Madagascar Group Tour - Northern Explorer

Northern Explorer

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 18 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Foreign Government Travel Warnings
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At present there are no warnings against travel to the areas we visit on this tour. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.

It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.

Accommodation and Meals

Hotel Check-in Times
As a general rule most hotels will allow guests to check-in from 2pm. Please note that the price of your tour does not include guaranteed early check-in. Therefore please advise us if you would like to ensure that your room is available for an earlier arrival. This is particularly relevant on the first day of the tour and for early morning arrivals.

One option is to pre-book and pay for an extra night at the beginning of your tour which will guarantee your accommodation is available irrespective of what time you arrive. Please contact us for information and costs.

It should also be noted that on many of our tours we have set-aside Day 1 of the itinerary as an ‘arrival day’. For this reason and because tour participants are likely to be arriving at different times, and often from different countries, guided sightseeing or other activities are not included. If you are arriving early or before the start date of the tour and would like to organise some extra arrangements on a private basis please contact us.

Accommodation Rating
The hotels and lodges used on this tour are classified as a combination of mid-range and simple. With a few exceptions you can expect rooms to be en-suite, with private bathroom (not in Marojejy National Park). In general you will find your hotel/lodge has a restaurant and/or bar. On the Northern Explorer small group tour there are a number of days of basic conditions comprising of basic huts or camping so you should be prepared for this. Equipment for camping is provided but you should bring a sleeping bag and a sleeping sheet. At Marojejy and Daraina in addition to staying in tents there are also some basic huts but these work on a first come first serve basis so we cannot guarantee staying in the huts although we do our best to ensure clients can stay in the huts.

We welcome solo travellers and single rooms will be allocated subject to the applicable tour supplement. Please note that on occasions you may not always be allocated a double or twin room, as some hotels have designated single rooms. These may be smaller in size. However, the supplement payable takes this into consideration.

In Marojejy National Park and Daraina Reserve (4 night in totals) you may have to share accommodation (huts only) if the park and reserve are busy. If you wish to have your own sleeping arrangement then you will need to sleep in a tent – please let us know in advance.

Food & Drink
The daily meal basis is shown in the tour itinerary; breakfast (B), lunch (L) and dinner (D). Please note that lunch on occasion may be a picnic. Drinks are not included and will be payable locally in cash.

Dietary Requirements
If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.

Budgeting for your Tour
You will need some extra money to cover meals and drinks not included in the tour price, any optional sightseeing, souvenirs and items of a personal nature such as laundry.

The costs for meals may vary depending upon location, type of restaurant and number of courses eaten and so the prices given are an average guide. Local restaurants located off the beaten track may be less expensive, whereas an upmarket restaurant located in the centre of a major city may charge more.

Lunch £7- £13 excluding drinks
Dinner £7- £13 excluding drinks

The prices for drinks can vary greatly depending upon location and the prices detailed below are an average guide. In general you would expect that drinks purchased in a supermarket or local bar to be less expensive, whilst drinks in an upmarket bar or restaurant may be more expensive.

Bottle of local beer - £1
Bottle of mineral water - £0.50 – £0.75

Tipping – Guide and Drivers
Although entirely voluntary, tipping is a recognised part of life in this region of the world. Accordingly, a tipping kitty is organised on arrival which covers day to day tips incurred whilst on tour. This includes tips at restaurants and hotels. It also includes tips for drivers and local guides in the national parks.

Please budget Eur 40 to Eur 60 per person depending on the size of the group. This will be collected in euros or pounds cash by your guide at the start of the tour who will then be responsible for tipping throughout your trip.

The kitty does not cover tips for your Tour Guide. At your discretion you might also consider tipping your Tour Guide in appreciation of the efficiency and service you receive.

Foreign Exchange

ATM Availability: Madagascar’s larger cities are equipped with ATMs but they can be unreliable so we do not recommend frequent use of ATMs
Credit and Debit Card Acceptance: Cards are not widely accepted, but those places that do accept them generally only take Visa
Local Currency: Ariary
Recommended Currency for Exchange: Euros
Where to Exchange: Your guide will advise you

Joining your Tour

Flight Information
Our advertised prices do not include the cost of international flights. Please contact us if you would like a quotation to book a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.

Joining Tour Abroad
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a free airport transfer, both on arrival and departure. In order that the transfer can be arranged please ensure that you advise us of your flight information once available. Please advise the date, time and flight number for your arrival/departure. If we have not been advised of this information at least 2 weeks before travel, then you will be required to make your own way to the hotel on Day 1 of your tour.

Travel Insurance
It is a condition of booking with Undiscovered Destinations that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country and be valid for the entire duration of your holiday.

Visa Information
Visitors from most countries, including UK, EU and US visitors require a visa for entering Madagascar. This is currently available on arrival for EUR 35 for most nationalities. However, visa regulations can frequently change and therefore we recommend that you check with your nearest embassy for the most up to date details.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, valid for at least six months after the date of return to the UK. We strongly advise that your passport contains a minimum of two blank pages, as this may be a requirement of the local immigration authorities. In addition, certain countries will stipulate that the two blank pages are opposite each other. If you are unable to meet these requirements you may be refused boarding by your airline or denied entry by the immigration authorities.

For specific information about the requirements for your destination please check with the country’s embassy or consulate. Alternatively, UK citizens can visit

Vaccinations & Protection
As with travel to most parts of Africa, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid. We also recommend that you seek advice about malaria prophylactics.

Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. If you can’t produce a certificate, you will have to visit the Institut Pasteur in Antananarivo for vaccination.


Preparing for your tour

Madagascar, being a large country, has many different climatic variations but it is generally felt that the best time to visit is between May and November, which are the winter months. Outside of these months rain can be heavy and there are frequently cyclones. The temperature on the island is usually pleasant, ranging from the low twenties to the low thirties (Celsius) depending on time of year and altitude.

Please note that during the winter months of May – November it can be cool/cold at night with temperatures dropping into single figures Celsius. In general it is hotter in the west and south-west of the country whilst Antananarivo and the Central Highlands tend to be cooler. On our Northern Explorer tour clients should be well prepared for rain in Marojejy National Park even during the drier time of May – November as the Eastern rainforests are more susceptible to rainfall.

General Travel in Madagascar
Madagascar is not like safari destinations in Southern or Eastern Africa. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Whilst tourists have been visiting the country for many years in small numbers the infrastructure is still not as well developed as tourist destinations in the western world or even some destinations in Africa. Things sometimes do not run according to plan. Travelling can be slow and tough going. Service at hotels and restaurants is not comparable to western standards. Please kindly travel with an open mind and if you experience any problems contact our local team on the telephone number on your tour voucher who will do their best to assist.

Madagascar is quite warm and so light clothes are generally a good idea. You should ensure that you bring warmer clothes for any cool evenings. When walking in the forest it is advisable to wear long trousers and sleeves to avoid cuts and scratches that could become infected. Marojejy in particular has leeches (harmless generally but can be uncomfortable and cause bleeding) so tucking your socks into your shoes is advisable.  Madagascar has reasonably relaxed attitudes towards dress and shorts are acceptable throughout much of the country but we would not advise wearing short sleeves and shorts when walking in the parks and reserves. You should also bring a hat to protect yourself from the strong sun. A waterproof and windproof jacket is advisable at any time of year.

The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit. Suncream/sunblock is a must. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have. Please ensure you have a torch/flashlight which is necessary for possible electricity outages which can occur in Madagascar at any time and also for the nights spent camping. If you are a keen birder we recommend you bring a pair of binoculars as the birdlife is excellent. Also for spotting lemurs higher up in the trees. A travel towel will be needed for nights spent camping on the tour.

Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots with good grips and ankle support are recommended, as well as a pair of sandals. There may be times when you will leave the main footpaths in the National Parks to see the wildlife which is when good grip is especially necessary. Although we predominantly travel during the dry season, climatic zones in Madagascar are such that rain cannot be ruled out and so paths in national parks can be slippery. If you usually walk with walking poles then you can consider bringing them with you on the tour.

Road Conditions and daily driving times
Road conditions on parts of the Northern Explorer tour can be poor, especially after rainfall. In particular the road from Vohemar to Daraina is particularly challenging. Our drivers are highly skilled but please be patient if the vehicle gets stuck or experiences a puncture. Where conditions dictate we will be using the appropriate vehicles but you should be prepared for challenging road conditions.

Note that the approximate driving times in the itinerary are given in good faith but should only be used as a guide as road conditions are poor and also constantly change. Due to the road conditions, it is not uncommon to experience a mechanical problem such as a puncture. Delays can also occur as sometimes if the authorities insist on tourist vehicles travelling in convoy. The driving times given are the anticipated total amount of time per day spent in the vehicle and this does not include stops for sightseeing and/or comfort breaks.

Internal flights in Madagascar
Madagascar is a huge country and as the road infrastructure is poor in many areas using flights is sometimes unavoidable. We only have 1 flight on this tour at the beginning but we must stress that flights within Madagascar are subject sometimes to severe delay and cancellation. Our local team will do their very best to reschedule arrangements but your understanding in advance is appreciated.

Taking presents/gifts to Madagascar
If you wish to take something with you to donate whilst in Madagascar then we recommend that you bring items that are useful for use in schools. This could be exercise books, paper (plain or lined), pens, pencils, post it notes, and English reading story books are also appreciated. Your guide for the tour will facilitate a suitable place to donate your items on the tour. We do not encourage giving sweets or money to the local people.

Luggage on tour

Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable.

For the internal flights one piece of luggage at 18kg is allowed per person.

Electric Supply & Plugs
Electrical supply is 220V/50 Hz and plugs have two round pins like most European countries.

Tour Itinerary Versions
Please ensure that you have an up-to-date copy of these tour notes immediately before you travel, as from time to time our itineraries may be amended, either for operational reasons or in response to feedback from customers. You will be informed of any major changes to your tour but small changes may just be added to these tour notes.

These tour notes were updated 02nd December 2018.

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