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Come and join Motor Trails to experience Madagascar in a different way. You will begin your journey in the central highlands, in the capital Antananarivo, and after a day trip visiting Madagascar’s famous lemurs and an ancient palace, you will ride on eastwards. You’ll visit the beautiful Tsingy nature reserve and Isalo National Park. From here you’ll ride the bikes on a lengthy off-road route along the west coast, go on a boat trip for some whale-spotting, and sail through the Tsiribhina gorge, then on to take your bikes on a series of adventurous routes.
Motor Trails will accommodate you in various accommodations. In the larger places, (and there aren’t many of those) the accommodation is good. In the smaller villages, even the best hotels can leave a fair bit to be desired and are basic. You’ll need to be prepared for this.
The tour manager will be waiting for you at the airport to take you to the hotel in the city center. Antananarivo is situated in the highlands and this is very noticeable: all roads slope away and are often interconnected by steps and staircases. The center of the city is the Independence Square, although the square bears more resemblance to a dual carriageway run through the middle by a green strip. It’s always busy here, but in the small streets around the center, there’s also plenty going on. All this is within a five-minute walk from your hotel. As you’ll arrive early in the morning, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the city.
You will get on your bikes for the first time to enjoy a ride out for a day trip. To start with, you will follow a route through the busy and narrow streets of Antananarivo. You will ride through market streets and no doubt get (unavoidably) stuck in traffic a few times. Once out of the city, the traffic soon quietens down. About 20 miles outside the city, lies the Royal Hill. Located on top of the hill are several temples, built by the first immigrants from South East Asia, and showing great similarities to temples found in Indonesia and Malaysia. The place is still of great importance to many Malagasy and is held in high regard as a link to their ancestors and origin. It is on UNESCO’s list of protected heritage sites.
On the way back to the capital, you will visit the Lemurs’ Park, a rescue center for lemurs. Inside the park, you will find different sorts of free-ranging lemurs, and as you walk through the park a park guide explains about the different species of lemurs and their particular characteristics. The ride back into the city is an adventure in itself, especially during the late afternoon. The traffic barely moves, anywhere. Lucky for you, the bikes can get through the narrowest of streets and marketplaces.
You will leave Antanarivo during the morning rush hour (which lasts from 07:00 - 09:00). You will cross the main road and take a well-asphalted road westwards. After half an hour’s ride, you will come across the second lemur park this trip. If for whatever reason you didn’t manage to visit the one yesterday, you can go here instead. The biggest place en route today is Arivonimamo. Here you will stop for coffee and an early lunch. Then it’s a two-hour ride to Chute de Lily, one of Madagascar’s biggest waterfalls. After this, you will backtrack for a bit before heading south. You will stay overnight in the tiny village of Ampefy. The quality of the guest house here certainly leaves a bit to be desired, but you’ll make up for that with some good hotels later on in the trip.
A small 50 kilometers after you leave Ampefy, the road becomes unpaved. It is the first off-road part of this trip. It’s about 80 kilometers. You will ride through beautiful areas with some rice fields every once in a while. It’s green in the rainy periods and brown in the dry seasons. After the off-road part, you will ride a paved road to Antsirable. This sweet town is the main city of pousse pousse: a bright colored rickshaw pulled by men power. This is a nice place to stop on our way south because of some historical colonial buildings.
It is a short trip today, but with plenty to do once you reach your destination. You will carry on over the paved road you started on yesterday, but you’re now on a descent. You will leave the higher regions of the island and enter a rolling landscape. It’s a good 200 kilometers to Miandrivazo. Here you will park the bikes, take your time for lunch and get on a boat for a trip through the gorge. Late afternoon, you’re back at Mandrivazo, looking for a nice place to eat.
You will descend further still. First, you will go towards the south for 120 kilometers. Then you will have lunch in Malaimbandy where you will find many tiny uncluttered places to eat.
Lucky for you, Malagasy cuisine reflects a wealth of influences, firstly from Southeast Asia, secondly from France, and thirdly the island of Madagascar itself, with of course plentiful supplies of fish, and cattle for beef. You can eat great meals in the smallest of places. After lunch, you will take the asphalt main road to the coast. Morodova is a cozy little coastal place and a small beach.
These were your first four days on the bike, primarily over asphalted roads. This will not be the case for the next few days.
You will leave very early for one of the most amazing things you will see on this trip: the sunrise on Avenue de Baobab. For the photographers among you, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Picture the scene: bikes covered in the dust of unpaved roads, bathed in the orange light of the sunrise, against a backdrop of dozens of beautiful baobab trees. Then you will ride through the private nature reserve Kirindy. After a 90-kilometer unpaved and often dusty dirt road, you will arrive in Belo Tsiribihina, beside one of the widest rivers on the island. Here you will cross by ferry. After lunch, you will ride a further 100 kilometers over unpaved gravel tracks to the entrance of Tsingy National Park where we stay overnight.
Tsingy National Park is the most bizarre park on the island. The park consists of countless sharp limestone peaks making up bizarre formations. A walking route connects some peaks with hanging bridges, not for people with a fear of heights. If you have any time left, there’s a second walking route through the park further north. You will stay for a second night in Bekopaka.
You will ride the same unpaved road back the way you came, all of it. You have no choice. And so you will have lunch again in Belo Tsiribihina, and back again on the ferry. The fun part of today is the Avenue de Baobab, but this time to experience the sunset. Again, this means some beautiful photos, but of course also a late arrival at the hotel.
Today, you can rest. While the mechanic checks the motorcycles, you will enjoy the beach, the different restaurants and the bars that Morondava has plenty of. If you would like to, you can visit Baobab Avenue around sunset.
These will be the two most difficult days of the tour. This region has no main roads, and all you come across are tiny hamlets. You will aim for an overnight stay in Manja, but Motor Trails will let this depend on the state of the roads, whether they are more or less difficult than expected. Even though you won’t see the sea, the first part of the road in question does run alongside the coast. It then swerves slowly inland, following the river. Manja is located quite a bit further inland and approximately 150 kilometers from Morondava.
For the second part of the route, you will remain in the lowlands and cross the Mangoky River, which you have to cross with small ferries. After this, it’s still a good 180 kilometers before you hit the coast again.
These are two long days where the weather, to a certain extent, will determine how difficult the trip will be, whether it’ll be mud or lose sand. Whichever, you will at least have a really good hotel in the harbor town of Toliara, with lovely warm showers and a good restaurant. You will stay here for two days.
We use this day for a day trip to visit the whales. There is a certain amount of luck involved in them being there at the time of our visit, so there is no absolute guarantee we will see them. The boat trip starts south of Toliara. We will go there by bike. If for whatever reason the boat trip is canceled, we will visit the caves of Sarodrano, also south of Toliara.
You will follow the really excellent highway, the N7, on a slow ascent back up into the mountains. You even will have a proper 1,056 meters high mountain pass to cross. You will arrive in Ranohira early in the afternoon. After your lunch there, you will ride to Isalo National Park. This park has similarities with the Grand Canyon in the United States. This park is not about animals but is known for its diversity of terrain and rock formations. After your afternoon trip, you will ride back to Ranohira where you will stay the night.
Isalo National Park kind of resembles the Grand Canyon of America. This park is not about animals, but about landscapes and unique rock formations. Today you will enjoy this park with a guide. You will discover the waterfalls, natural pools, and adventurous canyons. In the middle of the wilderness, you will have a barbecue lunch, while lemurs play in the bushes around you.
You will continue your travel over highway number seven till Ambalavao. Around lunchtime, you will check in in a beautiful hotel near the park Anja. A short trip will bring you to a big group of ring-tailed lemurs, perhaps the most famous kind of lemur.
Today, you will enter the mountain area and zigzag your way north. You’ll have plenty of time to take pictures and stop in the small villages. You will have lunch somewhere near Fianarantsoa. North of this city, you will head east and stop at the Namorona waterfalls. You will spend the night in small-town Ranomafana.
In the morning, you will visit the Ranomafana National Park. After the visit, you will take a different road to the main road than you came on yesterday. This one is unpaved. From there, you will get back onto highway seven and carry on northwards. After lunch in Ambositra, it is a further 80 kilometers to today’s final destination. You will ride all day through the highest parts of the island, beautiful roads, and wonderful views.
You will have a beautiful zigzag route back to the capital of Madagascar. The closer you get, the busier the traffic becomes. You are hoped to arrive in the city center before the early morning traffic jams. You will leave the motorcycles at the hotel and say goodbye to the driver and mechanic. If your departure is in the evening, you will have plenty of time to discover the city and buy some last souvenirs. You will end this trip in a lovely restaurant, and late in the evening, you will ride to the airport to depart home. If your flight departs in the afternoon, you will look at a solution to arrive in time in the city, so you’ll have enough time to take a shower, get dressed and get to the airport.
The distances are not long, and this trip does not contain any very long journeys. There are four more difficult off-road days in this trip. These are in the south-east of the country. How difficult these days are will depend on the weather. When the weather has been very dry, the ground can, in parts, exist of loose sand. This is pretty difficult to ride on. In wet weather, this will change to a soft, slippery surface (mud). This is only the case on parts of the trails and not over the entire stretch. You will also need to make some ferry crossings.
You will encounter neither high altitudes nor extreme weather conditions on this trip.
Note: More details about the trip and items to bring can be found in the tour’s handbook which you will receive approximately one month prior to departure.
This journey will start and end in Antananarivo. Along the way, you will visit Ampefy, Mandoto, Betafo, Miandrivazo, Morondava, Bekopaka, Tsingy National Park, Manja, Toliara, Ranohira, Isalo National Park, Ranomafana, and Antsirabe.
Madagascar is probably most widely known as the title of a series of funny animation movies. For a purpose, it is a large island that belongs to the African continent, though the majority of its inhabitants descended from the first settlers who were seafarers from Borneo, Indonesia. It is a land of extreme climates, up in the eastern highland regions the climate is humid, whereas the central highlands are drier and cooler, and the climate lower down in the southwest is a mostly semi-arid one. Its fauna is unique. 90% of its wildlife is not found anywhere else on earth.
Madagascar is a very safe country. As a tourist, the only thing to watch out for are pickpockets in the busy little streets of the capital. There is hardly any traffic on the road outside of the capital, this makes riding much safer. It is always very busy in the capital, which slows down the tempo considerably.
Ivato International Airport
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