Northern Explorer Madagascar Small Group Tour

Northern Explorer Madagascar Tour – an 18 day Small Group Tour.

Experience a different side to Madagascar with an off the beaten track journey to the North of Madagascar.

Encounter Madagascar’s unique wildlife at national parks like Ankarafantsika, Amber Mountain, the remarkable Tsingy d’Ankarana and the little visited and utterly spectacular rainforests of Marojejy National Park which cannot even be reached by road.



Our journey takes us first to Sambava, Madagascar’s vanilla capital on the North East coast before we head to what is undoubtedly one of the jewels of an off the beaten track tour of Madagascar; Marojejy National Park which is only accessible on foot. Marojejy is part of the World Heritage Site of Atsinanana, which UNESCO has placed on its endangered list and contains lowland, mid altitude and high-altitude rainforest, as well as the island’s most intact remaining mountaintop moorlands.  Visitors need to have a reasonable level of fitness due to the steep slopes in some places.

The floral and faunal diversity in the park is bewildering, with the star attraction on the lemur front being the critically endangered pure white Silky Sifaka. We then head inland across the country along a poorly maintained road to Daraina Reserve run by an NGO, where we will hope to encounter the critically endangered Golden Crowned Lemur before continuing to the far North to Ankarana with its fantastic landscape of razor-sharp pinnacles (Tsingy), home to wildlife such as sportive lemurs.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture 
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


Arrive in Antananarivo and transfer to the hotel conveniently situated in the vicinity of the airport. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time to explore the city. Overnight Gassy Country House Hotel or similar. No meals are included today.

(Domestic flight)

We take a morning 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 (BD)

(Approximate driving time 1.5 hours approx. / 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. This is around a leisurely 3km walk and an elevation change of 80 metres.  From the park’s entrance it is a further 2½ hour walk to reach Camp Mantella. The difference in elevation on this section is around 270 metres but the trails are quite good (can be slippery under foot after rain) and we shall stop frequently to look at the flora and fauna in the beautiful forest.  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 can walk to picturesque Humbert waterfall which is approximately 1 hour each way. Overnight wild camping or staying in basic huts with no shower/bath facilities and outdoor toilet (BLD)

(Approximate walking time – 2 hours to camp (some steep uphill sections)

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 350 meters. The walk is quite tough in parts but we have plenty of 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 critically endangered “Silky Sifaka” a beautiful pure white lemur only found in this area and one of the top 25 rarest primates on the planet. Overnight wild camping or staying in basic huts with no shower/bath and outdoor toilet (BLD)


(Walking time depends on the trail conditions and the location of the wildlife)

Today we explore the National Park on trails starting from the Marojejia camp searching for flora and fauna. The walk today should be around 4 hours but depends on our success observing the flora and fauna, much of which is unique to this magnificent park. Overnight wild camping or staying in basic huts with no shower/bath and outdoor toilet (BLD)

Those that wish to stay at camp and enjoy the amazing views and tranquillity of Marojejia camp can do so, rather than hiking in the forest.

(Approximate driving time 3 hours and approximate walking time 3-4 hours – gentle descent)

We depart camp today around 07:00 am and descend to Camp Mantella and then back to Mandena where our vehicles await. The descent should take around 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. As you travel don’t be surprised to inhale the unmistakeable scent of vanilla. The journey should take around 2 hours from Sambava to Vohemar. On arrival in Vohemar we check in to our accommodation before visiting a vanilla plantation and learn about the processes involved in cultivating one of Madagascar’s most famous export products. Overnight Baie d’Iharana or similar (BD)

Note – We may visit a vanilla plantation in Sambava instead of Vohemar as described on Day 2

Approximate driving time 8 hours)

We have an early breakfast before continuing to Daraina Reserve. We take a walk in the forest aiming to spot the critically endangered Tattersall’s Sifaka or Golden Crowned Sifaka which is only found in this area.

There are also other species of lemur to look out for as well as many birds. After the visit, we continue to Ankarana. In Ambilobe if time allows, we will take a look around the lively and picturesque market. Overnight Relais de l’Ankarana or similar (BD)

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 walks on offer and your guide will discuss these options with you. Overnight Relais De l’Ankarana or similar (BD)

(Approximate driving time 5 hours)

After breakfast we continue to the northern most tip of Madagascar and the town of Diego Suarez. En route we will visit the curious rock formations of the Red Tsingy, formed by erosion of the Irodo River. Arrival in Diego, we have a short city tour including a visit to the World War 2 cemetery and memorial dedicated to the allied soldiers that fell during the battle of Madagascar and operation Iron Clad in 1942. Overnight Grand Hotel or similar (BD)

After breakfast we will visit the French Mountain and 3 bays. We take a hike in Montagne Des Francais National Park which affords magnificent views out over the 3 Bays of Baie des Dunes, Baie des Pigeons and Sakalava Bay. During the hike it is also possible to see lemurs and endemic trees including species of the baobab tree. We continue with the visit of 3 bays. Located 15kilometers from Diego, on the road to Ramena, and 5 km of sandy track, tt refers to three bays near Diego Suarez: the Sakalava bay, the Pigeons Bay and the Dunes bay, known for their beauty and wilderness with their long beaches of white sand and its turquoise blue sea. We start at the “Bay of Sakalava”. We see an imposing 300 years old Baobab tree above the road before we reach a very beautifully white sandy beach where, with a bit of luck we will able to encounter some lemurs. Then we head on to the “Bay of the Pigeons” and after crossing some dunes, we will arrive at the “Bay of the Dunes”, a deserted white sandy beach. Depending on the seasons, a ballet of tortoises might be seen on the sea. Afterwards, we head on to Cap Miné where we can find the vestiges of war guns and fortifications, evidence of presence of the French Army and its former role as guardian of the pass:  the main gateway to Diego Bay, with the lighthouse. The tour will end at Orangea camp before we join Ramena village, for a magnificent sunset. Overnight Grand Hotel or similar. (BD)


Note – The hike up Montagne de Francais is steep in parts and conditions can be very hot. Please take plenty of water and wear a hat and other appropriate sun protection. For those that do not wish to walk then you can relax at the hotel.

(Overall approximate driving time is 5 hours)

We depart early from Diego and head on for a 1-hour drive to Joffre Ville a crumbling but atmospheric former retreat for the French elite. Only a few km’s from Joffre Ville we reach Amber Mountain National Park where we will spend a few hours 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. There are some beautiful waterfalls in the park. Later we take a picturesque journey to Andrafiamena Reserve, at the foot of the Andranomanera Protected Reserve. The final section of our journey today will be on a poorly maintained track for around 1 hour to our overnight stay, but once we are there the location itself makes today’s tough journey well worthwhile. Overnight Akiba Lodge Anjahakely or similar (BD)

Note – The bungalows at Akiba Lodge Anjahakely are very comfortable with tremendous views but do not have charging facilities. Charging can be done at the bar/restaurant area.  

After breakfast with a local guide we will hike inside Andranomanera Protected Reserve home to unique and endemic species, in particular the black lemur (Perrier Sifaka) which is only found in this area. The reserve is 30,000 Ha in size and on one side the reserve is quite wet and on the other it is relatively dry and in the middle is a transition zone where the last refuge of the black lemur is found. Overnight Akiba Lodge Anjahakely or similar. (BD)

(Overall approximate driving time is 6 hours)

This morning we travel to Ambanja passing alongside the Tsaratanana Mountains which is home to the highest peak in the country. Arrival in Ambanja, , we take an interesting visit to the Millot plantation for an explanation of the crops such as cacao, coffee and vanilla that are prevalent in this fertile region of Madagascar, then we visit the local market. Overnight Hibiscus Hotel or similar. (BD)

(Overall approximate driving time is 8-9 hours)

In the morning, after breakfast. Continue to the village of Mahitsizato. This is the area run by a community project where we hope to see the blue-eyed true lemur scientifically known as Eulemur flavifron. This is an extremely endangered species of lemur and is the only primate besides humans known to have blue eyes. The forest here is fragmented so the lemurs here are quite shy but our local guide will do their best to spot them. We will have a picnic lunch in this area and then this afternoon travel for a few hours on to Antsohihy where we can explore the town. Overnight Belle Vue or similar (BD)

(Overall approximate driving time 8 hours)

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 (BD)

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 d’Ampijoroa or similar. (BD)

(Overall approximate driving time is 9 hours)

Today we journey back to the capital, passing by 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 Gassy Country House or similar. (BD)

Time at leisure until your transfer to the airport and your onward flight. Please note optional excursions are possible for those with late flights. Day use available at Gassy Country House until late afternoon for clients travelling on the night Air France or Kenya Airways overnight flight. (B)

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

To join the Northern Madagascar tour, return flights from London to Antananarivo start at £600. Please contact us for a quotation.

Main tour single supplement from £395.

Extra night accommodation pre and/or post tour at the airport costs from £30 per person, per night sharing a twin/double room and £54 per person in a solo occupancy room.

Extra night accommodation pre and/or post tour at in Antananarivo costs from £26 per person, per night sharing a twin/double room and £46 per person in a solo occupancy room.

Please note that the prices quoted above are for the category of accommodation and hotel used for this particular tour. Depending on the hotel eventually confirmed there may be some difference in the rate advertised by the hotel, and the prices available through Undiscovered Destinations. It should be noted we will not apply a surcharge should more expensive accommodation be used. At the same time in the event that a lower rate is available for the confirmed hotel we are unable to offer a refund.

Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier or in the vicinity of the airport.

Alternatively, if you have arranged  a pre or post tour stay in a different accommodation, we can arrange a transfer to the city centre for an extra £42 per way per vehicle.

Anjozorobe Forest Corridor 4 day 3 night extension pre tour priced from £445 per person based on 2 people sharing a twin/double room.

Please contact us for alternative post tour extensions on a private basis. Beach stays and stays in Andasibe National Park can be organised.

All the extensions are subject to availability so please contact us to see if we can guarantee your place on the extension of your choice.

The Northern Explorer tour can be run back to back with our Secrets of Madagascar tour and Wild Madagascar tour.

If you do not wish to be part of a group tour then you can do the same tour on a private basis. Please contact us for prices.

Kindly note that we can also tailor a similar or totally different itinerary to meet your requirements. Please get in touch with Mark or Estelle so we can tailor your perfect Madagascar tour.

Mapped itinerary.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

Northern Explorer Madagascar Tour Map

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure airport transfers
  • Domestic flight (1) from Tana to Sambava
  • All transports throughout the tour with a driver
  • All accommodation as per the itinerary, or similar
  • Services of English-speaking guides and local park/reserve guides
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa (available on arrival at the airport – currently 35 EUR per person or the equivalent in USD – $38 to $40)
  • Drinks
  • Local tipping kitty collected on arrival between 50-75 EUR (or the equivalent in GBP or USD)
  • Tips for main tour guide, driver and pre-post tour arrangements (discretionary)
  • Items of a personal nature

I was very happy with the trip. I especially enjoyed the small activities (wood workers shop, embroidery workshop, etc.)that made it feel like we were doing something on driving days. The guide, Danhy, really made the trip excellent.

Virginia Agnelli, US