22 Jul Adventures in Madagascar – Travel Photos of Madagascar, Africa
Our Top 5 Travel Experiences in Madagascar
5. Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
This is one of the planet’s most unique places: a literal forest of jagged limestone. The Malagasy word “tsingy” refers to the area’s sharp stone pinnacles, which stretch up to 150 feet. Seeing this spiky labyrinth is awe-inspiring sight, and a bit alien too (seriously, our world produces some wild geography!). Ropes, ladders, bridges, and viewing platforms are securely strung through the sharp rocks, making the experience a real adventure. So why isn’t everyone visiting and Instagramming this wild place? The catch, like so many amazing places in Madagascar, is that transportation to the park is tricky…and takes a lot of time. The park is accessible through the town of Morondova, 93 miles south, and during certain seasons rain washes the road away completely. Worth it, though? Absolutely.
To learn more about this stunning place (and see some additional pics!), check out our Off Piste feature for Cool Hunting.
4. Anakao and Auberge Peter Pan
This place. THIS PLACE. Italian expats Dario and Valerio bought land in Anakao sight unseen and proceeded to build their dream home and bungalows here. Now they spend their days blasting Lou Reed and 80s glam rock, whipping up amazing feasts of just-caught seafood (using high-quality olive oil imported from Italy, natch), and hanging out on the beach. And they named it after Peter Pan because…well, you can probably guess. What a story, right? Every word of it is true. Anakao is a tiny fishing town with a wide beach that’s a shell collector’s dream, plus amazing opportunities for snorkeling and diving. There’s not much to the town beyond a couple of notable resorts, but you don’t want to stay there; you want to bed down at the comfy, cool rock ‘n’ roll pirate getaway that is Auberge Peter Pan. Take the speed boat from Tulear straight here, no regrets.
3. Hiking in Andringitra National Park
It’s been said that Andringitra is the Yosemite of Madagascar, a comparison won from its giant granite Massif de Tsaranoro — a fraternal twin to Yosemite’s El Capitan. But where Yosemite attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, in any given day you might be one of Andringitra’s sole visitors. That’s right: You can have a park that’s equivalent in beauty to one of the most popular national parks in the US all to yourself. And what’s to do here? There’s incredible hiking, particularly the trek to Peak Boby — the second highest peak in the country and highest accessible one, at 8,720 ft. We recommend arriving at the summit in time to watch the sun rise. There’s also camping and climbing if you’re into it, too. Though be warned, Massif de Tsaranoro is known to be the second-hardest climb in the world…after El Cap, of course.
Simply getting to this park is an adventure in itself though (and yes, you’ve heard that before!). But this journey is particularly wild: Our driver brought his own pieces of wood to lay across bridges we needed to cross, to make sure each bridge was sturdy enough for a car (see pics below). The reason? Locals steal the wood for fires, leaving huge gaps in the bridges. This trip isn’t for the faint at heart, but then again, there’s the fantastically empty Andringitra at the end of it.
2. Camping Along The Tsiribihina River
There are some places in Madagascar where the roads, if they even exist, aren’t exactly the gentlest way to travel. That said, Madagascar’s Tsiribihina river, the biggest in the area, makes for a nice alternative way to explore the middle western section of the country. We spent three days in a canoe, drifting along in the capable hands of our English-French-Malagasy-speaking guide, Mr. John Cool. Each night we chose an empty beach to camp at; daytimes were spent either in the canoe spotting lemurs from afar, or visiting villages along the river fascinating local children with our cameras and foreign-ness. We even traveled with our own live food, a couple of stowaway chickens! We arranged this river trip from the town of Antsirabe, meeting our guide at the fantastic Chez Billy. Through this plan we were able to access places on our Mada bucket list like the previously mentioned Tsingy de Bemaraha, the town of Morondova, home to the amazing “Avenue of the Baobabs,” and lemur-filled Kirindy National Park.
1. Road Adventures in Madagascar
Travel is considered the biggest deterrant to exploring Madagascar, but we say it’s just a part of the adventure. A major part, that is. The Malagasy people mainly travel via taxi brousse, packed-to-the-gills mini vans that lurch their way from town to town piled high with goods. Sometimes those goods are piled a little too sky-high — during one journey, our van gave a frightening lurch, then suddenly the van frame was whap, whap, whapping against a rear tire. Turns out, a two-ton tree was packed atop the roof (no, really) and the frame finally collapsed. Which was the end of that particular taxi brousse, leaving us stranded. Other times these vans broke down, got delayed or just plain didn’t leave for hours. And privately arranged transportation often wasn’t much better. One jeep we rode in consistently overheated, and by the end of our trip had been rejiggered with a DIY water-coolant system that consisted of three plastic tubes snaking their way from a water jug on the roof to the engine below. It was so blatantly hijacked together that policemen at checkpoints laughed out loud at it. We also traveled by canoe, river boat, speed boat, and zebu cart at various points during our trip, even helping shore up our own bridge to cross a river at several points (see the previous paragraph and photos!) The bottom line: Transportation in Mada can be a crazy, challenging, even infuriating experience, but we wouldn’t have missed any of it for a second.