Madagascar - Northern Explorer

Northern Explorer - Madagascar

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 18 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers


Day 1 - Antananarivo

Arrive in Antananarivo and transfer to the hotel. Overnight at Gassy Country House or similar

Day 2 - Antananarivo – Sambava

We take an early flight to Sambava (subject to change), the only flight we shall take on this overland adventure. The landscapes around Sambava are dominated by vanilla fields and coconut plantations. On arrival, if time allows us, we can visit a workshop where you will get a demonstration of how to prepare vanilla from the field to the vanilla pod. Overnight at Las Palmas Hotel or similar (B)

Day 3 - Sambava – Marojejy National Park – Approximate walking time today 3.5 – 4 hours (gentle uphill for most)

Today we depart around 07:30am, accompanied by our special Marojejy park guide we travel by 4WD to Manantenina arriving around 9am. From here after a short break we continue along a dirt track to Mandena, which is as far as the car can go. We then continue on foot for 1 hour to the entrance point of Marojejy National Park. From the park’s entrance it is a further 2 ½ hour walk to reach Camp Mantella. We should arrive in good time at the camp to be able to enjoy the forest surroundings. For those wishing to do some more exploring on foot we walk to Humbert waterfall which is approximately 1 hour each way. Overnight camping or staying in basic huts (BLD)

Please note that Marojejy National Park is a true wilderness area in Madagascar. Facilities are basic at the camps and consist either of shared huts or camping. Outside bathroom facilities are shared. You should be well prepared for basic conditions in Marojejy National Park. Even in the dry season rain is common and trails can be slippery. From Days 3 – 6 you will be walking every day. The walking times between the camps are outlined in the day to day itinerary. Walks from the camps vary depending on the wishes of the group and the state of the trails which will be determined by the local park guide. Should clients wish they can stay at camp on Day 5 if they do not wish to walk from Marojejia Camp.

Please note that night walks on the trails in Marojejy are no longer permitted. We will however be able to look for wildlife around camp on the nights spent in the park.

Day 4 - Marojejy National Park – Approximate walking time – 2 hours to camp (some steep uphill)

Today we continue our trek and reach Camp Marojejia (Camp 2), a trek of approximately 2 hours mostly uphill with an elevation gain of around 350m. The walk is quite tough in parts but we have plenty time and will be able to make lots of stops to enjoy the forest and to look for wildlife. Marojejia camp is located at the transition between lowland and montane rainforest. It is located on a mountainside thus it offers breath-taking views, overlooking large areas of the park. On arrival at the camp we can get some rest and those that want to can do some further exploring of the park with the special park guide. Hopefully we will be lucky and spot the “Silky Sifaka” a beautiful white lemur only found in this area. Overnight camping or staying in basic huts (BLD)

Day 5 - Marojejy National Park – Walking time depends on trail conditions (variable terrain)

Today we explore the National Park on trails starting from the Marojejia camp searching for flora and fauna. Overnight camping or staying in basic huts (BLD)

Day 6 - Marojejy – Vohemar – Walking time 3-4 hours (descent)

We depart camp today around 07:30am and descend to Camp Mantella and then back to Mandena where our vehicles await. The descent should take around 3-4 hours. We then drive around 1 hour back to Sambava where we will stop for lunch.  From Sambava we head on northwards to Vohemar through the green and peaceful landscape of the east. The journey should take around 2 hours from Sambava to Vohemar. On arrival in Vohemar we can explore the town if time allows. Overnight Hotel Baie d’ Iharana (B)

Day 7 - Vohemar - Daraina

Today we take a dirt track between Vohemar and Daraina. The trip is only 55kms but if there has been recent rain then it can take many hours to navigate this track. The landscape becomes very dry with red laterite soil. On our journey today we should see local people panning for gold. On arrival at Daraina depending on the road condition we should have some time to take a walk in the forest before dark. Overnight camping (BLD)

Day 8 - Daraina

A full day exploring the Daraina Reserve, a place rich in flora and fauna. During the walk it may be possible to spot the Tattersall's Sifaka and other species of lemur as well as many birds. In the tropical forest we will also stop at some waterfalls along the way and time permitting there is also an opportunity for swimming in some natural pools. The walk today should take around 6 hours. Overnight camping or basic huts (BLD)

Day 9 - Daraina – Ankarana

After an early breakfast we take a dirt track to the predominantly Muslim town of Ambilobe, a journey of around 7 hours and from there a sealed road to Ankarana. In Ambilobe we will take a look around the lively and picturesque market. Overnight Relais de l'Ankarana Lodge or similar (B)

Day 10 - Ankarana - Diego - Joffre Ville

This morning we head along the National Route 6 which is a much smoother road than we will have been used to in recent days. We will visit the city of Diego Suarez and also the 'Montagne des Francais' to see the endemic Baobab Antseraniensis. We continue to Joffre Ville where we stay overlooking Diego and its picturesque bay. Overnight Nature Lodge or similar (B)

Day 11 - Amber Mountain National Park

We spend a full day searching for flora and fauna in Amber Mountain National Park. There are lots of different trails in the park and you will be able to do a longer or shorter walk depending on how you feel today. Overnight Nature Lodge or similar (B)

Day 12 - Joffre Ville - Ankarana

Halfway to Ankarana we take a detour on a dirt track to visit the 'Red Tsingy' which are strange natural sculptures resulting from erosion of the local river. The excursion into the Red Tsingy should take us around an hour. After lunch we continue to Ankarana and en route we can stop at a local sapphire shop. The landscape on our route to Ankarana is dotted with picturesque rice fields, rivers and streams. Overnight Relais de l'Ankarana or similar (B)

Day 13 - Tsingy D ‘Ankarana

This morning we visit the Tsingy D ‘Ankarana, where the limestone highlands have been sculpted by natural erosion. It gives the impression of walking on a spiny landscape and is an extraordinary spectacle. Abundant wildlife lives in the forested canyons and during your walk we should have chances to see brown lemurs, geckos and non-poisonous snakes. The nature of the environment here makes the walking a little challenging but there are different grades of difficulty so there will be different options in terms of the walking. This afternoon there will be an opportunity for further walks or just to relax at the hotel. Overnight Relais de l'Ankarana (B)

Day 14 - Ankarana – Antsohihy

This morning we drive to Ambilobe before driving past the coffee, cacao and ylang ylang plantations of this volcanic and fertile region of Madagascar. We will drive alongside the Tsaratanana mountain chain which has the highest peak in the country. On arrival in Ambanja we visit one of the 3 main cacao plantations and learn about the whole transformation process. From Ambanja to Antsohihy we will travel through a pleasant landscape dotted with rice fields, streams and rivers. Overnight Hotel Paradisier or similar (B)

Day 15 - Antsohihy - Ankarafantsika

This morning we journey to Ambodromamy, at a crossroads between North RN6 and West RN4. It is a little village brought to life by local vendors and their products, especially local fruits that are exhibited on the roadside. Then from there we take the national road number 4 towards Majunga to reach Ampijoroa. This is a Sakalava region, home to the largest tribes of the eighteen ethnicities of Madagascar. The tombs of this tribe tend to be different from other tribes. We arrive by late afternoon and this evening we will take a walk looking for nocturnal creatures (subject to national park approval). Overnight Gite d'Ampijoroa or similar (B)

Day 16 - Ankarafantsika

For early risers there will be an opportunity to take a dawn walk for bird watching and exploring the trails around magical Lake Ravelobe. After breakfast we spend the day exploring the natural treasures of Ankarafantsika. The terrain here is quite flat so today’s walk will not be too challenging. Overnight Gite of Ampijoroa or similar (B)

Day 17 - Ankarafantsika - Tana

Today we journey back to the capital which should take 6-7 hours through grasslands and savannah and we may come across farmers with their zebu herds. On arrival in Tana check in to the hotel before enjoying an early farewell dinner where we can reflect on an amazing journey through the North of this incredible country. Overnight Les Trois Metis or similar (BD)

Day 18 - Depart Madagascar

This morning for those that wish to we can take an early morning tour around the high parts of town which afford great views and appreciate the soft light against the colourful houses of Tana. Later transfer to the airport for your onward flight (B)

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