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The Ultimate Itinerary for Madagascar

Updated: 5 days ago

While building a Madagascar itinerary, there are two kinds of people. The first kind who think of the Dreamworks movie from a decade ago.. and the second kind who hear the voice of legendary David Attenborough when they look at wildlife roaming freely in the jungle. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed us on here for a while that we are the latter.

That was the one and only reason we did this trip and it did not disappoint. As wildlife enthusiasts, our trip focused entirely on hiking up the dense jungle forests to find the endemic Lemurs, chameleons, geckos, snakes, frogs and everything in between.

This was a wildly enchanting trip. Even after all the research I did, there were so many curveballs at every step. That is how this trip will go, it’s not something you can prepare for.


ITINERARY

If you’re up for a rough adventure in one of the most unique islands on the planet, then this two week itinerary of ours is a good place to start.

Land in Antananarivo - 1 day

Fly to Morondava - Avenue of Baobabs and Kirindy - 3 days

Drive to Bekopaka - Tsingy National Park Hike - 3 days

Drive back to Morondava - 1 day

Fly back to Antananarivo, drive to Andasibe - Lemurs and wildlife - 4 days

Drive back to Antananarivo - 1 day and fly out


TABLE OF CONTENTS
FLIGHTS + VISA (if traveling with an Indian passport from Dubai)

There are few connections to Madagascar. The best way to get there is through Ethiopian Airlines.

Visa is on arrival for most nationalities. If your trip is less than 15 days, then you don't need to pay a visa fee but there is a small processing fee. If it is over 15 days, then a single entry visa costs $45 per person. Immigration is straightforward but can take some time, depending on the season. You may be asked for your yellow fever card, keep it on hand.


LANGUAGE

French and Malagasy are the official languages. Not many will speak English outside of the main capital city, so keep google translate on hand.


BEST TIME TO VISIT

If you are planning to head to Morondava and then to Tsingy, then you can only plan this trip between mid-April and October. If you are skipping Tsingy, you can still do Morondava all year around. All other months are monsoon season and the roads beyond Morondava will be impassable. Choose your time of travel, based on what you want to experience. We wanted to see every single unique thing about the country. Mid-April was a good for us to do this long trip.


CURRENCY

Euro can be used but for small purchases and tips, highly recommended to carry local currency for any unforeseen expenses as well. The exchange rate outside of the capital city is atrocious. Plan accordingly.


GUIDE OR DIY?

For places like this, where you have limited time and the logistics is COMPLICATED, I always recommend reliable locals to help you find your way around.

The guide I went with gave us very competitive rates for the trip. I contacted them from Tripadvisor and they emailed me back. To be honest, the communication with their team could have been much better but they did a good job overall, given the inherent complications in the destination.


I can always find the best agencies for a group tour with lots of reviews. The other agencies I contacted were Nature Culture Madagascar and Mada Focus. They were both more expensive but had good reviews as well.


ESTIMATED TRIP COSTS + GETTING AROUND

A 10 to 14 days trip can cost EUR 1700 and upwards per person with basic 3 star accommodation with breakfast, transportation, guide and the round tickets from Morondava.


Note that if you are looking to get to the other islands or Morondava, you will need to fly internally. Make sure that this cost is included in your final tour cost from the local guides.

TRAVELING WITH YOUNG KIDS - TO GO OR NOT TO GO?

Unfortunately. I can’t recommend this one for young kids. It’s a difficult trip by all means; you will often be driving on bad roads for 15 plus hours with no electricity, running water or proper food. People who have done one too many mainland Africa trips and are able to withstand extreme heat dust and not squeak at the sight of roaches the size of a tennis ball will be able to manage here.

HOW MUCH TIME TO SPEND THERE?

At the very minimum, to do an itinerary like this, you will need to 10 to 14 days to do it a relaxed pace. If you have more time, and enjoy beaches, you can include an island hop to Nosy Be. Keep in mind that getting to places in Madagascar is both time consuming and expensive, with just few flights to every place. Don't aim to fit it all in, decide what you want to experience and focus on that.

PLACES TO STAY

We stayed at places that were most convenient and available, given we traveled low season. Most of the places were just basic. In the capital city, our room was at a boutique hotel close to the airport. It had a decent veggie breakfast and a great bed. Perfect to kick back and relax after a long journey.

The highlight of the trip was in the last leg where we stayed in the gorgeous Mantadia Lodge in Andasibe. The five-start boutique is worth splurging on for both the great vegan food, the spa, the infinity pool and the spectacular views of the folding mountains.

HIGHLIGHTS
ANTANANARIVO

We are not city people. Our trip to the capital was just in and out for two days to relax and unwind before our trip back home. The city is busy and chaotic, like most major capitals. We did stay in two nice hotels and even managed to find decent Indian food on our last night. Nothing special about this city.


MORONDAVA
Avenue of Baobabs

The land where poems come to life. Look up Madagascar and the first few images that will show up will likely be these alien-looking upside down trees. Many many people visit the country just to watch the sunset here.

The second we saw the huge trees on the sandy roads, we were suitably impressed by these trees looming above us. We loved it SO much, that we went back three times - for the sunrise, sunset and the milky way. Hard to pick one favorite between dawn and dusk.

As we walked down to the village, and watched the people settle down for the night, fires were lit, goats herded back home, and the orange hues of the sky gave way to stars, I couldn’t help but marvel at the biodiversity of this country. It’s just truly exotic. I couldn’t pick or recommend just ONE time to visit, so here are many pictures from the three times we walked down to the Avenue. Don’t miss it and take your time to savor it al.

Kirindy National Park

Another place you cannot miss in Morondava is the Kirindy Forest. We found White Sifaka Lemurs with the golden eyes, the mischievous common brown lemur and the extremely shy mouse lemur; these are nocturnal, so we had to walk through the forest to find these adorable guys up on trees.

You can also do a night time walk. It's a great way to see the nocturnal lemurs, and creatures.

The biggest draw for wildlife enthusiasts like us, these creatures are charismatic, with intriguing social structures and dances, and mating calls. Our aim was to spend more than a few days visiting the different national parks around the country to observe them up close.

BEKOPAKA
Tsingy National Park

Strap yourself for three intense travel days and clambering to get to one of Madagascar’s most unique national parks. The park is split into two sections and each park has multiple loops you can take. Some 150 million years ago, all of this was underwater.

As the water receded, it left behind this otherworldly landscape you see of limestone spikes and caves. Beware of giant spider cobwebs and wasp nests in between pinnacles. Once in the park, you will be scrambling for footing as you climb up up on unsteady rocks. This descending into caves and crawling through tunnels can take several hours.

The grandeur of Tsingy is only witnessed once at the top, with views of the spiky rocks stretching far into the forest.

Before you get excited, get ready to hear about the arduous journey to get here. There are bad roads, and then there are roads from Morondava to Tsingy. Our journey took 17 hours. We started at 5 a.m. got on a bullock cart, got on two ferries and finally arrived at the hotel at around 1 a.m. There was one beautiful part in the journey though (swipe to the end) - we met an entire village of kids, shared our food and taught them to play frisbee for a few hours. For me, seeing kids like this is the hardest part of Africa travel, it’s gut wrenching. We often carry our frisbees on such trips and leave it behind, it’s not nearly enough but its us, trying in our own small way to bring a smile to these precious faces.

ANDASIBE
Mitsinjo National Park, Andasibe National Park, Vakona Private Reserve

There are some wildlife experiences out there that are awe-inspiringly, blow-the-lights-out magnificent.While it’s easy to go D'aww, it’s also important to note that these species are threatened by habitat loss and deforestation. By visiting the communities and National Parks involved in protecting these species and by participating in reforestation activities when there, you can make a small but meaningful contribution and support the local conservation efforts. There's a whole world out there, filled with weird and wonderful creatures, and observing any animal, no matter how great or small, in its ‘natural’ habitat is undeniably incredible. This the world that brings me the most joy.

There are over a 100 different species of Lemurs, found nowhere else on the planet. whilst planning a trip to incorporate them might need a little more organization - they're worth every last memory card. Spending time with wildlife was on top of our agenda during our trip to Andasibe. This was also the most relaxing leg. We would spend hours each day in every park trying to find the shy lemurs hidden deep in the shadow of trees.

We found the Indri, one of the largest living Lemurs with a distinctive piercing-whalesong.

Golden Sifaka, known as dancing sifakas because of the way they move, skipping sideways

We then got very close to the shy black and white ruffed lemur having lunch..

Walked further to spot my favorites and the most cutest of the lot, the Bamboo Lemur

A mama and baby Sifaka spending time under the shade

The fourth largest island in the world is home to 5% of all known animal and plant species. There are over 150 species of Chameleon alone, imagine that.

We found Weiled and Parsons Chameleon perched precariously on branches completely camouflaged with their lime green coat.

As a David Attenborough admirer, finding the endemic Mantella frog with it’s carrot-colored skin, I was over the moon.

Madagascar is a wildlife wonderland. We planted trees in the reforestation center and donated to the privately owned NGO - given that most species I mentioned here are under threat of extinction, this trip felt more urgent, purposeful and like a force of good, there is no better reason to visit this country.

FINAL THOUGHTS

From wildlife, to diverse landscapes, towering mountains, lush rainforests, the land of baobabs and lemurs is packed with adventures for anyone up for a WILD ride. I also loved that towards the end of our trip there was a whole lot of downtime. Though it may not seem like it, our trips all about balance and not just the constant rush from place to place.

There is SO much to discover & it’s all still unexplored - just think, over 95% of the flora and fauna here cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

There are now more ways to explore the world than ever before. So if you’re looking for an adventure that’s a little different, this is the one to pick. The one thing we try to aim for on such trips is that our visit benefit local people and the planet - we got many opportunities to do just that in this country & we loved it.

Chances are, once you have ventured into something this extraordinary, you’ll be hooked for life!

Leave your thoughts and questions below. Thanks for reading.

Lots of love,

Anki

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