For over 20 years, we have been organizing and leading trips in Madagascar, the ultimate paradise. This extraordinary island nation captured my heart when I first visited, which is why I moved to Madagascar years ago. And it’s why I still get so much joy from showing visitors around this magical place!
I’m Monique van der Heijden, a Dutch native and founder of TravPact. My love of Madagascar began when I worked for an NGO in fighting hunger around the world, where we believed in involving beneficiaries as much as possible in our projects. That principle of offering help for self-help continues to guide our work in Madagascar…one of my most beloved places on Earth.
Our tours of Madagascar highlight the extraordinary wildlife, natural spaces, and welcoming people of this diverse island. From bike tours to tours led by a tropical ecology expert, we pride ourselves on sharing in-depth local insights and providing incredible experiences.
Let’s get off the beaten track to explore more of the magical land of Madagascar. Join us for an adventure that takes you into the outback, visiting local villages well away from the popular tourist spots. Ask questions of your local guide and get insights into life and culture here in Madagascar. You’ll have plenty of time to spot wildlife, take in diverse landscapes, and feel like you’ve experienced the real Madagascar.
Looking for something different? Check out our 21-day Not Afraid of Camping tour to experience the wildlife and natural beauty of Madagascar to its fullest! You can always contact us for help choosing the right itinerary for you. We love sharing our local insights and travel tips for Madagascar with you!
Mora Travel dedicates itself to organizing ‘sustainable’ trips to Madagascar every day. Sustainability is very important to us! By organizing these trips, we believe our travelers can experience Madagascar and enjoy everything that the country has to offer. And because you are traveling with us, we can contribute to preserving biodiversity and endemicity and giving local people in Madagascar a real chance.
Madagascar is not an easy destination to promote sustainable tourism as the logistics in remote areas are often very basic, the options are limited, and many resources are hard to get by. There aren’t always sustainable options, but wherever possible we opt for the most sustainable choice. Nevertheless, we do promote responsible travel to lessen our negative impact on our destination as much as possible.
This means we work together with partners that are environmentally conscious (renewable energy, sustainable waste management) while also looking after the social and economic wellbeing of the local people. We give preference to local Malagasy accommodations, businesses or for example parks that employ local staff under good conditions, that use mainly local products and/or are engaged in community initiatives. This means that the hotels during the trip are a real mix of very simple and luxury hotels depending on the criteria mentioned above.
We also contribute to reforestation. To compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions of all tourists who travel with us, we plant trees. The purpose of planting trees is to house animals, because they have less and less place to live because of deforestation. We still have a long way to go, but we feel that making this a choice and communicating this to our partners will help create a larger sustainable tourism community in the long run.
Today, you will arrive in Antananarivo. Welcome or ‘tonga soa!’ Your visa can be obtained at the airport and we recommend you complete your money exchange at the airport as well. You will then be transferred to the local guesthouse Chez Jeanne, which is located close to the airport. Relax and enjoy the scenery of the rice paddies en route.
Transfer: From airport to hotel
Accommodations: Chez Jeanne or similar
In the morning, a driver/guide will pick you up at your hotel and drive you by private car to Andasibe. The trip will take about 3.5 hours. You will be driven in an eastern direction from the highland through the rainforest and an area of dense overgrowth. On arrival in Andasibe, you may enjoy a quiet lunch before having a look at nature. The VOI Park near Andasibe is a good option for your first contact with nature.
VOI (Vondron’olona Ifotony) is a small local reservation managed by local people from the village.
They protect various species of animals and plants such as a group of Indri lemurs, Diadem Sifaka lemurs, the Woolly lemurs, reptiles, amphibians, and various insects, such as the Giraffe-necked weevil. VOI means in English ‘the local people love the forest’.
The purpose of the reservation is not only to provide the possibility of excursions, but also to inform the local people about the preservation of nature and ecotourism. Half of the income generated by the park is employed for several projects around Andasibe, such as the construction of water wells and the support of a small local hospital.
Close to the village of Andasibe, we find the national rainforest park Perinet, a beautiful nature reserve where you can spot the Indri. The following day offers ample time for a visit. The Indri is the largest of the lemurs and may reach the respectable age of 80 years. Your accommodation is the modes local Rico Lodge.
Transfer: Antananarivo - Andasibe (about 3.5 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: Rico lodge
Today you can visit the national park of Andasibe. There are various options. You may choose the National park or the opposite situated private park Mitsinjo. Both parks are home to the Indri. We recommend visiting the parks early in the morning, the Indris are easiest to spot then. The walks vary in length from a few hours to well beyond a half-day.
In the afternoon, you may choose to visit one or more of the many private parks in this area. The driver/guide will be happy to advise you of the various options.
Accommodations: Rico lodge
Take time for a morning activity in the vicinity of the Rico Lodge or one of the parks before leaving (at 11:00am at the latest) to head southeast toward Mahanoro. Mahanoro is a little city near the sea. A word of warning: This side of Madagascar is not so suitable for swimming because of the absence of coral reefs and therefore easily accessible for sharks. Mahanoro is the starting point of a very local voyage across the Pangalanes Canal early in the morning of the next day. We shall book for you the hotel Tropicana which is by the sea.
Please note: Mahanoro is anything but touristic; it’s a true local township. In the evening, you will be introduced to Miss Caroline, your guide in the region and the coordinator of – amongst other things – the project Abecole. She knows this region the best and will accompany you the next days.
Transfer: Andasibe - Mahanoro (about 4 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: Hotel Tropicana
Today you will start a voyage across the Pangalanes Canal. After breakfast, but early in the morning, you will board the ship and start the authentic trip through the outback of Madagascar. This is a long voyage, but full of experience and a beautiful tour of part of inland Madagascar.
Please note: it will be a long day on the ship, maybe 10 hours – requiring some flexibility. A very early departure offers the opportunity to interrupt the trip and experience life in the hinterland of Madagascar. The canal paves a way through sand dunes. The bed of the canal may be full of sand, the surface overgrown with water hyacinths, causing the voyage to be rather difficult from time to time.
Life in the villages, beautiful beaches between the canal and the sea, and the piroc boats on the canal determine the rhythm of the day. Don’t hesitate to ask Miss Caroline anything you want to know, she is fluent in French and understands simple English as well. There is an opportunity to moor the boat near a village to get acquainted a little bit more with the local culture.
Towards the end of the day, you will arrive in Nosy-Varika, where you will spend the night in the modest hotel Volazara.
Transfer: Mahanoro - Nosy-Varika (about 10 hours by boat)
Accommodations: Volazara hotel
These days will be designated as days of experience and comparison, spending your time in the outback region of Madagascar. Discuss with Miss Caroline what you like to see or do; there are ample opportunities to get to know the infrastructure of a village and to learn about everyday life there or you could walk to the beautiful, yet wild beaches (no swimming here because of the absence of coral reef). You could visit the market or interact with the children in the village. It is important to note that this is a very small town, so do not expect too much in the way of infrastructure.
Accommodations: Volazara hotel
Today, you will make an early start to continue sailing across the Pangalanes Canal heading south from Nosy-Varika to Manajary, a trip of 9 to 10 hours. You will pass by lakes and beautiful spots where the sea meets the canal. Along the banks of the canal, you will see alternately dense forestry and several small villages.
Just after passing Ambohitsara, it is worthwhile to stop and view the monument of s stone elephant. The legend tells the tale that this small elephant originates from the East (Arabia) and the first inhabitants were descendants of this elephant. True or false?
At the end of the afternoon, you will sail into the city of Manajary via several small villages that live off fishery or agriculture. The closer to the city of Manajary, the more local taxibrousse vessels you will encounter and especially piroc boats with goods.
Your accommodations will be at Sorafa Hotel and the same car and driver that dropped you in Mahanoro will be waiting to collect you.
Transfer: Nosy-Varka – Mananjary (about 9 hours by boat)
Accommodations: Sorafa Hotel
Early in the morning, the driver/guide will drive you to Ranomafana, a journey of about 3.5 hours. Ranomafana used to be a small village in the colonial period, where French inhabitants of Fianarantsoa and surrounding areas used to take a bath in one of the thermal wells at times. Ranomafana means hot water in Malagasy.
No fewer than 12 species of lemurs call this national park (rainforest) home. You can take various hikes, ranging from a few hours to half a day. The accommodation is in the scientific centre of Valbio (it is necessary to book well ahead of time).
Today, you will discover the wonders of the Ranomafana National Park. Perhaps Ranomafana is considered to be the most important parks in Madagascar by scientists. It is the reason why the world-renowned primatologist Patricia Wright is director of the centre.
Ranomafana is a rainforest park of 41,601 hectares and is home to an enormous richness of endemic biodiversity, unfortunately, some species are threatened with extinction. Rare species of lemurs and plants, and endemic birds, too, can be found in this park. Many branches of the river Namoraona can be found in the park as well.
Transfer: Mananjary – Ranomafana (about 3.5 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: Valbio Center
Today you will drive 2-3 hours to Fianarantsoa, a city with many students. The region surrounding Fianarantsoa is well-known for its viticulture. Just like Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa has been built on several hills. In town, there is a bank, a supermarket, and some shops, so it is a township worthwhile to roam around.
In the afternoon, we organize a visit to the social enterprise ‘Le Relais’, which, in our opinion, is an enterprise that can make a difference economically. They have various projects, including an Agriferme dealing with the separation of various kinds of waste and its processing, a sorting centre for second-hand clothing, and a sewing workshop. There is even a production site for a Malagasy car, the Manzana II, which is produced with parts of Peugeot and Citroen but adapted to the road conditions of Madagascar.
We recommend our travellers stay in Hotel La Riziere, which is a school offering students a chance to learn the trade around the hotel and catering industry.
Transfer: Ranomafana – Fianarantsoa (± 2h20 drive)
Accommodations: La Riziere
Today we catch the train, connecting the highland (Fianarantsoal) with the Eastcoast (Manakara). The time of departure is very flexible, so the same flexibility is required of our travellers. Also, note that the train only runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays, so we will plan this accordingly. The trip will take about 2 hours.
Upon arrival, you may drop your luggage at the local Andreas Guesthouse ‘hotel’ before embarking on a walk uphill to the Falaise Blanche where you will enjoy a spectacular view of this typical Tanala village. On the way back to the hotel, you will pass by the waterfall “Cascade de Mandreampotsy’.
Transfer: Fianarantsoa – Andrambovato (± 2 hours by train)
Accommodations: Andreas Guesthouse hotel
From a logistic point of view, a challenging day lies ahead. You will have an early breakfast and will have the choice of either waling 15 kilometres along the rails to the Ampitabe station where the car can collect you or a much more intensive walk of some 7 hours along forest paths through the outback to Ampitabe, which is surely a unique experience.
From here, the trip will be some 2 hours in a southern direction to Ambalavao, where accommodation will be booked in Hotel Residence du Betsileo in the middle of the village.
Transfer: Andrambovato - Fianarantsoa - Ambalavao (± 3 to 7-hour walk and a 2-hour drive)
Accommodations: Residence du Betsileo
Today, you will be driven along the RN7 heading south for some 4.5 hours. We recommend you visit a small privately-owned park at the outskirts of Ambalavao, which is well-known for spotting the catta lemur (ringtale). This park is managed by a community-based organization and is – in our view – a real success story.
After lunch, the driver will take you to Ranohira. This is an incredibly beautiful trip through a dramatically different landscape of sand planes, and a steppe-like area with mountains. You will arrive in Ranohiro by evening and will spend the night in the ITC hotel.
Transfer: Ambalavao - Ranohira (± 4.5 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: ITC hotel
Isalo Mountain is a natural area of eroded sandstone formations where hiking enthusiasts will surely find an environment to their liking. The dry climate limits the possibility for abundant vegetation growth. Looking from the road, the landscape appears to be barren and dry, but when hiking in the mountains, we will find special flora. Today, we will begin a hike of 2.5 days and 2 nights.
Day 1 of hiking will take us alongside the mountain range through rice paddies and a few villages before arriving in Sakamanatelo. From here, it will be 1.5 hours before reaching the Canyons of the Maki, where lemurs can be spotted. We will enjoy a picnic lunch in this gorge.
In the afternoon, the Canyon of the Rats can be visited, where swimming is possible, too. In this area surrounded by both canyons, we will camp the first night.
Day 2 of trekking will start with an early breakfast to beat the heat and we will start a tour of some 6 hours immediately afterwards. First, we will walk uphill on the mountain range and enjoy a spectacular view over the Isalo Mountains and continue trekking on the plateau. After a while, we will go downhill to visit the natural swimming pool of the Grand Canyon, Two hours of trekking through a savannah-like area will take us to the Nymphes Waterfall. In this area, the Bara and Sakalava graves are situated. We shall camp near Canyon Namaza.
NB: There are numerous trekking possibilities both inside and outside the national park. It changes yearly because new tracks are formed. We recommend discussing the exact trekking route the evening before departure to enable the guides to take into account as many wishes you may have (park only, villages, a lot of walking, with or without swimming, and so on).
Accommodations: Camping in a small dome tent
After another morning of walking and lunch near the last camping spot, we shall walk back to Ranohira, where the ITC hotel will take care of a quick picnic lunch. The afternoon will be devoted to a re-foresting project that you can join if you wish.
After sunset, a fresh shower is ready for an evening with music in the restaurant and another night in the ITC hotel.
Accommodations: ITC hotel
After breakfast, the driver will take you to Ifaty via Tulear, a journey of about 5 hours’ drive. You will pass by the first of the Baobab trees and a number of Mahafaly graves on the way. The Mahafaly is a nation with a strongly-developed sense of honouring the forefathers. They decorate the graves with paintings showing episodes in the life of the diseased.
Ifaty is situated about 30 kilometres north of Tulear and is one of the most popular seaside resorts. It is an ideal place to rest.
We recommend staying a while in Tulear before proceeding to Ifaty and to perhaps visit the botanic gardens (we know from experience that the younger travellers prefer this option). In Ifaty, we recommend Hotel Solidaire Mangily, which is not directly by the sea, but only about a 10-minute walk to the beach. This hotel originated from an NGO and also works directly with the local population on various projects. With this hotel, we can easily offer beautiful sustainable excursions and activities in the following days.
Transfer: Ranohira – Tulear - Ifaty (± 5 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: Solidaire Mangily
You can enjoy two free days in Ifaty based at Hotel Solidaire Mangily. You can swim, spend time at the beach, or even hire a boat to go to the coral reef for snorkelling. The Spiney Forest in the hinterland of Ifaty, with a variety of unique Boabab trees, is certainly worth a visit. We can also organize with Solidaire Mangily excursions to the nature preservation projects and nearby villages.
Accommodations: Solidaire Mangily
In the morning or afternoon (depending on the time of the flight), the hotel will arrange transport to Tulear airport for your flight back to Antananarivo. Day-time use rooms near the airport are available. Of course, depending on the time of departure of your international flight, you will be transferred back to the airport and will leave Madagascar with hopefully unforgettable memories.