One of the major thrills of overlanding is watching the landscape, wildlife, culture and people change as you travel. Known by naturalists as the eighth continent, overlanding holidays in Madagascar offer this, plus many Madagascan adventures along the way.
Madagascar has an astonishing number of endemic species and hosts a range of fascinating cultures. It’s varied landscape rivals that of landmasses ten times its size. It’s safe to say, exploring this 1,000-mile-long island is a unique experience.
Overlanding holidays in Madagascar
Condensing the incredible sights, sounds and scents of Madagascar into a few paragraphs is a tough job. From colourful cities to beautiful beaches, marvelous mountains to rampaging rivers and arid deserts to lush rainforests, there is always something new to explore.
It’s worth trying to see as much of the island as possible. Starting in the lively capital Antananarivo, the central highland spine gives way to rich rainforest and golden beaches along the east coast. To the west are low-lying coastal plains and stunning rock formations.
The south is characterised by a harsh yet beautiful desert. And the stunning remote northern part of the island provides yet another completely distinct ecosystem.
To explore Madagascar it’s worth getting a guide. We recommend Remote River Expeditions who have over 20 years of experience offering custom tours and Madagascan adventures. They provide all manner of wildlife holidays from birdwatching and traditional safaris, to rafting safaris and photographic trips.
They also offer trekking, white water rafting, sailing, diving and cultural trips. Or perhaps combine it all for multi-activity overlanding holidays in Madagascar. As a small hands-on company, Remote River Expeditions provide quality services at a reasonable cost throughout Madagascar.
Popular Madagascar overland routes
Check out the route from Antananarivo to Toliara, it passes through the Ranomafana, Isalo and Andringitra National Parks which abound with wildlife. It passes more than twenty tourist sites en-route – including wineries, paper making and cultural experiences.
Exploring the western Baobab area by 4×4 is well recommended. You’ll drive through these magical and mysterious trees before arriving at the beautiful coast. Here popular Madagascan adventures include fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Most overlanding holidays in Madagascar with take in Route 6, a 706 km mostly – but not entirely – paved road. From north to south it runs from Antsiranana passing Tsingy Rouge, Anivorano Nord, Ankarana Reserve, Ambilobe, Ambanja, Manongarivo Reserve – via 35 km detour, Mahamanina Falls, Maromandia, Antsohihy, Port Berge (Boriziny), Mampikony all the way to Ambondromamy.
Along the way there is plenty to see and do. Take in a safari or do some hiking or trekking in the National Parks and reserves. If you want to get really adventurous then try kitesurfing in Antsiranana.
For a more challenging drive take in National Routes 5 – expect rickety bridges, narrow, rutted forest trails and plenty of mud. This 400km route from Toamasina to Maroantsetra offers a chance to visit the idyllic island of Sainte Marie. Know as the worst road in Madagascar it is only suitable for 4x4s and experienced off roaders, and at times it is impassable.
Another challenging 4×4 adventure is to drive from Toliara beyond the spiny forest all the way to Fort Dauphin. Alternatively, take on the Grand Southern Circuit from Morondava to Toliara and Manakara. You can then catch a train through Ranomafana National Park back to Antananarivo.
Overlanding holidays in Madagascar are likely to involve a variety of transport methods and take in many different Madagascan adventures. Hike up to the high plateau of the Isalo national park, trek up Peak Boby and watch the sun rise from the top of the country’s second highest mountain.
Be sure to take in the mysterious and enigmatic Tsingy de Bemaraha nature reserve. The rock formations here are a perfect metaphor for the country as a whole – unique, beautiful and enchanting.
Madagascar has over 50 national parks and reserves dotted around the island, such as Andasibe, Ambola, Anakao, Anjajavy, Isola, Mantadia and Ranomafana. This means you are never far from the unique flora and fauna, so there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting and safaris.
Rafting or kayaking Madagascar’s many rivers is a great way to experience inaccessible parts of the country. From the white water, gorges and slides of the Benahy, Onilay, Mazy and Manankazo rivers, to the more tranquil yet equally spectacular Mangoky, Sahatandra and Tsiribihina rivers.
On Madagascar rafting holidays, you’ll get a chance to float through virgin rainforest, explore ancient gorges and get to parts of the island that few others have ever seen. If you fancy rafting whilst on overlanding holidays in Madagascar it’s worth checking out Remote River Expeditions.
Fancy a spot of surfing? Then drive to the remote coast of Anakao NP and enjoy a beach break like no other. The chances are you’ll have the stunning white sands and turquoise waters all to yourself.
Madagascan wildlife and culture
Madagascar is perhaps most famous for its incredible array and diversity of wildlife and plant species. Most people know of the endemic lemur of which there are more than 30 species. There’s also plenty more unique wildlife to enjoy on Madagascar safari and wildlife holidays.
There are over 250 species of mating birds, of roughly 130 of which are unique. There’s also a staggering 150 species of frog and plenty of other wildlife you won’t see elsewhere. There are also an estimated 8,000 unique flowering plant varieties in Madagascar.
It’s estimated that over 80% of the animals are unique to Madagascar, this rises to 95% in the spiny forests of the south west. Madagascar split from Gondwana – what is now India – around 90 million years ago. The absence of natural predators led to the evolution of the unique and diverse wildlife.
The culture of Madagascar reflects its unique and diverse origins. Part Malay, part Indonesian, part African, part Indian – this is a culture that wears its influences on its sleeve. A melting pot of traditions has combined to create food, art and lifestyle that have their own identity.
Unsurprisingly, like everything else the accommodation and travel experience in Madagascar is as varied as the landscape and wildlife. Stay in luxurious jungle lodges, wild camp on beautiful beaches or stay with friendly locals to discover more of their incredible culture.
Madagascar overlanding holidays
Travelling overland is a wonderful way to fully experience everything Madagascan adventures can throw your way. Although the colourful capital and cities of Toamasina and Antsirabe are worth exploring, it’s the wild side of Madagascar and the huge range of activities that are the real draw.
On overlanding holidays in Madagascar you’ll explore one of the most individual, unique and diverse countries on the planet. You’ll quickly come to realise why it’s known as the eighth continent and have wonderful memories to last a lifetime.
We hope this guide to overlanding holidays in Madagascar has inspired you to visit. Be sure to check out our other Madagascar articles for more information about Madagascan adventures.