This tour has a focus on the beauty of the waterways of Madagascar, as your first three nights are spent on board a barge. You then get to experience the unique natural wonder of Tsinghy of Bemaraha where there is kilometers of undiscovered caves, rivers, and canyons. Bats, lemurs, birds and endemic flora have all adapted to the area.
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We meet you at the airport and transfer you to your chosen hotel. From the Airport to Antananarivo city center (12km), it can take sometimes over an hour! Antananarivo is a crowded city full of life! On your way you will see rice paddies, houses that are all different from each other, and the daily life in this city of about 2 million inhabitants. Tananarivians mostly live from day to day jobs, we call it “Ady Gasy”: tires repairing, selling Chinese-made products in the streets, selling scrap... Antananarivo is full of life and colorful! Once you get to your hotel, the rest of the day will be free.
Early departure from Antananarivo to Miandrivazo. You will quickly see how hard it is to drive on Malagasy national roads and appreciate the talent of your experienced driver. On your way, you will drive through Antsirabe which is a charming town surrounded by extinct volcanos and rice paddies. Miandrivazo is a peaceful village, and one of the hottest in Madagascar! Indeed, from the Highlands (Antananarivo) to the bushy West, you can have a temperature difference of sometimes 20 degrees Celsius! It is also here where your cruise on Tsiribihina River will start.
Drive to the pier of Masekampy (45 km/1h) where you get on board on what will be your “home” for the next 3 days: a typical river barge! The boat is a wooden motor barge used before for carrying tobacco. At the rear of the barge is the pilot house and the kitchen. Passengers can seat on comfortable benches on the lower deck where hot lunch is served. Stairs lead to the upper deck: where you can enjoy the weather on deckchairs. The cruise on Tsiribihina River starts with the landscape of Menabe Region (which means “very red”), full of mango trees, tobacco plantations and villages of the local tribe (Sakalava). After lunch, you cruise through gorges and see your first lemurs! Cruising stops around 4:00 pm. The team will set up camp on a huge sandbank bordering a forest for a spectacular dormitory. Overnight under tents.
Day 4 | Tsiribihina River Cruise 2 (FB) The cruise starts again on the Tsiribihina river, which is 120 km long. You will pass motor barges carrying local products for the villagers, and herds of zebu crossing the river. During the day you will stop at Begidro and Berevo villages (clinic run by nuns, tobacco barns). The landscape passes before your eyes: cliffs with bats, rice fields... At the end of the day, herons, teals, or knob-billed ducks will join you. The crew stops the boat on a sandbank. After dinner, you will enjoy traditional entertainment with Sakalava songs and dances near the campfire. Overnight under tents.
The villagers wish us "Soava dia" (have a good trip), and the barge carries on down the river. You can see your first baobabs! Madagascar is the home of 6 out of the 8 species of Baobabs in the world. You will land in Belo sur Tsiribihina, where your 4WD is waiting for you to drive to Bekopaka, the nearest village to Tsingy of Bemaraha. On your way, you will enjoy crossing the Manambolo River: Your driver will load the car on a barge!
The day will be fully dedicated to the exploration of Tsingy of Bemaraha NP. The Tsingy are a very unique rocky formation that only exists in Madagascar. These limestone pinnacles were built by the slow sedimentation of coral and shells. When Madagascar separated from Africa 165 million years ago, the ocean withdrew and Tsingy remained. This strange stone forest can be a hundred meters high. The NP of Tsingy of Bemaraha is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under it, there are kilometers of undiscovered caves, rivers, and canyons. Bats, lemurs, birds and endemic flora have adapted to this unique ecosystem.
After your breakfast, you will leave for Kirindy, a reserve on the way to Morondava. Kirindy is a privately managed forest in one of Madagascar's most threatened environments. Bush fires are very common in this region and you might see plenty of them on your way. This reserve protects the dry deciduous forests, home of the famous giant jumping rat. But there are also 7 species of lemurs, the fosa (the only predator of lemurs), and endemic reptiles. At the end of the afternoon, you will have a nocturnal visit (about 4h) to spot nocturnal animals.
In the morning, you will have a day visit of 4h inside the Kirindy forest. After the visit, you will be head to Morondava with a stop at the world famous “Baobab Alley”, at sunset! These huge trees, several hundred years old, will reveal their beauty and size with the red colours of dusk. This is one of the most popular and visited places in Madagascar. These Baobabs can be up to 800 years old and be 98 feet high (30 m). The diameter of the largest trees can reach up to 36 feet (11 m).
Morning at leisure to discover the town of Morondava, a very special town facing the Mozambique Channel. You can easily walk around, visit the colorful market and the naval carpentry workshop. In the afternoon, transfer to Morondava airport and fly to Antananarivo.
According to your flight schedule, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight back. If time allows, you can do some last minute shopping for Malagasy handicrafts.