10 Days in Madagascar
DO NOT MISS
Iconic Avenue of Baobabs, World Heritage site: Tsingy de Bemaraha, Nosy Koma & Tanikely
Day 1: Arrive in Antananarivo, (aka Tana) via Johannesburg. Walk around the city and acquire bus ticket to Morondava at Fasan’ny Karana (see Transportation section for details)
There isn’t much to see or do in Tana. It’s crowded and dirty. The Pirate Museum looks like someone converted an apartment into a display room. You will miss it if you don’t look for it. Museum of Art and Archaeology might be worth a shot. It looked legit from the outside. The area around the palace is worth walking around, there’s a tourism office within Jardin Antaninarenina) the park across the street from Le Louvre Hotel.
Taxi rides into town from the airport are 50,000 Ariary. If you’re adventurous you can try taking a Taxi bus into town and then grabbing a taxi in town. Since you can’t get Ariary outside of Madagascar, exchange only enough at the airport to get into town. The bank offer much better rates.
Day 2: Head to Morondava
This. Took. An. Entre. Day.
Buses will stop occasionally for bathroom breaks and to drop/pick up people along the route. There will be one longer break for lunch. If you didn’t pack food this will be the only time you get to eat real food. Otherwise you can grab snack/bread during shorter breaks.
Day 3: Explore Morondava, negotiate excursion to Avenue de Baobab, Kirindy National Reserve and Tsingy de Bemaraha
Morondava is not a big town. Most places are within walking distance but you can take various types of taxis for 3000-5000 Ar. There’s a post office where you can send postcards. Around Center town there’s a fish market along the street. Buy water at the bodegas, not from your hotel, which inflates the price 1 Liter should be between 2000-3000 Ar.
You can do Ave de Baobabs and Kirindy in a day trip. The lowest price I was able to negotiate was 220,000 Ar to go to Baobab for Sunrise then Kirindy. If want to go on the night tours at Kirindi (There are 6 types of lemurs in the reserve, 4 are nocturnal) You will need to overnight there. To go to Tsingy de Bemaraha you will need at least 3 days. You will pass by Ave de Baobabs and Kirindi on the way and people typically bundle all 3 together if they’re going to Tsingy de Bemaraha.
There will be tok-tok (aka pouse-pouse) drivers wanting to take you to the baobabs. IGNORE THEM. it will take forever to get there and probably not comfortable.
Day 4: To the Baobabs!
Sunset is when people typically prefer to go to Ave de Baobabs but I recommend Sunrise. There will be less people blocking your shot and you get to see a night view of the Baobabs which is eerily beautiful. There are a few famous Baobabs near by that’s not on the main “Avenue” Baobab Amour, Baobab Sacré (make sure to take off your shoes before going in), make sure your driver take you there. I left the hotel at 4 am in the morning to get there in time for Sunrise.
The 2 hour tour at the Kirindy Reserve was very enjoyable. They do not feed the lemurs here like other tourist areas but the guide did instruct me to pour some water into an empty snail shell and a lemur came and drank out of it. We were lucky enough to see a Fossa. Park fee was 60,000 Ar per person with guide (mandatory) Please tip your guide!
Day 5: Back to Antananarivo
Due to flight delays I lost a day and consequently could not fit Tsingy into my schedule if I wanted to see Nosy be so I had to spend another day traveling back to Tana. I would have flown but there no flights out that day. Sad.
Day 6: Nosy Be Bound
I opted to fly. For those with time there’s a 24+ hour bus from Tana to Ambanja and then you take a ferry. Most resorts are concentrated on the western side of the island where nice beaches are. Most excursions to nearby islands depart from there as well. For cheaper options stay in Hell-Ville. Tok-tok/Taxi rides between towns on the island is about 15000-25000 Ar.
Day 7: Nosy Komba (aka Ambariovato) & Tanikely
Nosy Koma (Island of Lemurs) is a wonderful tourist trap where you get to take pictures with lemurs, boas, chameleons, turtles, etc. Nosy Tanikely is where you can snorkel and swim with sea turtles. The two are usually bundled in one day trip with a wonderful seafood lunch.
Day 8: Ylang Ylang Distillery & Lemuria, Andilana Beach
Both are located on the same property, we mainly came for the distillery. The Lemurs here are mostly caged which is sad.
In the afternoon we decided to take a tok-tok all the way to the northern end of the Island to explore and found a really nice beach in Andilana. One can definitely spend an entire day here.
Day 9: Nosy Iranja
This is a longer boat excursion to two islands that connect into one in low tide. Amazing white sand beaches!
Day 10: Back to Antananarivo
Originally wanted to stay another day in Nosy Be but feared flight cancellation/delay and wanted to make sure I catch my outbound flight so spent another day wondering about the capital.
In Antananarivo, Madagascar Underground is the popular hostel in the city, and probably most established and organized. Bamboo Lodge and Spa up the street is also a nice cheap place to stay – there’s more privacy in the bamboo “huts” but bathroom and showers are in the back of the building. If you arrive late (or are departing early and don’t want to get stuck in traffic) there’s a Chinese-run Visa Hostel around the airport that offer free airport pick up and free meals. It’s located in a quiet gated community.
In Morondava, Trecicogne is an economical place to stay with a nice restaurant overlooking the river.
In Nosy Be, stay at the Tamana Hostel. They can help you book excursions at reasonable prices and there’s a great rooftop bar.
Transportation will be your greatest expense in Madagascar, both time and money. It was about 60% of my budget. Hence, it’s highly recommended to travel with companions to split transportation costs. Most people hire a private car with driver (recommended, because roads are tough to maneuver) which costs anywhere from $40-100 per day (usually it’s around 50 Euros) Often you must make choices on whether to save time or money. For example, taxi buses to from Tana to Morondava costs about $12, but can take up to 12 hours vs flying which takes about an hour but costs $250-300.
Buses from Tana to Morondava:
Buses leave from Fasan’ny Karana, where you should purchase tickets (40,000-50,000 Ar) the day before to ensure there’s space. I found out later some companies have a seating chart so can reserve seats as well. Getting bus tickets is a bit daunting. A thousand people will come grab you to get you to buy tickets from their company. Just walk quickly away. Sonatra is one of the more reputable companies here. The morning you leave there will be some guys asking you to pay for 10,000 Ar luggage in addition to the bus ticket you’ve paid. I believe that is a scam but they are very persistent and you may have to pay for them to go away.
Buses from Morondava to Tana:
A more luxurious option to travel by bus is Cotisse (50,000 Ar). I think their buses are more comfortable but they sell out quickly as all the tourists that cannot afford to fly try to book with them. They also pick up/drop off at a different location than Fasan’ny Karana. Tsy Tara (40,000 Ar) is also a good option.
There’s only one airline that flies within Madagascar: Tsaradia, which is a subsidiary of Air Madagascar. Most planes that fly between the cities are smaller ones that board from the back of the plane where the “business class” is located (not worth it, the seats are the same, you just get slightly better snacks and a magazine). It is cheaper if you book when you’re in Madagascar. Also if you flew into the country with Air Madagascar I think you can get discounts. If you’re not going during peak season, flights will be available. However, they are notorious for delays/cancellations. On top of that some destinations don’t have daily flights so do plan buffer days.
Food is cheap, especially if you stick with local cuisine/street food. You can get samosas for cents and plated lunch like rice and stew for 4000 Ar. I enjoyed chatting with the proprietor at Bento Orion in Tana- their downstairs restaurant offers a more economical menu and the food is just as good.
TRAVELING WITH LESS TIME
Madagascar is huge and flights don’t reach many places. It takes a while to travel from city to city. I would not go for less than 2 weeks. 1 month is probably ideal, unless you just want to relax on one of the islands and not see much else.
TRAVELING WITH MORE TIME
- Andasibe-Mantadia National Park – This rain-forest reserve is close to the capital if you have an extra day this is a good place to check out.
- Toliara/Anakao – Good snorkeling in Anakao, you take a boat from Toilara (aka Tulear) Please note that flights to Toliara are only available during dry/high season.
- Toamasina – economic capital and chief seaport of the country.
- Fianarantsoa-Manakara Train – Currently the only working train line in Madagascar. No one rides this except for tourists but it is a beautiful ride.
- Canal des Pangalanes – Take a boat journey from Manakara, 1-2 days