This itinerary, for nature and sea lovers, follows the RN4 from the capital to the upper North of the island. A real experience with 3 national parks and at least 2 private parks on the road. You’ll see Tsingy of the North as well as the Red Tsingy, different kinds of lemurs and also the blue-eyed lemur. This trip will finish with a kayak tour in Nosy -Be area, so it’s ideal for sea lovers who prefer to be active and see a lot of the region instead of staying on the beach.
Welcome to Ivato International Airport in Madagascar! Upon arrival, you can obtain your visa at the airport, and we recommend you exchange currency right away. Our driver/guide will wait for you at the exit of the customs area and will be available to help you with these initial logistics. Afterwards, he will transfer you to a local Guesthouse hotel that is located near the airport so you can relax and rest after your flight.
Transfer: Airport – hotel
Accommodations: Guesthouse chez Jeanne
Today, you will leave early with a private car and driver for your next destination: Ankarafantsika. Heading west from Antananarivo on the National Road 4, you will journey through typical landscapes of the island of Madagascar throughout this 8-hour trip. Marvel at the large expanses of the savannah of the Tampoketsa plateau, the endless expanses that flirt with the sky, arid landscapes, empty spaces as far as the eye can see, mountain landscapes, and sub-desert landscapes…but that’s not all! You’ll also see small villages along the road, mango merchants, jujubes, and tamarinds depending on the season Along the way, you might meet zebus pulling their carts or a line of bush taxis coming in the opposite direction and loaded with their luggage, in a hurry to reach the capital.
After about 5 hours of driving west, you will gradually feel the heat rising, meaning that you are getting into one of the warmest regions of Madagascar: Maevatanana. Soon, you will see the impressive river Betsiboka carrying its red waters and you’ll see the miners on its edges who are trying to make a fortune. You might even be able to discuss their lifestyles with them.
Once you have passed the Kamoro Bridge, built under French colonization, you are closer to Ankarafantsika National Park, which is your final destination for today. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to Bleu Vanga Lodge, an ecotourism lodge just beside the national park of Ankarafantsika.
Transfer: Antananarivo – Ankarafantsika (about 8 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: Bleu Vanga Lodge
After breakfast, get yourself ready for your sightseeing tour in the heart of the forest corridor of northwestern Madagascar, where the charms of the biodiversity of fauna and flora of the Ankarafantsika National Park are numerous. The forest of Ankarafantsika has about 800 varieties of trees. You will meet several species of lemurs — including the famous microcèbe, the smallest lemur in the world — plus different species of chameleons and birds. More than 130 bird species have been listed in this national park, so you should enjoy a birdwatching tour. This park can’t be missed by birders.
Accommodations: Bleu Vanga Lodge
Your destination today is Maromandia, a town about 400 km away from Ankarafantsika that takes around five or six hours to drive. Maromandia is a community-managed ecotourism and conservation project, which makes it a great place for a hike the next day. On the way, you will pass several villages and the small town of Antsohihy where we can have a stop for lunch and visit the town.
Transfer: Ankarafantsika – Maromandia (about 5-6 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: La Cascade (not a touristic hotel)
You can wake up early today to discover the critically-endangered blue-eyed black lemur in the dry forest on a 2- to 3-hour hike. Take time to enjoy this special — and not touristic — community-based park. After lunch, if you wish, you will still have time to visit another part of this community-based park with a waterfall and a beekeeping farm.
Transfer: Maromandia park entrance
Accommodations: La Cascade (not touristic hotel)
Today, you will have an early departure. Your car and English-speaking driver will already be waiting for you and will bring you to the Ankarana region. Upon arrival, you can enjoy an afternoon walk through the National Park of Ankarana, also known as Tsingy of the North. The incredible karstic rock formations exist only in the north and in the south-west of Madagascar. You can also enjoy the surroundings of the hotel this afternoon, with their private park “Gondwana”, which is a very relaxed area.
Transfer: Maromandia – Ankarana (about 3,5 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: Luxury Ankarana Lodge or similar
After breakfast, you will leave the hotel and will explore the east side of the Ankarana reserve. This eastern part gives you the opportunity to see the “Grey Tsingy of Ankarana”. Over a few kilometres is a formidable massif of peaks and sharp-edged, impenetrable limestone rocks. These canyons offer isolation to many unknown species, leaving much for scientists to still discover. Follow the path that leads you to the “Benavony” trail where you will find a suspended bridge while walking to the lower parts of this famous Tsingy. We suggest you take a picnic lunch with you. Throughout your walk, watch for species of endemic lemurs of this area and also look for the typical vegetation of Ankarana like the pachypodium, baobab trees, etc. For experienced walkers, it is also possible to extend the tour and visit the “bat cave” and the big hole called “lost river”.
Transfer: Ankarana lodge – park entrance (about 15 minutes’ drive)
Accommodations: Luxury Ankarana Lodge or similar
Today, your car and English-speaking driver will already be waiting for you at your hotel and will bring you to Montagne d’Ambre National Park. On the way, you will have time to observe “the Red Tsingy”, a touristic place that is the result of erosion over the centuries. The place offers stunning beauty, but this miracle of nature can disappear quickly if not respected. We’ll take a detour to visit this area and appreciate all that it offers. We suggest you again take a picnic lunch from the hotel.
After this visit, you will head to Joffreville, the village known for the Amber Mountain National Park, which was the first National Park of Madagascar. Created in 1958, the National Park of the Amber Mountain is located in a volcanic area and is the home of a fantastic rainforest, preserved from any human influence and where a lush and complex flora and fauna developed.
Transfer: Ankarana – Red Tsingy – Joffreville (about 5.5 hours’ drive with Red Tsingy included)
Accommodations: Nature Lodge
Today is another day to visit another natural park. You can head into Amber Mountain National Park, a splendid example of mountain rainforest. This park is massive with its own microclimate, making it cooler and wetter than the surrounding areas. It rains here every day, so bring your raincoat and put on an extra layer of clothes! These local conditions have led to luxurious forests with amazing waterfalls and lakes. You can do a half-day easy hike or whole-day longer and more difficult hike in the forest. The park is as exciting for its plants as for its animals. The large tree ferns, epiphytic bird’s nest ferns, pandanus and endemic cycad palms are, even for the amateur plant-lover, a beautiful sight. As always, you can continue to look out for the local wildlife as well, in particular the avifauna, which will even fascinate non-bird lovers. There are also some lemur species and the smallest chameleon of Madagascar in this park, the”Brookesia minima”. We advise you take a picnic lunch with you.
Transfer: R/T Joffreville – Park entrance (about 30 minutes)
Accommodations: Nature Lodge
Today, you will head to the Andrafiamena region, located about two hours from the Amber Mountain. This region is well-known for its natural reserve, also named Andrafiamena, which is well-known for being the home of an endemic lemur: the Black lemur. There, surrounded by a beautiful landscape of mountains and forests and nestled in the heart of Andrafiamena, the Black Lemur Camp is based in the village of Anjahakely and will be your accommodations for the next two nights. This is not a touristic spot at all. The restaurant and its bar & lounge are on a large, elevated terrace with breathtaking views up to 50 km and which opens up to the forest. The local women serve you the delicious perfumed white rice grown in the Anjahankely village.
Transfer: Joffreville – Andrafiamena (about 2.5 hours’ drive)
Accommodations: Black Lemur Camp
Today, you will be able to relax in your bungalow. But we definitely suggest you take some walks, which will allow you to observe the Black Lemur, Propithécus perrieri, and other animal and plant species in this private reserve with many different walking possibilities. Please discuss with the local park guides on the evening of your arrival to get the details for walks that suit your wishes.
Accommodations: Black Lemur Camp
After 1.5 days spent in Andrafiamena, you will make your way northward to Ankify, the starting point to Nosy-Be island. On your way, you can see spice plantations (vanilla, pepper, red pepper, coffee) as well as perfume plants (ylang-ylang, vetiver, patchouli, basilica, combava) in the Sambirano Valley. You will arrive in Ankify by the end of the morning, where a private motorboat will take you to Nosy Sakatia Island, a very small island belonging to the Nosy-Be archipelago and well-known for snorkelling and diving.
Transfer: Andrafiamena – Ankify (about 2.5 hours’ drive)
Boat: Ankify – Nosy Sakatia (about 1 hour)
Accommodations: Nosy Sakatia or similar
Today you being the final part of your special itinerary, with a kayak tour and a mix of camping and hotel nights for the next 7 days. This gives you a chance to get to know Nosy-Be in a completely alternative way. If you don’t wish to partake in this very special kayak tour in the Nosy-Be area, you can also ask us for a hotel for the last few days to finish this northern tour.
After breakfast, paddle east along the coast of Nosy-Be to a rustic tented camp on the edge of Lokobe Nature Reserve. The distance is about 19km and we will stop for rests along the way. For those who would like an afternoon walk in the forest reserve, a guide will accompany you and point out all of the interesting fauna and flora. That evening, enjoy sundowners around a bonfire on the beach.
After breakfast, we will paddle a short distance (2.5km) to the nearby Vorona Private Island. Often, you will be the only people on the island. This tiny island hosts the only working lighthouse in the area. The accommodation is three large rooms in the main house with a large veranda and a bungalow with shared washing facilities. From here, you are transferred by pirogue (a small boat) to Tanihely Marine Reserve to spend the day relaxing on the beach and snorkelling. From the top of the old lighthouse (build in 1908), there is a stunning panoramic view of the area. After a picnic lunch on the beach, we will head back to the island to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and sundowners on the veranda.
After breakfast, paddle across to the Hermitage Beach Hotel, a distance of about 13 km. Set on grassy lawns, this colonial-era resort is positioned on a lovely isolated beach on Mainland Madagascar. Renovations have been done to restore this beautiful old hotel to its former glory. The resort is boarded by the sea on one side and plantations (mainly cashew nuts) on the other. Chill on the grassy bank under some big shady trees flanking the resort. From here, you can overlook the resort beach to one side with the adjacent mainland in the distance and Komba and Nosy-Be islands in front of you.
Accommodations: Hermitage Beach hotel or similar
After breakfast, we will paddle to the south side of Komba Island where we land on a beach for a rest and refreshments. Once we’ve relaxed and had a swim, we shall continue our journey a short distance and shall arrive at Berenice Bungalows. The total distance is 15km. This bungalow resort is set on a little private beach amongst wonderful gardens. It is owned and run by a Malagasy lady who built the resort many years ago with her late Italian husband. There are four en suite bungalows and a main dining, lounge, catering area on the fringe of the beach overlooking Ankify on the mainland. There is some good snorkelling directly in front of the resort.
Accommodations: Berenice hotel or similar
After an early breakfast, we will paddle 5 km across the channel back onto the mainland and land at Ankify Lodge. This resort is set just above the water’s edge. The lovely old colonial house has been converted into a bar-restaurant and the bungalows were built along the ledge. From this vantage point, there are stunning views from the bungalows and the main house of the south side of Komba Island and Nosy-Be, with mangroves along the coast of the mainland heading up the coast towards Hermitage Hotel in the distance.
The only sea route linking Nosy-Be to the mainland runs in front of the resort and lands a little way down to Ankify port. It’s interesting to note the sea traffic down below, from speed boats carrying passengers to the slower thud, thud car carriers to local crafts carrying goods to and from, they all pass by here.
A minibus will be waiting to take you to Millot Plantation. A guide will escort you through the plantation and show you cocoa trees and the different types of pods as well. He will also explain how they are processed and dried to be ready for export. The guide will also show you ylang-ylang and other spice trees, as well as the essential oil extraction procedure.
After your visit, the minibus will take you to the charming nearby inland town of Ambanja. The entire area is flat, and the drive is awesome, with tropical views and shaded by big trees with cocoa growing underneath. After the junction to Diego Suarez, the road seems to get narrower and busier with bicycles and taxi bicycles and motorbikes aplenty, not to mention the odd motor car, minibus taxis, and trucks all using the same road. As you enter the town, the congestion escalates with pedestrians on either side of the road. Note the colourful display of rows and rows of second-hand clothing, plastic ware, and other items lining the pavements, all adding to the chaos. As you slowly nudge your way through the traffic, you will notice that there are no tempers flaring, no horns being honked, surprisingly no accidents and no policemen. Just another normal day in downtown Ambanja! Lunch is either at “Restaurant Patricia” down a side street in town or at the “Palma Nova Hotel” on the outskirts of town. Both have a long and respected history in the town. The choice of where to eat is entirely yours.
Once back at the resort, for those feeling like a late afternoon stroll, the road from Ambanja to Ankify port continues to Ankify Beach. Unlike the chaos from town, this small gravel road is peaceful and quiet and follows the coast, canopied by huge tropical trees. A sundowner on the terrace of the old main building followed by a tasty dinner is a perfect way to end a lovely day.
Accommodations: Ankify Lodge or similar
After breakfast, paddle about 15km to Ampangorina, over some stunning coral on the west side of Komba Island. Ampangorina is the main village on Komba Island where there are a few local beach bars and restaurants and plenty of local, handmade crafts on display. Once you have settled into your accommodation at either a garden bungalow at the edge of the village (budget) or in a comfortable South African-run guesthouse a short distance from the village, enjoy refreshments and lunch at one of the local restaurants on the beach. After lunch, a guide will take you to the lemur park above the village, followed by craft shopping if you wish. Sundowners will be at either a local beach bar or in your resort followed by dinner at your resort.
Accommodations: Komba Resort or similar
After breakfast at around midmorning, you will be transferred to the Nosy Sakatia. You will have the whole day free for relaxing, sunbathing, or doing some interesting activities. If you want, you can also visit Nosy-Be island. Nosy-Be is known as the ultimate beach destination of Madagascar, as the beaches, surrounded by a turquoise sea, are generally amazing. On the island, you will find many Ylang-Ylang trees (perfume is made with their flowers), sugar cane plantations, but also clove and other herb trees and plants.
From the Passot Mount, a 350m-high hill, you also have a beautiful view of Nosy-Be and its surroundings, especially at sunset. Apart from holidaying on the beach, snorkelling is a must around Nosy-Be.
Accommodations: Nosy Sakatia or similar
Today, you will be transferred to the airport in Nosy-Be. There, you will take your return flight to Antananarivo. Upon your arrival in the capital, you will be transferred to a hotel located near the airport for day use. Afterwards, you will be taken to Ivato International Airport and will leave Madagascar…hopefully with unforgettable memories!
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.