relaxation.
DAY 9: MANANJARY – AMBOHITSARA – AMBAHY: CRUISE ON THE CANAL DES PANGALANES
Boat transfer distance: 80 km, Duration: +/- 6h00 Walk: +/- 1h00
After breakfast, the crew and the kitchen await you on the Vintsy; a motorized barge, with a dining room, a panoramic terrace with sun loungers, a kitchen and toilets on board. Possibility to visit a plantation of spices (pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, clove, etc.) if leaving early in the morning, as this step takes time. Sailing north to reach the village of Ambohitsara. Visit the typical village of the coast, perched on its dune of clear sand, and meet the local people. You will find there a unique sculpture in the shape of an elephant whose origin is controversial. Some believe it is the work of the Arab travelers of the XII; others, on the other hand, think it is the Indians. The cruise will then continue to the village of Ambahy. Visit the CSB2 Health Center, a bush health clinic. This is where you can make useful donations: medicines, clothing, and supplies. A short walk then takes us to the “Pangalanes Jungle Camp”. Each “tent shelter” bungalow consists of a “raty” vegetal roof that allows a good flow of rainwater and a comfortable “safari” tent equipped with two twin beds. Picnic lunch prepared by us.
DAY 10: AMBAHY – NOSY VARIKA CRUISE ON THE CANAL DES PANGALANES
Boat transfer distance: 50 km Duration: +/- 4h00 Walk: +/- 0h30
After breakfast, boarding and sailing on the Sakaleona River. Then cross the big lake of Analampotsy. The Canal des Pangalanes is the unique transportation route in this landlocked region, from Mananjary to Mahanoro and up to Tamatave. Stop at Nosy Varika, which we visit to stretch our legs. Picnic lunch prepared by us. The end of this step takes us on a sandy tongue bordered with trees, between the Canal and the Indian Ocean: the wild site of the “Pangalanes Forest Lodge”. At sunset, you will appreciate the lounge-bar terrace, under the pandanus, overlooking the ocean. The setting is exceptional and the conservation program initiated by the hotel to preserve the forest from the human impact is supported and monitored by the ministry.
DAY 11: ANDRANOSARA – MAHANORO CRUISE ON THE CANAL DES PANGALANES
Boat transfer distance: 40 km – Duration: +/- 3h00 Walk: +/- 1h00
After breakfast at the ecolodge, we will go hiking to discover the littoral forest. Bird lovers can watch bee-eaters, flycatchers, parrots, raptors and kingfishers which dwell in the area around the Canal. The botanists will appreciate the “pandanus”, “ravenales” and “alocasias” that border the banks, not to mention the water hyacinths and water lilies. The crossing of the mouth of the Mangoro River is a moment of emotion, because the currents are strong for the fragile canoes. The navigation ends with the crossing of a huge marsh with lake dwellings. We reach the Mahanoro river port in the early afternoon. Picnic lunch prepared by us.
DAY 12: MAHANORO – ANDASIBE: VISIT OF THE VILLAGE RESERVE
242km / Tarmac road / about 5h depending on the frequency/duration of stops
Departure early in the morning towards Andasibe. Stop at Antsampanana, famous for its exotic fruit stalls. You will find different kinds of bananas, lychees, custard apples and even soursops. Visit of a private park in the afternoon: an island with lemurs. Here, there are 4 species of lemurs. We will then go on a nocturnal walk where we will observe several species of lemurs, including the smallest species of lemur ever, but also some species of nocturnal chameleons.
DAY 13: ANDASIBE – ANTANANARIVO: ANDASIBE NATIONAL PARK
146km / paved road / about 3h depending on the frequency/duration of stops
Morning visit at the Analamazaotra reserve. A magnificent rain forest that is populated by lemurs, including the largest lemur: the Indri Indri. There are also ferns and orchids, as well as several species of chameleons. 3-hour stroll without any special difficulty. In the afternoon, return to the capital. Arrival in the late afternoon.
Seasonality: this trip can be done all year round. However, we do not recommend doing it during the austral winter period: from June to late August as the weather is unpleasant on the east coast of the island (high humidity level)
Accomodation on the canal des Pangalanes are simple but very clean. For lighting, we use petroleum or solar lamps. For showers, you will use a pitcher and a bucket, and each tent will have a dry toilet. Neverthless, the 2 camps have a great location: by the waterside in an exceptional natural environment